Thursday, August 28, 2014

FINALLY Getting Back To It

And just like that, I went almost two months without blogging. Crazy.

July was a month of rest in many respects. The first part of it was spent back in Washington (posts about that trip to come), and the rest here in Illinois where I laid low for a bit before getting back to work. My birding adventures during this time were brief but productive.

Not a year bird, but a sweet county bird, this American Avocet put on a nice show for many and was a much appreciated addition for all those Kane County Big Year birders out there.

American Avocet
Kane Co, IL
July 18, 2014

At the same fluddle three days later I picked up a bird that was objectively less exciting, but more significant for my Illinois tally - my first Short-billed Dowitcher of the year.

Short-billed Dowitcher
Kane Co, IL
July 21, 2014

One of the birds I was committed to tracking down before getting back to work was a Yellow-crowned Night Heron, which I had missed on a couple trips down south earlier in the year. So, when this one showed up in Champaign, I jumped on it quickly.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Champaign Co, IL
July 22, 2014

With the usually reliable DuPage shorebird spots taking their precious time to get back to suitable water levels, I decided to get up to Lake County and join the resident expert Beau Schaefer for some birding at Rollins Savannah and a couple other local spots. We had a great morning which included a very cooperative Sedge Wren and my target bird for the day - first Stilt Sandpipers of the year.

Sedge Wren
Rollins Savannah, Lake Co, IL
July 25, 2015

Stilt Sandpipers
Rollins Savannah, Lake Co, IL
July 25, 2015

So July ended, my Illinois total at 296.

Which was good, because August has been one of the busiest months of my life.

I knew it was going to be busy, so I had hoped to be in a place where I could add a species here and there when a brief window of time opened up. Thankfully, that's exactly what happened. Amidst training, welcoming students back, and a weeklong time of training up at Wheaton's camp in northern Wisconsin (where our group flushed a family of Ruffed Grouse on a backpacking trip, yay!), I found a couple very short opportunities to get out.

I made a couple trips to the sod farm out in Kaneville, where a pair of Blue Grosbeaks arrived and nested successfully in late summer.

Blue Grosbeak
Kaneville Sod Farm, Kane Co, IL
August 8, 2014

But they weren't the main attraction. On the morning of August 17th - my birthday - Scott Cohrs texted me that there was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at the sod farm, so after church that morning Jen and I headed that way. I dropped her off to do a little shopping in Geneva then popped out to the sod farm. The conditions were hot and muggy, the looks were distant and hazy, but after a few scans through the property a little buff-colored bird emerged among the hordes of Killdeer, its head characteristically bopping back and forth as it scurried along the turf - there it was! Hopefully I'll see another soon and be able to get a pic, but it was a satisfactory look for me!

And then a really sweet thing happened, though it didn't seem like it would turn out well at first. In the middle of check-in week at our dorm (a dorm of 600 underclassmen, so, it's just a little crazy), a Red Knot showed up at Montrose. This news was like a punch to the gut. A rare bird and a notorious one day wonder, the Red Knot was one that I could very easily miss because of the busyness of August. I wrote this one off and hoped I'd get another shot down south later in the Fall. But it stayed. A couple days. Several days. And all of sudden I had a couple hours free on Monday morning and was heading there before dawn, dodging the rush hour traffic. I arrived at Montrose to find this beauty feeding in the pond along the pier. This was only my third time I've ever seen one. The first encounter was a group of alternate plumaged birds in Washington with my dad many years back. The second was last year, also at Montrose, with a bird that was further along in its Fall molt, pretty much a solid gray coloration. So, the transitionary plumage of this bird was new for me. The early morning sun made for a wonderfully saturated scene.

Red Knot
Montrose, Cook Co, IL
August 25, 2014

So, my plan to pick up just a few here and there has turned out to work quite well. School has started back up now, which actually means more flexible hours for me, and I'll be using my first free day tomorrow to head to Chautauqua. I can almost taste 300...

ABA 2014: 497

Illinois 2014: 298