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68502Cook County big day (17 May 2014)

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  • Josh Engel
    May 18, 2014
      The Field's Flickers again competed in the Chicago Audubon Society birdathon, doing our usual Cook County big day. This year we were without our long-time captain Nick Block, who has moved to the east coast; our team consisted of Ben Winger, Ethan Gyllenhaal, and me. We had a really fun and productive day, wrapping up with a Common Nighthawk for species number 155, a total we were very happy with given our limited scouting. It was the team's second highest total ever. Thanks again for Dave Willard's continuing sponsorship of the team, even if we couldn't find the Western Grebe that his team discovered!

      The day started out with me oversleeping, not the ideal way to start a big day. Nonetheless, we got in some good (if cold) nighttime birding in the western and southwestern parts of Cook County, which included many grassland and wetland species but just one owl (EASTERN SCREECH-OWL). Best of the nocturnal finds was a YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT at Wolf Road Prairie.

      We were not optimistic about migration on the lakefront, so we started our daytime birding in the Palos area. After realizing that there were virtually no migrants at McClaughry Springs, we went down the road to Palos Park Woods, where the trees around the parking lot were alive with birds. Here we had our only CONNECTICUT WARBLER of the day and got a great start to our warbler list. A few other stops in Palos yielded BALD EAGLE (Ford Rd.) SUMMER TANAGER (Ford Rd.), HOODED WARBLER (Swallow Cliff), and a few more warblers and other migrants. McGinnis Slough came through with NORTHERN SHOVELER, RUDDY DUCK, REDHEAD, and TRUMPETER SWAN. We passed the 100 species mark at 8:00.

      We detoured to LaBagh Woods on our way to the lakefront. Ben and Ethan spotted a RED-SHOULDERED HAWK soaring overhead. We also added BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER here. We quickly added four species of shorebirds on the beach at Montrose, plus a few more migrants in the Hedge. After a couple of targeted stops on our way south, we picked up Olive-sided Flycatcher, Clay-colored Sparrow, and a few additional migrants at Jackson Park. In the Calumet area we picked up WHITE-WINGED SCOTER (Bend of the Little Calumet River) and a few other expected birds.

      We continued heading south, stopping at some ag fields where we picked up VESPER SPARROW and HORNED LARK. Plum Creek was excellent--we quickly found WHITE-EYED VIREO, BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, TUFTED TITMOUSE, and a surprise BLUE GROSBEAK. On our way to Bartel we picked up RING-NECKED PHEASANT. Bartel was also excellent--besides being full of BOBOLINK, we picked up GREATER and LESSER YELLOWLEGS, WILSON'S SNIPE, KING RAIL, and NORTHERN HARRIER. Our last new bird of the day was a COMMON NIGHTHAWK flying over the grasslands.

      We had no truly big misses, although we looked at an awful lot of unoccupied Osprey nests. The only expected warbler that we missed was Mourning, and we also missed a few other hoped-for migrants, including Philadelphia Vireo. All-in-all it was a great day to be out.

      Josh Engel

      Tour Leader, Tropical Birding / www.tropicalbirding.com
      Bird Division, Field Museum / africanbirds.fieldmuseum.org
      Photos / www.flickr.com/jengel5230

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