July 22 banding notes

The sixth MAPS banding session at Rollins Savanna this season took place on Thursday, July 22. It was a bit birdier than last time, with several Common Yellowthroats, a pair of House Wrens, the first Eastern Phoebe of the season, a couple of Song Sparrows, one Field Sparrow, and one American Robin. It was a good, solid, somewhat routine day of banding. Again the skies threatened rain all morning, but this time it actually did rain eventually. Fortunately, we were able to keep the nets open long enough for a full MAPS session, although most station volunteers did end up drenched from taking the nets down.

Weighing a bird; photo by Janice Sweet

A House Wren pauses before leaving the banding area; photo by Janice Sweet

The seventh and final MAPS ‘regular season’ banding took place at Rollins Savanna on Thursday, August 5th.

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Fort Sheridan’s prairie

On Sunday we walked a newly-accessible prairie trail at Fort Sheridan with Lake-Cook Audubon. Part of the former army property is managed by the Lake County Forest Preserve District, and the land is deeded to become a golf course. Locally, there is some opposition to the development, which has been on the books for years. It’s a complicated issue, and I urge local readers to learn about what’s happening at Fort Sheridan. You can also send a comment to be added to the public record by sending an email to Fort@LCFPD.org. Following our walk yesterday, I also strongly urge local birders and naturalists to visit this property before it is too late.

About 70 people, split into 4 or 5 groups, joined the bird club on the walk.

Prairie Trail
A group of birders enjoy Fort Sheridan’s newly-opened prairie

The highlight of the morning was seeing at least 10 Red-headed Woodpeckers, both adults and juveniles – easily the most RHWOs I’ve ever seen in one place.

Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-headed Woodpeckers were everywhere!

We also had great looks at a pair of American Kestrels. They were hunting huge numbers of dragonflies and being dive-bombed by Barn Swallows – what a show!

Lake Michigan
Kestrels had this view of Lake Michigan from Fort Sheridan’s prairie

There were also screaming Red-tailed Hawks, fly-catching Eastern Kingbirds and Eastern Wood-Pewees, and plenty of grassland species like Bobolinks, Savannah Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks.

Eastern Meadowlark

The great birds, perfect company, sunny skies and break in the recent heat and humidity made it a fabulous morning out in the field!


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More Lincoln Park Zoo birds

During our visit to Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo earlier this month, we had a look at the bird enclosures. After viewing the penguins and seabirds, we headed to the McCormick Bird House, which is home to at least 28 species in several different exhibits.

A shorebird habitat housed a sunning American Avocet, a shy Red Knot and Piping Plover, and an extremely active Black-necked Stilt.

American Avocet

Black-necked Stilt

Separate enclosures housed more birds, including two endangered species which are part of breeding programs. The Guam Micronesia Kingfisher is extinct in the wild, with just 100 birds in zoos. The Lincoln Park zoo participates in a species survival plan in cooperation with other zoos.

Guam Micronesian Kingfisher

The zoo also participates in a species survival plan for the critically endangered Bali Mynah, in cooperation with other zoos.

Bali Mynah

Many of the birds are housed in an open aviary, and visitors walk between the habitat with birds flying overhead or scurrying across paths.

Inca Tern
Inca Tern

Red-capped Cardinal
Red-capped Cardinal

We had fun watching an active Hamerkop gathering mud and debris for a humongous nest.


Hamerkop nest

Before leaving the building, we stopped to peek inside the kitchen. What a complicated menu!

McCormick Bird House kitchen

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July 13 banding notes

The fifth MAPS banding session at Rollins Savanna this season took place on Tuesday, July 13. We had 12 people working at the station – the most ever. And we had a total of 9 birds – the fewest ever. I didn’t lay hands on any birds, although I took a fair amount of data down. There was a bit of excitement came from a juvenile Common Yellowthroat who proved difficult to identify. Otherwise, there was a lot of butterfly-watching and sitting around.

Examining the wing of the Common Yellowthroat, photo by Janice Sweet

Common Buckeye, photo by blogger

Tiger Swallowtail, photo by Janice Sweet

The next session was on 22 July – notes soon!

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Penguins & Seabirds at Lincoln Park Zoo

Earlier this month, Arthur and I visited Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. Naturally, we focused on visiting the resident birds. We passed a flock of Chilean Flamingos in the Flamingo Habitat on our way to the Blum-Kovler Penguin-Seabird House.


There are two main enclosures inside. One housed penguins: Chinstrap, King and Rockhopper. They were being fed by a zoo employee, who also looked to be recording data.

Kovler Penguin and Seabird House

Next we stopped to look at the seabirds: Common Murre, Razorbill and Tufted Puffin. Their enclosure was being cleaned, so most birds were in the water. It was a lot of fun to watch them swimming – especially when they completely submerged, appearing to fly underwater.

Stay tuned for more birds of Lincoln Park Zoo, coming soon!

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July 2 MAPS banding highlights

The fourth MAPS banding session at Rollins Savanna this season took place on Friday, July 2. We could not have asked for better weather! It was clear and remained relatively cool all morning, only reaching into the upper 70s just as we were finishing up.

Rollins Savanna banding station, photo by Janice Sweet

Unfortunately, we could have asked for better numbers of birds. On several net runs we came up empty or had just one or two birds. Once a single net caught 7 Song Sparrows; the rest of the day was extremely slow.

Juvenile (left) and adult Song Sparrows, photo by Janice Sweet

Cedar Waxwing reads Pyle
Cedar Waxwing reads from the Pyle guide, photo by blogger

I banded two male American Robins and one male Common Yellowthroat. Other than that, I did a lot of sitting around that morning. It certainly was a lovely day for it. 🙂

Skulling an American Robin, photo by Janice Sweet

We did have the first Blue-gray Gnatcatcher of the season, but the rest of the birds were the usual suspects.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, photo by Janice Sweet

Black-capped Chickadee release, photo by Janice Sweet

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Extreme Raptor Handling

Today I’ll be volunteering for the second time at Flint Creek’s Itasca facility. Last Tuesday was my first time (an earlier scheduled date got nixed at the last moment) working on maintenance and handling as a volunteer. Unfortunately it was just not my day and I ended up with a few ‘war wounds’ from the birds. All scratches are healed up nicely by now, but last week’s less-than-perfect experience has been on my mind.

Yesterday, a friend on Facebook shared a neat BBC video of Harpy Eagles in Venezuela. I wondered if Harpy Eagles, the largest and most powerful raptors found in the Americas, are ever used as education birds. On Flickr I found my answer.

Harpy Eagle I
Harpy Eagle I by jitze, Creative Commons on Flickr

I started wondering about other large raptors used in education programs. Flickr to the rescue:

The Eagle Owl Has Landed!
The Eagle Owl [one of the largest owl species] Has Landed! by me’nthedogs, Creative Commons on Flickr

ye olde andean condor
ye olde andean condor [largest wingspan of all flighted birds] by poetrosakranse, Creative Commons on Flickr

Brian Latta and Female Golden Eagle Lola brian-latta-golden-eagle-lola-20
Brian Latta and Female Golden Eagle Lola brian-latta-golden-eagle-lola-20 by mikebaird, Creative Commons on Flickr

I need a bigger glove : Steller's Sea Eagle
I need a bigger glove : Steller’s Sea Eagle [the world’s heaviest eagle] by Paul Stevenson, Creative Commons on Flickr

Verreux Eagle Owl
Verreux Eagle Owl [aka Giant Eagle Owl; Africa’s largest owl] by ahisgett, on Flickr

Great Gray Owl Strix nebulosa
Great Gray Owl [one of the largest owl species] Strix nebulosa by sanbeiji, Creative Commons on Flickr

Wedge Tailed Eagle
Wedge Tailed Eagle [one of the world’s largest raptor species] by wesley chau, Creative Commons on Flickr

And here is someone with a Martial Eagle on the glove: Martial Eagle [Africa’s largest eagle].

Whoa, right? I need to remember that I’m still very new at this raptor handling business. I want to get to know the birds better, and meet new birds, and increase my handling skills — but patience is key. Maybe someday (far in the future!) I’ll be able to work with birds like these. First, at least one day without losing any blood with Flint Creek’s regulars. 🙂

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June 20 MAPS banding highlights

The third MAPS banding session at Rollins Savanna this season took place on Sunday, June 20th. Yet again skies threatened rain during the morning, and yet again we were lucky with no drops falling during the time the nets were up.

This time, the nets were slow as the day began. The second half of the morning was very busy and there were almost constant net-runs while some of us remained at the table to process the large amount of birds that were coming in.

I did a lot of paperwork and often left the banding to others. I banded just seven birds in total. When I visited the team last year I was amazed that some people were handling and examining the bird and also doing the paperwork themselves. During the busy moments of the morning, I learned that writing down your own data really isn’t too tough. For two of the birds I banded, a juvenile Orchard Oriole and a Song Sparrow, I also took the data down myself. Additionally I banded two Baltimore Orioles, a Cedar Waxwing, an Eastern Wood-Pewee and a juvenile Eastern Bluebird.

Eastern Wood-Pewee, photo by Janice Sweet

Click to enlarge Releasing a Cedar Waxwing, photos by Janice Sweet

We had a lot of Cedar Waxwings in the nets. Here’s one that someone else banded. Check out those wax tips in the second photo.

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing in the hand, photo by blogger

Cedar Waxwing rear view, photo by Janice Sweet

We had a few more juvenile birds too, including this baby Northern Cardinal.

Juvenile Northern Cardinal, photo by blogger

One of the coolest birds we had was a female Brown-headed Cowbird who was obviously gravid – with egg! She was processed very quickly and sent on her way to do her deed!

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