Obsessive Compulsive Birding

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More Midewin, and #420! June 30, 2009

Filed under: North-east Illinois — thegullguy @ 4:46 am

Well, the day before yesterday, we went to Midewin again to test my new camera. We didn’t see as many good birds as last time, and the highlight was a Bell’s Vireo who would sit still and pose until right when I get my camera on it. Over 30 minutes of trying to photograph it produced 0 photos. After that, we went to Kane County to search for the Swainson’s Hawk (in Burlington, the intersection of Peplow and Chapman (or McGough) Roads, look at the eastern treeline, which we didn’t do so much the 1st time, from the cemetery), which we found in a few minutes instead of not seeing it and searching for over an hour, but we didn’t know the specific directions the first time. It was way far off, so no photos. There were some Chipping Sparrows, which allowed nice photos.

This Chipping Sparrow was perched at the cemetary from which you view the Swainson's Hawk.

This Chipping Sparrow was perched at the cemetary from which you view the Swainson's Hawk.

After that, we took a quick stop at Paul Douglas Forest Preserve, and found a Family of Pied-billed Grebes among other things.

This Pied-billed Grebe Family was nice to see on our way home from seeing a Swainson's Hawk.

This Pied-billed Grebe Family was nice to see on our way home from seeing a Swainson's Hawk.

Yesterday, a Neotropic Cormorant was reported from Almond Marsh in Lake County, IL. It flew away from there, but was relocated at the nearby Rollin’s Savannah. So, although in the afternoon, we went to Almond Marsh, we saw a good candidate, but we weren’t able to confirm it. We then went to Rollin’s Savannah to search for the cormorant, but we were unsuccessful. A nice surprise was to find 2 pairs of Gadwall, although they were far out. They normally aren’t found in Illinois in the summer I believe.

The female of one of two pairs of Gadwall at Rollin's Savanah.

The female of one of two pairs of Gadwall at Rollin's Savanah.

The male of one of two pairs of Gadwall at Rollin's Savanah.

The male of one of two pairs of Gadwall at Rollin's Savanah.

We left Rollin’s, and went back to Almond Marsh. After getting out of the car the view that is just not pulled off along the main road, and right by the gate that was closed at the time, I found a sort of odd-ball-out cormorant perched in a tree. It was a good amount smaller and thinner tailed (like a Neotropic) than the near-by Double-Crested Cormorants, but at first we couldn’t get good enough views of the throat patch. When it raised its head, we were pretty sure we saw a more angled throat patch with a white border (the other way to ID Neotropic), but the lighting was terrible so we couldn’t confirm. Dave Johnson called us down to where he was, and told us they had better lighting. Sure enough, within 10 minutes of us getting to that specific spot, we saw it lift it’s head, and we saw the white bordering the more angled patch of skin on the throat as well as a lack of feathers on the lores (yet another good way of IDing Neotropics). That was lifer #420, and Illinois bird #299 (sooo close to 300, but I’ll have to wait until… who knows what).

This bird rarely raised it's head, and was quite far off, and it was also windy. But, I did get this blurry, heavily cropped photo showing about enough to sort of ID the bird...

This bird rarely raised it's head, and was quite far off, and it was also windy. But, I did get this really blurry, heavily cropped photo showing about enough to sort of ID the bird (you can see it is small and barely the white rimmed throat patch).

In about a week, I leave for Camp Chiricahua from the company Victor Emanuel Nature Tours (VENT). It is basically a birding tour that is a bit like a camp and for young birders 14-18 years old. It is in South-east Arizona, and it should be amazing.

 

Midewin, Middlefork, and Lack of Research June 22, 2009

Filed under: North-east Illinois — thegullguy @ 3:00 am

Well, in order to get some of the less common prairie birds for our year lists, we went on a caravan “tour” behind a gate at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. All along the way there were Grasshopper Sparrows and Dickcissels singing, and often an Orchard Oriole.

One of many singing at Midewin along with even more Dickcissels.

One of many Grasshopper Sparrows singing at Midewin along with even more Dickcissels.

The first year bird was an Upland Sandpiper we heard, but didn’t see. Further down the road, we stopped and saw a few Bobolinks (first for the trip), and the second year bird for the trip, a Loggerhead Shrike. It was perched on one of the many gates fairly far down the road, and at first I saw something gray flying on and off of it and I assumed it was a Mockingbird. Soon enough, I saw the bird better, and decided to get the scope on it. I saw the mask, and that showed it was a Loggerhead Shrike. Later it flew on top of a shrub, and gave many people good scope view. After that, we drove along, and eventually heard a Blue Grosbeak singing. Soon enough, we saw the grosbeak, although it was distant, and not usually showing its wingbars. Soon afterward, we went towards a bathroom break, and the first part of the caravan went along faster due to the back part (which we were in) seeing an Upland Sandpiper perched on top of a bunker next to the road, giving amazing looks before calling, then flying off (still calling).

Perched on top of a bunker at Midewin, giving amazing looks.

An Upland Sandpiper perched on top of a bunker at Midewin, giving amazing looks.

Afterwords, we drove all too quickly through a field full of tons of Henslow’s Sparrow calling, though due to not being able to look for them, we didn’t see any. After we drove through that, and took a wrong turn due to being separated from the leader, but eventually got to a stop where some people left to do other things. We soon drove through some habitat where Bell’s Vireos sing sometimes, and we slowed down, but didn’t stay long so we didn’t hear it. We continued to a place where we went inside a bunker then followed up by checking out some ripirian habitat, where we didn’t really find much. After that, we left Midewin.

Right after Midewin, we drove to Kane county to a good Swainson’s Hawk site, but didn’t see it because we drove around instead of waiting in the cemetary and scanning the eastern treeline. That is one of the lack of research things.

Soon, we moved on to a Middlefork Savana, where a King Rail resides and calls frequently. First, we had no idea of how to get there. Then, we didn’t know the exact location it called at. After waiting in a few places (and checking out the pond life in a place where the path was flooded), we still didn’t find it. There were tons of Red-winged Blackbirds, though.

One of many Red-wings at Middlefork Savana, they are everywhere in the marshy area.

One of many Red-wings at Middlefork Savana, they are everywhere in the marshy area.

Then, about when it was time to go, I decided to cross a bridge lying further up the path than we had gone, and I heard the King Rail the second I stepped onto the bridge. I let it repeat it’s grunting call once, then ran to get my brother and dad who had left for the car to get water (well, ran until I twisted my ankle a little, then I walked quickly). My brother was able to hear it in the distance, and I heard it once, maybe twice more. The Bobolinks constantly calling and flying around made it a bit hard to hear the rail.

One of two male Bobolinks that flew around at Middlefork Savana at the area I heard the King Rail, making it more difficult to hear the rail with their constant loud calling.

One of two male Bobolinks that flew around at Middlefork Savana at the area I heard the King Rail, making it more difficult to hear the rail with their constant loud calling.

Overall, a nice day for prairie birds and one marsh bird, even though we didn’t research enough, and had to call on my mom to help us find Middlefork (due to us not wanting to pay 3$ to get McDonald’s WiFi for my iPod Touch).

 

Finally… a post June 19, 2009

Filed under: Indianna — thegullguy @ 7:03 pm

After a long time of procrastinating, I’ve finally decided to update this thing. This one’s about an overnight trip to southern Indiana to a place absolutely full of rarities (3 possibly 4 rare ones). The place is called Goose Pond, and the rare birds we saw were: Fulvous Whistling-duck (6/15), Black-bellied Whistling-duck (6/15), Roseate Spoonbill (6/15 and 6/16), and a potential Mottled Duck (6/16). When we first got there, we spent a while scanning a group of egrets in Main Pool West for a Roseate Spoonbill called “pinkie”. Eventually, after a failed search for the potential Mottled Duck (we did see Bobwhites and Orchard Orioles that had fledgelings that barely had tails), we came back and there it was, in all of its faded pink glory. The next day, it was there again, and I got some photos this time. The spoonbill was a year bird, and I hadn’t seen it since I was in first grade.

A wandering Roseate Spoonbill from southern Indiana known as "pinkie." One of the multiple rarities at Goose Pond at the time, but probably the most coorperative.

A wandering Roseate Spoonbill from southern Indiana known as "pinkie." One of the multiple rarities at Goose Pond at the time, but probably the most coorperative.

After seeing the spoonbill, we spent some time looking for ducks elsewhere, and we eventually went to a place where my brother and dad saw a Bell’s Vireo last year when they went to find a Black-bellied Whistling Duck while I was at my cousin’s Bar Mitzvah. They found it, but we all got another one this year near St. Louis.

Right before the bridge (where GP 9, 10, 11, and 13 intersect), we heard then saw a Blue Grosbeak. On the other side, we saw a mink crossing the road, then when we got out of the car to search for a Vrieo, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo that flew out of an area of ripirian habitat made of one tree on each side of a small stream. Then another one did. They fought, perched in a small tree for a moment, then flew off. Soon enough, one came back and landed on a bare shrub in the open (you don’t see a cuckoo doing that every day), then eventually flew off. Soon enough, we saw an American Bittern fly over as it was mobbed by a Red-winged Blackbird. Then, we saw a cuckoo fly into some shrubs *below* eye level in a ditch. We then saw it and the other cuckoo fly out of the shrubs and into a tree. Also there, we saw a Willow Flycatcher, and another bittern, then moved on.

At Goose pond, this guy and one other Yellow-billed Cuckoo were flying around between a couple trees and shrubs in an otherwise open area.

At Goose pond, this guy and one other Yellow-billed Cuckoo were flying around between a couple trees and shrubs in an otherwise open area.

After that, we drove up the road for a bit, and we saw two ducks flying overhead. We saw long legs, and yelled to each other that they were whistling-ducks. after seeing them better, we saw the lack of bold wing stripe and overall buffy color that proved they were Fulvous Whistling Ducks, the first and only positive lifers for the trip. We first saw them in GP 11, but they then went east over GP 12 and then to the tree line. After driving down the road and turning around to go back, we saw two more whistling-ducks. This group had one Fulvous and one Black-bellied (third rarity) in it, and it flew from GP 11, east to GP 12, south to GP 13, and finally apparently landing in a group of trees on the edge of some water in GP 9. After that, we drove along a gravel road, and guess what, two more whistling ducks. One was probably a Fulvous, and the other we had no idea about. We first saw them in GP 9, and then they  flew east to the tree line. We suspect that they were all heading somewhere to roost for the night, as it was after 7:00 PM Eastern time there.

After that, we headed to a nearby forest preserve, where we heard Whip-poor-wills and a Chuck-will’s-widows.

The next day, we were able to find the potential Mottled Duck. South of Main Pool West in GP 6A, we hikes along the dike, and on the side that had more water, we saw it. It had a pale head and very yellow bill, and was overall quite dark in color. When it flew, there wasn’t much white on the speculum. We did not relocate it later. What it was will be decided by people more knowledgeable on the species who saw the same bird. It is either a Mottled Duck or a hybrid…

After That, we left Goose Pond and went to Cane Ridge, which has nesting Least Terns. When we reached the lot, I had already seen one. The place has two nesting islands and a bunch of wetlands for the Least Terns to fish in. There were tons of Least Terns, one Black Tern, and some Black-necked Stilts. Soon enough, an Osprey flew over and we decided to chase after it to get pictures. On the way, we flushed a Barred Owl, and didn’t see the Osprey again. Not long after, The Opsrey flew right over our heads, but was being mobbed by some Black-necked Stlits, so was moving quickly and didn’t allow photos. I did get some Least Tern and Black-necked Stilt photos, though.

A Black-necked Stilt flying back the the marshes at Cane Ridge after chasing off an Osprey.

A Black-necked Stilt flying back the the marshes at Cane Ridge after chasing off an Osprey.

One of many flying around and catching fish at Cane Ridge.

One of many flying around and catching fish at Cane Ridge.

And, finally, after that, we headed home from our overnight trip… That is, after we stopped at Kankakee Sands and saw a Northern Mockingbird, Henslow’s Sparrow, tons of Dickcissels, and a Grasshopper Sparrow in the middle of the road at dusk.

Overall, tons of great birds, one being a lifer. Now, let’s hope I get Kirtland’s Warbler soon!

 

Columbus Park Spring Bird Count- Warblers and Allergies May 11, 2009

Filed under: North-east Illinois — thegullguy @ 3:20 am

Well, although I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the start of going to Columbus Park (a local park near us where we go often) for part of our spring bird count, but that very quickly changed. Overall, we (my dad, my brother Aaron, and I) got 80 species at Columbus for the day, 25 of the were warblers. The clear top two birds were a Worm-eating Warbler (as part of there invasion of North-Eastern Illinois this year) and a Prairie Warbler.

To start the day, we decided to go to a pond at the golf course and try to call in a Sora. On the way there, we were able to find a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak Although we failed at getting a Sora, I wandered off to some nearby trees to look for warblers, and I soon saw a large flock of at least twenty warbler fly in. Only one landed close by, so I looked at it. Overall, it was a drab bird, so Tennessee popped into mind. On further looks, I saw that it was overall brownish, and a bit after that, it turned its head and showed the bold striping and overall yellowish color on its head. I knew then that it was a Worm-eating Warbler, and I called over Aaron and Dad to show them. A few seconds after I told them the location, it flew, which prevented me from photographing it and the others from seeing it well (Aaron saw it flying, and was able to ID it based off of that). Along with it, there was a Blackpoll Warbler and a Least Flycatcher in the general area. Also, there were Mourning Doves and Pigeons. Nothing special at all, but they normally are too scared by the nesting Cooper’s Hawks to enter much. I concluded they were blown in by the winds, they had a burst of courage, or most likely the Cooper’s Hawk just wasn’t around that day.

After that, we went to a place where we go mainly when we walk to Columbus Park, a bunch of woods along the street Austin. Not long after we moved on from the pond we saw the Worm-eating Warbler at, we found a small flock of warblers, which contain a Redstart, Magnolia, Canada, Chestnut-sided, and another warbler we only heard. It later turned out that after hearing it again and accidentally calling it in via iPod speakers still attached to the iPod due to recently trying to call in rails, it was a Prairie Warbler! The second one in my life, first one since I just began birding. The other goody in the area was a female Black-throated Blue Warbler (more of this species later), but now, some photos (I don’t exactly have the best camera, mind you).

These guys were feeding on the golf course, there were a total of three of them, the last of which showed up after I took the photos.

These guys were feeding on the golf course, there were a total of three of them, the last of which showed up after I took the photos.

A nice bird, gave us great looks. Sadly, the autofocus on my camera prevented me from getting clearer photos.

A nice bird, gave us great looks. Sadly, the autofocus on my camera prevented me from getting clearer photos.

Now, onto the main part of the park. The true excitement only really began when we entered what is almost an island in between the rest of Columbus Park and a little man-made stream along with a couple waterfalls connected to the rest of the park by a strip of land. There we got a Golden-winged Warbler as a high light, a Northern Parula was also nice. I was able to get a photo of a redstart flitting around, one of the many. They are even worse than kinglets, flitting around and never staying still.

Gave us amazing views, not very cooporative when it came to getting a photo.

Gave us amazing views, not very cooporative when it came to getting a photo.

A sort of grand finale for the day was an amazing Black-throated Blue male which got within five feet of me while I was taking some photos. Overall, though, a nice grand finale, along with a Cape May Warbler that was there momentarily.

lucky for me, this guy was fairly coorperative, but he was in some willows, which made it difficult to take photos of with autofocus acting like it was made to.

Lucky for me, this guy was fairly cooperative, but he was in some willows, which made it difficult to take photos of with autofocus acting like it was made to.

Our total warbler list for the day was:

Blue-winged, Golden-winged, Black-throated Blue Worm-eating, Prairie, Tennessee, Orange-crowned, Nashville, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Cape May , Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Palm, Blackpoll, Black-and-White, Redstart, Ovenbird, Louisiana and Northern Waterthrush, Yellowthroat, Wilson’s, and Canada.

Overall, I’ve got to say, for a day with humble (AKA cold and windy) beginnings, it turned out to be prettty amazing.

Oh, also, after Columbus Park, my allergies were really bad, so I had to go home, missing some other birds, which my dad mentioned on his blog at: http://neighborhoodnature.wordpress.com/