Category Archives: Festivals & Events

I was a migrating hummingbird!

On Saturday we visited the Hummingbird Festival at Cook County’s Camp Sagawau.

The press release for the fest mentioned that “as you enter Camp Sagawau, you will experience the hummingbird migration route.”

As we signed in at visitor orientation, we were given power bars. We needed the energy, because we were about to migrate from the Yucatan Peninsula all the way to northern Illinois. Phew!

Our ‘migration’ led us through 5 steps, starting at the Yucatan and eventually ending at Camp Sagawau. At each station we learned about the stage of migration and about the tough journey our little Ruby-throated Hummingbirds endure during their own migration every spring.

At the first station, as we munched on our power bars, we read: Today you are a Ruby-throated Hummingbird on your spring time journey to North America. It is February 28th and you have spent several weeks feeding and preparing for the most challenging part of the trip – crossing the Gulf of Mexico.

Hummingbird Migration

The next stop was arrival in the United States. You have made it to shore in the state of Alabama. The beaches are crowded with exhausted migrants. […] The migrants must immediately find food. The birds search every nearby thicket and field for insects. Hummingbirds look for flowers and feeders for nectar and sugar water. Once their fat stores have been replenished, the birds resume their northward movement.

Hummingbirds arrive in Alabama

At each station we had to spin a dial to see our fate for that stop on the migration route. Each dial had several fates that could befall our hummingbird selves, such as (totally paraphrased): “You found food! Eat up and continue your migration” or “You arrive at your intended destination but all suitable nesting territory has been claimed. You continue your migration northward” or “You are injured by a window strike. A wildlife rehabilitator takes you in and restores you to full health. You continue your migration” or “You are eaten by a roaming pet cat and die.” At each step the chance of death was pretty high – about a third of the dial. My dad didn’t even make it to Alabama!

After arriving in Alabama we were still 900 miles from Camp Sagawau and had yet to make stops at a Tennessee wildlife refuge and Shawnee National Forest where we again spun the dial to see our fate.

We made it! Coming soon, more about hummingbirds, including banding!

Hummingbird Festival

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Are you participating in Earth Hour?

Today is Earth Hour. Earth Hour is a worldwide initiative from the World Wildlife Fund to encourage participants to turn off their lights for one hour, at 8:30pm local time. The purpose is to show support for action on climate change. You can learn more about the initiative by reading the Earth Hour FAQs. Remember to turn your lights off at 8:30pm!


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Bald Eagle Watch at Starved Rock

Yesterday we went to the 12th Annual Bald Eagle Watch at Starved Rock State Park. Besides viewing over 100 Bald Eagles over the Illinois River, we attended two raptor awareness programs.

Starved Rock is in Utica, about 75 miles southwest of Chicago. The park is named for a legend that tells of a band of Illiniwek starving to death after fleeing to the top of the flattopped rock cliff and being trapped by rival Potawatomi and Ottawa tribes.

Starved Rock is about 2630 acres in size and is a great place for camping, hiking and boating. During winter the park is home to hundreds of Bald Eagles.

Starved Rock Sign

We arrived at the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center at about 9am and joined other Bald Eagle watchers on the viewing area. Several Audubon Society members offered use of their scopes to get an up-close look at the Bald Eagles perched on trees on Leopold and Plum Islands.

Illinois Waterway Visitor Center

Starved Rock Lock & Dam

Bald Eagle at Starved Rock

Starved Rock Bald Eagles

Besides the many perching eagles, dozens of juvenile and adult birds were flying and hunting over the Illinois River at the Starved Rock Lock & Dam.

Bald Eagles were on the brink of extinction in the lower 48 in the early 1970’s. The banning of DDT and additional federal protection has helped the species recover to a status of Least Concern today.

Our next stop was Starved Rock Lodge, where several vendors and bird organizations had tables explaining their causes. We spoke with the International Crane Foundation representative. They are not too far away in south central Wisconsin so I’m sure we’ll pay them a visit soon.

Other exhibitors at the event included Friends of the Fox River, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, The Wetlands Initiative, and Eagle Optics.

Bald Eagle Watch at Starved Rock Lodge

At noon we attended the Raptor Awareness Program by the World Bird Sanctuary of St. Louis. Two handlers showed us several different birds of prey while telling us about each species.

The first bird was a Harris Hawk. We recently made a Birdorable Harris Hawk so we had read about them. These birds live in the desert. Since perches (often cactus) are sparse in the desert, Harris Hawks will stand on top of one another when there is no other available perch. I would love to see this! The program’s Harris Hawk flew low across the audience several times which was fun to see.

Other birds in the program were Turkey Vulture, Barn Owl, American Kestrel, Great Horned Owl (who gave us some great hoots), Bataleur, and Bald Eagle. The American Kestrel also flew during the demonstration. The Barn Owl should have flown over the audience but got a piece of meat skewered on the beak after the first leg and flew no more.

Raptor Program Harris Hawk

Raptor Program GHO

Check out these powerful Bald Eagle talons.

Raptor Program Bald Eagle Talons

The last bird of the demonstration was no raptor. One of the sanctuary’s White-necked Ravens came out and accepted donations from the audience.

After the program we looked down at the Illinois River valley from the Lodge. A Red-shouldered Hawk was perched on one of the Lodge’s trees in the viewing area.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Next we went back to the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center to attend the 2pm Live Eagle Program by the Illinois Raptor Education Center. This program was a bit smaller scale and took place in the basement of the Visitor Center. Here we were shown five birds: Turkey Vulture; Red-tailed Hawk; Golden Eagle; Bald Eagle; and Great Horned Owl.

Raptor Program RTH

Raptor Program Golden Eagle

The Bald Eagle was just 4 years old and didn’t have its full white head yet.

Raptor Program Bald Eagle

We had a great time at the Eagle Watch at Starved Rock and I’m sure we’ll attend more such events in the future.

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The Big Sit 2008

Yesterday we participated as Team Birdorable in the 14th annual Big Sit birding event. The Big Sit involves observing as many different bird species as possible while remaining basically in the same place. Big Sit participants find a good birding spot and remain within a 17 foot diameter circle during the event.

We are lucky enough to live within walking distance of a county preserve: Prairie Wolf Slough in Lake County, Illinois.

Prairie Wolf Slough
Prairie Wolf Slough in Lake County, Illinois

Prairie Wolf Slough
Our view of the slough from our Big Sit circle

Team Birdorable member Amy
Amy looks for birds during the Big Sit

Team Birdorable member Arthur checks out Prairie Wolf Slough during the Big Sit 2008
Arthur explores the slough outside our Big Sit circle

We arrived at our ‘circle’, a picnic table, shortly before sunrise. Our first bird was a Mallard flying over, and then the first of many flocks of Canada Geese leaving the slough for the day. Other flyovers included Herring Gull, American Crow, Great Egret and Great Blue Heron. American Goldfinches and Red-winged Blackbirds were the most abundant species.

Canada Geese
Canada Geese leave the slough for the day

American Goldfinch
An American Goldfinch snacks on seeds

White-crowned Sparrow
A White-crowned Sparrow poses for the camera

Our total species count was 16, nowhere near fellow Illinois Big Sitters Birdfreak’s impressive total of 42. We had a lot of fun during our first Big Sit and we are looking forward to participating again next year!

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Dutch Bird Fair Draws Thousands

The Dutch Bird Fair, which took place over the last weekend of August, attracted 9,000 visitors. The festival raised over 23,000 euros for a project to protect the Red Ibis of Surinam.

Festival visitors were treated with very good sightings of the local resident White-tailed Eagle on both days. On Saturday an Osprey was also spotted in the area, providing another treat for the attendees.

Source: Vogelfestival trekt duizenden bezoekers

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Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival

The 6th Annual Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival, a month-long affair, kicked off last weekend on Earth Day. The event raises support and awareness for the Caribbean’s 208 endemic bird species.

The theme for the festival this year is the thread of climate change. Events will include birding excursions, exhibitions and competitions.

Read more about the Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival

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Netherlands Results Of Birdwatch 2006

Volunteers counted birds at over 130 locations in the Netherlands last Saturday as part of World Birdwatch 2006. From the spotting points as many birds as possible were counted during their migration south.

This year the European Starling was the most counted bird, just as last year. 114,000 individuals were counted. In second place was the Common Chaffinch, and the Lapwing came in third place. In total 193 different species were counted.

Here is the complete top 10:

European Starling
Common Chaffinch
Meadow Pipit
Black-headed Gull
Greylag Goose
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Eurasian Wigeon
Mew Gull

Sightings of note:

One group of 68,807 Common Starlings at Kinderdijk
1025 Northern Gannets
83 Great Egrets
36 Peregrine Falcons
14 Ospreys
5 European Honey Buzzards
2 Little Bitterns
One Rose-colored Starling
One Black Stork
One Little Bunting
One Eurasian Hoopoe

Spreeuw met stip op één
Resultaten Birdwatch 2006

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World Bird Festival 2006

The world’s biggest birding event will take place 7-8 October. It is Birdwatch weekend, which kicks off a month-long celebration during BirdLife International’s World Bird Festival. The worldwide festival includes participation by 32 European countries. In 2005 more than 40,000 European participants were involved in 1,427 events where over three million birds were observed. Dutch Birdlife International, Vogelbescherming, is organizing a few events in the Netherlands. You can read more about it here. To find out more about the World Bird Festival, click here.

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International Migratory Bird Day Is May 13!

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) is held every second Saturday in May, this year May 13. The purpose is to celebrate and support migratory bird conservation. The theme this year is Boreal Forest: Bird Nursery of the North.

The Boreal Forest is located across northern parts of Russia, Scandinavia, Canada and Alaska. It covers 6.5 million square miles.

There are 325 species of birds which regularly visit the North American part of the Boreal Forest. This includes residents, winter and summer visitors.

The first IMBD was in 1993. This year, more than 500 events will take place over the United States to commemorate this special day.

Related Link: International Migratory Bird Day

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Celebrate World Eagle Day This Weekend

This Sunday, March 26, the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis, Missouri will celebrate World Eagle Day. The event will include family activities like crafting, nest building, and face painting. Demonstrations with birds will also be on the agenda.

The World Bird Sanctuary is located at 125 Bald Eagle Ridge Road in Valley Park, 25 minutes west of downtown St. Louis. The event takes place 11am to 4pm and admission is free.

Related link: Explore St. Louis Fact Sheet

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