Looney for Loons

Yesterday we went on the Looney Trip outing led by Dave Johnson and sponsored by the Evanston North Shore Bird Club. Our group of 16 visited several sights in search of Common Loon and other waterfowl and migrants. We met a lot of local birders and got to see a bunch of great birding locations that were new to us.

We met by Diamond Lake, where we started off with several Common Loons swimming on the calm water. After viewing the loons and other waterfowl on the lake, Dave distributed walkie talkies to the 8 cars in our group and we headed to our first stop at the north side of Long Lake, where we saw 5 Common Loons, some at very close range.

Common Loon

Common Loon

Our next stop was at Lake Marie, where American White Pelicans had been reported in recent days. We had great looks at 13 pelicans, a first for the Looney Trip (which Dave has been leading for over 15 years!). Here are two on the water, in the distance.

American White Pelican

Arthur also counted 27 loons here, which were also giving great looks (not too much diving). Here some of our group checks out the action.


Next we stopped briefly at Chain O’ Lakes State Park where we saw some pelicans flying. We saw two Sandhill Cranes landing at a shallow pond by the main road. Some of the group (including us) got nice looks at a Golden-crowned Kinglet and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. These were much too fast for photos, unfortunately, because both of these were lifers!

Next we made a brief stop by Grass Lake to view an active Bald Eagle nest. We learned that this nest is the first recorded Bald Eagle breeding in Lake County in well over 100 years. Wow!

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

The other nests surrounding the eagle’s are abandoned Great Blue Heron nests. The herons left when the eagles moved in. Not too far from the eagles there was a separate heronry with lots of GBH nests and tons of Double-crested Cormorants.


Around lunchtime we headed to Pistakee Lake to look for birds from the marina at Bald Knob. Here we saw more Common Loons, plus thousands of Lesser Scaup, an immature Bald Eagle flyover, and this Killdeer by the piers.


Next it was time for lunch, which we had at Castaways at Sunset Bay. It was a treat for us to get to talk with other birders. We heard of fun tales of neat birding adventures and learned of even more great places to check out for birds in our area and beyond. The restaurant was really accommodating for our large group, too – we were a group of 11 people with at least six separate checks.

After lunch some of the group headed for home while the rest of us drove to Illinois Beach State Park on Lake Michigan to search for Red-throated Loons which had been reported there earlier in the day. This was an area of the state park we had not visited before so it was nice to check it out. We were skunked on the loons but did see several Red-breasted Mergansers, a pair of Eastern Bluebirds and we heard a Field Sparrow singing. And the view sure was nice. Here’s Arthur looking for loons.


Looking south from IBSP

We decided our day was over after IBSP, but Dave and a few others drove down to Kane County to search for a Black-necked Stilt reported there. I saw later on the Illinois listserv IBET that they got the stilt. Way to go, guys!

We had a great day and we look forward to going on Dave’s Looney Trip next year! I really thought Dave was an outstanding and knowledgeable leader, making sure everyone got to see the birds and picking a great route. The more experienced birders on the trip were also wonderful, open to share their knowledge with the newer members of the group and answer all of our questions. If you went on the trip too, please leave a comment!

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