Nests revealed

Today we joined Lake-Cook Audubon‘s Ducks on Lake Michigan auto tour. With temperatures unseasonably high (we reached the mid-60’s, about 15 degrees warmer than normal) it was no duck weather, although it was incredibly pleasant to be outside. A misty fog also sat over placid Lake Michigan, making for lousy visibility. We did have Bufflehead, Scaup, Goldeneye, Mallard and Horned Grebe for the day. We also had one Common Loon which was both amusing and frustrating, as it seemed to dive almost as quickly as it surfaced, over and over, leaving birders scrambling to share their scopes so everyone could get on the bird. We also managed three lifers for the day: Fox Sparrow; Brown Creeper and Hermit Thrush. Plus we had a woodpecker superfecta with Hairy, Downy, Red-bellied and Red-headed all being seen throughout the day.

At our first site someone pointed out a lovely embellished nest that had recently been exposed when the tree lost its leaves.

Ribbon-embellished nest

The rest of the day I was noticing nests everywhere we went and thought them to be quite photogenic. Here are a few of them.

Nest with car

Nest in black and white

Nest in berries

Another nest

Sharpened nest in bare tree

Yet another nest

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Posted in Lake-Cook Audubon | 1 Comment

BPW: Ring-billed Gull

The Ring-billed Gull is our most familiar gull here in northeastern Illinois. These photos were taken in mid-October when we finished up our fall foliage drive (through both parts of Kettle Moraine State Park in southeastern Wisconsin) in Lake Geneva. Gulls lined up on the empty piers, bracing themselves against the wind.

Ring-billed Gulls

Ring-billed Gulls

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

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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My visitors came from *where* in October?!

Here are some of the more interesting search terms that brought visitors to this site during October. You can see previous editions of this monthly post here.

There were goofy typos aplenty! figate bird siting in ohio; orinemental wood birdhouses; birdhouse hole sise for robins; magnet of pennasylvania; silloutte of a cardinal bird; and bird reserch on humingbirds.

We also had intriguing questions for inquiring minds! what is a bird?; which birds live in florida and the anartica?; and can pigeons and doves have offspring.

People looking for a new pet came to the site via searches for barred owl pets and pet ivory billed woodpecker.

And then there were some searches that sound like band names to me: invasion of rectangles; the magnificent frigatebirds; and cutebird.

October’s most disturbing search term was long pecker in women.

This one made me sad: left my power shot camera in the rain.

Someone with a much bigger squirrel problem than I have searched for 20 squirrel baffles.

And my favorite was red breasted nuthatch illinois backyards. This search brought someone to the site two days before we had our very first yard Red-breasted Nuthatch.

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Photos: October morning at Volo Bog

Last Saturday we visited Volo Bog. It wasn’t crowded when we arrived.

Volo Bog Parking Lot

First we walked the Volo Bog Interpretive Trail, a boardwalk loop through the bog. There were American Robins everywhere.



Volo Bog Interpretive Trail

Volo Bog

Tamarack Trees

Flock of Robins

Next we walked the Tamarack Trail around the preserve. At the outlook platform we had a view over much of the park. A flock of Cedar Waxwings held my attention on the trail back from the outlook.

More Volo Bog

Volo Bog viewing platform

View over Volo Bog

Blue skies over Volo Bog

Cedar Waxwings

More Waxwings

The sun had been spotty during most of the walk but cleared up nicely as we finished the trail. The visitor center looked particularly fetching as we approached the end of the walk.

Volo Bog Trees

Dangerous Snag

Volo trees and blue sky

Volo Bog visitor center

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The hawk and the dove at Middlefork Savanna

On October 17th we joined Lake-Cook Audubon‘s morning bird walk at Middlefork Savanna. The total area of Middlefork Savanna measures 670 acres, 25 of which “is considered the highest quality tallgrass savanna of its kind in the nation and recognized as a globally threatened ecosystem.”

Middlefork Prairie

Middlefork Wetland

Our large group of enthusiastic birders saw a total of 34 species. Red-winged Blackbirds were everywhere, showing off and calling as if it was springtime.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

A family of Red-headed Woodpeckers gave almost everyone in the group really great looks, and a few flying Wilson’s Snipes were lifers for many in our party. A young Cooper’s Hawk was also very cooperative, alternately swooping over the prairie and perching in plain sight.

Cooper's Hawk

Interestingly, at one point when the young hawk was perched in a bare tree, we noticed there was also a Mourning Dove sitting in the same tree. They sat this way together for quite a while, and a sparrow even joined them later.

Hawk and Dove

Had the hawk just eaten and the other birds knew this, seeing no threat in the hawk? Was the hawk exhausted from hunting? Why did the other birds feel comfortable perching so close to a killer?

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Skywatch at IBSP

As part of the Illinois Beach State Park Hawkwatch 10th anniversary celebration, we attended a morning bird walk that followed the path leading from the Hawkwatch pavilion. It was a cold morning and started out a bit overcast, but soon the sun was shining.


Lone Tree

One tree held a family or families of Bluebirds. There were about ten birds in a single tree. I’d never seen so many at the same time before.


Some trees were just starting to turn.

Turning Tree

Turning Tree

Towards the end of the path we spotted a sparrow which we determined to be a Lincoln’s. Life bird!

Lincoln's Sparrow

For more stories of the sky from around the world, visit Skywatch Friday.

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Posted in Hawk Watch, Illinois, Skywatch Friday | 2 Comments

Raptors at Hawkwatch

On the weekend of 10-11 October, the Illinois Beach State Park Hawkwatch celebrated their 10th year with an open house weekend. As part of the celebration, education birds from a new group, The Northern Illinois Raptor Center, were on hand. The birds wowed the crowd with their beauty while their handlers told us about them and answered our questions.

The NIRC was formed after the raptor program at the Springbrook Nature Center was discontinued due to lack of funds. This is their (western) Red-tailed Hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk1

Red-tailed Hawk (western)

Red-tailed Hawk (western)

The NIRC now has four birds which are currently housed with NIRC team members while construction of their new facility at Vogelei Park in Hoffman Estates is underway. This is their American Kestrel.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

The birds are used for education programs. The group eventually plans to also rehabilitate birds in need when their facilities are completed. This is their Great Horned Owl.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

I love Great Horned Owls, but I love Barred Owls even more. Look at this beauty, the NIRC’s fourth bird.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

It’s always so great to see raptors like these up close, and to hear their stories. I so admire everyone that works with these beautiful raptors and their dedication to both their birds and to educating the public. Big kudos to the NIRC and everyone else involved with caring for birds of prey. Thank you for all you do.

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Posted in Festivals & Events, Hawk Watch, Illinois, Rehabilitation | 1 Comment

Birds of the Field Museum

On September 26th we visited the Field Museum in Chicago to attend a free lecture given by the author of The Curse of the Labrador Duck. As a gift to the birding community, early registrants of the lecture were allowed free admission to the museum for the day, so we took the day off and arrived early for our first visit to the Field in several years.

Stanley Field Hall
The Stanley Field Hall at the Field Museum. You can see Sue in the foreground.

We spent most of our time on the lower level, visiting several of the outstanding wild animal and bird displays, including Bird Habitats, World of Birds, Nature Walk and North American Birds. Here are some of my favorites from the day.

Several large displays showed world birds in native habitat. Since I’ve got a thing for birds that build weaver-type nests, I especially enjoyed seeing the Village Weaver display. From the accompanying text: “This weaver-bird gets its name from its habit of nesting near native villages. Its own colonies or “villages” sometimes contain 100 nests.”

Village Weaver
Village Weavers

The Montezuma Oropendulas became my new favorites. What a wonderfully-named bird! From the accompanying text: “In common with many related species, Oropendulas breed in compact colonies. The carefully woven nests of grass are destroyed and entirely re-built each year. Oropendulas are inveterate thieves. Even the birds of a single colony must guard against robbery of nesting material by their neighbors.” Cheeky.

Montezuma Oropendula
Montezuma Oropendulas

There were also smaller cases showing other bird species in their (sometimes former) habitat.

Golden Eagle
A Golden Eagle brings prey back to the nest

Flamingos tend to their young on impressive mound nests

Passenger Pigeons
Passenger Pigeons. There’s a photo in of a huge flock of these once-abundant birds in the background.

The Field also has cases and cases showing birds of the world as well as a huge selection of the birds found in North America.

>Birds of the World at the Field Museum
Birds of the World displays

Birds of the World
Birds of the World display, including kingfishers, hornbills and hoopoes

Birds of the World
Birds of the World, including a Horned Guan

North American Birds at the Field Museum
North American Birds displays

Woodpecker display case
Acorn Woodpeckers on display

A mirror is mounted on the back of the case to show all sides of the Flicker’s plumage

This display, Variation is the rule in nature, presented several different study skins of the same bird species to show how birds vary depending on factors including geography. The bottom of the display holds 12 different subspecies of Song Sparrow. Downy Woodpeckers, Towhees and Canada Warblers are also used. An accompanying informational sign explained study skins: “Birds used in this exhibit are made into study skins. These study skins, in which the head is in line with the body, wings folded, and feet crossed, are conventional for museum study. The method permits easy filing of specimens, available for study. The label, tied to each specimen, is very important. On it should be written the place and date of collecting and other available data.”

Bird variations
Variation is the rule in nature

Notice the white throats of these Towhees

Variation is the rule in nature

After visiting the bird and wild animal galleries, we enjoyed Glen Chilton’s Labrador Duck lecture and got our copy of his book signed. It was a great day out at the Field Museum!

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Images of Lakeside

I can’t believe the Midwest Birding Symposium ended nearly three weeks ago. One of the most charming things about the whole weekend was the location. I’d like to share some photos of Lakeside, Ohio, where the symposium took place.

Lakeside Historical Marker

Lakeside was founded as a private community in late August, 1873. Today Lakeside is an Independent Chautauqua, which is a sort of church-affiliated vacation resort. The season of the “Chautauqua on Lake Erie,” which normally runs 11 weeks, includes evening entertainment, educational seminars, and recreational activities for the whole family. The whole thing takes place in a most charming gated village full of well-preserved, historic buildings. The symposium occured about a week after the regular summer season.

The Lakeside Dock juts out into Lake Erie from the Pavilion. Close to here is Central Park, where the first meetings at Lakeside took place back in 1873. Today the park holds a playground, bandstand and even miniature golf. Along the lakeside at Lakeside, a small sitting area among shade trees and benches provided the idea circle for the symposium’s Big Sit.

Lakeside Pavilion

Lakeside Pavilion

Lakeside Dock

Big Sit at Lakeside

The venues at Lakeside, typically used for the Chautauqua’s programs and seminars, were ideal for the symposium’s line-up of speakers, as well as the weekend’s Bird Watcher’s Market and Artist Gallery. The 3000 seat Hoover Auditorium served as the main venue for symposium information as well as the keynote speakers.

Hoover Lobby

Hoover Auditorium

South Auditorium & Epworth Lodge

Birder's Market

Artists Gallery

The streets of Lakeside are lined by historic old cottages and were busy with not only cars but plenty of golf carts, which acted as shuttles between the venues. The cinema and several restaurants, coffee shops and souvenir stores are located in the small downtown area.

Street of Lakeside

Street of Lakeside

Downtown Lakeside

Lakeside has several lodging options; symposium attendees took over both Hotel Lakeside and the Fountain Inn early so we elected to rent one of the many cottages available for hire. It was great to be able to walk from our base to the venues throughout the day. Our cottage was probably suitable for nine or more people to share. The upstairs was a small maze of adjoining bedrooms and the large living areas had couches and chairs aplenty. Between the large kitchen and main living area there were two dining tables. The cute screened-in porch was also full of rocking chairs and benches, and I can image sitting there on a warm summer night must be very cozy indeed.

Our Lakeside cottage

Maze of bedrooms

Old cottage stairs

Porch seating

We enjoyed our brief time in Lakeside and look forward to attending the 2011 symposium there!

Lakeside welcomes MBS

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