Category Archives: Illinois

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.

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Posted in Illinois, Offbeat, Search Terms | 1 Comment

Bird Art in Waukegan Art Windows

The other day we were in Waukegan to see a movie. On the way to the parking lot, Arthur noticed some unusual, bold bird art in what we presumed was an art gallery. We walked over to have a look, and found paintings by artist José F. Bolet in an empty store front. The paintings were placed there Part of the Waukegan Art Windows program, where empty storefronts are used to display works of art.

I’m not a big fan of the birds-as-humans ones. I do like the last one, though. What do you think?

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Posted in Art, Illinois, Offbeat | Leave a comment

Drama Kings

I had fun watching the Red-winged Blackbirds on a spring visit to the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Our primary focus during our time at Montrose was spent looking for migrating warblers between the leaves of the Magic Hedge, but the Red-wingeds were hard to ignore. Especially when they do this:

Red-winged Blackbird

The males put on such a show, while the females seem much more polite.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird (female)

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!

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Posted in Bird Photography Weekly, Funny, Illinois | 1 Comment

A richness of martins

When I was a kid, my dad built a pair of impressive birdhouse complexes intended for Purple Martins. One was a long ‘rowhouse’ style, while the other was a wonderful jumble of boxes three stories high with entrances all around. They were placed high up in the back of our yard and I remember every year before spring they would have to be cleaned. And I remember my dad hopefully wishing for Purple Martins every year, but only attracting House Sparrows. Because he had a hard time attracting PUMAs to the birdhouses, I somehow got the idea that it was hard to find them at all in our area. Years passed and I forgot about the birdhouses. I moved away and became interested in birds on a different continent, and when I returned to the area where I grew up I was delighted to finally understand that Purple Martins actually aren’t too hard to find around here. In fact, there is a busy little colony using a series of houses down the road from my parents at the Chicago Botanic Garden, where these photos were taken.






(Knowing just a little bit more about martins now, I think my parent’s back yard isn’t the ideal habitat for PUMAs. Just don’t tell my dad!) To learn more about Purple Martins, visit the Purple Martin Conservation Association. By the way, the title of this post refers to a collective noun used for groups of martins. Others include circlage, gulp, and colony.

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!

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Posted in Bird Photography Weekly, Illinois | 3 Comments

Montrose Haiku

Magic Hedge birding!
Warblers hide, I get robins
with my point-and-shoot.


Cedar Waxwing flock!
Even in the parking lot,
birding is awesome.


Abundant grackles
perch and fuss in every tree.
Dramatic posers!


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Posted in Illinois | 1 Comment

Unlikely Wood Duck

The other day Arthur and I were on our way home and we noticed an unlikely bird hanging out in a tiny pond adjacent to a small strip mall. Usually this little pond, dotted with debris, is host to Canada Geese and a small flock of Mallards. Occasionally, Red-winged Blackbirds konk-la-ree from a small patch of reeds. So we were very surprised to see a beautiful male Wood Duck having a preen on a tire in the water.

Wood Duck on a tire

Wood Duck on a tire

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Posted in Funny, Illinois | 1 Comment

Back Hackmatack

Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge is a proposed new NWR spanning across parts of Walworth County in Wisconsin and McHenry County in Illinois (our neighboring county). The proposed refuge would link existing public lands and grow with future private and public land purchases and partnerships (an “urban” refuge). It would be very exciting to have a NWR so close to our home!

A detailed map of the area of interest can be found here.

It was announced April 8th that the USFWS will be going forward with a feasibility study of the area, which could take up to two years. This is a great first step to getting the NWR established. You can find out more about the proposed refuge from the Friends of Hackmatack website and keep up with the latest news by following them on Facebook.

You can back Hackmatack by signing the petition of support here.

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Posted in Illinois, Wisconsin | 1 Comment

43 species at Volo Bog

Yesterday we joined McHenry County Audubon’s walk at Volo Bog. We joined them last year at the bog around this time. We didn’t keep track of all species seen the first time, but I have a feeling our count of 43 yesterday beats last year’s tally. We had six FOY birds: American Wigeon, Barn Swallow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Great Egret and Brown Thrasher. Our full list follows.

Our first FOY of the day was a singing Brown Thrasher

This Eastern Towhee gave us great looks from high atop a tree

As last time, Tree Swallows were numerous

There were lots of American Robins, too, like this group that proceeded us on the path

We came across Sandhill Cranes several times during the morning

It was a great walk on a beautiful day. The jury’s still out on my new camera, though.

Location: Volo Bog State Natural Area (Lake Co.)
Observation date: 4/10/10
Number of species: 43

Canada Goose – Branta canadensis 5
Mute Swan – Cygnus olor 2
Wood Duck – Aix sponsa 2
American Wigeon – Anas americana 1
Mallard – Anas platyrhynchos 12
Blue-winged Teal – Anas discors 7
Northern Shoveler – Anas clypeata 1
Ring-necked Duck – Aythya collaris 2
Hooded Merganser – Lophodytes cucullatus 4
Great Blue Heron – Ardea herodias 2
Great Egret – Ardea alba 1
Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis 1
American Coot – Fulica americana 20
Sandhill Crane – Grus canadensis 6
Killdeer – Charadrius vociferus 1
Ring-billed Gull – Larus delawarensis X
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura 5
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus 9
Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens 3
Hairy Woodpecker – Picoides villosus 1
Northern Flicker – Colaptes auratus 1
Eastern Phoebe – Sayornis phoebe 1
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata 2
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos 3
Tree Swallow – Tachycineta bicolor X
Barn Swallow – Hirundo rustica 1
Black-capped Chickadee – Poecile atricapillus 6
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea 1
Hermit Thrush – Catharus guttatus 1
American Robin – Turdus migratorius X
Brown Thrasher – Toxostoma rufum 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler – Dendroica coronata 12
Eastern Towhee – Pipilo erythrophthalmus 1
American Tree Sparrow – Spizella arborea 5
Song Sparrow – Melospiza melodia 4
Dark-eyed Junco – Junco hyemalis 1
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis 6
Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus X
Eastern Meadowlark – Sturnella magna 1
Common Grackle – Quiscalus quiscula 2
Brown-headed Cowbird – Molothrus ater 2
American Goldfinch – Carduelis tristis 2
House Sparrow – Passer domesticus 3

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

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Posted in Illinois | 1 Comment

That new hedge-magic

It took us a while, but last week we finally got to check out what’s what at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary in Chicago. We’ve been living in the suburbs for a year and a half and just managed to visit the Magic Hedge for the first time the other day. Goofballs.

The Magic Hedge started as a row of honeysuckle shrubs planted along a fence on the west side of a U.S. Army barracks built here in the 1950’s. The hedge covered the first-floor windows of the two-story building. The Army left around 1970, but the honeysuckles remained.

Lakefront bird watchers noticed that the ragged row of bushes attracted masses of warblers and other birds during migration, diving in and out of the hedge “like magic,” a name that stuck and survives to this day.

Over the years, the hedge was enlarged with many species of shrubs, including serviceberry, chokeberry, sumac and viburnum. These provide seeds and fruit and attract insects for the migrant birds to eat, as well as offer more shelter.

We saw some great birds, including our FOY Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Towhee, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Hermit Thrush. Unfortunately none of them would pose for a photo. Others were more obliging.

We stopped by again yesterday, a week after our first visit. It was about 40°F cooler than the first time. A bit less birdy too, but still a great place.

Think we’ll be back.

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Posted in Illinois | 2 Comments

Kane County Pelicans

Last year around this time, there were lots of reports of American White Pelicans throughout Lake and McHenry counties. We even saw a few. This year, local reports are more sparse.

However, a flock of the birds regularly visit Nelson Lake in Kane County during their spring migration. They are a local attraction of sorts and even caught the attention of Chicago’s PBS channel, which ran this piece on Chicago Tonight April 1st. Check out the cute size comparison where they show the armspan of a Chicago Tonight intern vs. the wingspan of a pelican.

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Posted in Illinois, Migration | Leave a comment