Well as one can see, it has been a VERY long time since I posted here. My summer was packed with a trip to Northern Michigan, Camp Tejano, and a trip to Paris. But since then, I did a little birding in town and got a lot of uncommon Shorebirds in Chicago at Montrose Point (Red Knots (3!), Short-billed Dowitcher, Whimbrel, and White-rumped Sandpiper). But this on the weekend of Sep. 24-25, I took a trip to Carlyle Lake, IL (4-5 Hours SW from Chicago). It is the biggest inland lake in IL, and a fantastic birding place.
We started the day at the boat docks and looking through a roost of Gulls for anything unusual, but instead found 2 Osprey, which for me, is always a great bird to watch.
And if that wasn't enough, a Peregrine Falcon then flew over, which seems, at least to me, harder to find inland than in Chicago.
We moved onto our inland birding at Eldon Hazlet State Park, trying to find Warblers, Vireos, and any other Passerines possible. We blasted Screech-Owl tape to get the birds active, and it worked. We had tons of birds, including Golden-winged Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Nashville Warblers, and more. We also had a Philadelphia Vireo, which is only my second ever. Here are a few photos:
Carolina Chickadee (always a nice bird for us Northerners)
A Great Blue Heron (They were everywhere as were Great Egrets!)
We also got to see a lot of Bald Cypress which are just awesome and their trunks remind me of the Amazon.
At one stop, someone found a Eastern-tailed Blue (A type of butterfly) roosting with it's wings open. That never seems to happen, and what a beautiful sight to see.
About 5 feet away was a Common Buckeye, another awesome butterfly
Once 10:00 AM came around, we had to get to the boats for the famous "pelagic" trip out onto the lake. This is what the whole trip was about because it allows views of brids that are usually dots in a scope. We got on the boats, and about 15 minutes into the trip, we were notified of a Franklin's Gull. It then flew right past our boat and offered stellar views
Then, about five minutes later, we found a Lesser Black-Backed Gull. Another great bird! Here it is with a Herring Gull and a Ring-billed Gull. 3 Gull species in one picture ands it's only September!
We start to move away, but Dan Kassebaum tells us to turn around, and that he might have a possible California Gull. We take lots of photos, and in the end it turns out to be just an odd Ring-billed Gull. I posted on the Illinois Birders' Forum, which generated some discussion to sort out the ID.
While watching this bird, we get a call that the other two boats were watching a Juv. Sabine's Gull. Bingo! We got very nice looks, but the bird was skiddish, so photo opportunities were hard. Here is what I managed.
This bird was by far the highlight of the trip, but we still had some more birds coming. Moving on to try to find another Sabine's that had been seen the night before, we stumble upon a Common Tern
Then a Bonaparte's Gull,
And the Lesser Black-Backed Gull again
Travis Mahan, on our boat, spotted later a Gull that seemed smaller. We went to investigate, but while moving towards it, Doug Robinson from the back called out, "Phalaropes!" These were the only Phalaropes seen on the whole trip, so we turned around to see them. They turned out to be Red-necked Phalaropes, which were a lifer for me. Here are some photos of the pair:
After viewing the Phalaropes, we made our way into the harbor, only to be greeted by a Sharp-shinned Hawk, a year bird for me!
The weather for being out on the water was spectacular and we had no rain, making the day spectacular. We went to the town of Carlyle to get lunch, and then ate next to the docks under a pavilion. I made us take a group photo and was horrified to hear this never had been done! Well, now onto starting a tradition.
We moved on to a place on Carlyle Lake known as Whitetail Access, which has had some mega rarities in the past. It is also a great place to look for Shorebirds. Exiting the cars, I was immersed in Poison Ivy, but luckily had on long pants, and didn't even notice.
At Whitetail Access, there were a lot of Gulls and Pelicans, which got "buzzed" by a Peregrine Falcon. What a sight!
We also found some nice Shorebirds including these Sanderlings (Rare away from the lakefront)
Also there were some Pectoral Sandpipers, which were surprisingly, a lifer about 3 weeks ago.
At one point, someone spotted a Buff-breasted Sandpiper fly into some Smartweed, and lost the bird. Since the whole group wanted to see it, Amar Ayyash and I went in, to try and flush it out. We succeeded, and I got some very bad shots:
Buff-breasted Sandpiper on the Left
Lastly, while there, there were two Black-bellied Plovers, a year bird for me, posing nicely on the mudflats.
Walking back to the cars, we found a Caterpillar feasting on some Smartweed, which turned out to be a Smeared Dagger Moth (I was told there are at least 4 variants of color in this species Caterpillar)
The next day, we started in Hazlet State Park looking at another Gull Roost. There, we found a Laughing Gull, which is a very good bird for Illinois, and was # 237 for the year in IL.
After that location, we journeyed to Peppenhorst Branch, in Hazlet State Park. Looking our over the scrub, we saw tons of American White Pelicans flying around. It is so cool to see these HUGE birds flying in their "V" formations.
From there, we had to leave, for we had a long 4-5 hour drive ahead of us. After goodbyes, we went to lock up the cabin, but found this Woodchuck (Groundhog) on the front lawn. I'd never seen one, so this was especially cool!
Overall, this was an amazing trip that I would do again in a heartbeat. I had so much fun, and I must thank Keith McMullen and Dan Williams for organizing this trip and driving the boat for us maniac birders on the a truly unique area of Illinois. Thank you for so many good birds, and taking us to some of the best birding spots Carlyle has to offer. I had a great time.
Thanks for reading,