Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Goose

Hi again,

This is the story of the Greater White-fronted Goose. After a long day yesterday, we wanted to keep today's birding simple. Right as we were leaving our last local park, we got a call from Brett and Eddie Kasper. They told us that they had found a Greater White-fronted Goose at Northerly Island. They also told us that it had a broken wing. We rushed over there. When we got there, we immediately saw Brett and Eddie standing with their dad. I jumped out and hurried to them. There was no need to hurry though, because the goose was standing right there.

The wing was badly drooping and its feathers looked ruffed up. After saying thank you to Brett and Eddie, they left, but we decided to stay. My dad called Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and it turns out that they had been looking for this bird this morning, but had left about 15 minutes before we arrived. Apparently, they got a call last night from some people who saw the goose and they gave the description of a duck-goose-turkey-like-thing, but beige. The caller said it had a broken wing, too. Anyways, the volunteer from Flint Creek doubled back to where we were. I wanted to keep a constant eye on the bird, so my dad did all of the talking to Flint Creek. The bird constantly was slowly walking back and forth along the small grass patch it was feeding on.

As I watched the bird, a lady with her dog came up and flushed the goose into the harbor. It ungracefully flew/dropped down onto the ice and skidded about 20 feet. It slowly waddled its way back to the side of the harbor, where there was a boat ramp that it used to get in and out of it. It slowly but surely made it way back up. It plopped itself down right behind some newspaper stands right next to the side of the yacht club building. After a group of people walked right past it, it decided to waddle around the side of the building and out of my sight. I looped around and saw it hunkered under some bushes. About 5 minutes later, the Flint Creek volunteer, named Kate, arrived. She jumped right into action and circled around between the bird and the harbor. The next 5 minutes were a wild goose chase that ended right where it started.

The goose was hunkered under some bushes right along a metal fence. We had it cornered. It slowly moved along the row of bare bushes until it wound up in a dense evergreen bush that ended the row. We surrounded the bush, trying to make sure it didn't escape. We kept on trying to develop a plan of attack, but nothing worked out. The bush had too many twigs too low for us to get the goose. About 10 minutes passed by. We alternated positions multiple times, to see if we could find a good way to get the goose. Then, the goose started shuffling to one side of the bush. My dad was stationed right at the end of the path it was following. Suddenly, it burst out of the bush, right into my dad's hands. Kate then took the goose from my dad and held it delicately.

My dad pulled the car around and we drove to the center that was, luckily, just across the harbor from the goose. We dropped Kate off and sent our well wishes to the goose. As I was watching the Oscars, Dawn Keller sent me this email regarding the goose,

"The goose has no fractures. It has soft tissue injuries to the left wing and the primaries are on the left wing sheared off probably from getting hit by a car. The goose is also exceptionally thin. We will have to run a fecal to see if it's got parasites that are causing it to be so thin. At this point, I would say the prognosis is good."

I am so glad that the goose seems to be doing well. Hopefully it will be a success story. As for my year, this is a great bird with an even better story that I am hoping will have a happy ending. Who knows, maybe this story will be made into a movie.

Migration's Beginnings

Hi all,

I write this blog post about this whirlwind of a weekend with the Oscars playing in the background. Reflecting back on this weekend, much has happened. Great birds were seen and great stories were lived. But before anything of that is told, I will go over last weekend.

We started at Spring Valley to look for White-winged Crossbill. We dipped on that, but we got a bonus Yellow-rumped Warbler.

99. Yellow-rumped Warbler

We then went to the Calumet area, where the highlight was at 126th St Marsh.

100(!!). Snow Goose

We went to the Gull Frolic at North Point Marina in Lake County and had many good birds. Some are pictured below.

We decided to go to Crabtree Nature Center which had a White-winged Crossbill at it the day before. No dice there, but when we went to Penny Road Pond, we not only found my yearbird Eastern Bluebird, but we found a great hawk watching spot where we saw a Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Harrier, and a multitude of Red-tails. This spot will be revisited later in the year.

101. Eastern Bluebird

After that we went to Susan Szeszol's house because she has been having Eurasian Collared Doves recently. We struck out, but she just told me today she briefly had one, so I might go back for them soon.

Today, we had a quick jaunt into Calumet with Nathan Goldberg. It was unsuccessful. We then went back to the crossbill as it was relocated. After 20 minutes or so, it appeared at the feeder at closing time for the nature center. The feeders there are very active as they also had Fox Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, and a Brown Creeper was hanging around them too.

102. White-winged Crossbill

So back to this weekend.

This day was focused around an Illinois Young Birders trip to Bartel Grassland in southern Cook County. We also decided to look for Greater White-fronted Goose which has been showing up near Cook County. We wanted to scavenge each little body of water for any geese or ducks we could find. At 2, we then would go over to Bartel Grasslands for the ILYB field trip. We started our search to a slow start. Everything was frozen or inaccessible. We eventually found an open and accessible pond and in it was a White-winged Scoter and Snow Goose!

We then found another pond in close proximity to that one that held another two White-winged Scoters! It also had 8 Canvasbacks.

A while later, we drove by some mall ponds, one of which held 200 Canada Geese and 2 blue-morph Snow Geese. While driving closer to them, we got stuck in a deep spot in the snow. After a while, we pushed ourselves out. Crisis averted.

 Right after, we found another pond that held 600+ geese but all were Canada. We then went to Bartel where we got a Great-horned Owl and a few Harriers. We looked for the geese again but were unsuccessful. We returned at sunset and found 3 Short-eared Owls.

A Savannah Sparrow was spotted by Matt Cvetas and my brother managed to determine the blackbird flocks consisted of both Red-winged Blackbirds and Brown-headed Cowbirds.

103. Savannah Sparrow
104. Brown-headed Cowbird

As we were leaving, I called Matt Cvetas and he told me that they found a Barred Owl in a place given to him by Wes Serafin. When we got there, we immediately got the owl.

105. Barred Owl

For those who don't know, it is illegal to stay in Cook County Forest Preserves after dark. We did, and a policeman stopped by and gave us $35 tickets. The lot was still open, but whatever. Still got the owl.

Today, we thought we would take it easy and just bird the parks we monitor. Columbus Park didn't have many birds, but the Coyotes cooperated well.

We then went to Douglas Park, which was highlighted by the singing Red-winged Blackbirds and the long staying Red-shouldered Hawk. The hawk finally cooperated and it gave me decent photo-ops.

While we were leaving Douglas, we got a call from Brett and Eddie Kasper, fellow young birders. They told us that they had a Greater White-fronted Goose at Northerly Island. They also said it had a broken wing. We rushed over and saw the bird. We called Flint Creek Wildlife Rehab Center and they came and picked it up. Read more about the goose and see photos here:

106. Greater White-fronted Goose

My next blog post will probably be next weekend. See you then!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mardi Gras Birding

Hi all,

After school today, I was able to go birding. Luis Munoz found a Ross's Goose at Montrose, which is a heck of a tough bird in Cook County, so, naturally, we rushed over there right after school. The second we drove up, it was standing there in some Canada Geese. Sometimes I wish I could have a bit of suspense in searching for a bird, but I am not complaining.

97. Ross's Goose

Before I begin my next story, I must say something. This might sound rude, but I want to be as straightforward as possible. I will NOT tell anyone the location of this owl. I will NOT respond to any inquiries I get about its location. DO NOT waste your time messaging me. Ok, now that is out of the way. I hope nobody hates me now ;). I got intel about the location of a Northern Saw-whet Owl in Cook County. We chased it after the Ross's Goose. We were only able to find this bundle of cuteness because of the copious amounts of whitewash and pellets under its roost. When we got it, the light was low, so excuse the graininess of my photos as I had to jack my settings up just so I could get an IDable shot of the owl.

98. Northern Saw-whet Owl

So, that is it! Two hard to find birds in one day, I would call that a success.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Sought After Treasures

Hi all,

I haven't posted for a while, so I will catch everyone up. Last weekend, we birded the same areas as earlier this year and found a few new birds, but nothing too exciting.


We went to the Calumet area for shrike and gulls. We missed both but did get:

87. Snow Bunting

I also got a great shot of a Bald Eagle:


We went back to the Calumet area with the same targets. This time though, I didn't get any yearbirds. I wanted to revisit the Varied Thrush, so we headed back there after we were done at Calumet. We got a bonus Red-breasted Nuthatch, and the thrush showed well.

88. Red-breasted Nuthatch

My thrush photos:

This weekend was amazing! I finally cashed in at Calumet, and big time!


We decided to go on a trip led by Sam Burckhardt and Walter Marcisz through the Calumet area. We started at Wolf Lake, where the highlight was a Tundra Swan spotted by Fran Morel. We then moved on to 126th St. Marsh. From there, we were able to see the Calumet River, which was packed with gulls. One of the first gulls I put my scope on was a "Kumlien's" Iceland Gull. It is always nice for me to find my own yearbirds. We also managed to pick out 2 Thayer's Gulls out of the fray.

89. "Kumlien's" Iceland Gull

We then headed over to Deadstick Pond. On the way, we were passing through an area where Walter found a Rough-legged Hawk the previous day. When we got there, a hawk was perched in a tree. The caravan pulled over and stopped to see that it was just a Red-tailed. People started to pull away, as Red-tails are a dime a dozen around here. Just as we were about to leave, a small bird flew into the tree just above the hawk. After a second of disbelief, I yelled out, "SHRIKE!!!!" We tried to get the people that already pulled away to come back, but to no avail. We saw that the people behind us saw the shrike too. We got out of our car just in time to see it chase away the Red-tail. It then perched on a shrub and I got our scope out. I looked at it for 30 seconds, then it flew away, never to be seen again. This was the seventh time I tried for shrike this year, and I got it when I least expected it!

90. Northern Shrike

Just as we were going to pull away, we saw Craig Taylor and he told us of White-winged Scoters at Deadstick Pond. We zipped over there just in time to see a Bald Eagle flush everything. Ugh. We couldn't see the scoters. When the gulls started landing, Ethan got a text from Jeff Hardt that there was Red Crossbills at Little Red Schoolhouse. The group arrived just as we were leaving, but we decided to stay a little longer. This rewarded me with 2 more "Kumlien's" Iceland Gulls, 2 more Thayer's Gulls, and a Lesser Black-backed Gull. Some people in the group saw the scoters but they swam behind a barge and weren't visible by the time I got to the vantage point. It was made up for, though, by the presence of two yearbirds.

91. Peregrine Falcon
92. Horned Lark

We then split from the group and headed to the schoolhouse. When we got there, we saw Jeff and he didn't have the crossbills anymore, but he did show us Purple Finches. Other highlights there were Tufted Titmouse and Fox Sparrow.

93. Purple Finch

Some of the Tufted Titmouse:

And some feisty sparrows

And a solo American Tree Sparrow

We then decided to go back to Calumet for the scoters. When we got to Deadstick, we quickly found them. We didn't stay to look at the gulls.

94. White-winged Scoter

We then went to 126th St. Marsh again and picked out 2 Glaucous Gulls and a Thayer's. Walter recommended some feeders near 126th St. Marsh and we got some Red-wings there.

95. Red-winged Blackbird

After a brief jaunt into Indiana, we went to Calumet Park, and came up empty handed, but it didn't really matter because of the amazing day we just had.


The morning started rainy. We wanted to go back to Calumet as we figured that this would be the best time for me to get a Great Black-backed Gull. We went to Deadstick first. It was raining so I didn't take my camera out of the car. The gull numbers increased drastically from the previous day. Same with waterfowl numbers. We were able to pull out the scoters almost immediately. I then found a Lesser Black-backed Gull in the water. Ethan found a dark-mantled gull at the far end of the flock. He thought it looked very strange. Maybe a Great Black-backed, maybe something else. We walked along the river's edge to get closer. Soon, we were close enough to see it fairly well. While Ethan was watching it, it was chased off by another gull. This gull turned out to be a real Great Black-Backed. The other gull turned out to be a Great Black-backedXHerring Gull hybrid. A real neat bird. We then were able to pick out 2 Glaucous and a Thayer's. We, feeling satisfied, decide to leave.

96. Great Black-backed Gull

 We went to 126th St. Marsh and found that gulls were also plentiful there. The only uncommon gull there this time was another Great Black-backed. We soon left and went home, as the rain started to get heavier.

I might do a bit of chasing this week, so my next post may be soon. Next weekend is a 4 day one for me, so I will try to squeeze in as much birding as possible then.