Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Montrose Western Grebes 11/11/12

Hi all,

Two Sunday's ago; I woke up late and thought I would have a relaxing day. I got the Bohemian Waxwing on that Friday, and won my competition for Robotics (a school event) on Saturday. I was hoping to relax, but when I read my email that morning, I saw that Lou Muñoz and Fran Morel had seen a Western Grebe at Montrose about a hour before I woke up. This was another bird I needed for my state list, and really wanted to see it. Luckily for my mom (who I would ask to drive me there), it had swum away and was not present at that moment. I went along with my day, and saw that at around 12:00, Jeff Skrentny refound it. It was still there!

I went to Academic Approach for my ACT prep around 2:00, and convinced my mom that we should make a run over there after. We got there soon after I got out of class, and walked out onto the fishhook pier. That was an experience in itself. The winds were ferocious, and I had to lie down on the pier just to get a stable picture. It turned out that the winds were up to 60 mph that day, and we were right on the lakefront in the middle of it. But as we walked out there, I saw Jerry Goldner photographing something in the lake. I began to scan with my binoculars, and found a Western Grebe! Illinois bird #308! But wait. I thought I saw something else, and after it rose on top of a wave, it was a second Western Grebe! Not only did I get my state bird, but also I got two of them. My mom and I walked over to Jerry, and he showed us a few of his shots. I tried to lie down on the ground, and was able to manage a few shots:

As we were watching the Grebe, Jerry called out that there was a Bonaparte's Gull in the fishhook. I looked over, and was able to get a decent shot of it:

We couldn't stay too long, and soon after arriving, my mom and I began the treacherous journey back to land, and on the way back, I took a shot of Jerry photographing into the wind. You can even see the Western Grebes off to his left as little black dots:

This was quite an experience, but then again, what do we not do for birds? Thanks for reading, and I hope I have something good to report on soon!


Friday, November 9, 2012

Chicago Botanical Gardens Bohemian Waxwing 11/9/12

Hi all,

As I posted about yesterday, I was going to look for a Bohemian Waxwing at the Chicago Botanical Gardens today. I went with my mom (Lynne Remington) and Aaron Gyllenhaal. Aaron needed this bird for his Illinois state list (for bird 347), so it was extra important we find it today. The latest report we read stated that it was last seen at around 10:00 AM near the Sensory Garden, making that the first place we visited. We began walking towards the Garden, but saw a small flock of Goldfinches and while briefly looking at it, Aaron found a Common Redpoll. I was pleased to see it, as it was tinged a rosy color, which I had never seen before. I snapped a few shots, but soon rushed away as we had our eyes on the Waxwing.

We arrived at the Sensory Garden at around 12:15, and were told by the congregation of birders that it had not been seen since about 10:00. They said that it seemed to favor the berry bushes in front of them, and that they were going to wait for it to come back. Aaron and I did not want to wait as we didn't have that long to find it, and after thanking them for the information, we went off to look for it around the area. We were going to walk to where we had the Redpoll before for some photos, but on the way Aaron found 6 more Redpolls. They soon flew off, but as Aaron looked in the direction they were flying, he spotted a group of 8-10 birds flying over. We decided they were Waxwings, so we tried to see where they would land. After watching them descend on some willows, we walked over to find them. Waxwings like to feed in big groups, which will attract more waxwings. We figured that these waxwings were going to lead us to more waxwings, and that the Bohemian might be feeding with them.

We walked only a short distance until we found around 70 Cedar Waxwings. All that was left for us to do was to "sort" through them until we found our prize! Unfortunately, the rest of the birders were waiting back at the Gardens, so it was just us over there. As we were sorting, two birders came over and helped us look. After about 10 minutes, some people walking by were curious about what we were doing. I told them that we were looking for a Bohemian Waxwing, which lives up north from Illinois and is very rare. I said it had a red undertail and was much bigger than the Cedar Waxwings around us. As I said that, I looked up to check a bird, and noticed it had red undertail coverts. It took a second to process, but I then shouted, "There it is! Oh my gosh! GOT IT!!!"

The Bohemian was feeding right above our heads, and stayed around for a good 3 minutes before flying off. It allowed amazing views, and practically posed for the small group of people looking at it. Unfortunately the big group of people came over a bit later, and did not see the bird for another hour after we left. This was Illinois State bird #307 and US Life Bird #505. Here are a few of my photos of this amazing Waxwing:

I hope I can track down some Evening Grosbeaks in Illinois soon, as they were my original targets for the winter. I must thank my mom for the speedy driving there and helping us look for the bird. It was an awesome day. Also thanks to Al Stokie for finding this bird.

Good birding and thanks for reading!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Montrose Black-legged Kittiwake 11/3/12

Hi all,

This past weekend, I birded with Ethan, Aaron, and Eric Gyllenhaal of Oak Park (near Chicago). They are crazy young birders who seem to traverse the state for every bird they want/need to see. This past Saturday, the winds looked very promising for lakewatching at Gillson Park, in Wilmette. This is the premier spot to lakewatch in Illinois, as it seems to be the spot that birds pass closest to when flying out over the lake. We were hoping for something rare or uncommon like a Black-legged Kittiwake, a Jaeger of any species, or something better. We did not see any of those, but it was a good day for Scoters since we had 17 of them. We had one close flying female Black Scoter, called out by long-time birder Al Stokie, and 7 identified White-winged Scoters. The rest of them were either dark-winged (Surf or Black) Scoters or just Scoter species.

While there, I was continuously updating my phone to see if the Evening Grosbeak that had been seen the day before in a backyard in Mundelein had come back. But since it hadn't, we were staying a bit longer at Gillson before going to try and find Aaron some Red Crossbills for his **Big Year** (he denies the fact that he is doing one, but he got 306 for the year in Illinois on Saturday). Aaron suddenly called out at random at one point, "Black-legged Kittiwake at Montrose! Sitting in the water, found by Michelle Devlin." After the words Black-legged Kittiwake, I shouted, "Lets go!" and we were off.

We arrived at Montrose after only 25-30 min of driving, and as we got to the concrete steps, we could not see any birders. But Aaron was not deterred, and after setting up the scope, he found something floating in the water. He put the scope on it, and there it was! It was an immature Black-legged Kittiwake, ABA bird #504, and Illinois State bird #306. This day could not have gotten any better. The original looks were not great, but the bird eventually drifted in closer to the shoreline, allowing great photo opps:

At this point, more birders showed up, and we eventually spotted Michelle, huddled on the steps keeping warm. She told us that earlier the Kittiwake was flying only 10 feet above the heads of some fisherman. We really wanted to see it fly, and not even ten minutes after saying that, it decided to get up and stretch. It flew away from us at first, but then turned around and flew right towards us, at eye level. It passed about 20 feet in front of all of us, and allowed amazing looks. This was an awesome way to get a lifer!

Also, while at Montrose, we had a group of about 40 Snow Buntings land on the concrete stairs. They quickly got up and flew out over the lake, and I was able to get a few pictures before they were too far out:

I took a short video of the Kittiwake, which I compiled with some other rarity clips from this past winter. The Kittiwake video starts at :53:

Tomorrow I will be looking for the Bohemian Waxwings that were found at the Chicago Botanical Gardens yesterday with Aaron Gyllenhaal. Perhaps I will also get an Evening Grosbeak or two this weekend!

Good Birding!