June 16, 2022

April Birding Recap (May on the way!)

April is always a fun month because you get the first big pushes of spring migration, but it's not crazy and stressful like May. So here we go!

4/1:

I went back to Techny as soon as I could to try to refind the meadowlark from yesterday (look at my previous update for more details on that) and get better photos. Sadly, I didn’t refind the bird. However, I did have a Northern Shrike, which is an awesome bird for April. There was also a lone Sandhill Crane circling and landing in the area.

In the evening, I went out to do some yard birding, which was highlighted by a Merlin and a random flyover Belted Kingfisher.

4/2:

Today was supposed to be a great day for waterfowl movement, and it lived up to the expectations. Early in the morning Woody Goss had a bunch of Red-throated Loons at Gillson, so of course I headed over there as soon as I could. We met up with Woody and Matthew Cvetas and started scoping the lake. We had a total of 9 Common Loons, 6 White-winged Scoters, plus a Merlin hunting along the shoreline. About 25 minutes in, Woody got his scope on a flyby Red-throated! For some reason I couldn’t get it in my scope so he let me use his. And boom, there it was! Lifer and year bird!

(#120.) Red-throated Loon

Randomly, it also snowed today. And after a week with no redpolls at the feeders, we finally got one, presumably the last of the season.

4/3:

We hit up Gillson again in the morning, but it wasn’t very active today. We had many mergansers and cormorants, as well as one loon and one scoter.

4/6:

Before my volleyball game, I did a little birding at Welles Park, which is across the street from the gym. The highlights were an Eastern Meadowlark and 2 male Rusty Blackbirds, which is really good for a park in a very urban area.

4/9:

In the early morning I went out quickly and found a sapsucker in our yard, as well as the continuing male Merlin and 2 Song Sparrows.

Around midday I went over to Mallinkrodt and got my year bird Hermit Thrush!

(#121.) Hermit Thrush

Late in the day we went to Montrose and had some nice birds including 3 Caspian Terns!

(#122.) Caspian Tern

4/10:

I started off at Mallinkrodt with the usuals, so I headed home pretty quickly. Around 10 AM I headed over to Mallinkrodt again and randomly had an Osprey flying over! As I was walking through the park I heard the distinctive song of a Chipping Sparrow! There ended up being two, and I got some decent pics and audio recordings.

(#123.) Chipping Sparrow

In the evening I headed over to Gillson to look for a pair of Brown Thrashers that my friend Victor had found earlier. We found them almost as soon as we got out of the car!

(#124.) Brown Thrasher

4/11:

I started out the day watching the morning flight before we had to leave for school. There were a bunch of flickers migrating, as well as 2 WILSON’S SNIPE flying by, which is a crazy yard bird!

While we were driving to school I got a text that read, “Eared Grebe at Montrose”. WHAT?! The entire school day was agony as I waited for the end of the day, hoping the bird would stick around. Luckily, it did! We got over to Montrose as fast as possible after school, and I quickly found the bird among 18 Horned Grebes! He was super close to shore and in full breeding plumage, so I got some really nice pictures. I walked through the dunes after, and picked up Northern Rough-winged and Barn Swallows to add to my list.

(#125.) Eared Grebe
(#126.) Northern Rough-winged Swallow
(#127.) Barn Swallow

4/12:

After school today we went to Jarvis Bird Sanctuary to look for a Louisiana Waterthrush that had been seen there earlier, but sadly no luck.

4/13:

On Wednesday during the school day I got a text saying that the Yellow-crowned Night-heron was back at the Lincoln Park Zoo heron rookery! A little background: The zoo has the largest Black-crowned Night-heron rookery in the county, and maybe even the state. This particular Yellow-crowned Night-heron has been returning for a few years now. I got it last year, but obviously I needed it this year too. So that’s where I headed after school. It took us an hour to find (in the pouring rain) but it was worth it. Year bird! After walking around a little my mom also found 2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets!

(#128.) Black-crowned Night-heron
(#129.) Yellow-crowned Night-heron
(#130.) Ruby-crowned Kinglet

4/14:

On Thursday after school I went back to get better pics of the Yellow-crowned. I got some with the sun which was nice.

4/15:

In the afternoon we went to Techny to look for a Vesper Sparrow that Jeff Bilsky had earlier. When we walked up it was just sitting on the path! Life bird #270, and year bird!

(#131.) Vesper Sparrow

4/16:

We went to Techny again to look for shorebirds, and we found them! I found 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, a Spotted Sandpiper, and a surprise lifer: a Dunlin! There was also a Sandhill that was just walking around in the grass.

(#132.) Lesser Yellowlegs
(#133.) Spotted Sandpiper
(#134.) Dunlin

After that we stopped at the Skokie Lagoons to look for a Louisiana Waterthrush. I had some great bird counts, including:

85 Yellow-rumped Warblers
22 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
14 Golden-crowned Kinglets
6 Brown Creepers

I got really excited when we found a waterthrush, but it later turned out to be a Northern. Still a year bird!

(#135.) Northern Waterthrush

After the weekend I didn’t really do much birding until Thursday, but boy was it a great day.

4/21 (Thursday):

So a little background here: two days prior to Thursday, on April 19, Dan Lory found a SAY’S PHEOBE at park 566. Say’s Phoebes are a western species, and there are only a handful of records for the state. So it was insane that one was in Cook, and I knew I would have to chase. But how? It was in a place that was over an hour from my house and I would have to wait until the end of the week, at which point the bird would likely be gone. However, a solution came when Scott Judd realized he had a DIFFERENT Say’s Phoebe at Loyola Beach, which is much closer to my house. A couple people were able to refind the bird, but then it flew west and didn’t return for the rest of the day. I thought it was gone for good. Later that evening, somebody refound the 566 bird…and then watched it get eaten by a Merlin. Oooof. At this point I thought I had no chance of getting a Say’s this year. But on Thursday, right before school let out…the Loyola Say’s Phoebe returned!! We shot up there as fast as we could from school. But when we got there, the bird was nowhere to be found and hadn’t been seen for a while. We looked, and looked, and looked, and looked some more, but we could not find that bird. Suddenly something flew over my head. Robin, I thought. Then it landed on a fence post and I got my bins on it. Robin? Yeah, right. No, this was a FREAKING SAY’S PHOEBE!! It started flycatching and eventually moved closer to us, allowing me to get some good pictures. Then it suddenly landed right in front of me, and I got some really good pics. Such an awesome bird. I also got 3 Savannah Sparrows and a flyby Cliff Swallow!

(#136.) Savannah Sparrow
(#137.) Say’s Phoebe
(#138.) Cliff Swallow

While we were at Loyola I had gotten a text saying that Jeff Bilsky had just found 4 Wilson’s Phalaropes at Techny. We stopped home real quick get my scope, and then we rushed over to Techny. We met up with Tom Lally and Joe Lill and got the birds quickly. Life bird #273!

(#139.) Wilson’s Phalarope

I also spotted a Pectoral Sandpiper, a nice way to end the day.

(#140.) Pectoral Sandpiper

4/23:

The winds were looking good, the temps were in the 70s, and all was set for what was practically a bird fallout.

I went to Mallinkrodt in the morning, and I got a Swainson’s Thrush and 2 Chimney Swifts! I also had a random singing Carolina Wren in the most random spot (the parking lot). Carolina Wrens are really hard to come by in Cook County so that was a great bird.

(#141.) Swainson’s Thrush
(#142.) Chimney Swift
(#143.) Carolina Wren

After that I had to go down to school to take my placement tests for high school. Between tests I checked my phone to see that Montrose was LOADED. And I mean LOADED. First of all, A FREAKING SNOWY PLOVER!!!! That's one of the rarest birds Cook will ever get! My friend Alex had been there all morning and already had over 20 year birds. So I finished up my last test, finally convinced my mom to go, and we were on our way. When we got there, it was just insane. We started out with Pine and Yellow Warblers at the entrance.

(#144.) Pine Warbler
(#145.) Yellow Warbler

After that we went down to the beach for the Snowy Plover, (which should be on the gulf coast right now), which we got! Lifer!!

(#146.) Snowy Plover

Here are some of my other year birds:

(#147.) Rose-breasted Grosbeak
(#148.) Indigo Bunting
(#149.) Gray Catbird
(#150.) Veery
(#151.) Palm Warbler
(#152.) Common Yellowthroat

I hopped over to the Bank Swallow colony to add those:

(#153.) Bank Swallow
(#154.) Purple Martin
(#155.) House Wren
(#156.) Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
(#157.) Northern Parula

We went over to the water feature where I got my life bird Marsh Wren!

(#158.) Marsh Wren
(#159.) Orange-crowned Warbler

I was walking down between the sanctuary and the dunes when Scott Judd called me over saying that Dan Hayes had just spotted a Prairie Warbler in the thicket they were standing next to. I went over there and they got me on it right away! An awesome bird for Cook County. Within minutes there were over 15 people looking at the bird.

(#160.) Prairie Warbler
(#161.) Black-throated Green Warbler
(#162.) Black-and-white Warbler

We met up with my friends Simon and Peter Tolzmann, and we went back down to the beach to try for some better photos of the Snowy Plover. We lay down on the beach, and waited for the bird to come to us. Soon enough, it was running up and down the shore 8 feet from us! We all got insane shots. It was such an amazing experience to be that close to such a cool (and endangered) bird.

We went back up towards the dunes and found Monty the Piping Plover resting in the sand!

(#163.) Piping Plover

This has definitely been the best day of birding I’ve ever had.

4/24:

Started off earlier at Montrose today, and when we walked in the first thing we saw was a bunch of people looking at a Yellow-breasted Chat! It perched on the side of a tree for a second, so I got a decent shot. They are one of my favorite birds.

(#164.) Yellow-breasted Chat

Somebody told us that there was a Golden-winged Warbler down by where the Prairie had been yesterday, so that’s where we went next. While we were walking I spotted multiple Lincoln’s Sparrows and an Ovenbird!

(#165.) Lincoln’s Sparrow
(#166.) Ovenbird

When we got there the bird was giving great views, perching out on the branches of a cedar. Lifer!!

(#167.) Golden-winged Warbler

We also ended up seeing the Prairie Warbler again, apparently it stuck around.

While we were out by the dunes looking at the warblers, Matthew Cvetas came out to tell us that there was a Whip-poor-will in the hedge! I had never seen one, so we rushed over there and immediately got on the bird. Another lifer!!

(#168.) Eastern Whip-poor-will

I also had a Least Flycatcher calling:

(#169.) Least Flycatcher

We had to leave for my brother’s soccer game, but as we were walking out, Simon and Peter called me over and got me on a Wood Thrush! Yet another lifer!!

(#170.) Wood Thrush

We got into the car and were about to drive away when my phone buzzed:
“26 American Avocets on the public beach at Montrose”
As soon as I read that, I jumped out of the car and sprinted the entire way down to the beach. When I got down there a bunch of people were already looking at them, and I got some nice photos. Another one of my favorite birds, a great bird for Cook, and year bird!

(#171.) American Avocet

Also, when reviewing my pics, I discovered I had an Acadian Flycatcher at Montrose as well!

(#172.) Acadian Flycatcher

The avocets were a great way to end yet another great day at Montrose. Overall I came up with 58 species, which is pretty good.

We went to my brother’s soccer game at James Park, so I decided to do some birding on Mount Trashmore. Mount Trashmore is basically this 150 foot heap of trash that they covered with dirt and trees and now it’s a great spot to bird. As soon as I got into the forest I found a Nashville Warbler!

(#173.) Nashville Warbler

I walked around, and when I came back to the main grassy slope, I heard a song I didn’t recognize coming from the forest edge. I got my bins on two birds up in a tree, and my jaw dropped. Lark Sparrows! This has been a great year for them in Cook, probably the best ever. But still an awesome rarity!

(#174.) Lark Sparrow

After both me and my brother had played our soccer games, we went to Techny to look for Greater Yellowlegs. We didn’t find any, but I got Solitary Sandpipers instead!

(#175.) Solitary Sandpiper

After that we went to Gillson to look for Blue Grosbeaks that had been hanging out there earlier in the day. While we were looking I got a Warbling Vireo:

(#176.) Warbling Vireo

We went down by the dog beach where I randomly found a Vesper Sparrow in the sand! Practically right after that I found a Yellow-throated Warbler!!! Two AWESOME birds for Gillson, and one of them was a year bird!

(#177.) Yellow-throated Warbler

So that’s it for Sunday. On Monday I left for Washington, D.C. on a school trip. I didn’t get back until late Friday night. It was fun to take my mind off the big year for a while, and it was also cool to see some of the birds out there that aren’t as common in northern IL. For instance, Northern Mockingbirds are pretty rare here in Cook County, but they are EVERYWHERE in D.C. Some of the other cool birds I saw or heard included Black Vultures, Black-throated Blue Warblers, and Fish Crows.

On my first day back, however, I dove right back into it.

4/30:

My mom and I went to Montrose in the afternoon, where I had a total of 47 species, and picked up:

(#178.) Eastern Kingbird
(#179.) Bobolink
(#180.) Yellow-throated Vireo
(#181.) Baltimore Oriole

Late in the day on Saturday, I got word of two of the rarest birds that can be seen in Cook County annually: King and Black Rails. For the safety of the birds I’m not going to disclose the location of the birds on here, since both are state endangered species. Sunday was the 1st of May so I’ll include the chase in the next monthly recap.

So I end April with 181, which is pretty great and more than Isoo had at this time when he did his big year. Hope you enjoyed this!

See you next month,

-Owen

Posted on June 16, 2022 14:41 by owenbirder13 owenbirder13 | 15 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

June 10, 2022

March Birding Full Recap (April and May coming soon!)

Sorry for the long wait everyone. I haven't had as much time lately, and the time that I did have I mostly spent out in the field birding. But now it's summer, so I'll have more time to post and get up to date on my recaps. So here it is: March.

March is usually a pretty dead time for birds in Cook County. Many of the waterfowl have moved on, and the spring migrants have yet to come through. But this March exceeded expectations. Enjoy!

Starting off the month:

3/2:

After school on Wednesday we went up to Air Station Prairie to try for the continuing Northern Shrike that’s been hanging out. We got it almost right away, along with an adult Bald Eagle and many blackbirds and grackles.

(#93.) Northern Shrike

3/4:

I started out the day by going over to Mallinkrodt Park, where I came up with a nice total of 22 species. After that, I went back to the yard and just focused on doing some backyard bird photography. I got an awesome shot of a male redpoll, which is my favorite redpoll shot I’ve ever taken. While I was walking around in the front yard, I saw (and heard) a flock of medium-sized passerines fly over me and land in a spruce. I had a a guess as to what they might be, and once they landed I confirmed it. My second yard record White-winged Crossbills! I got a much better view of them this time, as they stayed for almost 10 minutes and they were in a relatively short spruce. Around 4:00 I went over to Mallinkrodt again, hoping to see the Merlin that I’ve been seeing there lately. No luck, and a pretty uneventful walk overall. But it got cut short anyways because my friend Jeff Bilsky had just had a Snow Goose/Ross’s Goose Flyover at the Skokie Lagoons. Normally, I wouldn’t chase flyovers, but this one was low and heading straight towards the Techny/Lake Glenview area. I convinced my dad to drive me over there (thanks dad!). Techny had a lot of mergansers and blackbirds, but barely anything else. We hurried over to Lake Glenview to try to find it there before the sun set, and as soon as we pulled up I got my eyes on my first non-flyover Killdeer of the year. Exciting, but not what we came for. We walked around and found many geese, but they all ended up being Canadas. Meanwhile, Jeff was still at the Lagoons, checking some spots unsuccessfully. I guess we’ll never know where that goose went, but worth a shot nevertheless.

3/5:

I started out in the morning at Techny North, which is one of my favorite spots. It was an awesome migration day, especially for geese, and I had over 1250 Canadas. I also flushed 3 Gadwalls from the water accidentally, which I wasn’t expecting to get but was happy to see them nonetheless. There were a couple other nice ducks too, including an American Black Duck and a male Green-winged Teal. As I walked down towards the dam, I accidentally flushed a Wilson’s Snipe from the grasses! Sadly, I only got blurry pictures. As I was walking back, I found a cormorant in the water with the mergansers, my last addition for Techny.

(#94.) Gadwall
(#95.) Wilson’s Snipe
(#96.) Double-crested Cormorant

We went back home, so I decided to do a little yard birding. Our yard has a really good view of the sky, so I was just looking for anything that might fly over. I never would have thought that I would get what I did: 2 flocks of Greater White-fronted Geese, totaling about 150 birds! Lifer, year bird, and yard bird all in one!

(#97.) Greater White-fronted Goose

We then went to Gillson, where I picked up a flock of 17 Northern Pintails flying south!

(#98.) Northern Pintail

OK, so do you remember when Jeff Bilsky saw that flyover white goose? And the part where I said we’d never know where it went? Well actually, while we were at Gillson Jeff texted me saying he had found the goose! And even better: IT WAS A ROSS’S!! I eventually convinced mom and dad to drive me over to the spot, which was at a golf course south of techny. We walked over and immediately got the goose! Sadly, it was really hard to see and my pictures were pretty bad. But it’s a freaking Ross’s Goose, so who cares?! Awesome way to end off an awesome day.

(#99.) Ross’s Goose

3/6:

Today was nuts. I’m just going to say that. I did some yard birding in the morning, and I added a random yard bird, a flyover flock of 8 Northern Pintails. I also counted 61 Killdeer migrating through, and had a Fox Sparrow in my neighbor’s tree. After that, something absolutely ridiculously crazily amazingly INSANE happened!!! A LESSER GOLDFINCH BANDED AT CAMP SAGAWAU!!! I convinced my dad to take me and my brother down there, and while we were driving through Palos I saw 3 Turkey Vultures!

(#100.) Turkey Vulture

We got to Sagawau and my friend Simon Tolzmann got me on the Lesser Goldfinch almost immediately! This particular individual was a female/immature male, and it was much greener than the American Goldfinches around it. It was also a bit smaller. Let me give a little background here: The Lesser Goldfinch is a western species, and the farthest east it normally comes is Texas. So the fact that it's in Illinois at all is just freaking ridiculous. It’s the first state record, EVER!! This may be the rarest bird I get this year. In short, it was just awesome to see.

(#101.) Lesser Goldfinch

After that we headed over to Saganashkee Slough to look for waterfowl. We came up with the following:

2 Gadwalls
2 American Wigeons
150 Canvasbacks
20 Redheads
300 Ring-necked Ducks
8 Greater Scaup
12 Lesser Scaup
2 Common Goldeneyes
4 Hooded Mergansers
12 American Coots

A pretty good haul, plus 1 year bird!

(#102.) American Wigeon

3/9:

While we were driving to school on Wednesday, I spotted an adult Red-shouldered Hawk! I was super relieved, because I was afraid I had missed them for the season.

(#103.) Red-shouldered Hawk

I continued to see this hawk on the 11th and the 12th, so it seems to be sticking around.

3/12:

In the evening my dad and I went to Air Station Prairie to listen for woodcocks. We didn’t find any, but we did flush a snipe!

3/13:

My mom and I went up to the Botanic Garden to look for Blue-winged Teals a little after noon. We didn’t find any teals, but we did see 4 Wood Ducks and 8 Gadwalls. After that we went to Techny North, where we got an awesome look at a snipe! I got great pictures. We also saw 4 Green-winged Teals! We made a quick stop at the Skokie Lagoons, a male Bufflehead was the most exciting thing.

3/19:

The past few days have been pretty rainy, but even so, we went out to St. Paul Woods today to look for the Rusty Blackbirds that have been hanging out there. I spotted one as soon as we got there, and eventually found 2! I got some decent shots. Believe it or not, this was a very overdue lifer for me, and it puts me at 269. We also saw 2 male Brown-headed Cowbirds, a nice treat.

(#104.) Rusty Blackbird

When we got home, I got out of the car and immediately heard the distinctive calls of Golden-crowned Kinglets! I got pictures, though they aren’t very good.

(#105.) Golden-crowned Kinglet

3/20:

I started the morning off early at Mallinkrodt, coming up with a nice total of 23 species, highlighted by a Merlin, a Song Sparrow, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet. I was stuck at home for the rest of the day, but had 22 species in the yard throughout the day. We also had a grackle feeding under the feeders, our first for the year.

3/21:

Yesterday was 60 degrees with warm southerly winds, and today was supposed to be 70, so for me that meant good migrants and Mallinkrodt in the morning. Here were some of the birds:

1 Double-crested Cormorant (flyover)
1 male Wood Duck (flyover)
1 Brown Creeper
3 Golden-crowned Kinglets
2 Brown-headed Cowbirds
121 Common Grackles (mostly migrants)
2 Pine Siskins

The best bird of all was kind of insane. I was looking at flyover birds in the distance and decided they were gulls, and while I was looking at them my eyes landed on a large brownish bird with deep wingbeats. It was far off and about 200 feet in the air. I had a bird in mind, but based off of location and time of day I thought there was no way I could be right. It was flying away so it was hard to tell, but I got a picture as it circled. Incredibly, I was right! IT WAS A SHORT-EARED OWL!! This is only the 4th time I have ever seen this species. I was super excited, because:

A) YEAR BIRD!!
B) IN MY PATCH!!
C) If I didn’t get this specific Individual, I probably would have had to go all the way down to Killdeer Wetlands at the other end of the county (which I REALLY didn’t want to do)

(#106.) Short-eared Owl

3/22:

I went to Mallinkrodt in the morning again, even though it was raining. Golden-crowned Kinglets have really come through in the past few days, and I found over 20 at Mallinkrodt. I came home to find a male Brown-headed Cowbird calling in our spruce, and a female on our feeders. In the afternoon I went to Gillson with my mom, and had some great waterfowl. Here are some of the birds from my list:

1 Northern Shoveler
3 Gadwalls
2 Redheads
4 Greater Scaup
26 White-winged Scoters
2 Long-tailed Ducks
2 Bufflehead
3 Common Goldeneyes
2 Hooded Mergansers
67 Red-breasted Mergansers
1 Common Loon! (Year bird!)

We also walked around looking for a Pheobe, which we found!

(#107.) Common Loon
(#108.) Eastern Phoebe

Before we went to Gillson I had texted some of my friends saying that I was “going to Gillson to look for Eastern Phoebe and Common Loon”, and we ended up finding both! It was a very successful trip.

3/23:

In the morning I went to Mallinkrodt and found yet another Phoebe. Later that morning we decided to drive up to Baker’s Lake in Barrington for a couple of birds that I needed. While we were driving I spotted 2 Tree Swallows over the Skokie Lagoons!

(#109.) Tree Swallow

As soon as we pulled into the parking lot at Baker’s Lake I spotted my first-of-year Great Egrets on the rookery! I scoped from there for a while and had some awesome birds, including an Osprey on the nest platform!

(#110.) Great Egret
(#111.) Osprey

We went around to the other side of Baker’s Lake (Ron Beese Park) where I picked up:

(#112.) Swamp Sparrow
(#113.) Blue-winged Teal

3/24:

I started off at Mallinkrodt again this morning, and had some great birds including a flyover Common Loon, 6 flyover Wood Ducks, and an early Tree Swallow. Those are all pretty good birds for an inland park in March. I went back to Mallinkrodt after lunch, and I saw 2 birds fly up into the top of a spruce. Knowing very well what they could be, I raised my binoculars. Yup, you guessed it. Yet again, I had WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS!! These 2 birds were very cooperative, and had it not been pouring rain I might have gotten some good shots. I still got some decent ones though.

3/25:

My birthday!! I started out AGAIN by going to Mallinkrodt, and I got an unexpected year bird, a pair of Sandhill Cranes flying low heading south. I also had another loon flyover. Continuing my loon streak, when I got back to my house yet another bird flew over!

(#114.) Sandhill Crane

We went down south to McGinnis Slough to try for American White Pelicans. There were tons of waterfowl in the slough, and 50 or so Tree Swallows flying over the water as well. After a minute of searching, we picked up the pelicans all the way on the opposite shore of the slough. Success!

(#115.) American White Pelican

Since we were in the area we decided to go to Centennial Park to look for Caspian Terns- a bird that’s really common come spring, but I wanted to boost my numbers early. No luck. After that we went to Costco Slough, where we found a sleeping Trumpeter Swan and a male wigeon but no year birds. Our last stop of the day was Saganashkee Slough, which is HUGE. There were good numbers of mergansers and coots, as well as 2 eagles circling overhead. We also had a total of 59 Sandhill Cranes migrating overhead, and 2 loons really close to shore!

3/26:

I’m guessing you know where I started out the morning. Yup. Mallinkrodt. Not much today, but I did have an adult Bald Eagle, which is a site bird for the park. In the afternoon, we went to Memorial Park Cemetery to look for sapsuckers. No luck, but I found a woodcock, which is even better! I also had a Winter Wren, which was nice.

(#116.) American Woodcock

3/27:

Today was the first sunny day we’ve had in a while, and I was at Mallinkrodt again. I had another loon and 4 Fox Sparrows but not much else.

In the early afternoon I decided to try my luck at the Northern Mockingbird that has been hanging out at Harborside Golf Course for the past 5 months. We got there and almost as soon as we gout of the car my mom spotted the mockingbird!

(#117.) Northern Mockingbird

I proceeded to the back patio of the clubhouse on the golf course to scope the waterfowl in Lake Calumet. It was insane. Here are some of the notable counts from my list:

35 Northern Shoveler
75 Gadwall
385 Canvasback!!!
25 Redhead
165 Ring-necked Duck
155 Lesser Scaup
65 Red-breasted Merganser
25 Ruddy Duck
110 American Coot

It was super fun, I could’ve stayed there for hours counting ducks. I also had a harrier hunting over the marsh, he eventually caught something and promptly landed on the golf course to eat it.

We stopped at Big Marsh while we were in the calumet area, highlighted by a harrier and a kingfisher.

We also hopped over to Indian Ridge Marsh, which had Green- and Blue-winged Teals, as well as a flyover American Black Duck. Overall a pretty great day.

3/28:

We decided to go up to Crabtree Nature Center in the northwestern corner of Cook County to look for a Barred Owl that had been reported that morning. We didn’t find the owl but we did have some other nice raptors and waterfowl, as well as 3 sandhill cranes just walking around! After that we made 2 quick stops on both sides of Bakers Lake, the highlight was a pair of Wigeons in the wetland.

3/29:

We only had time for one stop, so we went to Montrose where I picked up:

(#118.) Eastern Meadowlark

3/31:

We stopped at Montrose again, and right as we were about to leave I spotted a sapsucker!

(#119.) Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Later in the day I went up to Techny and got some photos of meadowlarks, and while reviewing my pictures I discovered a very good looking candidate for a Western Meadowlark. I sent it to some of my more knowledgeable friends, and they said that it looked good but the evidence provided was not enough to confirm the ID. To this day we don’t know which species that bird was.

Well, that's a wrap for March! I caught up a little bit and I'm in good shape for April.

See you next month,

Owen

Posted on June 10, 2022 14:18 by owenbirder13 owenbirder13 | 4 comments | Leave a comment

April 16, 2022

Spring is here! March birding recap coming soon.

Big Year updates:

Wow. I still can't believe that I'm currently in the 4th month of my Big Year. As of the morning of April 16 (today), I'm at 131 species. My most recent addition was a Vesper Sparrow at Techny North. I've gotten some awesome rarities in the month of April, such as Eared Grebe (!!!) and Yellow-crowned Night-heron, but I did have a pretty big miss with a Brewer's Blackbird. However, only 2 people got to see it anyway so I didn't think it'll affect my Big Year.

The birds:

Migration really has started, we're getting thrushes and thrashers and all that. Even some of the early warblers are starting to come through in Southern Cook County! Pretty soon they'll be dripping from the trees. I've adopted a new strategy for my Big Year which is essentially this: Get the rare and uncommon birds, and everything else will be a breeze. For example, yesterday I thought of going down to Burnham Prairie for Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs and Pectoral Sandpipers. Then I thought, I'll just get those at Techny in the tens in a week or so, so why bother? Even if I fall a little behind, so long as I have the rare and uncommon birds, I'm not worried. I sorta feel silly already for going specifically down south to try for Caspian Terns earlier. I'm gonna see them all the time!

Update about the recap:

I have to finish writing my journal for March, but as soon as I'm done I'll post it.

-Owen

Posted on April 16, 2022 12:29 by owenbirder13 owenbirder13 | 13 comments | Leave a comment

March 19, 2022

February Birding Full Recap!

February:

February is going to be a bit easier because it’s mostly just catch up from January, plus whatever early migrants come through.

2/4:

On Friday after school we went to River Park to look for a Northern Pintail that had been spotted there, but to no avail.

2/5:

I didn’t have an opportunity to go anywhere that wasn’t walking distance, so in the evening I walked over to Mallinkrodt Park, which is about a hundred feet down the street from my house. I ended up seeing a Merlin, which was nice because I haven’t seen them at Mallinkrodt in about a month. I also added my site bird for Mallinkrodt, Common Redpoll. No year birds though.

2/6:

I went over to Mallinkrodt early in the morning, and got some nice birds including huge flocks of redpolls and a White-throated Sparrow.

After Mallinkrodt, I wasn’t able to go anywhere until mid-afternoon, so we went down to 31st Street Beach to try for the 2 Lapland Longspurs that had been hanging out there for the past 48 hours. We searched for nearly an hour with no luck. Only after we were back home did I see that they had been flushed by dogs a couple hours before we got there. Bummer. No new year birds this weekend.

2/7:

I knew we had time after school today, so at the end of the day I checked my needs alert for cook county. As soon as I opened it I blinked a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I wasn’t. Of all things, there was a female SURF SCOTER at the harbor mouth at Montrose! Montrose is right on our way home, so it made perfect sense. I was just hoping it was still around. We got there and made our way towards the harbor mouth, with no sign of the Scoter. I was rapidly getting discouraged, but as a last resort decided maybe we should try walking out on the little pier on the west side of the harbor mouth. Best decision of my life. Once we got about halfway out on the pier, my dad says, “Owen! What’s that!?” Pointing to a bird about 5 feet off the pier. “Oh my god…” I whispered as I crouched down to try for a photo. I decided to try to crawl closer on my stomach, and eventually I got to the end of the pier. The Surf Scoter was curious, and was swimming closer and closer until she came within 2 feet of me! It was awesome. Life bird #264!

(78.) Surf Scoter

2/8:

After school on Tuesday we went back to Montrose to try for a Long-tailed Duck, which we got almost immediately!

(79.) Long-tailed Duck

2/12:

On Saturday we went down to Crestwood to visit my grandma, and while we were at her house I obtained my first pics this year of a Sharp-shinned Hawk circling overhead!

After that we tried to go to Little Red Schoolhouse for a Purple Finch, but they were closing and I didn’t see anything other than a couple of interesting sparrows.

2/13:

We went to Kenilworth Beach in the morning to try to look for White-winged Scoters, but the lake was mostly frozen and the ducks we did see were all mergansers or goldeneyes.

Next, we went to Gillson hoping for a better view of the lake, but our best bird was only a male Hooded Merganser.

Our last location for the morning was the Northwestern lagoon, where I got some great photos of a male Hooded Merganser displaying for a female! There was also a coot and some scaup. No year birds at all this weekend either.

2/17 (Thursday):

Okay, a little background info before I start this one: Throughout February, White-winged Crossbills have randomly invaded northeastern Illinois, and finally showed up in Cook at Elmwood Cemetery on Monday. However, it was not convenient for me at all, because it was in western Cook County. But on Wednesday everything changed. Jeff Bilsky texted the group saying that he had a flock of 30+ crossbills at Memorial Park Cemetery, just 5 minutes from my house! So of course that meant on Thursday morning before school, that’s where we were headed. We got there and drove around with eyes open and windows down, but didn’t find any sign of the crossbills.

2/18:

I had a 4-day weekend, so on Friday I got to try again. We got to MPC around 3:00 and teamed up with Jeff Bilsky, Tom Lally, and Audrey Carl to look for the crossbills. We didn’t have any luck, but I added my other 2 targets for the day, Cedar Waxwing and Yellow-rumped Warbler! I also stopped to look at the continuing Northern Saw-whet Owl which I got back in January. He’s been hanging out on the same branch for over a month!

(80.) Yellow-rumped Warbler
(81.) Cedar Waxwing

2/19:

In the morning I did a little backyard bird photography, and had a surprise Yellow-rumped Warbler on the birdbath!

Mid-morning I got a text saying that the White-winged Crossbills were still at Memorial Park! We rushed over there and looked around for about half an hour to no avail. Then, when we walked back to where everybody's cars were, I realized everyone was gone. I looked around for a little bit and finally found them, with their lenses pointed up at a spruce. I could hear tons of redpolls calling from that spruce, and I assumed the crossbills were in there. I raised my binoculars and the first bird I set eyes on was a beautiful male White-winged Crossbill! I counted the rest of the flock, and came up with 12 crossbills! I set up my tripod and snapped some pictures of them. I could only find 2 females, the rest were males. I also got great footage of a male eating a spruce cone. Finally! I was so excited. Year bird #82 and life bird #265!

(#82.) White-winged Crossbill

After being home for a while, we went out again around 1:15 to try for a Purple Finch at River Trail Nature Center. I looked through the House Finches with no luck, but I did see a Fox Sparrow and many White-throated Sparrows. I walked down to the river, and found a large flock of American Tree Sparrows feeding along the bank. There was also a Song Sparrow on the opposite bank, which was nice to see. While I was looking at the American Tree Sparrows, I found another kind of sparrow, this one extremely unexpected. A Field Sparrow! It too seemed content on the riverbank and stayed there for the duration of our visit. A great way to end the day, and the first Cook record of this species this year!

(#83.) Field Sparrow

2/20:

I started the day at Mallinkrodt, and my best bird was a Brown Creeper. After that we went to a park in Glenview where there were multiple Purple Finches being reported, but that place was one of the most birdless places I have ever seen. In the afternoon, we met up with our friends at Wolf Lake, where I got my lifer and year bird, Canvasbacks! We got a ton of other waterfowl as well.

(#84.) Canvasback

While we were driving I just happened to spot 2 male Red-winged Blackbirds, a nice treat. We also made a quick stop to show our friends the Monk Parakeet nests at the skyway. Our next stop was Steelworkers Park, where I successfully picked up my target bird, 3 White-winged Scoters. I also found 3 Great Black-backed Gulls as an added bonus.

(#85.) White-winged Scoter

2/21:

What a day this was. I started out the morning with some yard birding. I was watching for flyovers when I heard and saw a flock of medium sized passerines fly into my neighbor’s spruces. As soon as I got my binoculars on them, my heart started beating faster. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. 25 White-winged Crossbills!! Best yard bird ever!! They flew off after a minute or so, but I did get some photos. I also spotted a first-of-year Killdeer to add to my list.

(#86.) Killdeer

While I was birding in the yard, Matthew Cvetas spotted 3 Northern Shovelers in the North Shore Channel, so I ended up heading over there. I got them almost as soon as I got there.

(#87.) Northern Shoveler

2/23:

After school on Wednesday my mom was nice enough to drive me over to the North Ave. Turning Basin, where I got my first Pied-billed Grebe of the year.

(#88.) Pied-billed Grebe

2/26:

We went down to Rainbow Beach in the morning to look for Snow Buntings, but sadly didn’t find any. After that we met up with my friend Simon at Park No. 566, but didn’t find much there either. After that we went to Steelworkers Park, where I got my one year bird, a Horned Grebe.

(#89.) Horned Grebe

Finally, we went to Wolf Lake, where Simon picked out a Tundra Swan amongst the other swans, as well as some nice ducks and an eagle.

2/27:

We went down to Little Red Schoolhouse around noon, where I finally got 2 Purple Finches! We first found a female and then a beautiful male! I also had my first grackle of the year fly over, and picked out 6 Brown-headed Cowbirds amongst the hordes of Red-wings. We also walked around and found a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers in the woods! Not new, but still exciting.

(#90.) Purple Finch

(#91.) Common Grackle
(#92.) Brown-headed Cowbird

Red-wings were everywhere today, and I saw tons as were driving home. When we got home I went over to Mallinkrodt, highlighted by 2 singing male Red-wings, A calling Northern Flicker, and a Merlin.

Well, that's it for February! March has gotten off to an awesome start with 13 year birds already. I cannot wait for migration season!!

Have fun birding,

-Owen

Posted on March 19, 2022 21:17 by owenbirder13 owenbirder13 | 4 comments | Leave a comment

March 10, 2022

LESSER GOLDFINCH!!, Surpassing 100 species, February recap coming soon!

Hey everyone,

I know I said I would post a February recap, so I’ll get around to that this weekend if anyone wants to read it. Also, last weekend I got my 100th species this year in cook county with 3 Turkey Vultures over the highway in the Palos Area. But that was just on our way to our bigger target, a LESSER GOLDFINCH! I’m pretty positive it’s the first state record of one. In the past week, I also got a Ross’s Goose at the Valley Lo Golf Course, 150 Greater White-fronted Geese over my house, and a Wilson’s Snipe at Techny Basin. Northern Pintail and Gadwall were nice adds as well. Plus a beautiful adult Red-shouldered Hawk on our way to school. Right now I’m sitting at 103 species for my big year, and spring break is coming up fast! I’m really excited to have 2 weeks of free time, and spend much of it birding. Some of my targets are American Woodcock, Eastern Meadowlark, and Snow Goose (although that one has proved rarer than even a Ross’s this year. There have been 4 Ross’s Geese in Cook County this year, which is pretty incredible. However, the only Snow Geese have been flyovers.)

That’s all for now,

Owen

Posted on March 10, 2022 16:01 by owenbirder13 owenbirder13 | 1 comment | Leave a comment

February 19, 2022

My long-awaited year and life bird WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS!

Yesterday (2/18) we went to Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie, hoping to find the White-winged Crossbills that had been hanging out there. Jeff Bilsky, Tom Lally, Audrey Carl, and myself searched for over 2 hours with no luck. However, I did pick up two new year birds:

(80.) Yellow-rumped Warbler
(81.) Cedar Waxwing

The next morning on February 19, I got a text saying that the White-winged Crossbills were still at Memorial Park! We rushed over there and looked around for about half an hour to no avail. Then, when we walked back to where everybody's cars were, I realized everyone was gone. I looked around for a little bit and finally found them, with their lenses pointed up at a spruce. I could hear tons of redpolls calling from that spruce, and I assumed the crossbills were in there. I raised my binoculars and the first bird I set eyes on was a beautiful male White-winged Crossbill! I counted the rest of the flock, and came up with 12 crossbills! I set up my tripod and snapped some pictures of them. I could only find 2 females, the rest were males. I also got great footage of a male eating a spruce cone. Finally! I was so excited. Year bird #82 and life bird #265!

Posted on February 19, 2022 18:08 by owenbirder13 owenbirder13 | 5 comments | Leave a comment

January Birding Full Recap!

1/1: I woke up at 7:45 (way later than I wanted to wake up) and started getting ready to go to my first destination, Chicago Botanic Garden. As I was getting ready, I added my first birds of the day:

(1.) Canada Goose
(2.) Mourning Dove
(3.) American Crow
(4.) European Starling
(5.) House Sparrow
(6.) American Goldfinch

While we were driving to CBG, I picked up a couple more species:

(7.) American Robin
(8.) Ring-billed Gull

As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, I spotted a flyover Great Blue Heron, a nice bird for my list.

(9.) Great Blue Heron

Within the next few minutes, I added:

(10.) Brown Creeper
(11.) Herring Gull
(12.) Dark-eyed Junco
(13.) White-throated Sparrow
(14.) Northern Cardinal

After a bit of searching, we found our main target:

(15.) Common Redpoll

We walked all around, looking for the Northern Shrike with no luck, but we did find a nice variety of waterfowl:

(16.) Mallard
(17.) American Black Duck
(18.) Common Goldeneye
(19.) Song Sparrow
(20.) Hooded Merganser
(21.) Wood Duck
(22.) House Finch
(23.) Black-capped Chickadee
(24.) Red-bellied Woodpecker
(25.) Downy Woodpecker
(26.) Red-tailed Hawk
(27.) American Tree Sparrow

We stopped at Turnbull Woods to look for Red-headed Woodpeckers, but didn’t find any.

After that, we drove south along Forest Way Drive in the Skokie Lagoons, and added a surprise male Ring-necked Duck, and a few other species of ducks as well:

(28.) Ring-necked Duck
(29.) Red-breasted Merganser
(30.) Common Merganser
(31.) Rock Pigeon

After that, we tried Gillson, but visibility and conditions were terrible, and I didn’t get any new birds. The snowstorm was coming in quickly, and our day was done.

However, upon returning to my yard, I got:

(32.) Blue Jay
(33.) Pine Siskin
(34). Red-breasted Nuthatch
(35.) Hairy Woodpecker

Overall, a pretty good first day, especially since my birding was cut off early by the snowstorm.

1/2:

I woke up and immediately went out into the yard to clear the feeders of snow and fill any that needed filling. While I was doing this, I picked up:

(36.) White-breasted Nuthatch

I wasn’t able to leave the house until after noon, but after that we went to our first stop, Calumet Park. Almost right away I added:

(37.) Bufflehead

We spent a long time looking for the Greater White-fronted Geese that had been spotted earlier, but with no luck. The goose flock was flushed soon after we found it, but we eventually relocated the flock and added my life bird:

(38.) Cackling Goose!
(39.) Greater Scaup

I got a text saying that all 3 Swan species were at Wolf Lake, so we rushed over there and got them quickly:

(40.) Mute Swan
(41.) Tundra Swan
(42.) Trumpeter Swan

It was great to get all 3 swans on day 2, and I got good photos of the Mute and Tundra Swans.

We made a stop at Indian Ridge Marsh, where Isoo had a Northern Shrike earlier in the day, but didn’t find it. After that we headed to 31st Street Beach to look for Snowy Owls, but sadly, there were none. Not a bad day, but I missed a few major targets.

1/3:

We were down in the city for non-bird-related things, but my dad was nice enough to make a quick stop at Lincoln Park Zoo to try for Green-winged Teal in the Duck Pond. However, when we got there, the gates to the zoo were all closed. It was 9:30, and sadly, the zoo opened at 10. We didn’t have time to go anywhere else so we headed home. When I got home, I looked out back and the first thing I saw was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk sitting on our fire pit! Year bird!

(43.) Cooper’s Hawk

I took a quick walk over to Mallinkrodt Park to try for a Merlin, no luck. I did find a calling Northern Flicker though!

(44.) Northern Flicker

1/4:

I thought I was going to have the whole day for birding, but I ended up not being able to do anything until about 3:30. Even so, we rushed over to Techny North and got 3 male Green-winged Teals as the sun was setting!

(45.) Green-winged Teal

We went back to school on Wednesday 1/5, and I was unable to go birding for the remainder of the week. But on Saturday I got right back to it.

1/8:

We headed down to southern Cook County again, and while we were on the expressway I saw a Kestrel flying by. I also am pretty sure I saw a Merlin but I didn’t get a good enough look.

(46.) American Kestrel

We arrived at Glenwood Woods to look for the resident flock of Wild Turkeys, but we didn’t see any. We drove around hoping to find one or two turkeys- we never expected 29!! We ended up finding 29 turkeys on the road we came in on. We parked and hiked into the forest. The turkeys were relatively unaffected by our presence, and the whole flock continued to feed in a clearing about 20 feet from us! I got some really good shots.

(47.) Wild Turkey

We decided to hit up Lake Calumet on the way home, and boy, did it pull through. We drove west on 122nd street and my mom spotted a hawk hovering over the Stony Island Landfills. She pulled over and I hopped out of the car, raised my camera, and started taking pictures. The first pic showed it perfectly. It was a Rough-legged Hawk! The roughies seem to like it around here, there have been at least 3 in the calumet area in the past couple days. My mom also saw two birds fly into a tree which ended up being Red-winged Blackbirds, a really good bird for January.

(48.) Rough-legged Hawk
(49.) Red-winged Blackbird

As we were driving back towards Indian Ridge, my mom spotted not just one, but two Northern Harriers hunting over the marsh!

(50.) Northern Harrier

I also had a flock of 17 Redheads and one Lesser Scaup fly over, a good way to end the birding portion of my day. An ice storm was coming in so we had to head home after that.

(51.) Redhead
(52.) Lesser Scaup

1/9:

We first went to Air Station Prairie to try to find the Northern Shrike that’s been hanging out there, with no luck. Then we drove all the way down to Calumet Park for yet another try at the GWFG that’s been hanging around down there. I picked through 700+ geese with no luck :(

We made a couple more stops but I had no luck, and ended with 0 new year birds.

1/12:

I didn’t have time to go birding until Wednesday after school, and there had just been a Glaucous Gull spotted at Monroe Harbor! We raced over there, and as soon as we got out of the car my jaw dropped. There were literally THOUSANDS of gulls filling the harbor. On the breakwater, in the air, in the water, it was insane. There was also a good amount of waterfowl in the harbor, and I got my first good look & picture of a male bufflehead this year (the only other one was a distant flyby at Calumet Park). We met up with Woody Goss and he got me on a couple nice gulls right away, including an adult Great Black-backed, an immature Iceland Gull, and a 2nd or 3rd cycle Lesser Black-backed.

(53.) Great Black-backed Gull
(54.) Iceland Gull
(55.) Lesser Black-backed

We still couldn’t find the Glaucous, however. It was getting darker and I folded up my scope to try walking down farther to get better views of the gulls. We had walked about 30 feet from Woody when I heard, “OWEN!!!” I turned around to see Woody waving his arms frantically. I knew what that meant, and I ran back there as fast as I could. I got to Woody and he let me look through his scope, and it was just awesome. A huge adult Glaucous just sitting on the breakwater!!! I set up my scope and snapped a few pictures before the light was gone. Only once we started heading home did I realize that I got all 6 Cook County wintering gulls in UNDER AN HOUR ON A WEEKDAY AFTER SCHOOL!!!Best gull day EVER!

(56.) Glaucous Gull

1/15:

I wasn’t able to do any birding until Saturday, and I was super excited because:

I had a 3-day weekend
The conditions were set up perfectly for a Black-legged Kittiwake!

So my first stop in the morning was Gillson, of course…but it didn’t really live up to my expectations. I got less than 50 individual ducks, and no kittiwake. There was a redhead in the harbor, though.

We headed home and I was filling the feeders when I got a text from Isoo saying “Go get the BLKI ASAP”. I look at the RBA and the first thing I see is “Black-legged Kittiwake at Park 566”. And not just a flyby. This bird was resting and feeding 100 YARDS FROM SHORE FOR OVER AN HOUR! WHAT??? So of course I rushed down there ASAP. We got there and met up with Alex Haza, and suddenly my mom spotted a small gull fly by and land in the water. I got my scope on it, and sure enough…a kittiwake!!! Or so I thought. It passed 15 feet away from us and hovered there for 30 minutes straight, and I got some great shots, which I sent to the Cook County Bird Chat. But it turns out…that was no kittiwake. It ended up being a Bonaparte’s Gull, which was still awesome (life bird!) but also highly disappointing. Then people started reviewing the previous photos with greater scrutiny, and came to the following conclusion: Dan Lory’s photo, the first one posted, was a Bonaparte’s Gull. Kelly Ballantyne’s photos were actually of a Kittiwake. And my photos were of a Bonaparte’s Gull, but a different one than Dan Lory’s. So 566 had 2 Bonaparte’s Gulls and a Kittiwake in a day. IN JANUARY. Kinda insane.

(57.) Bonaparte’s Gull

As we were heading back I had a flyover Peregrine Falcon, a bird that had avoided me for far too long this year.

(58.) Peregrine Falcon

While we were down there we decided to hit the Skyway Monk Parakeet nests, and literally as we were driving up I spotted them. We parked and I got a few shots. It was cool because I haven’t seen a Monk Parakeet in many years, and I had never seen the nests before.

(59.) Monk Parakeet

We decided to finish up with 31st Street beach to try for Snowy Owls. We walked down to dock K (where it had been reported in the morning), and sure enough I got my scope on it quickly. We got a couple other birders on it too. I got a few good digiscoped pictures. It was a great way to end our day. Plus, I hit 60!

(60.) Snowy Owl

1/16:

Oh, my god. Was this an insane day or what. We drove to deer grove in the morning, got there around 10:30. We parked and walked towards the Long-eared Owl roost, but we couldn’t really find a way to get there so Henry Meade came out of the huge pine stand and found us. We walked back into the pine stand and Henry got us on the Long-eared Owls!! Life bird #261!! There was a total of 9 owls that we could see, but Simon Tolzmann later counted 12!! I got some really great shots of the owls looking right at me. It was just the coolest experience, and I loved walking around in the pine forest where they were. It felt like we were in Canada. Long-eared Owls are officially my new favorite bird! However, there were a couple of photographers who kept getting unnecessarily close to the owls (literally within 10 feet) and flushed them multiple times. It also turns out it’s easier to walk in than to walk out, it took us about 20 minutes to get back to the trail 😂.

(61.) Long-eared Owl

We got back to a trail and met some other birders, who told us they had just had a Great Horned Owl at the Southwestern corner of the preserve. While we were talking to them, I spotted a flash of black and white fly behind them. “Red-headed Woodpecker!” I practically screamed. The Red-headed landed on a dead tree and gave us really nice views.

(62.) Red-headed Woodpecker

We went to look for the Great Horned, and we found it roosting after a few minutes of searching.

(63.) Great Horned Owl

We had to hustle to get back to the parking lot because I had to be back in Skokie by 3:00, as Josh Engel was going to show us a Northern Saw-whet Owl at Memorial Park Cemetery (thanks Josh!!). Once we got to the car, my mom decided we still had just enough time to try for the Northern Saw-whet roosting in a cedar not far from the parking lot at Deer Grove. We rushed over to the roost site and got it immediately! Life bird #262!!

(64.) Northern Saw-whet Owl

We drove all the way back to Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie, where we met up with Joe Lill, Josh Engel, and a couple others, and Josh got us on the Saw-whet right away. We tried to find the resident Winter Wren but to no avail. While we were looking at the Saw-whet a Merlin flew overhead, another bird that has been strangely eluding me.

(65.) Merlin

We drove to another part of the cemetery where Tom Lally and Jeff Bilsky had seen redpolls and Siskins earlier, as well as a Great-horned Owl. We parked, and while we were standing there Tom’s phone started ringing-er, quacking. Yeah, his ringtone is a mallard. It turns out Jeff was calling him, saying he had found the Great-horned Owl while he was driving. It was in a tree about 100 yards away. We all ran over there and got great views of it sitting in a coniferous tree! A great way to end a 13-Owl day! By far my best owling day ever, with 2 NSWO, 2 GHOW, and 9 LEOW.

1/22:

We had limited time on Saturday, so I chose to go down and see the Great-tailed Grackle hanging out at a gas station in Will County. My first day out of cook county this year. We got down there and were searching for it for a while unsuccessfully, but then I got a message that it was on the front lawn of the gas station! We drove over there…but no bird. Also, I realized I SOMEHOW left my camera and bins AT HOME! Luckily my mom had her camera and my dad had binoculars, both of which they gave to me (thanks mom and dad!). We looked around for another 15 minutes before my mom spotted it fly to the roof of the gas station! I got a few shots of it up there, and then it flew down to the ground. I lay down on the ground about 25 feet from the bird, trying to get an eye level shot. It walked slowly towards me until it was foraging about 15 feet from me. My mom’s camera doesn’t have a lot of zoom, but boy is it sharp. I lay flat against the ground to get some blurry grasses in front of the bird, and snapped the picture. Perfection. I lay there for another half hour, with the bird feeding in the grass. It was insane. Life bird #263!

1/23:

We went down to the bend of the Little Calumet in the afternoon, and I gained:

(66.) Bald Eagle
(67.) American Coot

1/25:

On Tuesday after school we birded the Chicago River, and our first stop was Diversey Turning Basin, where I picked up:

(68.) Ruddy Duck

We then went to Richard Clark park, where I saw the Common Goldeneye x Hooded Merganser hybrid that’s been sighted from Skokie to Chicago on the river. I also heard a kingfisher, a nice bird for January.

(69.) Belted Kingfisher

We went to Horner Park looking for Pied-billed Grebes, but didn’t find any. While I was being disappointed about grebes, I heard the classic “chimp” call of a Winter Wren!! It flew along the opposite bank of the river and landed on a fence post, where I confirmed my ID. Finally, I hit 70!! And on a school day!

(70.) Winter Wren

1/26:

On Wednesday after school we tried for a Northern Pintail that Josh Engel had the day before on the north shore channel, but no luck.

1/29:

I wasn’t able to really go birding on this day, so I did a little yard birding. When I was practicing my photography skills, all of the birds suddenly flew away. I turned around to find an adult SHARP-SHINNED HAWK sitting in our pear tree! I got a clear look at it, and after I noted some of its key field marks, it flew directly over my head which gave me an awesome view of the perfectly squared-off tail. Awesome way to get a year bird!

(71.) Sharp-shinned Hawk

In the evening we tried for Eastern Screech-owls at Perkins Woods in Evanston, but didn’t find any.

1/30:

It was a Sunday, and my last day of birding before the end of January. I started out the day by heading to Deer Grove early in the morning for Eastern Bluebirds. Deer Grove is arguably the most reliable wintering site for them in Cook County. We barely had to walk half a mile before the bluebirds came flying right at us! They briefly perched in a tree which allowed me to snap some doc shots.

(72.) Eastern Bluebird

On our way back home we made a quick stop at River Trail Nature Center and picked up two unexpected targets:

(73.) Fox Sparrow
(74.) White-crowned Sparrow

We stopped back home for a little, and then we all drove down to Maple Lake in the Palos Area, where an Eastern Towhee had been spending the winter. We had to sit and wait a while at the stump where the towhee had been feasting on sunflower seeds, but eventually we got the towhee along with another Fox Sparrow! I also picked up my much-needed year bird Tufted Titmouse at this spot. While we were photographing them, I heard a call that I’ve had memorized for years, because it belongs to one of my favorite birds. “That’s a Pileated!!” I exclaimed. I went into the forest with my dad and could clearly see evidence of the Pileateds, as there were many huge oval-shaped holes in the trees along the trail. As I was showing my dad this, A HUGE MALE PILEATED FLEW OFF OF THE BACK OF THE TREE WE WERE LOOKING AT!! “No way…” I whispered, still in awe of North America’s largest woodpecker. “He was right there the whole time and we didn’t even know he was there.” I snapped a few photos and while my dad ran back to tell my mom and my brother, a female Pileated flew out from a tree about a hundred yards away! She landed in another tree about 20 feet away and stayed there for over 5 minutes! I got much better shots of her. It was absolutely incredible to get such good views of a bird I haven’t seen in Illinois in over three years. It was just the perfect end to an (almost) perfect month.

(75.) Eastern Towhee
(76.) Tufted Titmouse
(77.) Pileated Woodpecker

So that’s it for January. Not as many as I wanted, but not too shabby either. There are definitely some cool birds on my list, and a couple of unexpected wintering birds.

Have fun birding,

-Owen

Posted on February 19, 2022 00:46 by owenbirder13 owenbirder13 | 7 comments | Leave a comment

February 14, 2022

January total: 77 species

I really didn’t get as many species as I had hoped, but I didn’t do terrible either. Some highlight birds were Long-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Pileated Woodpecker, and Snowy Owl. I’m definitely behind but I’m hoping to catch up more in February and reach 100 (however, it’s now the 14th and I still haven’t surpassed 80). I will post a full recap of my January adventures in a few days.

Posted on February 14, 2022 16:56 by owenbirder13 owenbirder13 | 4 comments | Leave a comment

December 28, 2021

2022 Birding Big Year!

Hi everyone,

I decided that this year I'm going to be doing a Cook County Big Year. What is a Big Year? In a nutshell, a Big Year is attempting to see as many species of birds as you can in a given area in a calendar year. I think I'm experienced enough to attempt one this year, and I would like to get a total of at least 275 species. It's an incredibly high goal, I know, but I believe I can do it. Last year Isoo O'Brien (@ieobrien) broke the Cook County Big Year record with a jaw-dropping total of 288 species. Simon Tolzmann (@brdnrdr) also had an amazing total of 283! The main thing I've done to prepare for this is I've studied Isoo's Big Year A TON. I've read his blog posts over and over, and pretty much memorized his rarity list. I also got a Celestron Ultima 80 spotting scope for Christmas, which will be a HUGE help. I've been birding a lot this year, and I've looked through my field guides every day whenever I have free time just to improve my bird ID skills. I’ve also memorized the songs and calls of many birds, which will certainly help. I’ve really gotten so much more into birding this year. I got on all the local Rarity Chats on GroupMe (thanks Simon!), I became an active ebirder, and I’ve also met so many people who have taught me so much about birds, especially Simon. So overall, I think I’m ready for this. It’s gonna be a lot of rushing around, chasing rarities and year birds 24/7, but it’s going to be so much fun. I can’t wait to get started on the 1st. My goal for January is to break the month record with 90+ species (Isoo had 86). I’ll post updates every month about my birding adventures. See you in a month!

-Owen
(owenbirder13)

Posted on December 28, 2021 14:11 by owenbirder13 owenbirder13 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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