the Rookie Birder

I have watched birds all my life, but after reading "The Big Year," "Grail Bird" and especially Kenn Kaufman's "Kingbird Highway," plus Santa's timely stocking stuffer of "Sibley's 2003 Eastern & Western Field Guides," I made the decision to become a rookie birder beginning January 1st, 2006.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Mute Swan at Belmont Harbor on Saturday run

North end of Belmont Harbor
Chicago on the Lakefront between Belmont and Addison

January 14th, 2006, 1145am

This morning's run didn't start out so well. My heart periodically beats irregularly, and occasionally it doesn't make my Saturday run so comfortable. Rarely, I can't finish a run I begin. Today my heart was just a bit off, and I had to ask Mike and Ed if we could take a walking break after both the first and second mile of our run. Not typical.

We began our run to the south and were now at the 6.5 mile marker just north of the Drake Hotel at the North Avenue Beach. I told the two of them to take off and run to the 7.5 mile marker where we had planned to turn around, and I would hope that my heart would get back to normal with a little rest so that I could resume our planned 15 mile run together when they caught back up with me going north.

I walked briskly to the 7 mile marker, and it was there that I saw three ducks that I had noticed the week before. White sides, dark head, I would imagine they were Greater or Lesser Scaups. Probably Greater Scaups, but no field glasses and I couldn't positively make this ID.

Mike and Ed caught up with me where I let them go at the 6.5 mile marker, and my heart was finally beating regularly. From this point on I had a great run.

At Belmont Harbor on the way final stretch south to end our run, I saw the MUTE SWANS (photos Jeff Skrentny) that I have seen in the harbor the last two years, and this year they were with a juvenile. Of course the last two years I didn't know that you ID a Mute Swan by its bright orange bill, both the Tundra and Trumpeter Swans have black bills. I also didn't know that like House Sparrows & European Starlings, these impressive birds, too, are European imports. Makes such an impressive bird feel like a cheap ID once you know that. But for me it would be bird #17 for the year, and for my official life list.

Additionally, again, I noticed several other ducks that were not ducks I could identify. If only I could stop and identify them I would have some wonderful new birds on my life list. But I wanted to finish my run first, and Mike wasn't stopping for any birds anyway, so to the car we went. Once there I wasn't doing anything except going home to get the family ready for an overnight trip to Prairie Crossing near Grayslake to see our friends the Kaucks. Hopefully it would offer some birding opportunities as this is a great natural area 45 miles north of here, and with some luck those ducks would still be there Monday for my run, after which I would take a walk to do some real birding.

So today I got the Mute Swan, an impressive bird for bird #17, but I was more thrilled I knew how to tell it from the Trumpeter Swan, and I couldn't wait to get some new ducks on Monday when I would bring a change of clothes so I could walk the lakefront looking for new birds. Plus there were the birds that we'd see at the Kauck’s in Prairie Crossing this afternoon, I hoped. But for today, my new bird was the:

#17 MUTE SWAN w/juvenile


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