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Olympic Peninsula: Day 2

semi-overcast 69 °F

On Friday, July 15, my dad and I traveled around the Olympic Peninsula to hike & go birding.

Our morning destination was a drive-up mountain peak on the east side of the Olympics called Mt. Walker, where my target birds were Hermit Warbler and Sooty Grouse. The views from the summit viewpoints were spectacular, and we were even at could-level!
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Although I failed to find my main target bird, the Hermit Warbler, I did encounter a family of SOOTY GROUSE, life bird! The adult female bird let me take her photo:
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After lunch, we drove up to the famous Hurricane Ridge, which sits at over 5,000 feet above sea level and allows for fantastic subalpine and alpine birding, possibly the most famous highland destination for birders in Washington state.
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We were worried it would be cloudy, as it usually is, at Hurricane Ridge; however, the views were panoramic and totally exceeded our expectations! It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
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We hiked the steep Hurricane Hill, where there was a pretty good number of birds, including this super-cooperative female SOOTY GROUSE:
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And the deer, as you can see, were extremely tame:
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The wildflowers also put on a radiant display alongside the trail.
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Nice photo of an uncommon GRAY JAY in front of the mountains:
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HORNED LARK, by far the best photo I have ever obtained of this species:
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Near the summit of Hurricane Hill, there was a rather large snowfield. Time to do an obligatory July snow angel!
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This Mountain Goat, although a nonnative species, was super cool to see and allowed for some fantastic photo ops in front of the mountains:
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This silly young deer obviously hasn't learned how to follow the rules:
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It was another great day in the Olympic Mountains! What a fantastic place! I only obtained one life bird on July 15, Sooty Grouse, so that will be my bird-of-the-day. Runners-up to the Gray Jay & Horned Lark.

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 925 Species (30 life birds on the Olympic Peninsula trip)

Posted by skwclar 09:26 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes mountains people trees animals birds snow Comments (1)

Olympic Peninsula: Day 1

semi-overcast 73 °F

Last weekend, my dad and I traveled to the Olympic Peninsula in northwest Washington state for birding, hiking, and even whale-watching! I will split this trip up day-by-day since I have so many photos. Enjoy!

On Thursday, July 14, we took an early morning flight to Seattle. The views were quite scenic:
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Obligatory Mt. Rainier shot on approach to Seattle:
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We spent the day making our way over to Port Angeles, WA with stops along the way for birding. At the first stop, my target bird was Mountain Quail, a very uncommon and shy species at which Washington is the northernmost point in their range. This is a LINCOLN'S SPARROW:
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Unfortunately, I never found the Mountain Quail; however, we did hear a more common CALIFORNIA QUAIL sing it's classical "Chi-ca-go!" song.

The next stop was Gardiner Beach on the Olympic Peninsula, where we happened to run into birder John Gatchet (who used to live in Wisconsin) who graciously gave us an impromptu afternoon birding tour of the northeast peninsula! Here is a BALD EAGLE and a GREAT BLUE HERON in the same tree:
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My first photographed life bird of the trip, a RHINOCEROS AUKLET! This is a species of Alcid, which is a family of marine birds that includes the puffins and are thought to fill the niche that penguins satisfy in the Southern Hemisphere. Alcids were high on my "most-wanted" species list for the trip.
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Juvenile WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW:
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CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE, which was my 900th life bird!
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DARK-EYED JUNCO:
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We then visited a spit near Sequim that is a fairly well-known place for watching seabirds, as evidenced by this sign:
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It has a distant view of Protection Island, where everything from gulls to puffins nest:
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We found my life-bird HARLEQUIN DUCK in the water:
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Life-bird GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL:
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Life-bird PIGEON GUILLEMOT, another Alcid species, flying away from me:
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Olympic Gulls (hybrid Western X Glaucous-winged Gulls, common on the Olympic Peninsula) with a HERRING GULL:
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Nice male WILSON'S WARBLER:
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On one road near Sequim, we successfully found two target life birds for me: Bewick's Wren & Bushtit. Although they were both secretive, I did eventually manage to photograph both species. Here is the BEWICK'S WREN:
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And here is the BUSHTIT:
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SPOTTED TOWHEE:
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We searched for Varied Thush in this forest, but failed to find it. In its place; however, we had a calling WESTERN SCREECH-OWL and views of some beautiful woodland scenery:
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I believe this was an ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD, female:
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After dinner with John, we checked into our motel and settled in for the night. It was a fantastic first day! Thanks so much again to John for a superb afternoon of birding!

Bird-of-the-day goes to the Bushtit with runner-up to the Rhinoceros Auklet, both being successfully-found target life birds on Thursday.
Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 925 Species (30 life birds on the Olympic Peninsula trip)

Posted by skwclar 08:28 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes lakes beaches people trees animals birds sky sparrow heron gull hummingbird bald_eagle rhinoceros_auklet chickadee junco harlequin_duck pigeon_guillemot wilson's_warbler bewick's_wren bushtit Comments (0)

Cuba

all seasons in one day 94 °F

Very early this Monday morning, I returned from my choir's week-long tour to Havana, Cuba. It was possibly the most eye-opening trip of my entire life, and the entire choir was changed by this tour.

As the first youth choir to travel to Cuba from the USA, it was an immense privilege for my choir, the Voice of Chicago, to travel to a country with such a vibrant culture and that has had strained relations with this USA for sixty years.

Although this was truly an amazing tour, I will be honest with you, it was not all fun and games. We had 16-18 hour days, sweated through our uniforms during every concert after a full day in the blazing heat, and many, including my, hotel rooms were not in good shape. These hardships; however, made all of us think about our daily lives and I think that we can say that we now have a greater appreciation for everyday things such as air conditioning, plentiful clean drinking water, reliable toilets, etc. that many people around the world unfortunately do not have - which is the case for many Cubans.

This trip was all about experiencing the culture of Cuba, so it will not be bird-focused; however, I did take a few bird photographs and I did get a few lifers.

We spent one day in Florida before spending a week in Cuba, and once we arrived in Fort Lauderdale, we immediately headed to the beach:
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In the afternoon, we split up into three groups and took a "gator tour" by airboat:
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DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT:
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Beautiful PURPLE GALLINULE, life bird:
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Family of LIMPKIN, life bird:
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On the tour, I also gained my life bird BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE.

The next day, we flew to Havana, Cuba on a charter flight out of Miami. I luckily got a window seat and it was cool getting our first views of Cuba - a land so mysterious, so unknown - but enchantingly beautiful:
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After waiting through many long lines in the airport, we sat on the air-conditioned bus and I spotted my life bird CUBAN EMERALD hummingbird. Unfortunately, I did not see its smaller cousin, the Bee Hummingbird, which is the smallest bird in the world, a Cuban endemic species.
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The experiences we had on tour were just phenomenal. From just seeing the country from the bus to numerous cultural exchanges with choirs and musical groups, we really experienced the best of Cuban culture. It was astounding to meet such pure, happy people who enjoy life with such kindness and pride in their culture - and it really made us thing about how we live our lives.

Now I will leave you with these photos, and my only "talking" will be naming birds that I have included. The Cuba tour was a truly awesome experience and it changed my life.

Henry
World Life List: 897 Species (10 life birds on the Cuba trip)
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GRAY KINGBIRD:
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RED-LEGGED THRUSH, life bird:
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BAHAMA MOCKINGBIRD:
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COMMON GROUND-DOVE:
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Posted by skwclar 13:37 Archived in Cuba Tagged me landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises beaches buildings skylines people children animals birds sky planes Comments (3)

Junior Naturalists' Bird Walk

sunny 80 °F

First of all, this Monday, June 27 I will be leaving with my choir, the Voice of Chicago, for a week-long tour to HAVANA, CUBA! This will be one of the best experiences of 2016, and it is a groundbreaking tour because we are the first youth choir from the USA to visit the country. We will be performing with renowned Cuban artists, opera singers, and choirs from all over the world as well as engaging in other diverse cultural activities. I will not be able to post during the trip because I have decided not to bring my iPad; however, I will probably make several posts about it after I return home on July 3. I do not expect to do any birding, if at all, on this tour because the choir keeps us extremely busy; however, it will be a stellar travel and cultural experience for me and for everyone.

Today I led a bird walk, for the second year in a row, for the Junior Naturalists' summer camp at Dominican Univeristy in River Forest. My sister, Pearl, participated this year and she, as well as the group overall, enjoyed the outing.

We walked into Thatcher Woods Forest Preserve and almost immediately found hands-down our best bird of the day, a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO! It flew over the group twice, giving everyone great views.
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Flyover RED-TAILED HAWK:
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White-tailed Deer, fawn:
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WOOD THRUSH:
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Owl or hawk feather:
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EASTERN PHOEBE:
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One of two male SCARLET TANAGERS we saw, an excellent surprise!
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Bird-of-the-day to the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, with runners-up to the Scarlet Tanagers. A very productive walk for mid-June!

Excited for CUBA on Monday!!!

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 887 Species (no recent life birds)

Posted by skwclar 20:16 Archived in USA Tagged me people children trees animals birds sky red-tailed_hawk wood_thrush eastern_phoebe yellow-billed_cuckoo scarlet_tanager Comments (0)

Illinois Beach State Park!

sunny 93 °F

Today I birded with birding friend Al Stokie in northern Lake County, Illinois. Although it felt quite hot at times (it topped out at 93 degrees today!), we had a productive day of birding.

After an hour-and-a-half commute on the Metra, Al picked me up in Waukegan and we headed to the south unit of Illinois Beach State Park in search of shorebirds and assorted uncommon nesting birds.

On the beach, we didn't do well in the shorebird department; however, we did find a pair of juvenile HORNED LARKS, a fairly exciting find!
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Nearby, we found a few very uncommon plant species including this Hoary Paintbrush (a relative of the more widespread Indian Paintbrush):
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Although we failed to find one of our target birds, the Lark Sparrow, there were some neat birds around as well, including this GRASSHOPPER SPARROW:
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Then, we birded the campground nearby and found this very uncommon YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER. This is the only place where this species nests in Lake County and one of the few places in northeast Illinois as it is typically a more southern bird:
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Then, we drove to the Sand Pond area in the north unit of the state park in hopes of a Yellow-breasted Chat. That bird was not to be found today, despite the fact that we searched for a very long time for it. We had some nice birds to make up for it, though, including this male EASTERN BLUEBIRD:
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And the female:
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A fledgling RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD:
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Male COMMON YELLOWTHROAT:
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Female HOODED MERGANSER:
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A very vociferous BROWN THRASHER:
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And our best species at Sand Pond was two male BLUE GROSBEAKS, another species that is typically much more common further south in Illinois. Illinois Beach State Park is quite possibly the furthest north breeding location for this species in the state:
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A Leopard Frog was also nice:
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We ended the day by viewing (with Al's scope from very far away) a PIPING PLOVER sitting on its nest near Waukegan. Since it is in a restricted location with lots of security, Al told me I couldn't take any photos, and they wouldn't have turned out very well anyway because the nest was quite far away.

It was a fantastic day! Bird-of-the-day goes to the two cooperative Blue Grosbeaks, and runners-up to the Yellow-throated Warbler and Piping Plover. The full list for today, a good total of 69 species, is attached below.

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 887 Species (no recent life birds)

69 species today:

Canada Goose
Mallard
Hooded Merganser
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
PIPING PLOVER
Killdeer
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Caspian Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
YELLOW-THROATED VIREO
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD
European Starling
Horned Lark
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Yellow Warbler
YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
GRASSHOPPER SPARROW
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
BLUE GROSBEAK
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
BREWER'S BLACKBIRD
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Sparrow
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Posted by skwclar 21:32 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes lakes beaches people children trees animals birds sky Comments (1)

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