Two Sundays ago, I joined a field trip organized through the Evanston North Shore Bird Club to the hawk watch at Illinois Beach State Park (“IBSP”). I have known about the hawk watch for years but never managed to get there until now (it’s an hour-and-a-half drive, which usually discourages me). But it’s a treat to visit IBSP altogether. The expanse of fairly undisturbed habitat along the lakefront is restorative.
The hawk watch is a special, different kind of bird watching. Basically it’s sitting or standing around and waiting for raptors to fly over. And when the raptors are too far away to identify by field marks, it’s great to have the counters available to help you identify them by shape and flight pattern. Luckily not all the birds were that far away.
Then this past Sunday I birded much closer to home. My friend Lesa met me at Miller Meadow and we walked around there for a couple hours.
From the beginning, we kept running into this American Kestrel who was hunting the preserve. Eventually we were treated to our own miniature hawk watch. As we started to turn back, we counted a Cooper’s Hawk, four Red-Tailed Hawks, a Northern Harrier, a Golden Eagle and fifty-five Turkey Vultures.
I did not manage to get pictures of all the birds that flew over but considering that most of the year you feel lucky to see one or two raptors on an outing, seeing so many fly overhead was quite exciting.
Earlier in the day, we also had a migrating juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron… sometime before the 200 or so Canada Geese that had been feeding in the fields took to the air.