Category Archives: North America

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!

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Illinois, Lake-Cook Audubon, Life List | Leave a comment

Michigan fifth-graders champion Kirtland’s for state bird

A class of fifth-graders in Howell, Michigan spent two months studying the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler, compiling a book about the bird and concluding that it should replace the American Robin as their state bird. The bird nests primarily in Michigan (there are a few in Wisconsin, too) so it sounds like a good fit to me. (The American Robin is the state bird of Connecticut and Wisconsin as well. There are a couple of other birds that are the state bird of multiple states: the Northern Cardinal (7) and Western Meadowlark (6) come to mind. Nothing against these birds, but come on, how unoriginal!)

In case you’ve never seen this lovely bird, here’s a photo. What a beauty!

Endangered Kirtland's warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii)
Endangered Kirtland’s warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii) by USFWS Headquarters, Creative Commons on Flickr

Read more about the students’ project here.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in North America | Leave a comment

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

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Illinois | Leave a comment

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!

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Illinois, Life List | Leave a comment

Controlled burn brings green

In March we visited Chain O’ Lakes State Park and walked the Badger Trail. The area had recently been subjected to a controlled burn and we could really notice the Robins in particular were lovin’ it.

Earlier this month we walked the Badger Trail again. What a difference!

Chain O' Lakes

Chain O' Lakes

Chain O' Lakes

Everything was so green! The trees are still a bit bare, but the ground was lush with fresh vegetation covering the ground. Ground that was black from burning just six weeks ago.

Another difference we noticed: instead of Bluebirds on the Bluebird houses, there were Tree Swallows.

Tree Swallow Chain O' Lakes

During our March visit, we saw at least three pairs of Bluebirds on the houses. On our walk last week, we saw only saw two individual Bluebirds, and they were sitting on tree branches and not near any of the houses. The houses all appeared to be occupied by swallows. Here’s the female Bluebird we saw. At least she found a nice branch upon which to perch.

Bluebird at Chain O' Lakes

We also saw this group of five Sandhill Cranes. I always love seeing these guys.

Cranes at Chain O' Lakes

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Illinois | Leave a comment

Scene-stealing gulls at Niagara Falls

Gulls were plentiful at Niagara Falls. I saw both Herring and Ring-billed. I’m no gull hero so I certainly could have missed other species.

This Ring-billed Gull drew a small crowd of photographers as it posed in front of the Falls on the Canadian side.

Rainbow & Ring-billed Gull

I couldn’t resist a shot, myself. I suppose I ‘should have’ gotten the Falls in the shot too, but I was only thinking about this one-legged beauty.

One-legged Gull
Gulls lined the rocky walls of the Niagara River. Part of the state park on the American side was closed off for breeding gulls.

Roosting Gulls

These high-adrenaline gulls actually bathed in the Niagara River, not too far from the falls. Now that’s some fresh water!

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in North America, Travel | Leave a comment

Not birding at Niagara Falls

It was a whirlwind trip: less than 80 hours and over 1300 miles. The goal: see Niagara Falls. No time for birding. Yeah, right!

The falls were extremely impressive. Here are the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side.

Horseshoe Falls

And here are the American Falls, with a Maid of the Mist boat in the foreground.

American Falls

Walking along the river on the Canadian side, we soaked in the views. I soaked in a few Canadian birds, too, so I was always running behind. And then this was the view I had of my family for most of the day.

I'm always behind!

The birds weren’t rare, but that’s okay. I love them all, from the little House Sparrow sitting on a lamp…

House Sparrow on Lamp

… to the female Red-winged Blackbird pausing to drink out of a discarded bottle cap.

Female Red-winged Blackbird

I bet this Canadian-American Robin hardly ever gets a second look from passers-by as he forages for worms, with the roaring Falls behind him.

Canadian-American Robin

Cormorants were everywhere, posing on rocks by the Falls…


… flying overhead in flocks…

Cormorants over Niagara Falls

… and dipping in the water.

Cormorant swimming in Niagara River

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in North America, Travel | Leave a comment


On April 27th we visited Volo Bog with both my parents and my husband’s parents. We had a nice walk around the boardwalk under threatening skies. Remarkably, it didn’t rain during our stroll.

Slouching Barn Swallow

The dark, heavy clouds looming overhead were enough to bring down even the most cheery person – or bird. I noticed this Tree Swallow sitting on one of the Bluebird boxes looking kind of slouchy. I think it noticed I was taking its photo, because it corrected its posture immediately!

Barn Swallow at attention

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Funny, Illinois | Leave a comment

Techny field trip

Yesterday we went out with the Evanston North Shore Bird Club again. This time the leader was a young man named Sulli and he brought us into Valley Lo Country Club, a spot normally off-limits to non-members. Sulli is a monitor for the Techny Basin Conservation Area with the Bird Conservation Network and has special permission to bird on the club’s property.

Sulli lead our group of 12 participants around the golf course of the club and around Techny Basin as well as Lake Glenview and Air Station Prairie, a prairie habitat set aside from the old Glenview Naval Air Station. Here is part of our group at the golf course:


One of the highlights was very good looks at a Palm Warbler at Techny Basin. During the trip I mentioned to Joel, a birder we had met on the Looney Trip, that we hadn’t seen warblers before, but I was so wrong, oops! We’ve seen the Palm Warbler in non-breeding plumage in Florida in 2006, as well as a surprise non-breeding Yellow-rumped Warbler in Deerfield last year. It would be true to say we’ve not seen any warblers in their full breeding glory, though!

We saw lots of great birds on this outing, but unfortunately I did not get lots of great photos. Highlights were: Common Loons (still here!); a flying Green Heron; a flying Merlin; the Palm Warbler; Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers; courting Red-breasted Mergansers; Northern Flicker; Cedar Waxwings; roosting Black-crowned Night-herons; and a flying Sora which was flushed by Sulli and Joel. Several of these were lifers for us.

We did have very good looks at the Red-tailed Hawk on the golf course. It wasn’t bothered by us at all and even did a little preening with us watching.



I had a hard time getting on the Black-crowned Night-heron but Sulli was very patient and helped me get a good look at at least four of them (I think he saw more!). Boy, they were hiding! Here’s one:


It was another great outing with Evanston North Shore Bird Club on a beautiful Saturday. The forecast for the next few days is bleak with lots of rain and colder temperatures. I’m glad we could get out while the weather was so fine!

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Illinois | 1 Comment