Category Archives: Skywatch Friday

Skywatch at IBSP

As part of the Illinois Beach State Park Hawkwatch 10th anniversary celebration, we attended a morning bird walk that followed the path leading from the Hawkwatch pavilion. It was a cold morning and started out a bit overcast, but soon the sun was shining.

Path

Lone Tree

One tree held a family or families of Bluebirds. There were about ten birds in a single tree. I’d never seen so many at the same time before.

Bluebirds

Some trees were just starting to turn.

Turning Tree

Turning Tree

Towards the end of the path we spotted a sparrow which we determined to be a Lincoln’s. Life bird!

Lincoln's Sparrow

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Posted in Hawk Watch, Illinois, Skywatch Friday | 2 Comments

Skywatch at Marblehead Lighthouse

Friday morning during the Midwest Birding Symposium, we visited one of locations mentioned on the MBS program’s list of local birding hotspots: Marblehead Lighthouse State Park. We arrived before dawn and first watched the sun rise over Lake Erie.

SUNRISE at Marblehead Lighthouse State Park

SUNRISE at Marblehead Lighthouse State Park

SUNRISE at Marblehead Lighthouse State Park

The 9 acre park is home to the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on any of the Great Lakes. Marblehead Lighthouse dates from 1822; the park became Ohio’s 73rd state park in 1998.

Unfortunately the park was not too birdy that morning, although we did see this Red-bellied Woodpecker and got one lifer (Carolina Wren).

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Before we left, I remembered to take a photo of the lighthouse itself. The sunrise at this lovely little park marked the start of another gorgeous day at the Midwest Birding Symposium.

Marblehead Lighthouse

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Posted in Midwest Birding Symposium, Skywatch Friday | 5 Comments

SWF: Longleaf Pines at Tibet-Butler

While waiting out the time between the scrubbed STS-127 launches in mid-June, we spent a couple of days around Kissimmee, Florida. One morning we visited Tibet-Butler Preserve in Orlando, a stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail.

Before we were chased out by the man-eating mosquitoes, we followed a bit of the Pine Circle Trail, where we were dwarfed by a forest of Longleaf Pine.

Longleaf

We were interested to read that seedlings of this tree have a so-called “grass stage” where they are easily mistaken for clumps of grass. Is that what we saw on the path, or are these simply fallen needles from the tall trees that surrounded us?

BabyLongleaf

Our lone bird on the short walk was this Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Pecker

We also glimpsed the greenest lizard I’ve ever seen (my guess – Green Anole [Anolis carolinensis]).

Lizard

No photos of the mosquitoes but trust me, they were there. Have a great weekend and a safe Independence Day to my fellow Americans, wherever you are. Be sure to check out the other posts submitted for Skywatch Friday this week.

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Posted in Florida, Skywatch Friday | 11 Comments

Skywatch Friday: Roseate Spoonbill

One of my all-time favorite bird species is the Eurasian Spoonbill, which is a summer breeder in the Netherlands. In the spring we used to go look for them in their breeding plumage which includes long head plumes and a yellowish breast band.

Spoonbill on Texel

I was hoping to get good looks at their cousins, the Roseate Spoonbill, when we were in Florida. We only saw them once, flying high up in the sky over Viera Wetlands.

Roseate Spoonbill

They were flying so high that we couldn’t tell what they were until we got our binoculars on them. Then there was no mistaking their pink bodies and spoon-shaped bills!

Roseate Spoonbill

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Posted in Florida, Skywatch Friday, Viera Wetlands | 14 Comments

Skywatch Friday: The Pinery

On April 29th, on our way from Chicagoland to Niagara Falls, we stopped at The Pinery Provincial Park in Ontario. It was a huge and beautiful park and I was so sorry we did not have time to explore. We kept our visit very short but were able to walk the .8 km Pine Trail before hitting the highway once more.

The Pine Nature Trail

The trail lived up to its name. Beautiful tall pine trees reached up to the bright blue sky.

Pines @ the Pinery

Not all trees were green yet, though. It probably won’t be too long now though, I imagine, before these are also full of leaves soaking in the sun.

Reaching Trees

The last part of the trail was flooded. We walked around the water and headed back to the car. The refreshing walk was a welcome break between many hours of highway driving.

Flooded Trail

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Posted in Skywatch Friday, Travel | 7 Comments

SWF: Grant Woods Tree

Last week we visited Grant Woods Forest Preserve for the first time. It’s another Lake County (Illinois) preserve and probably the second-closest to our home, after Rollins Savanna. It was the first of several beautiful days we had last week, with a gorgeous blue sky and fast-moving white clouds.

We took one of the shorter trails through the woods and came across this tree, which looked to have been struck by lightning.

grant1

It was a dramatic scene and I felt bad for the very large tree, which must have been very old at the time it was split. How many sunrises and sunsets did this tree live through? How many years did it reach up towards the sky?

grant3

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Posted in Skywatch Friday | 4 Comments

Skywatch Friday: Looking for MOON birds

A few months ago I volunteered to help with the Monitoring of Owls and Nightjars (MOON) program from the Illinois Natural History Survey. The project involves monitoring for certain bird species between sunset and sunrise during periods close to the full moon. The monitoring takes place at 9 different locations along a route where volunteers listen for nightjars, owls and other species for a period of 8 minutes. The first window for monitoring was April 3-17. We did our first survey on April 9th under optimal conditions. I’ll have more about MOON in a future post. For now, enjoy these photos of the sunset I took at Pistakee Lake before we started our survey:

sunset1

sunset2

And these crazy-loud Chorus Frogs we heard at one of our monitoring stops:

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Posted in Skywatch Friday | 5 Comments

Skywatch Friday: Chicago from IBSP

Last Saturday on our Looney Trip we were very lucky with awesome weather. The sky was clear and temperatures were seasonal, in the 50’s F. Wind was minimal.

From our viewing area at Illinois Beach State Park, we could see the Chicago city skyline, 50 miles to the south.

Chicago from Illinois Beach State Park

The moon was visible in the late afternoon sky from the beach.

Illinois Beach State Park

Broken Pier at IBSP

We went to the park to look for Red-throated Loons, which had been sighted there earlier in the day, but we were skunked. We did see lots of gulls resting on the beach.

Illinois Beach State Park gulls

Starting on Sunday, the next day, temperatures dropped into the 30’s and we had heavy cloud cover with sleet, hail and snow, and strong, cold winds.

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Posted in Illinois, Skywatch Friday | 6 Comments
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