These past couple of weeks have been some of the busiest of the work year as we've come to the end of the school year, closed out a building of 600 underclassmen who were more or less able and willing to clean up after themselves. Squeezing birding in has taken some early mornings, but of course it's been worth it!
Monday, May 12. There are some birds that have the power to summon a birder from nearly anywhere, at nearly anytime. Slaty-backed Gull was the first this year. Little Gull was the second. And on Monday, in the middle of closing walk-throughs, Fork-tailed Flycatcher became the third. Don't get me wrong, I've dropped everything to chase plenty of other stuff already this year, but some birds are of an entirely different caliber.
So, with the slightest open window in the afternoon, I booked it out to Kane County, where this outstanding rarity was just sitting in a tree right next to the trail at Gunar Anderson. I watched it hawk out over the river a few times, taking in that gaudy tail and those elegant gestures. I was only able to spend a short, unsatisfactory amount of time with it, but it's an experience I'll never forget! Talk about a bird I wasn't expecting on the state year list! This is a truly remarkable bird, and one of those that I wasn't sure I would ever see in the ABA area. World list #652, and ABA list #532 for me.
Friday, May 17: Nathan Goldberg and I had the morning free, so I picked him up early and we did some Cook County birding. I had four target birds. We got zero of them, but found success in other areas. Most notable, we froze our butts off and got rather wet. This little Wood Duck family was too cute to pass up.
Montrose and the Lincoln Park area were pretty dead, though Nathan did get me my first Ruby-throated Himmingbird of the year. Bob Hughes suggested we get away from the lakefront and maybe try LaBagh. Good call. We got there and scouted the area where the wormie had been earlier in the week, but it hadn't been reported for a couple days so we weren't surprised to not find it. Then we checked another part of the preserve where one of the first birds to pop up was a little brown warbler. I got on it and said "Worm-eating!" It flew back across the path and we both got awesome looks at it. Unfortunately we soaked it in a moment too long, so our pictures are of a greenish brown lump. You can barely make put the black crown stripes on this one. I've had three wormie encounters in Illinois, and every time my photo documentation is deplorable. But it's such a good bird that I don't even care.
And then we continued to the river, which was still a little flooded, wouldn't you say? Best warbler was Canada, and Mags continued to be everywhere.
Sunday, May 18. I thought the birding was done for the week, but I was wrong! Jen and I always drive by Churchill Woods Forest Preserve on the way to church Sunday mornings, and we usually see a Great Egret and Great Blue. But this morning, one of the egrets seemed a little small, so I decided to turn around and check it out real quick. I fortunately had my scope in the trunk, and quickly got on the bird to find that it was a Snowy Egret! An outstanding county lifer, and a sweet bird for my 4 county patch too! Here's my crappy iphonescoped shot.
And with that, I'm heading to Arizona now. Here's where the numbers stand:
ABA 2014: 287
Illinois 2014: 265
Kane, IL: 185
DuPage, IL: 163
Cook, IL: 150