Friday, April 17, 2015

Birdy Morning at Danada

After being cooped up all week writing and finishing my final project for this degree, I was itching to get out this morning. Last night's favorable winds and radars, and the morning's calm conditions seemed promising for a productive morning, and that's exactly what it turned out to be!

I made the decision to start out at an area I hadn't ever been to before: the west side of Danada Forest Preserve. I'd driven by plenty of times and always been intrigued, but never made a point of actually going there. Well, I'll be going back.

I arrived right a day break, the sun just cresting over the horizon, wisps of fog still lingering in the shadows. I hadn't been out of the car more than three minutes before my first year bird of the morning appeared, a Brown Thrasher doing its clumsy thing atop of bush. The surrounding chorus was nothing like what it'll be in another two or three weeks, but it was still a delight to the ear. And, the air had a different quality to it, a genuine warmth. By 7 am I was ready to shed my light jacket.

While watching the thrasher, a familiar call caught my ear, "hiccup........ hiccup.......... hiccup." Henslow's Sparrow! This guy was not on my radar at all and such a thrill to get to hear again. There ended up being three in the area, and the first one turned out to be quite obliging. I got to watch it scurry along the ground, perch up in some bushes, and give its little insect-like call for a while. It was hard to pull myself away.

Henslow's Sparrow
Danada Forest Preserve West, DuPage Co, IL
April 17, 2015

Objectively speaking, I got some "better" birds in the ensuing hours, but the quality time spent with this amazing little bird was the highlight of the day for me.

There were plenty more birds yet to be seen, though. I made my way over to the marshy area where there is a substantial rookery of Great Blue Herons. Towhees and thrashers and Swamp Sparrows and Ruby-crowned Kinglets were all sounding off. Then all of a sudden, out of the swampy chorus came the distinct and explosive "oop-a-chunk" of an American Bittern! This was my first time getting to hear one in Illinois, and the whole thing was even more special because this was such a long overdue county bird for me in DuPage! Awesome.

I worked my way back to the pond to the north of the main path, where a female Hooded Merganser, a pair of American Wigeon, and a handful of other waterfowl were present. My first Blue-gray Gnatcatcher of the year buzzed away from the nearby trees. Brown Thrashers continued to be everywhere.

Brown Thrasher
Danada Forest Preserve West, DuPage Co, IL
April 17, 2015

As I got back to the intersection of the grass trail and main path, a rather out of place call stopped me dead in my tracks: "Teacher! Teacher! Teacher!" I started sorting through the rusty warbler files in my brain while trying to find the bird. Shortly after, the bird called again and up popped a very early Ovenbird! I couldn't believe it. The bird was really elusive and stayed back in the brush, so all my attempts to photograph it were null and void. That was a bummer, but it was still exciting to see and hear! I couldn't believe my first non-Yellow-rump warbler species of the year turned out to be an Ovenbird. Not long after that, a tail-pumping Palm Warbler flew to the top of a tree along the trail on the way back to the car. And just like that, I had picked up a county lifer and six year birds!

I then checked out the east side of the preserve, which I had been to a couple times before. The highlights there included my first Spotted Sandpiper of the year, and a group of three alternate plumaged Bonaparte's Gulls chilling with a few Caspian Terns. Gotta love a good look at a Bonnie, especially this time of year with that full black hood!

Bonaparte's Gull and Caspian Terns
Danada Forest Preserve East, DuPage Co, IL
April 17, 2015

Bonaparte's Gulls
Danada Forest Preserve East, DuPage Co, IL
April 17, 2015

It was an all around enjoyable morning to be out. Spring is unfolding quite nicely!

ABA 2015: 177
Illinois 2015: 152
DuPage County Life: 233