Saturday, January 18, 2014

Another Long-eared Owl, And More!

I'm doing music for some friends' wedding today up in Wisconsin, and we headed up here yesterday afternoon, so Friday morning was my last chance to get out in Illinois for the next few days. With that in mind, I headed to Kane between dropping my wife off for work and a lunch meeting.

In light of the crazy weather I've already birded in this year, I did not think much of the forecast for the morning; it looked pretty manageable. But, as it turned out, the stiff breeze accompanying the temperatures in the teens made for my least favorite conditions. After just a few minutes of walking around, my face was hurting, and pishing was even difficult! The leafless deciduous trees did little to provide a barrier to the breeze, so I was in the teeth of the wind for almost a solid hour. It's the coldest I've been all year.

But, one bird made it more than worth it. After searching a stand of conifers for a while, I had come up with nothing but a Hairy Woodpecker, a Great-horned Owl, and a few chickadees. Getting tired of the wind, I decided to check one more spot then make my way back. I was getting to the point where I was wondering if finding roosting owls was just not for me. I've put a pretty decent amount of time in recently, and seem to keep striking out. With the wind still tearing through me, it was not my best moment.

Then it happened. I found a little blob sitting up next to a trunk in a pine. I was looking at the back of an owl! It was clearly much smaller than the Great-horned I had just seen, and I knew right away it could only be one thing, a Long-eared Owl! At this point, I was no more than fifteen feet from the bird, and I really didn't want to disturb it. I made a wide circle, keeping my eye on the bird, then approaching and leaving quietly, and thankfully the bird stayed comfortably perched the whole time and wasn't disturbed in the slightest. I got outstanding views, and after a few minutes, it even turned to check me out. Shout out to the chickadees that were scolding in that general vicinity; not sure if I would have found this bird without their direction. What a great experience it was getting to spend some time with this beauty; surely one of the highlights of the year so far! And, it made the biting wind on the walk back to the car not feel quite so unbearable.


Long-eared Owl
Kane Co, IL
January 17, 2014

However, the rest of the preserve was dead. It was obvious that the wind was keeping things quiet. I figured I probably wouldn't get a new bird for the year, but didn't mind at all after finding the owl.

I decided to check out Seavey Road, because there always seems to be something interesting going on over there. As I poked along, a tree full of black birds caught my eye. I could tell from the long tails that it wasn't just starlings. I pulled off the side of the road and happily whispered "year birds" to myself. I put my binoculars up and quickly saw Brown-headed Cowbirds in with some Red-winged Blackbirds. As I continued to scan, I found a Rusty Blackbird, and then another, and another! The flock then flew down to a field, so I turned around to get a better look. As it turned out, there were more Rusties than anything else, nice! A lone Common Grackle was in the bunch, too. Wow, four year birds just like that! Obviously they're mostly common birds that will make their way on to hundreds of my checklists this year, but it felt good to go ahead and get them in the winter months. Also, any chance to get a good look at a Rusty is always enjoyable.

Rusty Blackbird
Seavey Rd, Kane Co, IL
January 17, 2014

Rusty Blackbird
Seavey Rd, Kane Co, IL
January 17, 2014

Common Grackle
Seavey Rd, Kane Co, IL
January 17, 2014

So, having stayed within my four county boundary of Cook, Kane, Will, and DuPage, I've scrounged up 78 species in just 10 days of being here and able to bird.

ABA: 114

Illinois: 78

Will, IL: 55
Kane, IL: 49
Cook, IL: 49
DuPage, IL: 39