Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The "L"

Hi all,

On Saturday this last weekend, a Red-Throated Loon was spotted at Monroe Harbor just by the Shedd Aquarium. My dad was not able to take me to it. Since this bird is so hard to find in Cook County, I decided to take the "L" down to it early Sunday morning. For those who don't know, the "L" is Chicago's version of the subway. I had my dad drop me off at a stop a mile away from our house at about 8:00. The train ride took about 30 minutes. I had to walk a half mile until I got to Monroe. When I got in eyesight of Monroe, I saw it was almost frozen. Since the loon was seen outside of the harbor, this didn't worry me. It actually made me happy. In Monroe, the more ice, the more gulls. I quickly assembled my scope (I put the actual scope in my backpack with my camera and bins so they won't get stolen) and scanned. I saw that gulls were coming in off of the lake. A Double-Crested Cormorant hanging out with the geese on the ice was the only good bird I could pick out. I walked out to where the loon was seen. I stopped at the first place I could see the lake and checked every duck I could see. No loon. Red-Throated Loons rarely stick anywhere, so my chances did not look good. I was worried. I walked a bit further and I could see a larger bird with an obvious white flank about 100 yards out into the lake. I immediately knew this was the loon. I set my scope on the bird and just watched. A couple minutes later, the loon started to swim towards the breakwall. This bird covered ground quickly. I had to jog to catch up with it at one point. It stopped 10 feet from the breakwall. It was 50 yards from me. I watched it more and once satisfied, I walked over to where the Long-Tailed Duck has been hanging out at Burnham Harbor. I found it fairly easily. I then walked to Northerly Island to try for the resident American Kestrel that I still needed for the year. I quickly found it and went back to the loon. Once there, I noticed Stephen Pack, a fellow Oak Park birder. We watched the loon as it slowly drifted in. I went to look at the gulls. I was scanning them when I looked down for a second to see the loon 20 feet from the shore. I fumbled for my camera and snapped many shots. Joe Lill also showed up and got it. The loon has been a nemesis of his in Chicago for a long time, so I am glad he got it. A few minutes later, the loon rocketed out into the lake and started feeding 150 yards off shore. I left it there. I went to check the gulls. After scanning through 300 of them, I could only pick up two Thayer's. I decided at that point to head back home.

55. Red-Throated Loon

56. American Kestrel

When I was leaving, I texted my dad. He told me that he had a Killdeer at Columbus Park. I met him where he dropped me off in the morning and we went to Columbus. I quickly got the Killdeer.

57. Killdeer

Monday was the last day of winter break for me, so I wanted to get a good bird. I wanted a Pileated Woodpecker. I got specifics from Doug Stotz and Linda Padera and my dad and I went to Salt Creek Woods. When we got there, we immediately saw a Hairy Woodpecker, the first of 6. We continued down the trail. I stopped to pish and my dad spotted a gorgeous adult Red-Headed Woodpecker digging away at a branch above the path. It soon then flew to a dead limb of a tree with a large hole in it. Nesting???? We continued until we got to a spot that I felt looked very good. I was right as we heard the Pileated respond from deep in the woods after we played our first tape. We walked in and it soon flushed. I got flight views and brief views on a tree. When we were walking back to the path, it flushed again and flew right over my head. A Sharp-Shinned Hawk also flew over then. Everything was going so fast, which is when I love birding the most. That feeling of not knowing where to look is rare in winter birding, and it is always a treat when it does happen. Pileated Woodpeckers are indescribable  No picture could ever do it anywhere close to enough justice. They are, for lack of a better word, epic. They are one of my favorite birds and I don't see them nearly enough. We wandered the woods longer picking up many more woodpeckers, but nothing uncommon. We ended with 5 woodpecker species with Hairy being the most numerous. This place is amazing and I want to go back many more times this year.

58. Red-Headed Woodpecker

59. Pileated Woodpecker
60. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

I won't be able to bird until the weekend, so my next post will be then.

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