Monday, October 31, 2011
I wasn't sure if I would have a good birding day on Saturday or not. Due to feelings of guilt engendered by leaving my dogs behind for most of the day, I agreed to take them along on my Illinois River Valley trip...after all, I was mostly going to be looking for waterfowl, and since neither of my dogs are much for swimming, as long as Greenturtle kept them away from me and my scope, I thought I could probably see most of what was in the vicinity.
We started our trip at Chatauqua Wildlife Refuge. The area by the headquarters was disappointing (as usual...seriously, I have never, not once, seen an interesting bird there...but the dogs did enjoy walking the short loop), but the Eagle Bluff area was a total score! The water was low, filled with water birds, mostly Canada geese and green winged teal, plus some ring-billed gulls and, surprisingly, a large flock of American tree sparrows...and even more exciting was what was hovering over the water. A juvenile bald eagle and a peregrine falcon. The peregrine was not only a year bird but also an "Illinois state bird" for me, and both Greenturtle and I enjoyed watching it swooping over the water for a while.
Next stop, Emiquon. We took a quick jaunt around the NWR Spoon River access. A couple of years ago a storm felled many trees and rendered this area nigh-well impassible; now it is still a pretty rough trail, but able to be traversed. We saw a man and his son walking around the (now dry) marshy area with binoculars, but for ourselves, all we saw was a robin. Having two active dogs in tow does make looking for passerines a challenge.
Just a quick jaunt down the road was the newly established Nature Conservatory's observatory, with boardwalks and trails, and here we hit water bird pay dirt.
First things first, the coots. There had to be thousands of them. What would you call that? A cootilla? A cootitude? A cootarama? No matter the technical term, where one coot, or even a dozen, fails to impress, seeing them in such numbers is always a bit awe-inspiring. I was very grateful to Greenturtle for taking the dogs so I could peruse the waters at my leisure.
In addition to the coots, there were a large number of dabbling ducks, and you can guess who's who in this picture by the "bottoms up."
I saw more green-winged teal, plus blue-winged teal, northern pintail (year bird!), mallards, and northern shovelers. Along the trail were many sparrows, including white-throated, white-crowned, song and (year and state bird!) Lincoln's sparrow. Overall, a very successful trip.
Yesterday I had time for a stroll around Weldon Springs before the weather turned foul. The day was quite windy, and I saw few birds, but one species was another year bird, the purple finch. When I came home and logged them, I realized I was just ten species away from 200 Year Birds, which, barring the possible exception of the year Sunwiggy and I went to Texas, would be a personal record. So here's to an excellent last two months!