Another Goose Lake

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Yellow-Headed Blackbird, Goose Lake Conservation Area, McHenry County, Illinois

Somewhat ironically, shortly after I visited Goose Lake Prairie in Grundy County, the local list-serve was on fire about another Goose Lake Conservation Area in McHenry County, not far from the Wisconsin border, where Yellow-Headed Blackbirds and Black Terns were easy to find. Both species are rare in this area. Reading constant reports about it all last week while at work, I decided if the threat of rain was not severe I would just have to drive to this Goose Lake Natural Area on Sunday morning. I had several days to talk myself into getting up no later than 3:30 AM so I could leave the house by 6:00, seeing as how it would take me over an hour and a half to get there.

I plugged a theoretical address into the GPS on my car and got within striking distance. After that it was easy enough to find and I parked in a tiny parking lot that fits about three small cars. No sooner did I park than I was joined by another Prius driver. Diane had her camera with her too and we birded the trail together.

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There is a Goose Lake on the map but as far as I can tell there is no public access. Thus I saw no lake and no geese. However there was more to explore (we perhaps went in 3/4 of a mile) on a 7-mile trail and some day I will have to make a return trip.

Hebron Trail MapThe Hebron Trail has been made from an abandoned railroad bed, specifically the Kenosha Division Railroad which made its last run in 1939. Just off the parking lot where the wide gravel trail starts is a wooded area that was brimming with hungry mosquitoes. We had been forewarned but it made stopping to look at anything we heard prohibitive. Perhaps after a quarter of a mile we were out of the woods and into the marshy area which was miraculously pretty bug-free. It was cloudy but it did not rain.

Ground Squirrel

Ground Squirrel – I’m not sure I’ve seen these before!

There were at least a dozen Yellow-Headed Blackbirds, and when they became active they made dramatic displays.

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The other species we were excited to see was Black Tern. Although not less visible, they were very difficult to photograph from far away, in the poor light, and they never sat still.

Black Tern

Black Tern

I never thought of Red-Winged Blackbirds as small before but compared to the Yellow-headed Blackbirds they are dainty looking.

RWBL Goose Lake NA 7-12-15-7042Plenty going on with other breeders too. Like the Tree Swallow condominium tree below, and then when a Green Heron decided to sit on one of its branches the Tree Swallows started mobbing it.

TRSW Condo Goose Lake NA 7-12-15-7108GRHE Harrassed Goose Lake NA 7-12-15-7307GRHE Goose Lake NA 7-12-15-7276

Song Sparrows were singing everywhere. Also many Marsh Wrens but I did not get a picture of one suitable to post.

SOSP Goose Lake NA 7-12-15-6888There were so many Common Yellowthroats they could have had a singing competition.

COYT Goose Lake NA 7-12-15-6912One Common Yellowthroat male was feeding its foster child, the Brown-Headed Cowbird juvenile below, but it was too hard to get the actual feeding shot with all the branches in the way.

BHCO and COYT Goose Lake NA 7-12-15-6951My only regret is that the Yellow-Headed Blackbirds were not singing, because it would have been a wonderful sound to reproduce for you here. Maybe next year I can get up here when they’re setting up territories.

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Yellow-Headed Blackbird

It’s hard to believe but the Red-Winged Blackbirds were nearly silent as well. Definitely the juveniles below had nothing to say.

RWBL juveniles Goose Lake NA 7-12-15-7407

It took me two hours to get back home. There is no easy way to get to this place, but I guess that’s what makes it a favorite for some birds we rarely see.

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13 thoughts on “Another Goose Lake

  1. I like the Yellow-headed Blackbird and Common Yellowthroat, I don’t have them on my list of birds. Nice shots Lisa! That place might end up being the best for birds because is not public. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Thanks, H.J.! It’s public enough in that there were cyclists (the best way to get through the mosquitoes, by the way) but the vast surrounding area hasn’t been developed yet and so it makes it more remote and a larger expanse of undisturbed habitat. I’ll have more to say about all that if I ever get my review of Welcome to Subirdia together.

  2. You piqued my curiosity on the yellow-headed blackbird song so I went to my ibird app and listened. Pretty distinct. Thank you for the pics.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jim! Yes, I’m really dying to hear it in person, I have the app too, so now I think I have a good chance if I get up there earlier next year. Could be I’ll hear them and not see them (!).

  3. as usual, your photos have truly capture the lovely motion of nature..kudos to you..these are fabulous and the last one of just landscape makes you linger to see what might be hiding in the grasses and shrubbery..

    • Thank you so much, Syl. What a treat to get out of the pool and see your lovely comment on my blog! As for the landscape shot as we were walking back to the cars I kept wanting to stop, it was hard to leave the wild. 🙂

  4. as usual, your photos have capture the motion and beauty of the photo of just holds your eye to seek out what might be living there..kudos…

  5. As always great photos! I’m glad you were able to see what you had hoped to see, the yellow headed blackbirds really are quite the showoffs.

    • Thanks, Frank! Of course when we first got there we saw not much of anything but after hanging out a bit the birds became active and I was really surprised to see them displaying so well, even after all the reports (on one visit somebody counted 18 of them). Definitely the best looks I have had in a long time. Perhaps best of all is that flew close enough to get some pictures to remember them by. 🙂

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