To celebrate the arrival of April I was out birding today at Knoch Knolls Park in Naperville, Illinois, thinking about how another winter has passed with no sighting of my nemesis bird, the Snowy Owl. I had hoped to finally match this check on my brother’s bird list, closing the gap just a bit. Not many birds, really, just the occasional American Robin and Chipping Sparrow, but as I wandered my eye caught something in the few patches of snow left in the park.
Continue reading “Snow Kidding!”
…or rather, Pelicans from Emiquon, the national wildlife refuge along the Illinois River near Havana, Illinois. I was in Springfield for most of the day last Tuesday, and on the way back north I stopped at Emiquon to see
a) if there were a lot of migrating ducks and geese, and
b) if it was underwater like all the fields around the area after the recent snow melts and rain.
It worked out! Also, my brother Brian drove down from Peoria and we spent the evening photographing the birds there, including among other species Canvasbacks (a new +1 duck for my bird list!), Buffleheads, Scaups, Pintails, Trumpeter and Mute Swans, hundreds and hundreds of high-flying Snow Geese, and an early Eastern Meadowlark. It was a nice evening, a rare break from the winter we’ve had. I most enjoyed taking pictures of the large numbers of American White Pelicans.
Continue reading “Peli-quons”
So I went out into the farm country of Northern Illinois today to look for Snowy Owls. This is absolutely my nemesis bird, as I’ve never been successful in finding one (unlike by brother Brian, although I gather it’s actually his wife who’s good at finding them). A good measure of my success in seeing a Snowy Owl today is the subject of today’s post: Bald Eagles.
They’re cool, too, though. In the winter we are seeing more and more of these–in fact, I’ve read that Illinois has the second highest number of Bald Eagles after Alaska! Hard to believe? It’s the Mississippi River that draws them, and apparently other rivers such as the Illinois River and Fox River give the edge to Illinois over other states like Iowa or Missouri that share the mighty Mississippi.
Continue reading “Bald Eagles in Illinois”
Well, I’ve been urged by my brother to release a post for Valentine’s Day as he has done. His post (link) has multiple gorgeous photographs of an Anna’s Hummingbird displaying the beautiful Valentine’s Day color of red roses. Mine is just a shot of an American Flamingo at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. The color might be more in the carnation family. 🙂
Continue reading “Here ya’ go, a Flamingo”
Outside Havana, Illinois, that is! There’s an area of nothingness there that’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. Strange electrical activity emanating from a structure looking eerily like an electrical substation but which traps birds from another space and time, birds not seen anywhere else in these parts. Glowing birds. And blurry ones.
Continue reading “The Bermuda Triangle Outside Havana”
On January 1 of this year (2019) we had a very unusual visitor show up at the Whalon Lake Forest Preserve near my house west of Chicago. I understand from a fellow birder that the woman who discovered it was too afraid to report it because no one would believe it, so another birder reported it. But she was right, and we were pleased to host a Black-legged Kittiwake for a few days!
Continue reading “Here, Kittiwake!”
Shrikes are small but awe-inspiring birds of prey. Two species of shrike reside in the U.S., the Northern Shrike and the Loggerhead Shrike. The Northern Shrike summers in Northern Canada and Alaska and winters in the northern half of the states, while the Loggerhead Shrike lives year-round in the southern states and moves northward in the breeding season (I have photos of a Loggerhead near Chicago).
The Loggerhead Shrike pictured above displays the thicker black mask when compared to the Northern Shrike, one that generally rises over the eye and extends over the bill to form a single, connected mask. They really remind me of the Lone Ranger.
Their taste for birds, lizards and small mammals such as mice is complicated by the fact that they have the feet of perching birds (passerines) rather than talons of other birds of prey. To compensate, shrikes have evolved a method of killing their prey by biting their neck to induce paralysis and then shaking them to break their neck and impaling them on thorns, twigs or even barbed-wire! Yes, they can break the necks of mice by rolling their heads at high speeds. They will also leave prey impaled on these as a larder for future meals. They are affectionately known as “butcherbirds”.
In December of 2017 I was at Lakes Park in Fort Myers, Florida, and I saw a couple Loggerhead Shrikes. It all started out innocently enough as I started taking photos of one of them, but the situation quickly went south. Here’s a rough running commentary of my thoughts during that photo shoot!
Continue reading “Shrieks and Shrikes”