Saturday, November 8, 2014

Early November Lake County Lifers

My November birding has been pretty minimal so far, with the exception of a couple quick trips up to Lake County, both of which have been quite productive. I've scrounged up nine county lifers between the two trips, with a couple particularly nice birds along the way.

November 1: Great Black-backed Gull and Harlequin Duck

After leaving the Gilson lakewatch on this Saturday morning, I headed north to Waukegan with hopes of finding some of the good birds that had been seen there recently. The Laughing Gull had left with the previous day's intense low pressure system, but the Harlequin had lingered for me. As I checked out the main pier by the beach, I noticed a group of Red-breasted Mergansers near the beach behind me. As they took off, a smaller bird in the group stood out; I got on it and snapped a couple pics to confirm it was a Long-tailed Duck! This was the first of the season for me, and even after seeing 60+ in one day in the county earlier in the year, I never tire of seeing these fantastic birds.

Long-tailed Duck with Red-breasted Merganser
Waukegan Lakefront, Lake Co, IL
November 1, 2014

Back in the harbor, I was escorted by a couple Snow Buntings along one of the piers.

Snow Bunting
Waukegan Lakefront, Lake Co, IL
November 1, 2014

The Harlequin hadn't been in its previously reported location, but I just had a sense that it was still lingering around. And sure enough, as I picked through a group of American Coots in a more sheltered area of the harbor, this little beauty stood out!



And here it is in flight with a Red-breasted Merganser:

Harlequin Duck
Waukegan Lakefront, Lake Co, IL
November 1, 2014

On a buddy list note, Andrew and I have now seen three of the same Harlequin Ducks in Illinois in the last year, but have not been able to see them together, so the Harly is becoming a bit of a buddy list nemesis for us!

While I was watching this bird, a large gull in flight caught my attention. Its size, white underparts, and large bill immediately struck me as fitting for a Great Black-backed Gull, so I stayed on it for a while. By the time I realized that it wasn't going to bank and come back, it was already a ways away, so my photos are low quality. Even though I was leaning towards Great Black-backed, my limited experience with this species caused me some hesitance in pulling the trigger, but after posting on the North American Gulls Facebook Group, the feedback was overwhelmingly in support of it being a Great Black-backed! I feel like I am slowly but surely, but mainly slowly, getting a little more comfortable with gulls. Being so connected to online communities of experts has definitely played a huge role in this, in addition to just getting out and spending some time working with the birds in the field.


Great Black-backed Gull
Waukegan Lakefront, Lake Co, IL
November 1, 2014

November 7: Red-necked Grebe

Yesterday, Andrew and I met up for the morning to bird along the Lake County lakefront. The view from Waukegan at sunrise was breathtaking, and a flyby Peregrine Falcon was my first county tick of the day.

Waukegan Lakefront, Lake Co, IL
November 7, 2014

We headed to North Point Marina, where our main target for the day couldn't have been easier to find. As we drove along the entrance road, a single waterfowl was sitting out in plain sight. I put my binoculars up as Andrew drove along, and he asked "Is that the Red-necked Grebe?"

"Yep."



And here it is with a Common Goldeneye flying by:

Red-necked Grebe
North Point Marina, Lake Co, IL
November 7, 2014

This makes six different counties that I've had Red-necked Grebes in this year: DeWitt, Will, Cook, Coles, Massac, and now Lake - not something I anticipated accomplishing!

Other new county birds at North Point Marina included American Pipit, Rusty Blackbird, and Sharp-shinned Hawk. The other county birds for me were less exciting waterfowl that I should have already had by this point, but considering that I don't actually get up to Lake too often, my current list of 141 isn't too bad.

Here's a couple fun shots of Horned Grebes that I managed too. You don't get to see them in flight too often, so that was a treat.


Horned Grebe
North Point Marina, Lake Co, IL
November 7, 2014

Horned Grebe
Waukegan Lakefront, Lake Co, IL
November 7, 2014

Lake County is now the 12th Illinois county in which I've seen over 100 species this year. Good birding!