Sunday, October 9, 2011

IOS Carlyle Lake Pelagic Trip

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.

The Sunrise was also very beautiful:

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:

Philadelphia Vireo

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,


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Time to Catch up

Hi all,

It has been forever since I have posted here. I apologize, and hope to get this blog back up and running. This spring has been very interesting. Last year, I missed so many Warblers and other spring migrants, and this year, I am only missing 5 of the 37 usual Warbler species expected in Illinois. Well, onto the great birds!

On May 1st, I attended the Illinois Young Birders walk to Waterfall Glen in DuPage County. We had an extraordinary day with fantastic birds, such as this very early Black-throated Blue Warbler,

Scarlet Tanager

Blackburnian Warbler

A nice singing Palm Warbler

We also ran across some Morel Mushrooms which happen to be edible, such as this one below

Also, we found a butterfly, a new on for me called a Comma

Overall, it was a great day, with a huge amount of migrants and overall fun with old friends.

The next weekend, May 14th and 15th, I joined Craig Taylor and Tim Kuesel for some birding in Gallatin County for the Spring Bird Count, which is about 6 hours from Chicago in Southern Illinois. I was ready for an adventure, which is exactly what I got. We were prepared for vast flooding, but definitely not the amount there actually was. About 80% of the County was unbirdable. This made species few and far between, since we couldn't even get to them. We were at about 40-50 species at 10:00 in the morning, and we were preparing to go to another county and see some other birds that we would miss on the trip. One area we really needed to get to was the Shawnee National Forest. All of the roads we knew into there were closed, which was very saddening and was costing us a huge amount of birds. But then, we happened to find a road. It was a private road, but open to the public during that time due to the flooding. It ventured into the hills, which was prime habitat like the Shawnee. YES! We got out of the car at the base of the hill, and had some birds like this beautiful Male Summer Tanager

Then, on the drive up, during periodic stops, we ran into a ton of birds like this Louisiana Waterthrush

Kentucky Warbler

Worm-eating Warbler (showed greatly, but did not when I brought the camera out...)

and this Wood Thrush whose nest I found

We also ran into a pocket of migrants, which contained about 10-15 new species of Warblers. At the top of the hill, we ran into some farmland, containing a Vesper Sparrow, about 15-20 Dicksissels, and a beautiful Lark Sparrow

At the end of the day, we got 103 Species, and had one of the weirdest days of birding I have ever experienced.

The next day, we traveled West to Williamson County, and entered Crab Orchard NWR.

Here, we had some more great birds, and we ran into a Bobwhite, this time wanting to show itself, and not just call from a hidden location.

We also had some more Dicksissel's, one of which posed for about .5 seconds.

Then, on our last stop of the trip, we stopped in Coles County on our way home, and ventured to the Douglas-Hart Nature Preserve to try to find some migrants for Craig and Tim to add to their county list. We did find a few migrants like this Scarlet Tanager

American Redstart

Black-and-White Warbler

And another Scarlet Tanager, this time a female

Overall, Southern Illinois was very strange, but also amazing. We had some fantastic birds, and this was a trip I would never forget. Thank you Craig and Tim for letting me tag along and experience some great birding.


Lastly, I went birding at Montrose and along the lakefront Sunday, May 15 with Geoff Williamson. We had a quirky day to say the least. The wind was 25-35 MPH strong, and was always blowing. At Montrose we had a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a flock of Terns which contained some Caspian Terns, about 200 Common Terns and 4 Forester's Terns. There was one Common Tern with a broken wing, which we called the Bird Collision Monitors and alerted them. They quickly came to pick it up, which you can see here

And here is a close up of the bird, which we all hoped would be okay, and be able to fly again

Later, we came to North Pond, and found a few birds, including this Lincoln's Sparrow

Magnolia Warbler

and this female Blackpoll Warbler

This was one of the most horrid days of birding to be on the lakefront, due to the powerful winds and rain mixed in. Thanks Geoff, for staying with it, and helping me find some more birds for my year list. My total stands at 193 species for Illinois at the moment, and should grow with time and effort.

Thanks for reading, I hope to post soon about my upcoming trip to Palos with the Chicago Ornithological Society.

'Till next time,