Category Archives: Illinois


Last Sunday we rented a canoe for some paddling at Chain O’ Lakes State Park. It was a beautiful morning and an easy paddle.

Chain O Lakes State Park

One of the highlights was seeing large groups of swallows hunting for bugs over the still water and congregating on snags along the shore.

Swallows on a snag

Lots of swallows

Big bunch of swallows

Among them was a very light bird, a possible leucistic Tree Swallow. Leucism (sometimes incorrectly called partial-albinism) is a condition characterized by reduced pigmentation. I’ve never seen a leucistic swallow before, but they’re definitely out there.

Leucistic Tree Swallow?

Leucistic Tree Swallow on snag

Have you ever seen a leucistic bird?

* The original title I wanted to use for this post is apparently the name of a porn movie. That’s some traffic I don’t need on this blog. Hirundididae is the Latin name for the Swallow family of birds. 😉

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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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Chasing blogged buntings

Waterfall Glen is a DuPage County Forest Preserve, located southwest of Chicago and about 90 minutes driving from our home in the northern suburbs. We visited this odd-shaped preserve today after reading Owlman’s post about his recent visit. Go read his post Indigo bunting oasis! to find out why we were so intrigued (and to view better photos than below!).

Prior to reading Owlman’s post, I had never heard of Waterfall Glen. I had, however, heard of Argonne National Laboratory. The forest preserve property surrounds the lab’s property, making the preserve doughnut-shaped. Argonne is a U.S. Dept of Energy research facility focused on national security, energy and biological & environmental systems.

The main trail at Waterfall Glen is a nearly ten-mile loop. There are several parking areas around the preserve and smaller looping trails are available. We walked about 3.5 miles on the northwest side of the park, taking the Tear-Thumb trail shortcut from the main trailhead parking lot.

First, as expected, we were eaten alive on the grass path.

Waterfall Glen trail

The gravel main trail was much better – no mosquitoes but plenty of birds and other creatures.

Waterfall Glen main trail

Grey Catbird

The main trail was virtually crawling with these slugs and tiny thumbnail-sized frogs.

Slug at Waterfall Glen FP

Tiny Frog

And we also saw & heard Indigo Buntings, yes! Unfortunately most of our views were like this:


After this little hike we drove to another area of the park to see the waterfall.

Waterfall Glenn FP

Waterfall Glen FP

Waterfall Glen FP

We had a lovely morning there and will surely visit this preserve again. Many thanks to Owlman!

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Lakefront Park on Independence Day

This morning we biked to Round Lake after watching the local Independence Day parade. At the lake we visited a newly dedicated (June 6) part of Lakefront Park. The little park has an interpretive path and even a small restored wetland!

Lakefront Park wetland

Lakefront Park

Part of the park is woodland. An interpretive sign showed aerial photos of the land taken in 1939, when the former forest was cleared as farmland. In another photo you could see that by 1993 the farmland was gone and the woods were returning.

Lakefront Park path

Yay for suburban parks and restored habitats! Have a great Independence Day, fellow Americans, and a great July weekend to everyone else!

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Oriole’s nest and other weavers

We found this Oriole nest while walking at McHenry Dam at the end of May.


After the nest was discovered, I asked one of the outing leaders if Orchard Orioles make the same kind of nest as Baltimore Orioles. Everyone was saying we had found a Baltimore’s nest so I wondered if Orchards make the same kind. The leader wasn’t sure so when we got home I checked Cornell’s All About Birds. Baltimore Orioles indeed make gourd-shaped nests in a ‘weaver’ style. Orchard Orioles, on the other hand, make open cup nests.

When we visited the Gambia, we saw several different species of weaver.

We found a weaver nest on the ground while waiting for the ferry to cross the Gambia River at Georgetown. Arthur picked it up so I could take a photo of it. Unfortunately I don’t know what species of the 12 made this one. It was very tightly woven and the entrance was separated from the nest cavity as if it had a foyer.


I think weaver nests are pretty neat, especially after seeing that one in the Gambia up close. Sociable Weavers are a species of weaver that live in southern Africa. Dozens of families will live in huge complex structures of woven hanging nests, which are among the largest bird-created structures. Check out this photo of a Sociable Weaver nest colony. Other weaver nests can look almost obscene.

Looking at my Gambia bird guide, it looks like there are at least 12 species of weaver there. I’ve been trying to find out if any other bird species that make pendant-style woven nests live here in Northern Illinois. Looking through Wikipedia and All About Birds, I found that five other Oriole species that live in the United States build weaver-style nests: Altamira; Spot-breasted; Hooded; Scott’s; and Bullock’s. However, all of these are either western or southwestern species; none range in Northern Illinois. Does that mean that if we find a weaver nest here, it is definitely from a Baltimore Oriole? That would be pretty handy, identification-wise.

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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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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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Best Glacial Park bird

Yesterday I posted about our walk at Glacial Park. We saw 33 species and our favorite was a pair of birds seen in this tree:

woodpeckers11There are at least two birds in this photo. Can you see them?

woodpeckers2Does this help?

woodpeckers3Two Red-headed Woodpeckers!

Here’s the total list for the day.

1 Canada Goose
2 Wood Duck
3 Mallard
4 Great Blue Heron
5 Western Great Egret
6 Turkey Vulture
7 Sora
8 Sandhill Crane
9 Killdeer
10 Mourning Dove
11 Red-headed Woodpecker
12 Red-bellied Woodpecker
13 Northern Flicker
14 Eastern Kingbird
15 Blue Jay
16 American Crow
17 Tree Swallow
18 House Wren
19 Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
20 White-breasted Nuthatch
21 Grey Catbird
22 Brown Thrasher
23 Common Starling
24 Eastern Bluebird
25 American Robin
26 House Sparrow
27 American Goldfinch
28 Palm Warbler
29 Brown-headed Cowbird
30 Red-winged Blackbird
31 Eastern Meadowlark
32 White-crowned Sparrow
33 Northern Cardinal

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Birdy Glacial Park

This morning we went birding at Glacial Park in McHenry County.

Glacial Park entrance sign

We do most of our MOON survey around the park but until today we had only really seen it in the dark. Glacial Park has a variety of habitats, including marshland, bog, forest, meadow and kame.





Kames are irregularly shaped hills or mounds formed by retreating glaciers. The path we walked near the center of the park was quite hilly and we were surprised to see a few people jogging on the up-and-down path. We got winded just walking it!

We saw a total of 33 species. This was the first time we kept track of all species we saw on a birding outing (holiday birding lists excluded) and I have to say, it was kind of fun. Next time we visit Glacial Park we’ll see if we can beat our “record” of 33 birds seen there. Here are some of our favorites.

Eastern Bluebird
Mrs. Bluebird with a bug

Eastern Kingbird
Lifer Eastern Kingbird

Our top bird of the day was a pair of – wait, can you guess from the photo?

Mystery birds

Check back tomorrow for the answer!

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