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Foto Friday: Waiting for a band

Posted on July 24th 2009 by Arthur in Birds, Forest Preserves, Foto Friday, Illinois, Nature

Can you guess what’s in the bags hanging in this tree?

Bird bags hanging in a tree

Those bags have different birds inside them, ready to be banded. There’s Common Yellowthroat, Bluebirds, Song Sparrows and Red-bellied Woodpecker. Doesn’t it look a little surreal?

We visited a group of bird banders last Tuesday morning at Rollins Savanna Forest Preserve and observed their work for a couple of hours. They told us about bird banding and showed us how they handle and band the birds. They had ten mist nets set up that they use to catch birds and every half hour they walked past all the nets to take out the birds that got caught. After carefully removing each bird from the net it was put in a little bag and then hung in this tree until they were ready for banding. It was an interesting experience.

Common Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroat

Field Sparrow
Field Sparrow

Bird banders at work
Bird banders at work

Birding at Viera Wetlands

Posted on June 25th 2009 by Arthur in Birds, Travel

While we were waiting for the shuttle launch at the Space Coast last week, we did some birding at Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera and saw lots of different birds including 6 lifers. We also wanted to go to Merrit Island National Wildlife Refuge, but that place was locked down by NASA for security reasons until the shuttle would be launched (or scrubbed), so we went to Viera wetlands twice.

Entrance sign for Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera
Entrance of Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera

The 35-acre wetlands are actually a water reclamation facility for Brevard County, but the area has been perfectly set up for birding, with one-way roads for driving birders (maximum speed 10 mph) and two observation decks. The last time we visited a similar place was at the sewege ponds at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt, but that place was not set up for birding at all. We expected something similar, but Viera Wetlands was very different and more like a nature reserve than a government facility.

Map of Viera wetlands
Map of Viera wetlands

Roads at Viera wetlands

Overview of Viera wetlands

Viera wetlands

We made the mistake on our first visit to keep the windows open the entire time, resulting in literally hundreds of mosquitoes getting in our car. Later that day we let out at least 50 of them while driving by opening our window occassionally. We thought we had gotten rid of most of them, but after leaving our car parked somewhere for 15 minutes, baking in the sun, we found the dashboard, our seats and the floor were covered in dead ones. So on our second visit to the wetlands we decided to keep the windows closed and only open our doors once in a while to get out or take pictures. This was a much better experience.

American Alligator at Viera Wetlands

Alligator signA sign at the entrance read: This is alligator mating season and alligators are more aggressive at this time of year. Please stay on the roadway and stay away from water for your safety, but they were quite calm and not so loud.

Among the many birds we saw were Summer Tanager, Glossy Ibis, Sandhill Crane, Pied-billed Grebe, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Green Heron, Loggerhead Shrike, Anhinga, Osprey, Limpkin, Least Bittern, Crested Caracar, Green Heron, Roseate Spoonbill and Tricolored Heron.

Great White Egret
Great Egret

Black-bellied Whistling Duck
Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

Green Heron
Green Heron

White Ibis
White Ibis

By far the coolest bird we saw was this Crested Caracara, the symbol of the wetlands and our best lifer of the trip. Both days we were there the Caracara was perched on the same tree.

Crested Caracara
Crested Caracara

Unfortunately the bird was back lit both times we were there, so we didn’t get a great look at him. Here’s a much better picture:

Crested Caracara
Crested Caracara by Shadow Hunter

A Birdy Day

Posted on May 31st 2009 by Arthur in Birds, Illinois, Personal

We woke up this morning to a new backyard bird: a Blue Jay! Finally we saw one of these beautiful birds at our home. I called it a few days ago when I wrote that we were overdue on a Blue Jay. Pretty cool:

Blue Jay at backyard feeder

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Baby Sandhill Crane

Posted on May 27th 2009 by Arthur in Birds, Forest Preserves, Illinois

Sunday morning we made a walk at our nearest forest preserve, Rollins Savanna, and saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes and their young foraging through shallow water. We’ve been seeing a lot of cranes around here, but we hadn’t seen a baby crane yet. The two adults were picking out food and carefully giving it to the chick. It was very cute. Here are some pictures and a video we took:

Sandhill Cranes with baby at Rollins Savanna

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Our 18th Backyard Bird: a Northern Flicker!

Posted on May 25th 2009 by Arthur in Birds, Illinois, Life in America, Nature

We moved here in early February 2009 and our first bird to visit our feeders was an American Goldfinch on February 22nd. Today, just over 3 months later, we saw our 18th species: a Northern Flicker! So far we’d only seen these beautiful large woodpeckers in woods and nature reserves; it was the last bird we’d expected to see in our suburban backyard! She was sitting on the ground under our feeders, probably eating the ants that we’ve been seeing there since we put up a bowl of grape jelly for our Baltimore Orioles. She was only there for a few minutes and this was the best picture I could get:

Northern Flickr

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Eager Beavers

Posted on May 17th 2009 by Amy in Birds, Environment, Forest Preserves, Nature

We went out birding with the Lake-Cook Chapter of the Illinois Audubon Society this morning. We had a great time, saw lots of birds and met some really nice people.

While walking near the Des Plaines River at Ryerson Woods, we saw this tree.

Eager Beaver (1/2)

Eager Beaver (2/2)

Now that’s one eager beaver! The tree looks about ready to fall, don’t you think?

Loontastic Saturday

Posted on April 5th 2009 by Amy in Birds

On Saturday we went on a birding excursion, the popular Looney Trip, sponsored by the Evanston North Shore Bird Club.

Common Loon

We’d seen our first Common Loons just days before and this outing was a great opportunity to see more as well as meet a bunch of local birders and check out some new birding spots. I wrote a report of the day on my birding blog.

Ready for Hummingbirds

Posted on April 2nd 2009 by Arthur in Birds, Illinois

We’ve been following this Hummingbird Migration Map that shows the migration of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. The small birds winter between southern Mexico and northern Panama and they start moving north as early as January. They cross the Gulf of Mexico nonstop for up to 500 miles and once in North America they migrate at an average rate of about 20 miles per day. We’ve been following their migration on the map since they entered the United States in late February. Today we saw that they have been reported here in northern Illinois, so we rushed out and set up our Hummingbird feeder:


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Our First Loons and Bonus Pelicans

Posted on March 31st 2009 by Arthur in Birds, Illinois, Nature

We just got back from a short visit to Fox Lake, just 10 minutes from where we live, to see some Common Loons and American White Pelicans after reading about them on the Illinois birding list. Someone reported seeing pelicans and loons at Fox Lake with detailed instructions on how to get there, so we got in the car with our new Leica spotting scope and headed for the Mineola Marina in Fox Lake. It was pouring down rain, so we didn’t stay too long, but we did get to see 20 pelicans and 7 loons, which are two new birds for our lifelist. 🙂 More »

Welcome Chickadees

Posted on March 3rd 2009 by Arthur in Birds

It’s been slow at our bird feeders since we moved in here. In the weeks since we put them up we’ve only had two different birds visit our feeders: one goldfinch and a few dark-eyed juncos. Whoop-te-do! So you can imagine our delight when we saw two Black-capped Chickadees at our feeders this morning. That makes three different birds so far. We’re getting there.

Chickadee 3

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