Author Archives: Amy

BPW: Bobolinks

When we visited Rollins Savanna on Sunday, one of the first birds we saw was a Bobolink.


He was kind of far away but we got good looks at this new life bird.


We soon realized the place was actually full of them – there were Bobolinks everywhere!



We saw them in the meadow, flying over, even enjoying some dandelions along the path.


Females were there too, but they were a bit more shy. We saw males vying for their attention.



I love this bird’s song. We could hear the males singing almost everywhere we walked. The computer-like sound really reminded me of the call Northern Lapwings make when courting. The sound is very different but also sounds like a 1980’s computer sound effect.

For more bird photos from all over the world, have a look at this week’s other Bird Photography Weekly submissions.

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Favorite hangouts, here and there

This morning we walked at Rollins Savanna from about 6:45 to 9:00am. I really like this preserve and I’m so happy that it’s the closest one to our house. One of these days we are going to try and bike there, although I’m not sure how we can do it safely. When we drive there we take a fairly busy road that I wouldn’t want to cycle on. One of our favorite places to go birding in the Netherlands was Starrevaart, which we could cycle to from our home in Leiden in about 45 minutes. Wouldn’t it be great if we could also cycle to our favorite birding spot from our house here?

We counted 27 observed bird species plus a few deer, one muskrat and a maybe mink.

The sky was overcast but the birds were out singing. Red-winged Blackbirds were claiming their territories.

Red-winged Blackbird

We spotted a couple of Yellow-headed Blackbirds in the reeds.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

An American Coot was preening in the marsh.

American Coot

Later, the sky opened up and the sun started to shine. We saw a pair of Gadwall on this pond.

Pond at Rollins Savanna

We’ve seen them before in the Netherlands as well as Spain. It’s interesting learning which birds are the same in different countries. Some species we see here, like the Great Egret, Northern Shoveler, Sanderling, Dunlin, Herring Gull and Winter Wren are the same ones that live across the pond.

On the other hand, a lot of birds have an equivalent similar species in both regions. For example, in Europe you’ve got the Bittern, Crane, Common Coot, Golden Plover, Nightjar, Woodcock, Common Kingfisher, Fieldfare, Great Tit and Nuthatch. Here we’ve got the American Bittern, Sandhill Crane, American Coot, American Golden Plover, Common Nighthawk, American Woodcock, Belted Kingfisher, American Robin, Black-capped Chickadee and White-breasted Nuthatch. Notice how a lot of the European birds are called “common” or have simple names, while the American ones are often called “American” or have more descriptive names?

One bird that you might think was an equivalent situation is the Robin vs. American Robin, but you’d be wrong. Check out this post from Birdchick where she recently encountered a Robin of the European kind in Frankfurt.

We saw a few more birds on this walk (including a lifer) that I’d like to share on the blog, but I’m saving them for other posts. Stay tuned!

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Grant Woods outing

This morning we went out birding at Grant Woods. It was the second time we visited the preserve. The walk was sponsored by Lake Cook Audubon and Lake County Forest Preserve District and was lead by Ken Klick. Our group was made up of about 30 birders from all levels of experience.

Arthur and I counted 23 observed species although I am sure others in the group got more. Several even saw a Ruby-throated Hummingbird – which we have yet to see this year, drat! I wonder if anyone has ever named a hummer their nemesis bird?!

Grant Woods is a huge preserve with two main sections of about 500 acres separated by a thin strip of land. We walked the north part of the park. Habitats include prairie, woodland forest and marsh. Here is a path we passed by during our walk.

Grant Woods

It sure looks lovely, doesn’t it? We’ll have to take it next time!

We saw a lot of Indigo Buntings on this walk, including this guy, singing his heart out.

Indigo Bunting Singing

Other highlights were a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher on a nest, fussing and singing, and really good looks at a Blue-winged Warbler and a Golden-winged Warbler (much better than the below photo would have you think).

Golden-winged Warbler

It was another fun bird outing – and the resulting warbler neck wasn’t too bad, either!

Warbler Neck

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Feeding oranges to the…

If you want to attract Baltimore Orioles to your feeding station, you could offer grape jelly and oranges. One day after we put out our jelly feeder, we had an Oriole visit. The next day we put out oranges and found this guy partaking a short while later.


Later, we saw this curious House Finch having a look at the other half of orange.


He had a closer look…


… and then decided to try it for himself.


Hmm, that’s different. Juicy. Refreshing.


I do think I’ll have some more.


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Best Glacial Park bird

Yesterday I posted about our walk at Glacial Park. We saw 33 species and our favorite was a pair of birds seen in this tree:

woodpeckers11There are at least two birds in this photo. Can you see them?

woodpeckers2Does this help?

woodpeckers3Two Red-headed Woodpeckers!

Here’s the total list for the day.

1 Canada Goose
2 Wood Duck
3 Mallard
4 Great Blue Heron
5 Western Great Egret
6 Turkey Vulture
7 Sora
8 Sandhill Crane
9 Killdeer
10 Mourning Dove
11 Red-headed Woodpecker
12 Red-bellied Woodpecker
13 Northern Flicker
14 Eastern Kingbird
15 Blue Jay
16 American Crow
17 Tree Swallow
18 House Wren
19 Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
20 White-breasted Nuthatch
21 Grey Catbird
22 Brown Thrasher
23 Common Starling
24 Eastern Bluebird
25 American Robin
26 House Sparrow
27 American Goldfinch
28 Palm Warbler
29 Brown-headed Cowbird
30 Red-winged Blackbird
31 Eastern Meadowlark
32 White-crowned Sparrow
33 Northern Cardinal

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Birdy Glacial Park

This morning we went birding at Glacial Park in McHenry County.

Glacial Park entrance sign

We do most of our MOON survey around the park but until today we had only really seen it in the dark. Glacial Park has a variety of habitats, including marshland, bog, forest, meadow and kame.





Kames are irregularly shaped hills or mounds formed by retreating glaciers. The path we walked near the center of the park was quite hilly and we were surprised to see a few people jogging on the up-and-down path. We got winded just walking it!

We saw a total of 33 species. This was the first time we kept track of all species we saw on a birding outing (holiday birding lists excluded) and I have to say, it was kind of fun. Next time we visit Glacial Park we’ll see if we can beat our “record” of 33 birds seen there. Here are some of our favorites.

Eastern Bluebird
Mrs. Bluebird with a bug

Eastern Kingbird
Lifer Eastern Kingbird

Our top bird of the day was a pair of – wait, can you guess from the photo?

Mystery birds

Check back tomorrow for the answer!

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Controlled burn brings green

In March we visited Chain O’ Lakes State Park and walked the Badger Trail. The area had recently been subjected to a controlled burn and we could really notice the Robins in particular were lovin’ it.

Earlier this month we walked the Badger Trail again. What a difference!

Chain O' Lakes

Chain O' Lakes

Chain O' Lakes

Everything was so green! The trees are still a bit bare, but the ground was lush with fresh vegetation covering the ground. Ground that was black from burning just six weeks ago.

Another difference we noticed: instead of Bluebirds on the Bluebird houses, there were Tree Swallows.

Tree Swallow Chain O' Lakes

During our March visit, we saw at least three pairs of Bluebirds on the houses. On our walk last week, we saw only saw two individual Bluebirds, and they were sitting on tree branches and not near any of the houses. The houses all appeared to be occupied by swallows. Here’s the female Bluebird we saw. At least she found a nice branch upon which to perch.

Bluebird at Chain O' Lakes

We also saw this group of five Sandhill Cranes. I always love seeing these guys.

Cranes at Chain O' Lakes

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I saw a bird perched on the hummingbird feeder close to the house this morning. It took my just-woken-up brain a moment to process what I was seeing and then I let out a huge GASP which scared Arthur and Arby both. A Baltimore Oriole! He flew back to the jelly feeder after a moment.


He knew just what to do. Yum! Enjoy, Mr. Yard Bird #18. Now go find a lady friend to bring over!


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White-crowned invasion!

Sibley says these are uncommon in eastern North America. Don’t tell these guys. I saw this gang of four White-crowned Sparrows in my parent’s back yard last week.

Gang of White-crowned Sparrows

We even have a couple up here in our yard in Round Lake Beach. Check out the straddle action on this guy!

White-crowned Sparrow

Lots of sparrows are difficult to identify (I’m looking at you, Vesper and Grasshopper. Or maybe I mean you, Lincoln’s and Savannah! Actually I have no idea, I can’t tell you guys apart. But I’m looking at you!). But White-crowned Sparrows are easy. Not to mention cute.

For more bird photos, be sure to check out the submissions at this week’s Bird Photography Weekly.

Posted in Bird Photography Weekly, Yard Birds | 7 Comments

The trees are alive with the songs of warblers

We went out this morning with the Lake-Cook Chapter of the Illinois Audubon Society to two Lake County Forest Preserves: Daniel Wright Woods and Ryerson Woods. For a group hoping for a warbler fallout, the excursion was a bit short on warblers but heavy on flycatchers (5 species). It was a great morning out with about 28 other birders and 57 different species seen by the group.

We started at Daniel Wright at 7:00am.

The trees were full of birds.

The Trees are Alive with the Sound of Warblers

I swear, they were! What else would these people be looking at? (Can’t tell they are birders, can you?)


I didn’t have a prayer to photograph most of the birds we saw today. You know how warblers are.

We saw this Olive-sided Flycatcher (the one that says “quick, three beers!”) working over a bug, maybe a bee.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher w/ bug

We also spotted a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher nest and two adults foraging on a picnic table. We got very nice looks but I only managed these butt shots.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher on nest

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

All during the morning our large group had to clear the path for runners, walkers, and bikers. We would shout out “bikers!” or “runners!” to warn the rest of the our group of birders to clear the way. At one point during the walk, our group split up a bit and the part of the group that had walked ahead spotted a Black-throated Blue Warbler – a great find. When the birders in the second group heard what we had, well, we had to shout out “running birders!” because they really hustled over to get on the bird. 🙂 Here’s part of our group working on their warbler necks.

Warbler Neck

Another interesting find for the day was this unusually-plumaged Indigo Bunting singing his heart out. He is probably young as he is rather dull and does not sport the bright blue feathers typical of this species.

The group was lead by Mike Trahan and I thought he was another outstanding leader. He, along with fellow members of Lake-Cook Audubon, made sure everyone got looks at all of the birds.

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