Saturday, June 15, 2013

Beating Summer Doldrums

Hi all,

As you all know, it is now mid June. This is arguably one of the worst times of birding. Spring migration came to an abrupt end a week or two ago, and it is late enough in the year that many birds aren't singing as much. Also, it is too early for most post-breeding wanderers and shorebirds start coming back right at the beginning of July. These are the awkward transition weeks of the year. But, I will never take a break until the ball drops in NYC on the 31st. Given how I wasn't expecting much out of these weeks, I think that, so far, I have been faring pretty well. I started out with 5 target birds since my last post in early June, and of those, I have gotten 3. Here are the stories:

6/6: As a graduation gift, my brother got a long day trip to wherever he wanted. Considering that he is a gull nut, he decided to go to Sheboygan, WI where multiple Little Gulls and a few other goodies were being seen. When we got there, it didn't take long to find a Little Gull, but it was raining and it was a very dull one. There was also a Laughing Gull hanging around. We then decided to wander around the area and pulled out a bunch of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Ethan saw a Little Gull flying offshore heading north to where we saw the first one. We went back over there and quickly found a Little Gull, then another one showed up, and this kept on happening until we got up to 5 of them. They were sitting and flying and putting on a great show. We eventually dragged ourselves away to go to our next stop.
Laughing Gull
Bird #1
 Bird #2
 Bird # 3 and 4
 Bird #5
 One of the darker ones
Wing pattern comparison
 Feeding very close
Chilling right next to us 
 Sitting in the dead fish

From there, we went to the Tricolored Heron being seen near Rockford. We easily got it and it gave us great looks!

6/8: Ethan has started to become very interested in dragonflies and damselflies. Because of this, he decided to go a couple places that are supposed a bunch of them. We found what we were looking for, with a couple of bonuses. Our first stop was at Isla A La Cache in Romeoville. Highlights there were insane numbers of damselflys and a few Water Snakes.
Awesome snake, but there is a problem.
 It has a fishhook stuck in its body.
 So my brother and dad decided to rescue it.
And it put up a fight, but they got out the hook and it swam away.
Stream Bluet
Dark morph Tiger Swallowtail

Next we went to Silver Springs in Kendall County near Yorkville. Not only did this place have good dragon and damselflies, it has good birds and fish. It also had an interesting snake. The bird highlights included White-eyed Vireo and Red-shouldered Hawk.
 Awesome baby fish swarm
Awesome fish (ID please)
 Stream Bluet
 Pronghorn Clubtail
 Emerald Spreadwing
Emerald Spreadwing 
American Rubyspot 
 Rainbow Bluet
Fragile Forktail
 There was also this interesting snake.
My dad thinks it may be a Queen Snake.

Then, I got a call from Jeff Skrentny saying that Bob Hughes and Karen Mansfield had some American White Pelicans flying over Harborside Golf Course and they thought that they were landing. We zipped over there and got nothing. Oh well.

6/9: A morning monitoring session at Douglas Park got us a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Mourning Warbler, and this Hooded Merganser:

6/10: We decided to head up to the northwest part of the county. The only highlights were damselflies, pictured here:
 Fragile Bluet eating a bug
 Red Damselfly
 Springwater Dancer
Red Damselflies in tandem

6/11: This was supposed to be a work day for my dad, but it was interrupted by 3 Black Terns at McGinnis Slough found by Doug Stotz. They stayed there for us and put on a show while we were watching them. The terns were my 300th bird on my Cook County Lifelist.  They were very far away and they are small birds. Try to pick out which pixels are the Black Terns :p.

258. Black Tern 

6/13: This day started at Palatine Rd Marsh a bit before dawn to try for Common Gallinule. I failed on that, but among the chorus of Marsh Wrens I was able to pick out the soft clucking of a Least Bittern. My third this year. From there, we moved on the Paul Douglas where I followed instructions given to me by Stan Stec on where to get Black-billed Cuckoo. It turns out, the cuckoo wanted to cooperate because it gave great looks right where Stan had his. #1 nemesis conquered!

259. Black-billed Cuckoo

6/15: We decided to explore the Calumet area today. It was extremely dead. I am patiently waiting for a Little Blue Heron to make its way north to here as one seems to do so every year. There was one awesome highlight that put energy into this dull day, and that was a flock of 14 American White Pelicans at Harborside Golf Course, and unlike every other Pelican sighting in Cook this year, these ones weren't flyovers. They were very distant though, but I was satisfied.

260. American White Pelican

And that is it! June hasn't been amazing, but a few standout highlights make my efforts worthwhile. Now, I have two more targets left for June: Common Gallinule and Little Blue Heron. I need 15 more birds to break the record. Right now, I am in a 6-way tie for 6th place in Cook big years. Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Magical May

Hi all,

Just because I haven't been posting doesn't mean I haven't birding. It could even be said that I was birding so much I haven't had time to post. Since there are a lot of new birds I need to cover in this post, let's get started right away. Here is a list of all of my yearbirds for April 30-June 5.

176. Piping Plover
Always one of my favorite birds to see. They are just SO fricken cute.

177. Worm-eating Warbler
I had an unprecedented year for these. I saw a total of 4(!!) in Cook this year. The first one was in the evening at North Pond, the next one was at Miller Meadows, and the last one is one of two at Douglas Park!

178. Nashville Warbler
179. Cape May Warbler

180. Gray-cheeked Thrush
181. Chestnut-sided Warbler

182. Cerulean Warbler
183. American Redstart

184. Baltimore Oriole
185. Warbling Vireo
186. Pine Warbler
187. Blue-headed Vireo
188. White-eyed Vireo
189. Veery
190. Black-and-white Warbler
191. Great-crested Flycatcher
192. Least Flycatcher
193. Prairie Warbler

194. Ovenbird

195. Yellow-breasted Chat

196. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
197. Tennessee Warbler
198. Snowy Egret
Ethan spotted this egret far out at Miller Meadows, and while I was getting documentation shots, a Starling harassed it away. It flew right over me and hooked north out of sight.

199. Sedge Wren

200. Golden-winged Warbler

201. Black-throated Green Warbler
202. Bay-breasted Warbler

203. Blackpoll Warbler

204. Northern Parula
205. Blue-winged Warbler
206. Wood Thrush

207. Magnolia Warbler
208. Spotted Towhee
This is a great bird for my year! Ethan was busy on the day of the first one at Montrose, which I got, so we also went to the one in Grant Park.

209. Willet

210. Dunlin

211. Marsh Wren

212. Least Sandpiper
213. Black-throated Blue Warbler

214. Bobolink

215. Wilson's Warbler
216. Yellow-throated Vireo
217. Scarlet Tanager
218. Red-eyed Vireo
While birding at Douglas with Nathan Goldberg, he spotted a weird bird sitting on the sidewalk. It was a Red-eyed Vireo. We thought it was dead at first, but we then realized it was still breathing. We put it in a box and carefully brought it back to our house. We then let it rest for a while, and in the evening, we brought it over to Columbus Park, where it flew up into the trees and started to feed. My guess is that it hit something and was stunned, and eventually recovered.
219. Prothonotary Warbler

220. American Pipit
221. Ruddy Turnstone

222. Sanderling
223. Common Tern
224. Indigo Bunting
225. Forster's Tern

226. Common Nighthawk

227. Summer Tanager

228. Orchard Oriole
229. Blackburnian Warbler

230. Kentucky Warbler
231. Eastern Wood-Pewee
232. Willow Flycatcher
233. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
234. Mourning Warbler

235. Yellow-billed Cuckoo

236. Canada Warbler
237. Bell's Vireo
This was a weird Bell's Vireo as it was perched up singing in the top of a tree when we got to Catalina Grove. The only issue was it always found a branch to hide behind.

238. Alder Flycatcher
239. Semipalmated Plover
240. Olive-sided Flycatcher

241. Chuck-will's-widow
Props to Ethan on this crazy find at Columbus Park! Photos and story here:
242. Philadelphia Vireo
243. Blue Grosbeak
Returning breeders!

244. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
245. Nelson's Sparrow
I had a ridiculous spring for these. I got my yearbird at Montrose, then a few days later, I got 3-4 of them at Miller Meadows! I thought these buggers should be a challenge :p

246. Semipalmated Sandpiper
247. Connecticut Warbler
Large numbers of these at Douglas this year. Douglas is probably in the top 3 places for these guys in Chicago.

248. Black-bellied Plover

249. White-rumped Sandpiper
While I was waiting on Montrose Beach for something good to show up, this guy magically appeared! A bunch of people got to see it, which is great, because what is the fun in finding good birds if you can't share them?

250. Acadian Flycatcher

251. Red-necked Phalarope
Wow. I can't believe I got this bird in Cook. It started off with 4 in a random little marsh in Glenview found by Carol Freeman, but then I found my own at Palatine Marsh, which is nice because the Glenview ones only stayed one day (but they were much closer).

252. Henslow's Sparrow

253. Least Bittern

254. Red Knot
Don't even get me started on this awesome quintuplet of awesome shorebirds, which were found by Wes Serafin. If you sat still on the sand, these birds would come so close to you! The flushing shot was when a lifeguard approached them, so there was no foul play on my part.

255. Black-headed Grosbeak
350 for my state list!!! This second-year male showed up at a private residence only a few miles from my house! My rarest bird yet this year.

256. Dickcissel
257. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
This adult has been wandering around South and North Pond for a few days. When my dad and I caught up to it, it was on the island in South Pond. It was spotted by my dad then.


Clay-colored Sparrow in our yard/ Douglas Park:

Eared Grebe I found at Dewey Helmick Nature Preserve:

Pine Siskin in our yard:

Northern Mockingbird I found at Miller Meadows:

Yellow-headed Blackbird at Paul Douglas:

Red-headed Woodpecker at Montrose:

Weird Ring-billed Gull:

And that was my late April/ May/ early June in a nutshell. School got out yesterday, so I will have more free time now. I am going to post a target list tomorrow, so keep an eye out for that! Good birding!