Category Archives: Lake-Cook Audubon

One site, two habitats

On Sunday, September 13th we took our last field trip of the IAS Fall Gathering. We joined about a dozen other birders and leader Jeff Sanders at Waukegan Beach for some shorebirding and warblering.


It was our first visit to Waukegan Beach and we were treated to some great birds. The morning started foggy, but by the time we reached our spot at the end of the pier it started to clear up.


On the beach closest to us we spotted a pair of Sanderlings busy scooting about. They weren’t too shy and one even jumped on the pier for some scurrying action.



Arthur spotted a lone bird on the far beach which turned out to be our lifer American Avocet. Later, a Hooded Merganser flew in and we spotted a couple of Gadwall.

Closer to the harbor a small wooded park provided habitat for migrating songbirds. The trees and shrubs were full of warblers and other birds including our first fall Red-breasted Nuthatch.



Here’s our trip list:
1 Canada Goose
2 Northern Shoveler
3 Hooded Merganser
4 Double-crested Cormorant
5 American Avocet
6 Killdeer
7 Greater Yellowlegs
8 Sanderling
9 Ring-billed Gull
10 American Herring Gull
11 Downy Woodpecker
12 Least Flycatcher
13 Cedar Waxwing
14 Red-breasted Nuthatch
15 Brown Thrasher
16 Grey-cheeked Thrush
17 Swainson’s Thrush
18 American Robin
19 Nashville Warbler
20 Blackpoll Warbler
21 Cape May Warbler
22 Yellow-rumped Warbler
23 Palm Warbler
24 American Redstart
25 Chipping Sparrow
26 Rose-breasted Grosbeak

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Mettawa Manor

I had a great time at the Midwest Birding Symposium, and will have some blog posts to share with you about the weekend. But first I’ve still got a couple of short posts to wrap up our birding from the previous weekend at the Illinois Audubon Fall Gathering

After our afternoon field trip on Saturday, all participants of the gathering headed to a wine and cheese reception at Mettawa Manor, an historic 65-acre estate.

Upon arrival we were offered handouts which described the history of the estate.

The main house and grounds were built in 1927, as a gift to Elizabeth Morse upon her marriage to William Covington. They were part of a larger family compound that included two other homes, various outbuildings and nearly 100 acres of land. Elizabeth and William Covington raised five children in their home, and used it and the gardens, designed by Swain Nelson & Sons Co., to create a wonderful “country life” only 40 minutes from the center of Chicago. They entertained extensively, holding a 60th wedding anniversary party that is still talked about. Upon Elizabeth Convington’s death at the age of 86 in 1990, the house and 9 acres of land were put on the market.

Since then the new owners have worked to restore and freshen the estate as well as reacquire additional acres of land. The manor and grounds were absolutely beautiful – and a joy to explore.


Besides a lovely selection of snacks and wine, we got to enjoy the grounds of this beautiful property. Tram tours were given every 10 minutes but attendance was so high that not everyone was able to tour the grounds this way. Arthur and I elected to walk on the prairie and forest trails that crisscrossed the property. Birds seen included Flicker, Red-tailed Hawk, American Goldfinches, and Blue Jay.


The gracious owners had invited us to make ourselves at home and so when we came upon a treehouse in the woods, we had to have a look at the elevated view.


Back at the gardens we tried raspberries and blueberries right off the bush, and freshly fallen pears were begging to be tasted. All of the garden delights were free from pesticides and extremely tasty.


We passed through the formal flower garden as we returned to the house.


Our visit to Mettawa Manor was quite a coup for the local host Audubon club and a perfect bridge between the day’s field trips and the evening banquet.


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Our visit to Barnswallow, A Wild Bird Concern

Continuing with the Illinois Audubon Fall Gathering posts, our afternoon field trip on Saturday was a visit to Barnswallow, a wild bird rehabilitation center located near Wauconda. Owner and chief operator Linda showed us around her home where she cares for injured raptors and other wild birds.

Linda was still caring for several late songbird chicks and she told us about the current patients: Cedar Waxwings; Northern Cardinals; and Chimney Swifts. Linda’s target species are primarily raptors, but all patients are welcome at Barnswallow. This season she had an inordinate amount of songbirds to care for.

Besides learning about what goes on at Barnswallow, we were able to meet a few of the resident birds who were presented with the help of some of Linda’s young volunteers.

Linda’s got a first-class rehab facility set up in her home and it was a pleasure to visit her and see the great work she’s doing. You can visit Barnswallow on the web to learn more.

As I didn’t want to use flash during the presentation, most of my photos turned out blurry, but here are a few of the resident birds we got to meet.

Here Linda stands in the clinic with three of her young volunteers, each handling a bird.

Clinic at Barnswallow

This is Carson, an American Kestrel.

Carson the American Kestrel

This is Hubie, an Eastern Screech Owl. Hubie was in the middle of molting so he looked a little scruffy.

Hubie the Eastern Screech Owl

This is Griffin, a Barred Owl who was injured by colliding with a car.

Griffin the Barred Owl

This is Boopie, a Northern Saw-whet Owl.

Boopie the Northern Saw-whet Owl

Here are a few more photos from Barnswallow that I found on Flickr. They come from the account of JanetandPhil and were taken in March 2009.

2009-03-28 Barnswallow - A Wild Bird Concern 12
2009-03-28 Barnswallow – A Wild Bird Concern 12 by JanetandPhil, Creative Commons on Flickr

2009-03-28 Barnswallow - A Wild Bird Concern 4
2009-03-28 Barnswallow – A Wild Bird Concern 4 by JanetandPhil, Creative Commons on Flickr

2009-03-28 Barnswallow - A Wild Bird Concern 9
2009-03-28 Barnswallow – A Wild Bird Concern 9 by JanetandPhil, Creative Commons on Flickr

2009-03-28 Barnswallow - A Wild Bird Concern 8
2009-03-28 Barnswallow – A Wild Bird Concern 8 by JanetandPhil, Creative Commons on Flickr

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Foggy morning @ IBSP

Last weekend the Illinois Audubon Fall Gathering was hosted by our local Lake-Cook Chapter. Unfortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it!) we joined late in the birding season last spring and were not at all involved in the planning, which was absolute perfection. We were embarrassed to have been praised on the organization by birders from other chapters who read our name tags. I only wish we could have taken credit, because the Lake-Cook chapter really rocked it.

For our first field trip Saturday morning we arrived at Illinois Beach State Park, which was covered in fog. From the Hawk Watch pavilion we looked out over the meadow before our morning walk started.

foggy meadow

Our walk on the north side of the state park was not too birdy, but the fog did lift and we did have a pleasant stroll.

Path at Illinois Beach State Park


Clear sky

We returned to visit the hawk watchers at their pavilion. The fields were no longer foggy.


The IBSP Hawk Watch is lucky to have a large pavillion they use during the season, which provides shelter from rain, snow or sun.


We visited for a bit before it was time to head out to our afternoon appointment — with lunch taken on the run!

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Posted in Illinois, Illinois Audubon, Lake-Cook Audubon | 1 Comment

American Avocet

We walked out on to the pier and looked back at the beach.

Waukegan Beach

Through our bins we saw a thin, long-legged bird standing alone, apart from the gulls and geese. An American Avocet. I mean, OMG, an AMERICAN AVOCET !! best bird of the weekend wooo!!

American Avocet

It stood still on the beach for a time, then scooted across the sand towards our pier, still very far from our group. It fed for a few moments when suddenly a person walking on the beach spooked it. The bird took flight over Lake Michigan.

We all watched it circle away from the beach. It turned back and I think I may have held my breath. It landed on the other side of the pier. It marched towards us until it was just a few feet from the pier. We got to spend some quality time with this life bird.



American Avocet

American Avocet

American Avocet

American Avocet

We attended the Illinois Audubon Society Fall Gathering this weekend, and this Avocet was one of the star birds. We certainly picked the right field trip for this morning! More to come on the fest.

For more bird photos from around the world, visit Bird Photography Weekly.

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Posted in Bird Photography Weekly, Illinois Audubon, Lake-Cook Audubon, Life List | 10 Comments

McHenry Dam outing to end May

On Sunday we went out again with Lake-Cook Audubon, this time to an outing at McHenry Dam, which is part of Moraine Hills State Park in McHenry County. We took the Fox River trail which passes through meadow, marsh, wetland and forest habitat.


There are even two observation decks, including this one that almost looks like a blind!


Arthur and I noted 37 observed species, with six lifers! Arthur also recently started using Birdstack (I started a while back but never finished) to record all bird species we have observed. Our ‘actual’ life list is now at 442 species total.

On one part of the trail, we observed a Common Yellowthroat, one of our six lifers on the outing.

Common Yellowthroat

The next 8 or 10 birds we saw were Yellowthroats, but each time we saw the movement of a bird in the bushes, we looked hopefully through our bins, looking for a new species. But they were all Yellowthroats. Well, they are Common – it’s true!

We also ran back to see this lifer Orchard Oriole that a few stragglers in our group found in a tree.

Orchard Oriole

Besides birds we also saw lots of turtles, a rather large muskrat, and this huge bullfrog.


Another great outing with Lake-Cook Audubon!

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