Sunday, February 22, 2015

Barrow's and Bohemian!

Northeast Illinois provided yet another excellent stretch of birding this weekend. If you're going to have to endure a solid week of wind chills below zero, it's nice to at least have the consolation of some high quality birds along the way.

Friday morning found me making the trek up to Lake County in hopes of finding some good gulls. Jen and I were in Tennessee last weekend, which kept me from the Gull Frolic. In my mind, a week of frigid temperatures meant I had a good shot at getting my targets, but instead I arrived at North Point Marina to find the harbor completely frozen over, with only a small handful of gulls too far to identify out on the ice. With winds howling insufferably off the crusty lake, I was thoroughly unenthused and decided to keep moving.

With the shore being so socked in with ice, I thought the fairgrounds may be a good bet. On the way there, I saw a couple Herring Gulls flying over, then followed their trail to a flock of over 100 gulls circling above. I pulled over to assess the situation, and found that a large group of gulls was roosting on top of the Kiefer retail building. The viewing was a little difficult because there was no angle where the roosting birds could actually be seen, but they were an active bunch, and within the first few minutes I had an adult Thayer's, a crisp first cycle Lesser Black-backed, and a stunning first cycle Iceland Gull give good views in flight. It was a totally random find, and quite efficient as the latter two were year birds for me. I should have stayed and chummed longer to see what I could bring in, because my eagerness to get to the fairgrounds was unfounded. They were completely empty.

The continuing winds made me reluctant to spend much time birding outside, so I decided to head back to Kane County. My first stop was the bridge in West Dundee, where the continuing Barrow's Goldeneye was quite conspicuous and easy to pick out.

Barrow's Goldeneye
West Dundee, Kane Co, IL
February 20, 2015

The uncooperative weather persisted, so I called it a day, thinking my birding for the weekend was over.

Then Saturday came, and a handful of great birds showed up in Chicago, with a Bohemian Waxwing topping the list of excitement. Jen decided she was up for coming with me, so we made an afternoon of it. Along Lake Shore Drive, my first Merlin of the year flew by, and shortly after we were at Jackson Park. The bird couldn't have been much easier. Andrew arrived just as I was getting there, and after talking for a minute, the bird flew directly over our heads and landed in the top of a nearby tree. An amazing state lifer (318) and buddy list (282) bird, and a ridiculously easy one at that! It's bizarre that the bird has actually been here a week, and that it is completely solitary.

Bohemian Waxwing
Jackson Park, Cook Co, IL
February 21, 2015

I made it back up to Belmont Harbor right around dusk and was happy to find that the Black Scoters Fran reported earlier in the day were still there, along with a couple White-wings. Getting a close scope view of a male Black Scoter is always a treat! It seems like the winter waterfowl is really beginning to get good, so it'll be interesting to see what turns up in the coming weeks.

White-winged Scoter
Belmont Harbor, Cook Co, IL
February 21, 2015

Black Scoters
Belmont Harbor, Cook Co, IL
February 21, 2015

White-winged and Black Scoters
Belmont Harbor, Cook Co, IL
February 21, 2015

We rounded out the day by joining the lively Birds and Beers crew for a really enjoyable evening of talking about all measure of bird nerdyness.

This recent flurry of birds has me over 100 species for the year in Illinois:

Illinois: 101
ABA: 141