Category Archives: LCFPD

Lake County Forest Preserve District

New viewing platform at Prairie Wolf Slough

When we were staying with my parents last year, we visited the Lake County Forest Preserve District’s Prairie Wolf Slough quite a lot, as it was practically right across the street.

We visited Prairie Wolf on January 1st and afterwords I tweeted to the LCFPD that an elevated hide would be a great addition to the site. To my delight, LCFPD tweeted back a few days later: “Just learned a raised observation deck at Prairie Wolf is one of this summer’s proposed projects for Youth Conservation Corps.” How’s that for service? 😉

The project was started this summer. Here is what it looked like on July 22nd.

Viewing platform construction

Viewing platform construction

Although we couldn’t climb up onto the platform at that time, through the clearing we had a good look at the water, where we spotted this Great Blue Heron.

Great Blue Heron

Later, LakeCookAudubon shared this photo via Twitter:


When we visited again on August 14th, a team was working on the platform, but allowed us to step on. The slough was fairly dry but busy with Killdeer and one Great Blue Heron. Here’s what the view looked like:

And one of the Killdeer on the mud:


By that time the viewing scopes were in place.

wildlife viewing scope

And holes were being dug for the signs.


During our most recent visit, on August 29th, the platform was completed and open for business. Yay!

Viewing platform construction

Viewing platform construction

Prairie Wolf Slough platform scope

View of the slough

Slough Sign

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Banding at Rollins Savanna

If you have found this page via the Halt Bird Banding site, welcome. I do not agree with the mission of that website and I am dismayed that my words are being used to further an anti-banding agenda. The text in the post below has not been edited in any way. However, I would like to make the following statements. (1) While I am mortified by my own cavalier words regarding the unfortunate deaths of birds by deer, I understand that in scientific work, unfortunate instances may occur. On future visits to the banding station, I noted that the net in question was not raised or more carefully monitored to eliminate the possibility of deer accessing birds in the nets. (2) Bird banding helps birds. There are many specific examples, but in general if you understand that humans destroy bird habitat, then you must understand that gaining knowledge of bird activity, habitat use, movement, etc, is beneficial to birds. Suitable habitat is destroyed or modified by human activities ALL THE TIME, but there are people working to mitigate this, and to HELP BIRDS. When we understand how birds interact with different habitats we can better save or restore that which will be of most use to the birds most in need. If people were not ruining the planet, I think the Halt Bird Banding movement might have more support, but IN THE WORLD WE LIVE IN, this is not the case. This is not the only purpose of bird banding, but it’s a big one. (3) I am not and have never been a master bander. I volunteered at and observed during banding activities. Please keep that in mind as you read through any of my posts regarding bird banding. Thank you for reading this addendum to my original post.

Following the banding demonstration we attended earlier this month, last week we were able to observe at the MAPS team banding station at Rollins Savanna for a while. The team has 10 mist nets set up in one part of the preserve; the nets are checked at least every half hour. When we arrived we joined team members as they checked nets 9 and 10. Everyone was very excited to see that a Ruby-throated Hummingbird was caught in #9.

Hummingbird in the net

Very few people are permitted to band hummingbirds in the United States so the objective here was to safely remove the bird from the net, perform a quick examination and then set the bird free. When hummingbird banding is the objective, special feeder traps are set rather than using mist nets to capture the birds. Vickie Henderson has a great post about the banding of hummingbirds at her blog: Hummingbird Mysteries Uncovered through Banding.

Hummingbird in the net

As you can imagine the process of removing a hummingbird from a misting net is a delicate process. In this case it took about 5 minutes and we could hear the juvenile male Ruby-throated Hummingbird crying during part of the procedure. The bird was not harmed and was released shortly after we all arrived back at the banding station.

We went on the next net run but no birds were recovered. We learned that earlier in the morning two birds were lost to deer – the deer ATE two birds that had been caught in the nets. This was shocking to hear and even more shocking to discover for the banding team members! We were glad we missed that bit of ‘excitement.’ Can you imagine coming upon such a scene? ::shudder::

A later net run yielded over 10 birds and by the time they were brought back to the banding station it was time to go check the nets all over again.

Birds waiting to be banded

This left the two remaining banders at the station extremely busy. They were processing birds very quickly and there was not much time for photography poses or even to explain everything that was going on to us observers.

It was still a total treat to observe and I did manage to take a few banding action photos. Here’s a Field Sparrow being banded and processed:

Field Sparrow being banded

FieldSparrow2“What are you lookin’ at?!

Here’s a Common Yellowthroat being processed, along with a rare photography pose.

Common Yellowthroat examination

Common Yellowthroat in the hand

Common Yellowthroat in the hand

Several juvenile Bluebirds were also banded, including one recapture from earlier this year who was processed rather quickly and then sent on his way. A Red-bellied Woodpecker provided some comic relief when it fiercely pecked at the bander’s thumb while in the hand. The most common bird found in the mist nets were Song Sparrows.

It was great to be able to observe the banding team doing their work, and I hope we didn’t get in the way too much! I’m really interested in bird banding and hope to learn more about it.

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Bird-friendly volleyball net?

We were kind of surprised to see this volleyball net left up at Nippersink Forest Preserve. Earlier this year I read about an owl getting caught in a soccer net on the Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation blog: Owls don’t play soccer.

Volleyball Net

Could the yellow edging on this net make it more visible to birds? The holes here are pretty large but I wonder if this is a bird-friendly net. Anyone know?

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Posted in FCWR, LCFPD | 1 Comment

Banding a Song Sparrow

This morning we attended a bird banding demonstration held at Nippersink Forest Preserve. Two mist nets were set up by researchers from CLC including professor and bander Cindy Trombino. Her team is working at Rollins Savanna this season as part of the MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) program. We actually saw them from a distance the other day on a walk, where they had set up signs to announce their presence.

Banding Sign

At the demonstration today we first learned about the banding process and why birds are banded as an aid to research. We also got to see tools of the trade, including detailed guide books, pliers and the bands themselves.

Banding Tools

The first couple of times the nets were checked, there were no birds. It was decided to move one of the nets to a different location and soon thereafter a Song Sparrow was caught. Here’s a photo of the net before it was moved:

Mist Net

Cindy showed us how the birds are removed from the net. Carefully removing the bird from the tangles of the net is usually the most difficult part of the process. In the video you can hear her mention that Northern Cardinals are notorious biters when being handled.


The Song Sparrow was brought to the work table in a bag where it was then banded and processed. After banding the next step is to try to age and sex the bird. To age the bird, feather wear and skull condition are two of the criteria checked, and these were the factors Cindy used to determine the bird was a hatch year bird.


Next Peter Pyle’s Identification Guide to North American Birds was consulted to determine how to sex the bird. According to the book, sexing a first year Song Sparrow is not possible. The sparrow was then weighed and measured.


Lastly it was time for a close-up (using the ‘photography hold’ as opposed to the ‘bander’s hold’ shown above).


Then the bird was released, with the help of two girls that attended the demonstration.


We learned from Cindy that they will be banding at Rollins again on Tuesday and we are welcome to observe – which we really look forward to!

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Random videos from Rollins Savanna

When we visited Rollins last Friday it was overcast and threatening rain the entire time. Luckily we finished the loop trail just as the drizzle turned into full-on rain. Along the way we spotted these two young Eastern Kingbirds calling to their parents.

Later we saw this Mallard female leading eight ducklings through the overgrown stream.

This Sedge Wren teased us in the field. We were unsure of the ID until we came home and could compare the song.

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Posted in Illinois, LCFPD, Video | 1 Comment

Blackbirds divebomb Cranes

During our Saturday walk at Rollins, we saw this Sandhill Crane family (the same small family that we had previously observed) being divebombed by Red-winged Blackbirds. And those blackbirds aren’t kidding – see how they really smack into the adult cranes!

Now we knew that cranes eat crustaceans, but we didn’t realize these meat-eaters would also be a threat to the Red-winged Blackbirds – or rather, their young. A post on Laura Erickson’s Twin Beaks blog (and this one) this week cleared that up though. Yikes.

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Rollins with Lake-Cook Audubon

We had another walk at Rollins Savanna on Saturday. This time it was another bird walk sponsored by Lake-Cook Audubon (their last walk of the season). It was an overcast and unseasonably cool morning, with rain forecast for the early afternoon. Despite the weather, over 45 birders of all levels joined in the walk. Here are most of us at the start of the walk.

Lots Of Birders

We did lose quite a bit of birders along the way – including us! We walked ahead of the group just shortly after the halfway point in the loop trail, after three hours of birding.

Because the group was so large, we split in two. Even then, we were still birding with a huge group. Here’s our half just shortly after we began.

Birders Birding

By the way, I’m not sure you’ve noticed (ha!), but I really like to take photos of birders. I don’t exactly know why. When we went birding in Holland we never went with a group so I would always get a kick out of seeing photos in online newspapers of birders all looking in one direction through their binoculars or focusing their cameras on the same thing. I just like birding as a hobby so much so I guess seeing photos of people doing it in a big group makes me smile.

On Saturday the Bobolinks that had been so prevalent during our last walk were a bit more subdued. We still saw many males singing, but we didn’t observe any females at all. A few of the males were quite bold, giving us great views from perches close to the trail.

Singing Bobolink


The Meadowlarks, on the other hand, seemed to be a bit more vocal than they were the last few times we were at Rollins. We heard these almost everywhere during the walk, but they kept their distance.

We noticed Eastern Kingbirds at at least three different locations, including what seemed to be two pairs.

Eastern Kingbird

We saw lots of birds flying high over the savanna, including Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, a Marsh Harrier, plus this Red-tailed Hawk being pestered by a Red-winged Blackbird and a flock of Canada Geese.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Goose Flock

In total we counted 37 observed species, including three lifers: Sedge Wren; Northern Rough-winged Swallow; and a fleeting look at a Virginia Rail.

Rollins Savanna

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