Press, award, hiatus

In just over two weeks, two events where I volunteered got some local press coverage. First, in July I handled at an owl program at a library in Lake Zurich. There were four of us there, with three handling. I had Pip the Barn Owl, who ended up being very photogenic, keeping his wings outspread much of the time. Lucky for me, I’m in half of the pictures. 😉 The event didn’t generate a story, but the photos are posted on the Pioneer Press website.

Then, last week, two local papers visited the banding station at Rollins Savanna. The Herald ran the story on their website the same day. The story is front (web) page news today on the Pioneer Press site. They even had a video of the team! There was a photo album as well, but the links are no longer available [as of March 2012 – ed].

Late last month this blog was honored as a Top 50 Bird Blog by I’m humbled to find myself listed among so many top bloggers. Go check out the list: 2010 Top 50 Bird Blog Awards Winners. Nominations for the 2011 award can already be submitted. [OnlineSchools has discontinued their blog award program as of June 2012 – ed]

Arthur and I are traveling to the Netherlands this month. We will be visiting with family and friends, taking a short break in Paris, taking care of some business, and marveling at how much has changed since we were last in Holland (September 2008 – how time flies!). Hopefully we’ll be able to squeeze some birding in, as well, but I have a feeling blogging will be difficult. I have a few posts scheduled to run while I’m away, so this blog won’t drop off the radar completely during this mini-hiatus. I’ll be back with minty fresh blog posts in a few weeks! Until then, dear readers, please enjoy these last days of summer!

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Some Dutch bird notes

Last week there were a few stories of note regarding birds in the Netherlands.

In Friesland, 2010 was a great year for meadow- and field-breeding birds like the Northern Lapwing and Black-tailed Godwit. The number of breeding pairs doubled in some habitats, with huge numbers of young birds successfully fledged. The reason for this year’s huge breeding success may have been delayed mating after an unusually cold spring. (source)

Northern Lapwing, Zwaanenwater, April 2006

Another species, this time on one of the Wadden Islands, also had a record breeding season. Eurasian Spoonbills on the island of Texel had more offspring than ever previously recorded. 540 breeding pairs broke the previous record of 397 in 2009. 2010 was the third record-breaking season in a row, so the spoonbills continue to thrive on Texel. (source)

Eurasian Spoonbill, Texel, April 2007

On a less positive note, the number of captive birds of prey in the Netherlands is growing at an alarming rate. The number of permits given has increased ten-fold (anyone in the Netherlands may keep a bird of prey, so long as the bird was born in captivity). Along with this, the number of lost or escaped captive birds is a growing problem. So far in 2010, seventeen captive Eurasian Eagle-owls have escaped (that’s about the same number of wild eagle-owls currently living in the Netherlands!). The Dutch branch of BirdLife International is working towards restricting the number of captive birds being kept in the Netherlands. (source)

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BPW: Baby Barn Swallows

Yesterday, Arthur and I visited Raven Glen FP. Part of the loop trail overlooks Timber Lake. We saw several Barn Swallows, both adults and juveniles, flying about one of the fishing piers on the lake. As we approached, all of the birds flushed, except for these cute babies.

Baby Barn Swallows

Baby Barn Swallows

Baby Barn Swallows

Bird Photography Weekly is a regular collection of user-submitted bird photos from all over the world. The new edition comes out every Sunday. Go have a look at this week’s submissions!

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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 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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