Friday, November 7, 2014

A Couple Important October Highlights: ABA #500 and #501

Before getting too deep into November, I need to go back and recap two important birds from October - one expected, one unexpected. I had a couple other excellent days of birding in October, but I'll post those at a later time.

#500 - Harris's Sparrow

I had been sitting on 499 for the ABA year list for almost three weeks, and in the meantime I had been scouring every zonotrichia flock for a Harris's. Then, the morning of October 15, David Johnson's report of one at Lurie Garden popped up on my phone. Wednesdays are one of my busiest days of the week, but it just so happened that this week a couple of my meetings had been rescheduled for another day. My sliver of time was still minimal though; an uncooperative bird or a hiccup in the traffic and I would be running late. Scott and Andrew were both able to go for the bird too, so I decided I couldn't pass up the opportunity. After checking Google Maps to assess the traffic situation, I was off.

I arrived at Lurie shortly before Scott, and we had been walking around less than ten minutes when up popped our bird! Andrew joined the fun, making this the first time we had actually all been together since our 145 species, record-breaking Kane County Big Day back in May, which feels like an eternity ago. I was really happy to get to share this milestone bird and moment with them.

Harris's Sparrow
Lurie Garden, Cook Co, IL
October 15, 2014

And with that, my goals of hitting 300 for Illinois and 500 for the ABA in 2014 were in the bag!

501 - Lark Bunting

Much to my delight, two days later a Lark Bunting showed up at Montrose. I had been out birding earlier in the day, and news of this bird was confirmed while I was in a meeting back on campus. With the afternoon free ahead of me, I raced down to Montrose. I searched the dunes fruitlessly for a little while, concerned that the wind may keep birds down. I joined up with Matthew Cvetas when he arrived, and we eventually came upon a small flock of Savannah Sparrows. When they flushed, one bird stood out as different, and we both got on it to see the white wing patches of the Lark Bunting! It flew to the pier where we watched it. Andrew then arrived so we were able to add this fantastic bird to our buddy list. After tracking it down for a picture (though not a decent one, as you can see), we let it be.

Lark Bunting
Montrose, Cook Co, IL
October 17, 2014

The Lark Bunting was a completely unexpected bird, both for my Illinois and ABA list this year, what a sweet bonus!

A Long Time in Coming.

I definitely won't be setting any records with my Illinois Big Year this year, but I may just be the first person who was ever seen 306 birds in the state in a year BEFORE getting a Pine Siskin. Last year was a terrible winter finch year, and siskins were basically nowhere to be found after January 1. So, it was with a chuckle that I finally added this bird to my year list on October 18 at Greene Valley Forest Preserve in DuPage.

I haven't added an Illinois bird since the siskin, and as I sit here at 307 there are still a few possibilities. Common Redpoll and Northern Saw-whet Owl come to mind. I'll be making a trip back down to try for the Prairie Falcons which did not cooperate earlier in the year, either time I tried. Barn Owl is looking like less and less of possibility. Northern Goshawk? California Gull? Black-legged Kittiwake? Purple Sandpiper? Pacific Loon? Either crossbill? Spotted Towhee? Varied Thrush?

The possibilities are endless; the probabilities are few. I feel pretty good about 310 at this point, and 315 would require a crazy November, which Illinois has been known to produce before. It should be an exciting end to the year!

List totals:

ABA 2014: 504
Illinois 2014: 307