Monday, March 18, 2013

Ducks Are Everywhere!!

Hi all,

This week and weekend has had one obvious theme, ducks! Since my last blog post, I have seen 22 species of waterfowl. To start off, I will tell you about my after school birding last week.


We went to Douglas Park to do some monitoring. As soon as I walked up to the sanctuary lagoon, I saw the two male Redhead from last week along with 6 Northern Shovelers. The Shovelers are a new monitoring bird for the park, which means that we have seen them in the park, but only before I started monitoring.

The Shovelers were followed quickly by the flushing of an American Woodcock, which is a yearbird for me! To make the situation even better, I got my first ever semi-decent photos of a Woodcock.

114. American Woodcock

This got followed up by 2 more Woodcock, a Peregrine Falcon flyover, and an Eastern Bluebird.


We unsuccessfully looked for a Harlequin Duck that was found at 63rd St Beach. It was also raining constantly. We did get 3 White-winged Scoters at 63rd St Beach and 3 White-winged Scoters and a Great Black-backed Gull at Rainbow Beach.


First, this day was made possible by Ted Wolff who graciously volunteered to take us around the lakefront for the day. Thanks go to Ted and his generosity. My dad was busy out of the county which is why he couldn't take us. The day started off with Ted picking Ethan and me up at our house. We first went to our main target, the Harlequin Duck. This bird could not have been easier to find. The second we walked onto the pier, we saw it. The failure of the previous day made this success much sweeter, though.

115. Harlequin Duck

We then moved to LaRabida Harbor where we found some Horned Grebes and presumably the same 3 White-winged Scoters as yesterday. We then worked our way down to the Calumet area by way of Rainbow Beach and Calumet Park, both of which held nothing special. Our first stop that harbored something good wasn't really planned. On our way to Deadstick, we passed by Indian Ridge Marsh. I noticed two Ring-necked Ducks and decided to scan around the marsh. What I found were 30 Northern Shovelers, 3 Gadwall, and 4 Blue-winged Teal!

116. Blue-winged Teal

When we got to Deadstick, we didn't find much. There were some Ring-necked Ducks and Gadwall on the actual pond and 3 White-winged Scoters by the overlook to the river. We then wandered around for a bit before going to O'Brien Lock & Dam where the only highlight was a Thayer's Gull. I then read that Doug Stotz had found a Franklin's Gull only 5 minutes away from where we were! When we got there, nothing good was to be found. Oh well. We then moved on to 126th St Marsh the 5 Snow Geese were still present, but that was it. For our last stop of the day in Calumet, we went to Wolf Lake. We first went to State Line Road where we could see all of the ducks were in Indiana hundreds of Ring-necked, Canvasback, and Redhead were present in this raft. Only small numbers of these species were to be found on the Illinois side. What we did find on the Illinois side were 14 Horned Grebes, 13 White-winged Scoters, 7 Gadwall and 11 American Wigeon.

117. American Wigeon

We then left for Northerly Island because my dad would be picking us up there. As a bonus, we found 5(!!) Thayer's Gulls in the 60 Herring Gulls in the harbor. Also there was a cooperative Crow.

After my dad picked us up, we decided to go to Douglas Park. There we found the 2 Redheads, 5 Shovelers, 2 Horned Grebes, 2 Hooded Mergansers, 2 Wood Ducks, 1 Lesser Scaup, and 1 Greater Scaup! The sanctuary lagoon was packed! Horned Grebe was a new monitoring bird and Greater Scaup was a new park bird, so I am a very happy camper.


The forecast for strong NE winds made me excited enough to lakewatch at Gillson, but I wanted to make a quick check at Douglas. At Douglas, everything was the same except for a male Bufflehead replacing 2 Horned Grebes and another Lesser Scaup joined the foray. When we went to Gillson, that provided only 1 White-winged Scoter, so we decided to move to Northwestern University, where we had a flyby flock of 17 Northern Pintails. Lastly, we went to Lighthouse Beach where we had 17 Mute Swan flyby.


Today, we decided to bird the local parks after school. A quick stop at Columbus Park gave us 3 Ring-necked Ducks, which were a new bird for that park.

We then went to Douglas to see if anything new popped by. The 5 Shovelers, 2 Lesser Scaup, 1 Greater Scaup, and 2 Redhead were still present, but new this time were Ring-necked Duck and American Coot. Ring-necked is, again, a new bird for this park, bringing the list up to 160 species. Right after I started to photograph the ducks, they all (except the Coot) flushed for some unknown reason.

Unfortunately, only the Redhead and Shovelers came back. We the went to Garfield Park where we got 3 Shovelers and 2 Redhead. Our last stop of the day was Humboldt Park, where we got 1 Common Goldeneye, 7 Bufflehead, 3 Coots, 4 Lesser Scaup, and 1 Ring-necked Duck.

That is it! Again, thanks to Ted Wolff for his generosity in giving us a ride around Chicago. I will be birding every day except Thursday this week, and next week is SPRING BREAK!!!!!! See you all soon.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Migration's Murmurings

Hi all,

I feel like I am starting out every post like this, but sorry for the lack of updates. Nothing too good was seen in the past two weeks. Last weekend (3/2-3/4), I got two yearbirds. One was Sandhill Crane from Bartel Grasslands and one was Horned Grebe from Powderhorn Lake. We had huge numbers of White-winged Scoters during last weekend. On Monday, we had over 50 total! Various photos are here:

 Common Redpoll, Spring Valley Nature Center

  Common Redpoll, Spring Valley Nature Center

Red-tailed Hawk, Douglas Park

1 Canvasback, 3 White-winged Scoters, 2 Bufflehead, Random pond in south Cook County

1 Canvasback, 2 White-winged Scoters, Random pond in south Cook County

White-winged Scoter, Random pond in south Cook County

Lesser Black-backed Gull, 126th St Marsh

107. Sandhill Crane
108. Horned Grebe

Great Black-backed Gulls, Deadstick Pond (had 2 Glaucous Gulls ad 31 White-winged Scoters here)

This past weekend (3/9-310) was a bit more eventful yearbird wise, which is as expected, given that migration is speeding up.

We started and ended the day at Bartel. We have been searching for a Rough-legged Hawk there for so long. All trips down to south Cook County have been based on Bartel just to try for this hawk. Again and again we failed, and this day was no different. Something special about Bartel is that even though we constantly miss the hawk, I almost always get a consolation yearbird. Today was no different. As we patrolled for the hawk in the morning, I had a Turkey Vulture flyover. We also had two flocks of 7 cranes pass over.

109. Turkey Vulture

We went around to the ponds which amassed about 2000 total Canada Geese last weekend. This time, no more than 20. The White-winged Scoters and Canvasback left too. We decided to then head to Calumet, where things got much better. Our first stop was Deadstick Pond, where the scoter flock was still present, and has grown. While White-winged are awesome, there is so little diversity in these scoters we keep on running into. It is frustrating. But, who can be too sad when you get a show like this:

A passing boat flushed all of the scoters right past us. It was awesome! We then moved on to 126th St. Marsh. 5 blue morph Snow Geese were reported from here, and they still were there.

We moved to the river portion where we amassed a total of 3 Thayer's and 2 "Kumlien's" Iceland Gulls. Here is one of the Thayer's:

After a few unsuccessful stops, we moved back to Bartel to do an evening vigil for the hawk. While unsuccessful again, I did manage to eek out two yearbirds:

110. Common Grackle
111. Eastern Meadowlark

Overall blackbird totals were crazy. Probably around 10,000 total but most were unIDed.

We started at Douglas Park, which rewarded us with our first park record of Redhead. This is the first first park record of the year! Our monitoring list is at 158 species now, which is very respectable since we have only been seriously monitoring for a bit less than a full year. 

We then headed to the lakeshore. After a failed attempt at lakewatching at Gillson Park, we moved to Montrose. Here, I got my final yearbird of the weekend, Eastern Phoebe  This is my first insect eating migrant of the year, which means gnat swarms and mosquito bites aren't far away (yippee).

112. Eastern Phoebe

And this Hairy Woodpecker, an uncommon bird at Montrose, posed very well.


Today, we decided to do some after school birding at Miller Meadows. We wanted to find a flock of Rusty Blackbirds that Jill Anderson found the day prior.When we got there, we immediately found an American Black Duck in a fluddle with some Mallards. That is a good bird for here. When we got to where Jill had her blackbirds, only Killdeer were to be found. We decided to walk into the meadows. It was raining so I decided to leave my camera in the car, so that means that we had to find something good. We first walked to a patch of cattails that harbor snipe typically. What we first found was surprising,  23 Eastern Meadowlarks in the grasses. That is a great number for the county. Soon after, a snipe did flush, giving me my yearbird dose for the day. We started walking to the second part of the meadow, getting a Sharp-shinned Hawk along the way. I spotted a blackbird flock clear across the field, so I started to walk towards it with my brother and my dad. While walking, I heard a strange noise. It reminded me of a Canada Goose getting strangled. I look up and see a goose flying southwest alone. I am able to discern an odd body shape immediately and a few seconds later, I can see black markings on the underside. That is when I called out Greater White-fronted Goose! My dad and my brother both saw it well. It was clear, to my disappointment, that it did not want to stop down. Another Greater White-fronted, another awkward situation for me when I tell people I saw a desirable bird but it is not chasable. It seems almost like bragging, but the knowledge that these birds are out there somewhere will hopefully provide inspiration for more people to look. My blackbird flock had nothing special  and the only other highlights were a Peregrine Falcon flyover and another Eastern Meadowlark. Birding, while relying on skill, also relies on luck. A lot of my sightings come from me being in the right place at the right time, so getting out as much as possible is, in my opinion, the best way to find the best birds.

113. Wilson's Snipe

Looking forward, I will probably go to Douglas Park Tuesday or Wednesday. I also am in contact with Susan Szeszol about her Eurasian Collared-Doves, which she had back on Sunday, but not today. Spring break in 2 weeks!