Goose Lake Natural Area and the Hebron Trail, in McHenry County up by the Wisconsin border, was on my list of places to revisit this year and I was so happy to be accompanied by my friend Susan who had a Yellow-Headed Blackbird in her sights as a species to add to her life list. I checked with ebird and confirmed the blackbirds had been seen in late July last year, so there was a good chance of seeing them still. These photos are from last Sunday.
On the way up, Susan spotted two Sandhill Cranes walking near a fence by the road.
It was cloudy and threatening rain, although we managed to avoid downpours. The sun did peek out a little bit later. Greeted by a Cedar Waxwing…
And a bedraggled-looking Yellow Warbler on the trail to the marsh…
And a juvenile Song Sparrow.
The Yellow-Headed Blackbirds were suddenly in view in numbers and they dominated the landscape. Susan definitely added this bird to her life list. We did not see an Black Terns, a species that also breeds here. Perhaps we were too late in the day or the season.
At some point a flock of Canada Geese flew over.
Below, flying Yellow-Headed and Red-Winged Blackbirds.
One particular Tree Swallow kept flying around a distinctive dead tree, tempting me to try to capture it. The tree it perched on is a favorite stopping place.
Below, a Common Yellowthroat and a confusing young sparrow. It’s likely a Song Sparrow but this time of year is tricky with identifying the youngsters. I’d like to say Grasshopper but the head isn’t “flat.”
Not at all confusing were the distinctive sounds of singing Marsh Wrens, but it was getting hard to find one sitting up until we encountered this one close to a platform overlooking the marsh. Some of its song is at the link below (you will also hear Common Yellowthroat singing first).
The water level was exceptionally high, but the area was not flooded as were other parts of the county. We saw many Pied-Billed Grebes with young, although they were at quite a distance.
Nice to see a Monarch Butterfly. Would have been nicer to see several. I’m intrigued by the yellow flowering plant on the upper right, which I do not recognize, and the Purple Prairie Clover below it, which I later realized is also blooming in my front yard. Imagine that.
It was nice to see a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, even in lousy lighting, and a robin with food for young.
We met a very nice man who lives nearby and checks out the marsh regularly. He used to teach environmental science so he was full of good information and stories. He’s holding the crayfish below which he rescued from the gravel path. He encouraged us to come back at different times of the year. I think we should take him up on it.
More Yellow-Headed Blackbird photos. Missing are the distinctive white patches on the wings of adult males, which makes me think these are all juveniles.
The little trio below leaves me stumped as to who the sparrow is, again. Since all juvenile sparrows tend to be on the streaky side no matter how they wind up as adults, I think this one has the look of a juvenile Field Sparrow but I’m not going to bet on it.
Summer simmers on. I’ll be back soon.
I guess you had an entertaining outing… Variety of birds, flowers, butterflies and even seafood! Wow! 🙂
Yes, seafood indeed. Must be all the rain we’re having. 🙂
Wasn’t even aware of this place. Nor was I aware there was such a thing as a Yellow-Headed Blackbird. Great pics, as always.
Thanks. Shall I say the beauty of this place is that unless you live in rural McHenry County, you would not be aware of it. And even though I’ve been there twice before this visit, I still drove right by the postage-stamp-sized (3-4 cars, tops) “parking lot” right off the road. But after talking to the guy who lives down the road from there, I will try to get back more often: there’s much more happening in spring and fall. I should have mentioned that this is like the southeast tip of the breeding range for Yellow-Headed Blackbird, so that explains a lot. 🙂