Thursday, October 30, 2014

September Goodies

Man, life happens and the blog takes a hit! September and October have been really busy with school and work, so the free time I've had has gone to birding more than blogging. Life hasn't exactly slowed down for me to be able to write, but I've been dying to get a post up, so here it is.

September provided some really important birds, including an awesome, unexpected lifer!

The Rufous Lining: Saturday, September 13, was a roller coaster of a day for me. I began the day out on Lake Michigan, in hopes of turning up a jaeger or Sabine's, but adverse weather conditions forced us to turn the boat around. The trip was rescheduled for the next day, but I was unable to go - though they didn't have much of note on the second effort either (just curious, how does this madness happen on Lake Erie while Lake Michigan gets skunked? Are we that polluted over here??).

I cut my losses and wound up having a nice morning of birding at Montrose. But when I got home that afternoon, the fun began. I got a text from Scott Cohrs about a Rufous Hummingbird which had returned to the Andrini's yard. Scott and I met up about an hour later and headed to the yard, where we waited. And waited. And waited. The bird had been seen five minutes before we arrived, so we were starting to get a little nervous when 45 minutes had passed and we had only seen a couple Ruby-throats. Every once in a while, I could a faint ringing that immediately evoked the thought of Rufous, but I wasn't convinced that my mind wasn't just playing tricks on me. At last, a flash of orange scared off a Ruby-throat from the feeder. I followed the orange back up to its perch and was thrilled to see the Rufous sitting there! Shortly after it came back down to the feeder and gave us great views. Though it didn't spread its tail for us, someone got pictures of it doing so the next day, and the notched tail confirmed that this was indeed a Rufous.

Rufous Hummingbird
Kane Co, IL
September 13, 2014

So, a day which was initially disappointing actually turned out to provide a state lifer and a sweet Illinois year bird, #302!

Red Phalarope! Less than a week later, Andrew and I went on a search for a Sabine's Gull out west along the Illinois River. We had a nice flurry of migrant passerines at Starved Rock, then made our way to Hennepin-Hopper. We didn't find our target bird, but wound up with a lifer instead! Andrew spotted a phalarope from the observation tower, and over the course of nearly an hour and a half of watching it, we put together the pieces that added up to a Red Phalarope! It had a very pale, unmarked back that initially had us thinking Wilson's, but we got to see it fly on multiple occasions and it had a stripe down the wing, which Wilson's does not have. From certain angles, we could actually pick up hues of pink along the neck and breast. The bill was heavier than a Wilson's or Red-necked. What really stood out to me was just how pale the bird was. It was not the bird that we were looking for, but an outstanding find and a sweet addition to the life and year list nonetheless! ABA lifer #589, and year #498; Illinois lifer #314, and year #303.

Red Phalarope (not exactly diagnostic, but hey, there it is)
Hennepin-Hopper, Putnam Co, IL
September 19, 2014

Ammodramus Goodness. Back in April, I got the surprise of a springtime LeConte's Sparrow at Prairie Green with Scott - a bird he and Andrew had found a couple days prior. Little did I know, that may end up being my only LeConte's of the year, because as I write, I still don't have one for the fall! Thankfully, the easier Ammodramus sparrow to scrounge up in the fall is the Nelson's. Prairie Green is one of the best places to get to see these elusive little wonders, so I joined up with Scott at the end of September, where we had four altogether. This is really the quintessential fall bird, and every time I see one I'm reminded that this may indeed be my favorite bird. It certainly belongs on any top 5 list. Illinois year bird #304, and ABA #499.

Nelson's Sparrows
Prairie Green, Kane Co, IL
September 26, 2014

Fermi Yellow-crowned Night Heron. Though not a state year bird, this Yellow-crowned Night Heron was a really sweet DuPage County bird, and I'm grateful that it stuck around long enough for me to get to see it! In a year when county birding has had to take a back seat to my ABA and state lists, it's been fun to still see my local county lists consistently grow - a reminder that there's no substitute for a local patch!

Yellow-crowned Night Heron
FermiLab, DuPage Co, IL
September 29, 2014

And with that, I ended September with 304 species for Illinois, and a tantalizing 499 for the ABA. Stay tuned for October highlights and #500!