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, February 23, 2006

First trip to Sauganash Prairie & Edgebrook Woods

Sauganash Prairie & Edgebrook Woods
Northwest side of Chicago south of Peterson east of Central

Thursday, February 23, 2006, 230-4pm

It was a tedious day at my desk, and when I had to run out to do two errands, I grabbed by Sibley's and bins and decided to head to a new birding location, for
me, Sauganash Prairie. My new copy of "A Birders Guide to the Chicago Region" gave me the impression it might be a good place to know along the Chicago River just north of our home in West Walker Park. Once there, I remembered being here once in the past on a Nature Conservancy day in the field to help restore the prairie.

It wasn't a good birding trip. After hiking about, all I heard, and then saw was a Northern Cardinal for sure, and a Dark-eyed Junco, I think. Of course there were Mallards on the river, but it was quiet everywhere until I came back to the car. Once back at the car, I could hear birds everywhere north of the woods and prairie in the neighborhood to the north of this natural area. But I could see nothing. I was about to jump in the car determined to check out at least one more neighborhood woods before heading back to the office when to the west,
over what is the Edens Expressway, I spotted a Red-tailed Hawk doing aerial maneuvers that were fun to watch. At least I was able to tally this bird for the city, #39 for Chicago.

Frustrated by less than great birding on a great day, I headed over to Edgebrook Woods on the east side of Central Avenue, north of the Chicago River and Indian Road Woods. I drove all the way in, and hopped out to see what I could find on the flats and mature trees by the river. Immediately I found a large group of Dark-eyed Juncos. There had to be 20 or 30 of them, and they were flitting about the whole flat in the lower branches and brush in this area.

While watching them I also saw three Mallards on the river, 3 or 4
Downy (probably) or Hairy Woodpeckers in the trees, plus I heard at least one Red-bellied Woodpecker to the west. I was really excited to tromp around. I eventually found at least 6 Downys, one Hairy, and two Red-bellieds, plus I heard two more calling loudly. And that wasn't all. While I was listening for the woodpeckers, I noticed a large group of 30-40 American Robins move into the woods from the south side of the river, Indian Road Woods. Over on that side of the river I also noted three large White-tailed Deer keeping an eye on what I was doing.

While watching one of the Red-bellieds, I had a good look at a first for me since listing, a WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (photo Jamie MacArthur). It would be bird number 80 for the year, and number 40 for Chicago. Not a big find, but one I did not yet have on my list, and I didn't find it at a bird feeder, which always seems like a bit of a bonus to me.

Finally, on my way out I heard very thin high note of a bird I did not recognize. Where was it? What was it? A Brown Creeper, then another, moving up and around two of the tall trees in the river flats right as the ground rises to the parking lot. I had seen one of these at Skokie Lagoons on January 31st, but again, these birds would count as Chicago bird #41. At this pace I could have 240 species in Chicago by the end of the year...possible? We will see. For the day, two new Chicago birds and the new find:



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