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

Our visit to Prairie Crossing near Crystal Lake to see the Kauck's

Prairie Crossing, Grayslake, Illinois
my friend John & Carrie's house on the north side of
Prairie Crossing

Sunday, January 15, 2006, 10-11am

John and Carrie use to live near us in Wrigleyville, but they had since moved to
Prairie Crossing near Grayslake almost at the Wisconsin border 45 miles from Chicago's north side. We couldn't just have brunch with them now like we use to. Families made visiting even more infrequent. That John and I loved beer and single malt scotch, sometimes in quantities, made visits an overnight occasion because nobody wanted to drive after that kind of fun.

They had been asking us to come up and visit them and stay the night over the last half year, but, because of the above, we just never made the time. Finally, in early December we finally made plans to visit them in
Prairie Crossing on the afternoon of the 14th, and spend the night visiting with our families. It was a great night of beer, billiards, and socializing, as it always is.

Yes, it was a late night, and yes, three kids meant we got up earlier that all of us would have liked. Once we finally had them fed and began working on our breakfast, I grabbed their bins and checked out what I could see at their feeder in the back yard. It wasn't real active, but right off the bat I spotted a dark sparrow sized bird with a light underside. I had no idea what it was, but Carrie did, it was a DARK-EYED JUNCO (photo by Muskrat) and once I started looking, they were everywhere. They would become life bird #18 and Illinois bird #9.

Right after that I found the unmistakable male HOUSE FINCH (photo Robert Houde). I had these at my feeders in the city, and I knew they were not Purple Finches because there whole head wasn't red, and this finch has streaked flanks. The females (photo by Hap) had a plain head without the whiteish eyebrow of the Purple Finch. Yes, I had seen them many times before in my life, but since I started counting, they became birds #19 and Illinois bird #10.

A bit later in the morning John said there is the DOWNY WOODPECKER (photo Mary Claypool) at the feeder, and I had bird #20 or the year, Illinois bird #11. Of course I didn't know it was a Downy, and in Sibleys the Downy and the Hairy both look a lot alike to me. Then I read the description, noticed the bit about the bills, and this one definitely had a smallish bill. What about the small dark bars on the white tail feathers? Yes, they were there too. John was right, it was a Downy Woodpecker, and the red mark on the back of the head meant this was the male.

We had a great visit, and despite John having told me that they had a Bald Eagle at Lake Leopold last year, and a Great Horned Owl in the neighborhood on a regular basis, the best I could do was these three common birds. That was good enough for this wonderful visit with friends we don't see as often as I wish we could,
and I had three new birds:

#19 HOUSE FINCH male & female


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