Suburbs offered plenty of action in world of birds in 2019

  • Kate Hopkins first noticed this spotted towhee, a western species, under her Warrenville feeder in January. The bird lingered until April.

    Kate Hopkins first noticed this spotted towhee, a western species, under her Warrenville feeder in January. The bird lingered until April. Courtesy of Mike Carroll

 
 
Updated 1/7/2020 9:57 AM

Welcome to Part 2 of my annual review of the top news of a feather, where the suburbs offered plenty of action in the world of birds.

A misplaced spotted towhee located a Warrenville feeder in January, shook off the Polar Vortex, and lingered until April. Homeowner Kate Hopkins was a generous host, welcoming birders to view her unusual guest from the West.

 

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve in Darien claimed a barnacle goose in February. In July, for the first time in 25 years, ecologists captured, banded and released a pine warbler at the site.

The Morton Arboretum in Lisle extended its reputation as a go-to place for pileated woodpecker, summer tanager and yellow-throated warbler. Cerulean, Connecticut, hooded and worm-eating warblers visited the Arb as well.

Common tern is far from common along Lake Michigan, but a colony in Lake County prospered thanks to a man-made raft for nesting.
Common tern is far from common along Lake Michigan, but a colony in Lake County prospered thanks to a man-made raft for nesting. - Courtesy of Jeff Reiter

In May, Elsen's Hill in Winfield attracted a well-seen Kentucky warbler, my current nemesis bird. Naturally it departed one day before I arrived on the scene.

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Springbrook Prairie steward Joe Suchecki added trumpeter swan and blue grosbeak to the site list, making 238 species for the Naperville preserve.

In September, a Say's phoebe posed for birders atop the hawkwatching hill at Greene Valley Forest Preserve in Naperville. Jeff Smith sounded the alert.

The 14th season of counting migrating raptors at Greene Valley featured record numbers for bald eagle (112), osprey (79) and broad-winged hawk (4,993). Other notable flyovers were golden eagle, northern goshawk, Swainson's hawk and Mississippi kite. Seven Hudsonian godwits cruised over on Oct. 23 and, on Nov. 7, three whooping cranes mingled with 8,423 migrating sandhills. The hill is staffed by DuPage Birding Club volunteers from September through November.

Kane County featured a low-flying swallow-tailed kite in downtown St. Charles, reported by Leslie Yoshitani on April 15. Other Kane goodies in 2019 were cattle egret, prairie warbler, western meadowlark, western tanager, Swainson's hawk and white-winged scoter. The latter visited Fermilab in Batavia, which -- like other venues around the region -- witnessed an unusually large invasion of American white pelicans in April.

In Lake County, a perching Mississippi kite was spotted at Perkins Woods on May 23, a first record for Evanston. A dunlin at Chicago Botanic Garden was a nice find by Al Stokie, who eight days later saw his first common gallinule at the site. CBG surrendered a pine warbler in December.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A harlequin duck appeared content in Waukegan Harbor, present for two weeks and counting in December.

Perhaps the best Lake County story of all involved the common tern colony at Naval Station Great Lakes. Eighteen adults, 13 nesting attempts and 15 fledged young were the highest results in years for the state-endangered species. A constructed raft in the harbor did the trick, and a second raft is planned for 2020. Kudos to Brad Semel, a biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, for leading the effort.

Since you asked, my personal favorite sightings of 2019 were hooded warbler at St. James Farm in Warrenville (likely nesting); black-crowned night heron along Lake Ellyn in Glen Ellyn; Mississippi kite in Dallas; and, last month, six scissor-tailed flycatchers in Key Largo, Florida. In the yard, I was thrilled to spot a redheaded woodpecker for only the second time in 22 years.

Cerulean warbler was one of several coveted species discovered at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle.
Cerulean warbler was one of several coveted species discovered at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle. - Courtesy of Christian Goers
Remembering friends

Karen Fisher passed away in March. Along with husband Bob, she watched over their remarkable bird-filled yard in Downers Grove and traveled widely for birds, especially in Illinois. Karen also spent hundreds of hours counting migrating raptors at Greene Valley. Friends honored her memory with donations to The Wetlands Initiative.

Many of us subscribe to Bird Watcher's Digest, a wonderful little magazine published in Marietta, Ohio. The publication suffered a double tragedy in 2019. Bill Thompson III, editor, succumbed to pancreatic cancer at age 57. Two months later, Thompson family matriarch Elsa, Bill's mother, died in a house fire. Both were active at the magazine to the end. Bill received the American Birding Association's highest honor, the Roger Tory Peterson Award for Promoting the Cause of Birding, on March 25, just 12 hours before he died.

Coming events

Notable 2019 book releases included Kenn Kaufman's "A Season on the Wind," and Ted Floyd's "How to Know the Birds."

The International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin, will reopen on May 2 ("The Crane Event") following a massive $10.4 million renovation on the 10-acre site.

Indiana Dunes National Park became official in February, the nation's 62nd national park and the Chicago area's first. The sixth annual Indiana Dunes Birding Festival is set for May 14-17.

Congrats to the Evanston North Shore Bird Club on 100 years! When founded on March 6, 1919, the cost to join was 50 cents.

The American Birding Association turned 50 and released an updated "ABA Code of Birding Ethics." Head to WIRE in Berwyn for ABA's 2020 Bird of the Year Reveal Party Jan. 12.

Belted kingfisher emerged as a potential University of Illinois mascot. A snappy logo design by student Spencer Hulsey reopened mascot discussions in Urbana-Champaign, where former icon Chief Illiniwek got the boot in 2007.

The first World Swift Day took place on June 7. Members of Kane County Audubon counted chimney swifts at local roosting sites.

Did you find "Wingspan" under your Christmas tree? The new board game is popular, and not just with birders.

All are invited to the DuPage Birding Club's first meeting of the new decade on Thursday, Jan. 9. Texas birder Laura Keene will share stories from her epic "photographic big year" in 2016. It's sure to be a fun and motivating start to a new year of birding adventures, near and far. Details are online at dupagebirding.org.

• Jeff Reiter's column appears regularly in Neighbor. You can reach him via his blog, Words on Birds.

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