Thursday, March 6, 2014

Marching On

A few days into March and one thing is quite clear: Winter is not about to give up. I say this, now on the verge of "Spring" Break, greatly looking forward to a modest consolation of temps breaking into the 40s.

On a quick jaunt to the lakefront Tuesday morning I gained a little perspective on just how incredible the birding has been this Winter. I had a handful of amazing birds at Montrose, yet a flyby Merlin on my way home was the only county year bird I added for the day!

The situation at Montrose this week has been an interesting blend of Winter's beauty and cruelty. The patches of open water were packed with waterfowl, the discomfort palpable. There were several deceased mergansers and scoters lying upon the ice. Scoters landed on the ice, thinking it was water, then struggled their way to the nearest open water, slipping and falling along the way. While the weather has been frustrating for many, it was clear as I watched the desperate scene unfold that Winter's relentlessness has taken more of a toll on the birds than it has on us. I felt in this moment my strongest yearning for Spring yet, not out of some cliche longing for flip flops and shorts, but simply for the wellbeing of these poor birds.

Red-breasted Mergansers
Montrose, Cook Co, IL
March 4, 2014

Unwilling to give up their spot, the ducks provided some very close looks:

Red-breasted Mergansers
Montrose, Cook Co, IL
March 4, 2014

White-winged Scoters
Montrose, Cook Co, IL
March 4, 2014

A lone Red-throated Loon flew by heading south, as I'm sure many wish they were doing:

Red-throated Loon
Montrose, Cook Co, IL
March 4, 2014

There was more open water out near the pier, which held four Black Scoters. As I scoped the flocks a beautiful male Long-tailed Duck flew in. I unashamedly cannot get enough of these birds, so I walked out on the pier to get a better look. I watched it through the scope, snapped a few pics, and was feeling quite content when I noticed the bird had come closer after its most recent dive. The following photo shoot ensued as I got crippling looks at this beautiful little bird. A Red-breasted Merganser turned aggressive and chased it off, giving me the chance to capture it in flight. Shot of a lifetime for me.







Long-tailed Duck
Montrose, Cook Co, IL
March 4, 2014

What a bird. I loved watching it duck (heh) under water, come back up, then shake dry. In the midst of a rather distressing scene, he just seemed to be playing and doing his own thing. We need these little moments of life to get through unending Winters like this.

Then, this evening, the moment I got out of my final class before a week long break, I headed west to Kane County before dusk. I had meant to get out to add Short-eared Owls to my county year and life list, but had been prevented so far. The birds had not been reported for a couple weeks, so I wasn't sure if they'd still be there. A gorgeous sunset unfolded as I pulled down Dugan Road. A flying figure caught my eye about a quarter of a mile away - the textbook sporadic wingbeats told me I had my bird before I even put up my binoculars. I followed it for a ways until it met a second one in the sky. Nice! Kane County #179 for me, and county tick 2,658. Eventually it perched defiantly on a sign, disregarding the command to keep out:

Short-eared Owl
Kane Co, IL
March 6, 2014

And now I face the wonderful reality of a week off (sorta) coinciding with a Red-necked Grebe invasion. Hope to be seeing one soon!

ABA: 138

Illinois: 110

Cook, IL: 63
Kane, IL: 57