Category Archives: Illinois

Illinois falconer on the hobby

Last week the Chicago Tribune ran the story Falconer a rare bird in Illinois. It was accompanied by the video below, showing a licensed falconer working with his bird, a Red-tailed Hawk.

In handling education birds of prey there is overlap with some of the equipment, housing and techniques used by falconers. I’m not interested in the hobby itself but found the video interesting – although I don’t agree with everything mentioned by the falconer in the video or text. 🙂 According to the article there are 4,500 falconers in the United States, with 148 in Illinois. Falconry has been around for hundreds of years, coming to Europe from the Middle or Far East in about AD 400.

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Gull Frolic 2010

Today we spent a few hours at the Illinois Ornithological Society Gull Frolic at the Winthrop Harbor Yacht Club.

Alvaro Jaramillo talked about Slaty-backed Gulls and his own road to becoming a larophile. Alvaro is a great speaker and I really enjoyed his presentation. I still need some work on my gull-love, though.

Well over 200 birders were in attendance and the gulls did not disappoint with at least seven species identified.

It was cold and snow fell for most of the morning and early afternoon. Larophobes like me could ask IOS members for assistance in locating and identifying gulls. They were easy to spot in hot orange hats.

It was warm and cozy inside the yacht club. Birding facilities should be so comfy.

There was a spread of pastries and doughnuts for breakfast, and a nice lunch buffet to warm up cold birders.

It was our first Gull Frolic and we heard it was more crowded than recent years. Kudos to the sponsors for organizing a great gathering!

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Posted in Festivals & Events, Illinois | 1 Comment

Good birding despite missing birds

Yesterday we joined another area bird club on a field trip. The Kane County Audubon Roadside Birding outing started at Peck Farm in Geneva. There we picked up a passenger, who just happened to be club president Bob Adrini. Since we hadn’t been birding in Kane County before, it was great to learn about the area specialties and birding spots from Bob. The conversation was engaging even though the birds didn’t cooperate. Our targets for the day were Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs and Horned Larks. We only got the larks.

We saw the larks in the parking lot of a grain mill. In the back of the mill’s lot there was a huge pile of corn. A large group of Rock Pigeons and Brown-headed Cowbirds congregated on the ground next to the pile, but these two Mourning Doves went right to the source.

Though we did see quite a few roadside Red-tailed Hawks during the drive, it wasn’t until the end of the day that we saw a pair, perched in a tree close to the parking lot where our journey began. In the same field we saw our first Northern Harrier of the day. Despite the bad luck with the birds, the miserable weather and frigid temperatures, we had a good birding day. Many thanks to Bob for the conversation!

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Some favorite photos

I’ve been looking through my bird photos, trying to come up with my favorite birds of the last decade. I’m saving that list for another post, but I managed to pick out some favorite photos of birds that didn’t make my top ten list.

These twelve photos were taken in four different countries between 2006 and 2009 (since I haven’t been birding all that long and have only had my (super-zoom point-and-shoot) camera since ’06).

Can you guess what they are? They all link to Flickr where you can find out, or scroll to the end for a list.

Indian Pond Heron


Common Coot chick

Black-headed Ibis

Blue-winged Teal

Rufous Treepie


Red-breasted Nuthatch

Great Crested Grebe on nest


Red-vented Bulbul

Tufted Ducks

Indian Pond Heron: Kota, India;
American Robin: Great Smoky Mountains National Park USA;
Common Coot chick: Starrevaart, Netherlands;
Black-headed Ibis: Ranthambhore, India;
Blue-winged Teal: Viera Wetlands, Florida USA;
Rufous Treepie: Ranthambhore, India;
Chaffinch: Munster, France;
Red-breasted Nuthatch: Illinois USA;
Great Crested Grebe: Voorschoten, Netherlands;
Red-shouldered Hawk: Viera Wetlands, Florida USA;
Red-vented Bulbul: Jaipur, India;
Tufted Duck: Flevoland, Netherlands.

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Posted in Florida, France, Illinois, India, Netherlands, Travel, Viera Wetlands | 1 Comment

Photos: October morning at Volo Bog

Last Saturday we visited Volo Bog. It wasn’t crowded when we arrived.

Volo Bog Parking Lot

First we walked the Volo Bog Interpretive Trail, a boardwalk loop through the bog. There were American Robins everywhere.



Volo Bog Interpretive Trail

Volo Bog

Tamarack Trees

Flock of Robins

Next we walked the Tamarack Trail around the preserve. At the outlook platform we had a view over much of the park. A flock of Cedar Waxwings held my attention on the trail back from the outlook.

More Volo Bog

Volo Bog viewing platform

View over Volo Bog

Blue skies over Volo Bog

Cedar Waxwings

More Waxwings

The sun had been spotty during most of the walk but cleared up nicely as we finished the trail. The visitor center looked particularly fetching as we approached the end of the walk.

Volo Bog Trees

Dangerous Snag

Volo trees and blue sky

Volo Bog visitor center

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Skywatch at IBSP

As part of the Illinois Beach State Park Hawkwatch 10th anniversary celebration, we attended a morning bird walk that followed the path leading from the Hawkwatch pavilion. It was a cold morning and started out a bit overcast, but soon the sun was shining.


Lone Tree

One tree held a family or families of Bluebirds. There were about ten birds in a single tree. I’d never seen so many at the same time before.


Some trees were just starting to turn.

Turning Tree

Turning Tree

Towards the end of the path we spotted a sparrow which we determined to be a Lincoln’s. Life bird!

Lincoln's Sparrow

For more stories of the sky from around the world, visit Skywatch Friday.

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Posted in Hawk Watch, Illinois, Skywatch Friday | 2 Comments

Raptors at Hawkwatch

On the weekend of 10-11 October, the Illinois Beach State Park Hawkwatch celebrated their 10th year with an open house weekend. As part of the celebration, education birds from a new group, The Northern Illinois Raptor Center, were on hand. The birds wowed the crowd with their beauty while their handlers told us about them and answered our questions.

The NIRC was formed after the raptor program at the Springbrook Nature Center was discontinued due to lack of funds. This is their (western) Red-tailed Hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk1

Red-tailed Hawk (western)

Red-tailed Hawk (western)

The NIRC now has four birds which are currently housed with NIRC team members while construction of their new facility at Vogelei Park in Hoffman Estates is underway. This is their American Kestrel.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

The birds are used for education programs. The group eventually plans to also rehabilitate birds in need when their facilities are completed. This is their Great Horned Owl.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

I love Great Horned Owls, but I love Barred Owls even more. Look at this beauty, the NIRC’s fourth bird.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

It’s always so great to see raptors like these up close, and to hear their stories. I so admire everyone that works with these beautiful raptors and their dedication to both their birds and to educating the public. Big kudos to the NIRC and everyone else involved with caring for birds of prey. Thank you for all you do.

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Posted in Festivals & Events, Hawk Watch, Illinois, Rehabilitation | 1 Comment

Birds of the Field Museum

On September 26th we visited the Field Museum in Chicago to attend a free lecture given by the author of The Curse of the Labrador Duck. As a gift to the birding community, early registrants of the lecture were allowed free admission to the museum for the day, so we took the day off and arrived early for our first visit to the Field in several years.

Stanley Field Hall
The Stanley Field Hall at the Field Museum. You can see Sue in the foreground.

We spent most of our time on the lower level, visiting several of the outstanding wild animal and bird displays, including Bird Habitats, World of Birds, Nature Walk and North American Birds. Here are some of my favorites from the day.

Several large displays showed world birds in native habitat. Since I’ve got a thing for birds that build weaver-type nests, I especially enjoyed seeing the Village Weaver display. From the accompanying text: “This weaver-bird gets its name from its habit of nesting near native villages. Its own colonies or “villages” sometimes contain 100 nests.”

Village Weaver
Village Weavers

The Montezuma Oropendulas became my new favorites. What a wonderfully-named bird! From the accompanying text: “In common with many related species, Oropendulas breed in compact colonies. The carefully woven nests of grass are destroyed and entirely re-built each year. Oropendulas are inveterate thieves. Even the birds of a single colony must guard against robbery of nesting material by their neighbors.” Cheeky.

Montezuma Oropendula
Montezuma Oropendulas

There were also smaller cases showing other bird species in their (sometimes former) habitat.

Golden Eagle
A Golden Eagle brings prey back to the nest

Flamingos tend to their young on impressive mound nests

Passenger Pigeons
Passenger Pigeons. There’s a photo in of a huge flock of these once-abundant birds in the background.

The Field also has cases and cases showing birds of the world as well as a huge selection of the birds found in North America.

>Birds of the World at the Field Museum
Birds of the World displays

Birds of the World
Birds of the World display, including kingfishers, hornbills and hoopoes

Birds of the World
Birds of the World, including a Horned Guan

North American Birds at the Field Museum
North American Birds displays

Woodpecker display case
Acorn Woodpeckers on display

A mirror is mounted on the back of the case to show all sides of the Flicker’s plumage

This display, Variation is the rule in nature, presented several different study skins of the same bird species to show how birds vary depending on factors including geography. The bottom of the display holds 12 different subspecies of Song Sparrow. Downy Woodpeckers, Towhees and Canada Warblers are also used. An accompanying informational sign explained study skins: “Birds used in this exhibit are made into study skins. These study skins, in which the head is in line with the body, wings folded, and feet crossed, are conventional for museum study. The method permits easy filing of specimens, available for study. The label, tied to each specimen, is very important. On it should be written the place and date of collecting and other available data.”

Bird variations
Variation is the rule in nature

Notice the white throats of these Towhees

Variation is the rule in nature

After visiting the bird and wild animal galleries, we enjoyed Glen Chilton’s Labrador Duck lecture and got our copy of his book signed. It was a great day out at the Field Museum!

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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