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.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Three woodpecker day at Indian Road Woods

Indian Road Woods, Chicago, Illinois
East of Central Avenue north of Elston south of the Chicago River

Thursday, February 19, 2006, 315-4pm

I had to run an errand up near the Edgebrook Golf Course so I decided to cross the river and check out the Forest Preserve area on the other side of Central from Edgebrook; Indian Road Woods.

I drove all the way into the main lot, and parked. I got out of the car, and the first thing I heard was the distinctive screech of a Red-tailed Hawk. I would learn that their is a pair of them at the Edgebrook Golf Course from another birder I would meet who was walking up the path as I was walking down it. She also pointed out to me that this area and LaBaugh Woods were great places for warblers in the spring.

I walked down to the Chicago River and just listened. Northern Cardinals singing and woodpeckers rapping. But what kinds of woodpeckers? It didn't take long to find a pair of Downy's. I had never heard them calling or making their contact calls before, but in this old growth mess the seemed happily flitting and calling about. Learning to hear that call would help me know this bird was around in future trips to the field.

What else? It was only a matter of minutes before I got a real treat, a Downy and a HAIRY WOODPECKER (male photo Robert Houde) next to each other on a branch close enough that I could clearly see the difference in the size of the birds and their beaks. Once you see their bills side by side, just once, it is a whole lot easier to identify either in the field when you see them individually. Their bills are very distinctive once you have seen both. Before my time was done, I had spotted both the male with the red mark on his head, and the female without it. I felt pleased to have had this happy coincidence to see the two species together, and to see both the male and female Hairy Woodpeckers. I got bird #25 for the year and #17 for Chicago.

I had to get back to the office, but I had to look from the top of the parking lot just one more time before I headed home. Another Downy, a pair of Hairys, and then a shock of red on the head of something else. A Northern Cardinal? No, ladder back black barring, woodpecker shape and movements, a new bird. A RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (photo Andrew Shive) just sat there for me to watch for another 5 minutes or so. And while I was watching him a Hairy flew right up next to it, about a foot away, and it was like they were just giving me a size comparison of the two species for future reference. It was bird #26 for my list, and #18 for Chicago.

A Dark-eyed Junco gave me a hello right before I got back into the car, then was on my way back to the office with two new woodpeckers:

male & female


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