Author Archives: Amy

Birding around Flevoland, part 1


On August 14th Arthur and I rented a car in Roosendaal, bid his family adieu, and headed north. We drove to Flevoland for some birding around the Oostvaardersplassen. The red area on the small grey map shows approximately the area we visited.

Regular readers of this blog (if there are any?) might remember that I’m a big fan of bird blinds or hides. I guess that means I prefer to be a lazy birder. Let the unsuspecting birds come to me, I say!

Anyway, the Oostvaardersplassen area is full of blinds, and we spent the day checking out the birds from several of them. You can click on the image below to see the Google map of the blinds. It’s pretty neat; when you click on satellite you can see the little round blinds sitting next to the water. There are actually more bird observation points in the area; I just focused on the full-on blinds and the points we visited.

Bird blinds in the Oostvaardersplassen area (we visited the blue & fuchsia spots)

Our first stop was the Lepelaarplassen. (On the map above, it’s the blue marker on the far left.) On the trail to the blind, songbird activity was slow, though we did see a couple Common Redstarts.

We also saw a group of birders who took it upon themselves to create their own blind. The birder palaces already in place aren’t good enough for these folks, noooo! 😉

Blinded Birders

As we approached the (official) blind, named after the Eurasian Spoonbill (“de Lepelaar”), the trail itself was blocked off from view of the water. I think we took these pictures as we were leaving — but you get the idea. All the better to hide the birders!

Trail to de Lepelaar

Trail to de Lepelaar

There was plenty of fowl on the water, although nothing out of the ordinary. Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Greater Scaup, Mallard, Northern Shoveler and Little Grebe were present.

Northern Shoveler

In a bird blind

After snapping some photos, we were on our way to the next stop – observation points along the Oostvaardersdijk, which lies between the Markermeer and the inland lakes (Oostvaardersplassen). These are the pink points on the Google map. Here we saw a few species of gull and tern, and lots of fowl.



Our next stop was, you guessed it, another blind. Read the continuation in Part 2 and Part 3.

Posted in Bird Hide, Netherlands, Travel | 2 Comments

August 5 banding notes

The seventh MAPS banding session at Rollins Savanna this season took place on Thursday, August 5. This was the final session in the ‘regular’ MAPS season, although the team did run the station one additional day (when I was unable to attend – August 17).

Bird awaits banding; photo by Janice Sweet.

We had a bit of excitement in the form of several members of the press stopping by to observe us, interview a few of the banders and Lake County Forest Preserve personnel, and take lots of photos. Stories were published by the Pioneer Press (which also posted a very nice video) and Daily Herald.

Photographer shoots juvenile and adult Common Grackles. Photo by Janice Sweet.

The other non-bird issue of note that morning was the utter misery brought upon everyone from the mosquitoes. They were the worst I have ever seen them (I could have said that on each session; they got progressively worse as the season wore on, culminating in the total mosquito nightmare on August 5th), and were attacking us even while we stood in the normally relatively bug-free parking lot before we headed to the banding station. We all sprayed bug repellent on ourselves but it was of almost no use. The back of my legs were especially tasty (or not especially covered in bug spray) judging by the amount of welts found there later in the day. In fact, area mosquito populations exploded in early August and continue to abound locally.

Although the nets were not particularly busy, we did have some firsts for the season, including a Yellow Warbler and a Warbling Vireo. I banded a juvenile Common Yellowthroat and an extremely cute juvenile American Robin. We also had juvenile Common Grackles and a couple of recaptures.

Removing juvenile American Robin from bag. See the mosquito photobomb? Photo by Janice Sweet.

Warbling Vireo
Warbling Vireo poses for newspaper photog, photo by blogger

Another first for the season was a Tennessee Warbler, an early migrant that breeds further north. The MAPS program is primarily for recording breeding bird data, so when the migrants start coming through again, the MAPS season is winding down.

As it was the last session I would be attending, I brought a few small gifts for the banders and my fellow volunteers. I gave this iBand tote bag to our permit holder, Dr. Cynthia Trombino. Here’s a picture of the bag on the banding station table at the end of the day.

iBand novelty bag
iBand tote bag, photo by blogger. Find iBand merch including this bag here

Finally, I geeked out a bit when someone found this deer skull along the mist net trail. Very cool!

Deer Skull
Deer skull found at Rollins Savanna, photo by blogger

Posted in Banding, LCFPD | Leave a comment

Next time, forget The Eye

Earlier this month, Arthur and I went to view Transformers 3 being filmed in Chicago (it was our second visit to the sets). The filming has shut down various parts of the city this summer, and patient spectators can catch glimpses of Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, and other actors and crew while they work on the big-budget sequel. Loud, impressive explosions and fancy stunt work are also a big draw. But… that is not what this post is about. This post is about a big creepy eye, and a red bird.

A surreal art installation is in place at the corner of State and Van Buren in Chicago. News media paid plenty of attention to the big creepy eye that was coming to town, back when the art was put into place in July. But it wasn’t until we approached the eye that we came to understand there is more to this display than initially meets the… you know.

Eye and Cardinal

The display is titled Eye and Cardinal. The creepy giant organ gets top billing, but the lovely Northern Cardinal banners along the road were more interesting to me.

Eye and Cardinal

Eye and Cardinal

Eye and Cardinal

Cardinal1Eye and Cardinal

I usually enjoy surreal art, but in this case I really could have done without The Eye half of this installation. I mean, isn’t it creepy!?

Eye and Cardinal

Posted in Art | Leave a comment

BPW: Napping Great Crested Grebe

On August 15th Arthur and I visited one of our favorite birding spots, Vogelplas Starrevaart. We spent some time watching birds from the blind. This Great Crested Grebe having a nap on the water was one of the birds we saw.





Bird Photography Weekly is a regular collection of user-submitted bird photos from all over the world. The new edition comes out every Sunday. Go have a look at this week’s submissions!

Posted in Bird Hide, Bird Photography Weekly, Netherlands | 11 Comments

BPW: Tufted Duck feast

One of the best place to watch birds in the Netherlands is the Oostvaardersplassen. Arthur and I spent some time there this weekend – our first visit in about two years. This juvenile Tufted Duck caught my attention – s/he was busy hunting and feeding for at least a half hour.





Bird Photography Weekly is a regular collection of user-submitted bird photos from all over the world. The new edition comes out every Sunday. Go have a look at this week’s submissions!

Posted in Bird Photography Weekly, Netherlands | 4 Comments

Turkey antics

Throughout the summer, a turkey in Chicago’s north suburbs made the news by blocking traffic and gaining fans. The Lake Bluff Turkey, known as Sparkles (among other nicknames) has over 300 fans on Facebook. The formerly wild Wild Turkey was finally captured by Wildlife Control in early August. When I was searching Google for Wild Turkey information the other day (unrelated to Sparkles) I was surprised to see how popular our local star turkey really is, according the Google’s auto-complete search suggestions.

Posted in Illinois, Offbeat, Search Terms | 1 Comment

Press, award, hiatus

In just over two weeks, two events where I volunteered got some local press coverage. First, in July I handled at an owl program at a library in Lake Zurich. There were four of us there, with three handling. I had Pip the Barn Owl, who ended up being very photogenic, keeping his wings outspread much of the time. Lucky for me, I’m in half of the pictures. 😉 The event didn’t generate a story, but the photos are posted on the Pioneer Press website.

Then, last week, two local papers visited the banding station at Rollins Savanna. The Herald ran the story on their website the same day. The story is front (web) page news today on the Pioneer Press site. They even had a video of the team! There was a photo album as well, but the links are no longer available [as of March 2012 – ed].

Late last month this blog was honored as a Top 50 Bird Blog by I’m humbled to find myself listed among so many top bloggers. Go check out the list: 2010 Top 50 Bird Blog Awards Winners. Nominations for the 2011 award can already be submitted. [OnlineSchools has discontinued their blog award program as of June 2012 – ed]

Arthur and I are traveling to the Netherlands this month. We will be visiting with family and friends, taking a short break in Paris, taking care of some business, and marveling at how much has changed since we were last in Holland (September 2008 – how time flies!). Hopefully we’ll be able to squeeze some birding in, as well, but I have a feeling blogging will be difficult. I have a few posts scheduled to run while I’m away, so this blog won’t drop off the radar completely during this mini-hiatus. I’ll be back with minty fresh blog posts in a few weeks! Until then, dear readers, please enjoy these last days of summer!

Posted in Banding, FCWR, LCFPD | 1 Comment