Monday, August 20, 2012

Random adventures in bird land

Yes, I take my binoculars everywhere

It's that time of year when I start birding more than ever and yet almost never take along the camera. I'm too intent on finding tiny birds to mess about with that. Even on a good day, the straps of the camera and the binoculars tend to get tangled around my neck when I'm trying to do both, and it all gets a bit heavy, even without the added inconvenience of "warbler neck." That's's confusing fall warbler season again! And since I haven't been paying attention to pictures, or my blog, I will treat you to some passages from my Bird Journal.

But first, three things I've noticed: one, the warblers seem to be coming through a bit early this year. As I mentioned in my last post, I saw my first "fall" warblers on August 10th, and was treated to quite a bonanza over the weekend, somewhat earlier than I'd expected, not that I'm complaining.

Second, confusing fall warblers are confusing no more! Though in the past, I've gnashed my teeth and pulled out my hair trying to figure out one from the other, despairing of being able to distinguish one yellowish olive little bird from the next, for some reason, this year it seems it's finally "clicked." Now if I can do the same with fall sandpipers.

And finally, I've learned that if I name a post "From the Bird Journal," absolutely no one will read it. So instead these are some random adventures. I promise that I won't pick any passages that are too boring.

Kingbirds are a common treat at this time of year

August 17, 2012 -- after work birds (Lake Decatur and Rock Springs Conservation Area)

Getting a bit bored with scoping out peeps on the mudflats. Rain the day before has not made much a difference to the ever-shrinking lake. Did not linger in any case as two strange fellows showed up at the same time as I did, scruffy white guys who appeared to be looking for debris on the mud flats, and certainly were scaring off the peeps.

Walk at Rock Springs dull for the most part, non-birdy even at the feeders. River trail filled with yellow flowers, 5' to 5 1/2' tall, about my height at the tallest. These flowers seem common in late summer, have noticed them before at Humiston Woods, but the ID eludes me. Seem kinda similar in photos/descriptions of a few suspects in the Illinois Wildflowers book: sneezeweed, Jerusalem artichoke, and goldenglow.

A glimpse of warblers enlivens any walk, got two: magnolia and redstart, neither a year bird but redstart a first for the county.

Melancholy thoughts about passenger pigeons for some reason started to prey on me, and wondering how one can mourn so fiercely for something never seen, then wondering if perhaps I have seen them since I am not averse to the concept of metempsychosis. Really sometimes feel like my passenger pigeon obsession is different, say, than feelings towards ivory-billed woodpeckers; not so much, Wish I could see one in the latter case as, How I wish I could see that again! Metaphysical insight or loneliness of the long-distance birder speaking? A five mile loop with few birds leaves much time for speculation.

Lonely ramble did not last long; woman with baby carriage and little girl soon came running behind me on trail yelling for lost son. Attempted to be good neighborly sort and volunteered to look further down the trail and steer missing lad back towards visitor center should I run into him so she could return to place he was last sighted; luckily a go-carted park employee whizzed up and told her where he was so I could resume birding in peace.

So even a non-birdy walk can provide much fodder for the Bird Journal....

Also not a rare sighting....

August 18 -- Weldon Springs State Park

At first the walk seemed like a bird-free zone, a good quarter mile with nothing but cardinals and catbirds. And then...warblerama on the backpack loop! Canada and golden-winged especial favorites, and yet another great look at a parula.

Also a good day for plant ID; I have determined the tall yellow flowers to be goldenglow, and also found a couple of Jerusalem artichoke for comparison, with large one pointed, sandpapery leaves. Other plants seen on trail: American bellflower, common boneset, great blue lobelia, blue lettuce, Missouri ironweed.

August 19 -- Homer Lake (Champaign County)

Walk began with a "bang" with 13 species seen even before I stepped on the trail; especilly pleased to see year birds least flycatcher and a female Cape May warbler. More warblers to follow: ovenbird, black and white, whole flocks of Tennessee. Day quite mild and although I did not see any more new fall migrants, did get year bird Carolina chickadee, ID'd by voice; their dee dee call sounds like "regular" chickadees strung out on Adderall.

Also saw three wild turkeys wading across the creek and I'm always happy when I see an ovenbird; only downside was that the park smelled kinda bad for some reason, a rotten eggish odor.

Summary of birds seen over the weekend

Great egret; double-crested cormorant; ring billed gull; Caspian tern; killdeer; pectoral sandpiper; least sandpiper; short-billed dowitcher; barn swallow; solitary sandpiper; eastern kingbird; house sparrow; white-breasted nuthatch; American goldfinch; tufted titmouse; mourning dove; black-capped chickadee; chimney swift; eastern wood pewee; hairy woodpecker; American robin; cedar waxwing; great blue heron; belted kingfisher; red-bellied woodpecker; American redstart; magnolia warbler; downy woodpecker; blue jay; turkey vulture; American crow; European starling; ruby-throated hummingbird; brown-headed cowbird; gray catbird; northern cardinal; great crested flycatcher; golden-winged warbler; Canada warbler; Tennessee warbler; black and white warbler; northern parula; eastern bluebird; Baltimore oriole; least flycatcher; Cape May warbler; Nashville warbler; tree swallow; house wren; chipping sparrow; phoebe; Carolina chickadee; wild turkey; ovenbird; northern flicker; indigo bunting; bay-breasted warbler.


  1. Love your photo! I really enjoyed the "peek" into your bird journal; perhaps I should start keeping one again. One does try to be pleasant to people met on the trail. Today, at Nara, at 9 AM for Pete's sake, I met a party of 3 adults burdened with an enormous bouquet of balloons, a fancy cake, plates and silverware, and a fat toddler. Next up were the dog walkers with their off-leash and very friendly dogs. Still saw some birds, though! Can't wait to come and see some of yours! MOM

    1. What were they doing with the cake? Were they going to eat it at the end of the boardwalk? And who takes a bouquet of balloons on a nature walk? Just wondering....