I apologize for not updating this blog in a while, but I hope to get back in the hang of posting here. This spring has been awesome for birding so far, as it has delivered a lot of amazing birds already and it's only May 4th! I am going to cover my last week of birding, but have had an incredible year so far.
I was planning on birding with Josh Engel and Nick Block to try and find some Cook County birds for my list. As Josh was coming to pick me up, I read my email and saw a post on IBET that there was a Smith's Longspur at Montrose and the relocation process was underway. I quickly called Josh to see if we could abort our trip to Bartel for the morning and make it to Montrose to try for the Longspur. He agreed and I called Nick to alert him about the bird. Nick and I needed this bird for Cook County, so he changed his plan and was on his way as well. Josh and I got there in about 15 minutes and walked straight for the beach. As we arrived, I could see Matthew Cvetas and Fran Morel looking into the grass contently. I quietly ask Matthew if they had the bird and he waved us over. In plain view was an adult Smith's Longspur! This was a lifer for me and an amazing bird in an epic plumage (ABA 510, IL 313, Cook County 270). At one point it picked up and flew and we noticed that there was a second bird we had missed behind it. A second Smith's Longspur! We pished hard to try to get them to land, and they came back down into the dunes. Here are a couple of photos of the Longspurs:
Josh later called me over to where he was while I was looking for the Longspurs to look at a Grasshopper Sparrow that they had found, another year bird for me.
After Montrose, we made a stop at Northerly Island to see if we could find something like a Vesper Sparrow, which I still needed for the county. While at Northerly, Nick asked if it was too early for a Nelson's Sparrow. Josh replied that it was a bit too early for a Nelson's but not too early for a LeConte's. Not even two minutes after he said this did we flush a small bird from the grass. It landed on some rocks and looked straight at us. A LeConte's Sparrow! What a coincidence!
Overall an awesome morning of birding with two amazing birders. I got two county birds, one of which was a lifer for me!
I saw on IBET that morning that someone had found a Piping Plover at Montrose. Since I am trying for 300 birds in Illinois this year, I needed to see this bird as only one or two come through Illinois every year that I can chase. I do not know of many inland records of Piping Plover (maybe a few at Carlyle Lake). It turned out that I was done with school at 1:25 that afternoon, and I had until 3:00 before I had to be somewhere. I called my dad to get permission to go to Montrose and be back within that window. He said ok, so all I had to do was find a ride. I called Jeff Skrentny who was with Randy Shonkweiler and learned that they were already at Montrose. I knew I could not get a ride there, but I asked if I could get a ride back to school. We meshed our schedules and I was able to then hail a cab from school. I usually would never do this, but since a Piping Plover was there to meet me, I could not waste any time! 10 minutes later, I paid my fare and walked straight to the beach. As I approached the waters edge, I scanned the algae mat and there was the Plover! This bird was an adult and in a really crisp plumage. It also had no bands, which is expected because the species is endangered. There are only around 6,100 of them left in the US, but I believe their population is increasing. Here are some photos of the beautiful bird:
I awoke late this morning, after having had a track meet and hanging out with some friends the night before. I checked my email around 11 AM, and saw that Dave Antieau, Fran Morel, and Sean Pfautsch had found a Spotted Towhee at Montrose. This was a bird I still needed for the state, but my parents were out of the house until around 12:30 PM. I awaited their return and soon asked if I could make a quick trip to Montrose. Aaron Gyllenhaal had texted me at 1:15 that he got the Spotted Towhee and that the Willets and Dunlin found there that morning were still present. Three year birds, two hard to get (the Towhee and Willets). My Mom and I left around 1:15 and got there and made a straight trip to the beach. We walked up and got the Willets hiding out behind a piece of driftwood and the Dunlin scurrying around near them. Two year birds down! The Willets were year bird 167 and the Dunlin 168.
We did not spend too long here, as I wanted the Towhee more than anything now. As we began walking back to the Point we ran into photographers Jerry Goldner and Roger Shamley, who told us where the Towhee was. They also said that someone had seen the Hooded Warbler earlier and that they might have had a Philadelphia Vireo. My mom and I decided to try to relocate these finds on the way to the area the Towhee had been seen in, and we were able to find and get drop dead amazing views of the male Hooded Warbler. I have only seen one other Hooded Warbler before this one, so this was especially awesome for me. It was year bird 169 for me:
Though we didn't find the Vireo, the Hooded Warbler was a nice consolidation prize. We then proceeded to the area the Towhee was in, and right after I began to look for it I was able to spot it "dancing" on the leaf litter, trying to uncover some bugs to eat. I got some amazing views and at points was only about 10 feet from it. This was IL bird 314, Cook county bird 272, and year bird 170.
Overall, this past week has been amazing for birding, and I hope it only gets better. Even though my year list is not that high, the birds have been awesome and I hope in the next couple of weeks it only gets better. Here's to a great migration!