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!


  1. Thank you for the updates and sharing your finds "real time."

  2. Good luck! I love the snake rescue story. Good thing you had some handling gloves with you. ;)

  3. That (awesome fish ID please)) is a Red-Eared Sunfish....also known as a shellcracker cuz they like eating little snails on the bottom.