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.

Tri-County Revisited

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

Here are a few more pictures from two weeks ago that I never got around to. Like the one above, where the Barn Swallows were close to the bridge, but I was not tall enough to take a complete picture. (Age creeps up slowly until you notice… I don’t feel shorter, but certain things are suddenly out of reach!)

I did get a shot of a couple nestlings in their shelter mud nest.

Barn Swallow Nestlings IMG_4081_1

This Gray Catbird could not have picked a less colorful background…

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

or the Mourning Dove below. A lot of gray tones going on here. But the morning light gives the dove its pinkish color anyway.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

I confess I am presently too lazy to figure out this wildflower. If you know this blossom, please chime in.

Wildflower

Wildflower

Widow Skimmers are pretty common, though. Enough to be readily identified.

Male Widow Skimmer Dragonfly

Male Widow Skimmer Dragonfly

Then there was the Red-Winged Blackbird that took on the Red-Tailed Hawk.

Red Tail with RWBB IMG_4348_1

The hawk was not happy.

Red-Tail with RWBB IMG_4347_1

Click on the pictures if you want to see them larger (I just figured out how to do this, it’s only been 2 years).

Red Tail with RWBB IMG_4353_1

Even this Tree Swallow, which is normally quite blue-looking, looks gray here as it naps.

Tree Swallow taking a nap

Tree Swallow taking a nap

To make identification of Empidonax flycatchers easier on us, ebird allows us to check off “Willow-Alder” instead of making it definitely one or the other. While I heard a Willow and I believe this is probably a Willow, I’m not so sure because I did not see it in conjunction with hearing its call.

Willow-Alder Flycatcher

Willow-Alder Flycatcher

And the most noble gray bird is also blue…and always a welcome sight.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

More to come from the field soon. I also have some recordings coming up. But tomorrow’s early rise calls.

Paul Douglas Forest Preserve – Part I (Apologia)

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

I have been thinking about visiting Paul Douglas Forest Preserve, which is way up northwest in Cook County, in Hoffman Estates, to be exact, for quite a while, and I finally managed to get up at 3:15 AM Sunday morning so I could get there before the heat became unbearable. It turned out to be a pleasant, sunny morning with quite a breeze going at times.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

Paul Douglas is a huge preserve, surrounded by one continuous paved trail that extends 7.5 miles – and so it is a destination for runners and bike riders. Not an ideal birding situation, but it’s good for the birds because they can nest there relatively undisturbed. I did not perhaps prepare as I should have, I just figured out how to get there and went. I walked about a mile from the parking lot and at birding pace that took me almost two hours, so I walked back. I’ll see the rest of it some other time.

Tree Swallow nesr

Tree Swallow nesr

The target bird, if there was one, was Yellow-Headed Blackbird, but either because I didn’t find out specifically where they were located or else they were not present, I did not see or hear any. But I saw some beautiful birds anyway, even if most of them were too far away to get great photos. Often the best birds are when you least expect them, anyway.

My first bird was a Willow Flycatcher. The camera wasn’t ready for him but he cooperated anyway and I managed to get his song as well. His song is the sneezy little “fitz-pew” below the picture.

Willow Flycatcher

Willow Flycatcher

It turns out I’ve been trying to put this post together for days but always when I’m falling asleep at the end of the day, so it looks like it might take me at least one more installment. And now that one of the lights that’s on a timer has gone out, my indoor birds are telling me to go to sleep.Of course they’re right. Blogger guilt may be getting to me, but it’s been a busy week.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

I will be back tomorrow with more notes from the field.

Thistle

Thistle

"Fledgling" Thistle

“Fledgling” Thistle