October’s End

A goal for the last two years has been to get up to Goose Lake Natural Area and the Hebron Trail in October to see Sandhill Cranes. October weekends were flying by with other commitments and I kept hoping for decent weather, should I attempt the trip on the last Sunday of the month. I was rewarded with available sunshine and went to investigate. I saw only 18 Cranes eventually, when there had been a few hundred reported earlier in the week, but I was lucky to have three calling raucously and flying right overhead.

My start down the eastward Hebron Trail, which is a gravel trail built on an old railroad bed, yielded a flurry of Cedar Waxwings, Robins and Starlings at the start.

Hebron Trail
Cedar Waxwing
European Starling

The more often I visit this place, the more I fall in love with it. But it takes me an hour and a half to drive up there, no matter which way I go. The first time or two I wasn’t sure I was ever going to find it, but now I know the route and the landmarks and it’s easy – just a long haul.

Not long after I reached the end of the tree-lined part of the trail, I saw this male Northern Harrier fly across the field and then maybe twenty minutes later it flew by right in front of me.

Sparrow migration is in full force and I saw plenty of sparrows to prove it. It was especially nice to see the Vesper and Savannah Sparrows. Also this was my first American Tree Sparrow of the season. Since I’m already over seeing Juncos come back, I see no problem welcoming the Tree Sparrows, as both species herald the return of colder months.

Vesper Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
American Tree Sparrow

There weren’t a lot of birds in the water, mainly American Coots. There were some Pied-Billed Grebes, but they were too far away to capture adequately.

American Coots

As I went through my photographs last Sunday, I realized I still had photos from my last visit back at the end of July, when I wondered if there were any Yellow-Headed Blackbirds left. I’m including some of those photos below.

Yellow-Headed Blackbird (female)
Song Sparrow
American Goldfinch
This Halloween Pennant would have been much more appropriate if I’d managed to post this last week!
Another reason why I like this place – I always see Crows!
Widow Skimmers look even better in retrospect.

A couple more of the Sandhills… My resolution for next year is to visit this place more often, maybe even closer to the peak times for certain species. Either way, it’s a beautiful place and I am happy to share it with you.

13 thoughts on “October’s End

  1. What a beautiful gallery of birds! You’ve been busy I see! I imagine that Chicago must be very cold right now, we are! Take care, my friend. 🙂

    • Thanks! Seriously, everything from summer looks more colorful now. The present season dictates more subdued attire. I looked up the Halloween Pennants and it appears they are in Florida year-round. I don’t recall seeing them until maybe last year for the first time.

  2. Hundreds of sandhills would have been amazing, I hope you can see it there some day.
    Good for you that you went though, there’s a staging area for snow geese about 1 1/2 hours away which I keep meaning to visit in March but keep putting off. I’m determined to do it this year!
    The blackbird photos have reminded me that I’ve seen zero cowbirds here this year. I’m not sure why, but I did notice more sparrows than usual this fall and I wonder if it was a good breeding season because of that.

    • I would love to see hundreds, thousands of snow geese! Bosque del Apache has a reputation for that sort of thing but of course I wasn’t there at that time. Hmm, you’ve just reminded me I should get back to New Mexico! … I haven’t seen a lot of cowbirds this year either, come to think of it. But then I think there has been a general decline in the blackbirds, too. Sparrows are always a presence in the fall, particularly because the warblers are for the most part gone. I do love seeing flocks of anything come through. Even Canada Geese, yeah. Still thrilled to see plain old Canada Geese in flight.

  3. Goose Lake looks like a lovely spot, and you had a sunny day for birding! The Cranes are such a treat to see. Hearing them calling in the distance as they approach is like heaven on earth to me. If you are feeling adventurous, the Isenberg Crane Reserve in California’s Central Valley (near Lodi) is a fabulous place to see cranes. First weekend in December is prime time to go, so there is still time to get there! You can’t go wrong with New Mexico, though! Thank you for the photos and your sweet collection of sparrows.
    All the best birding!

    • Thanks, Joanne! A friend just asked me to go with her to Jasper-Pulaski soon, where the cranes can number in the 20,000s. Latest count as of today was 11,000 or so. Jasper is in Indiana so it’s an afternoon/evening outing for us. On the other hand I would love to visit Isenberg Crane Reserve sometime! I haven’t been to California for years… Jasper will be cold. But I have seen the cranes dance, and sometimes Whooping Cranes show up. We shall see!
      Good birding!!

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