Monday, February 17, 2014

County Lifers Galore!

I came into this weekend with a great deal of anticipation, knowing I would have several opportunities to get out birding. After hitting 100 on Friday and getting an amazing lifer on Saturday, I was already quite content. Yet, a few reports of some nice birds in the inland counties drew me out early this morning, and man am I glad I decided to go!

I began in Batavia at sunrise. Looking north from the Wilson Street bridge, I had some Common Mergansers and Goldeneyes. After just a couple minutes, the target bird popped up briefly: Long-tailed Duck. A great find by Marion Miller from a couple days prior, and a sweet Kane County lifer (178)!

Long-tailed Duck
Batavia, Kane Co, IL
February 17, 2014

With one bird in the bag, I headed to Will County to meet Andrew. On the way, the sky turned from a simple cloud cover to an all out snow storm. The first flakes that fell were the size of sand dollars, unreal! I can't recall ever seeing a snow storm come on so quickly. It kept me from getting a Rough-legged Hawk, oh well.

We headed to the Lockport Canal, where two county lifers were incredibly easy. 29 White-winged Scoters were present, and after scoping for just a few moments, the Red-throated Loon came up out of the water (151 and 152)!

White-winged Scoter
Lockport Canal, Will Co, IL
February 17, 2014

In its winter plumage, the Red-throated Loon is a subtle bi-colored beauty. Like the entirety of its chilled surroundings, its plumage is comprised of white and gray and nothing else. And for that very reason, I think it perfectly encapsulates the beauty of winter. Though its colors are rather drab, their arrangement is striking. The soft white speckle upon the grey back mirrors the flakes I had watched fall upon empty sidewalks just minutes earlier. As Spring rolls around, that white throat will be replaced with a little patch of brilliant red, and it'll be a whole new kind of gorgeous. But today, as I viewed this guy through the scope at a close distance, I was taken aback by its wintertime elegance.

Red-throated Loon
Lockport Canal, Will Co, IL
February 17, 2014

A killer inland duo:

Red-throated Loon and White-winged Scoter
Lockport Canal, Will Co, IL
February 17, 2014

After that, we headed to the Cook/DuPage County line along the Lemont Canal, where we ran into Andy Sigler and Nathan Goldberg and birded with them for a while. After some discussion of the county line and checking the map, Nathan and I made our way to the brushy west side of the river, craning our necks and looking north for this county lifer. It took a few minutes, but eventually this White-winged Scoter swam into view! A bit of a milestone for me as it was my 225th bird for DuPage County.

White-winged Scoter
Lemont Canal, DuPage Co, IL
February 17, 2014

In a matter of hours I had found all my targets for the day. Andrew was heading to the Lemont Quarry area in Cook, so I tagged along because I had never been there before and had been wanting to learn the area. I was rewarded with yet another county lifer which also happened to be an Illinois year bird for me. Wait for it: Northern Shoveler. Yeah, not that exciting. But, with that find, I had managed at least one county tick in my four nearest counties, quite the accomplishment for one morning!

Northern Shoveler
Lemont Quarry, Cook Co, IL
February 17, 2014

What a way to end an already outstanding weekend.

ABA: 134

Illinois: 105

Will, IL: 62 (152)
Cook, IL: 62 (194)
Kane, IL: 56 (178)
DuPage, IL: 44 (225)

Illinois Total County Ticks: 2,604