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, February 20, 2006

Ring-Necked Duck at Diversey...FINALLY see the Harlequin males!

Diversey Harbor
Chicago on the lake front at Diversey, north end of harbor near inlet

Monday, February 20th, 915

Was on my way to see the Harlequin Duck male that had been eluding me the last few weeks at North Avenue when I thought I would stop at Diversey Harbor on the way to see if I could see the RING-NECKED DUC
K (photo Jeff Skrentny) that had been seen there yesterday. I saw the same duck with a large group of Canada Geese and Mallard Ducks yesterday, but took a quick look at it with it's bill tucked into it's feathers and assumed it was a scaup. It wasn't.

I found it alone in a small open area of water right away, but once again it had it's bill tucked into its feathers. Still, I noted the gray flank, NOT WHITE flank like I should have noted yesterday, which would have clued me in that it wasn't a scaup. After a while it moved away from the moorings and into the water, and I got an excellent look at it's white ringed bill and long neck. Let's hope I learn the lesson to LOOK for the birds I see in the future so I don't miss any more new species I could add to my life list. This would be #79 and #37 for Chicago proper.

After the RING-NECKED I was hoping my luck would hold as I went down to the North Avenue Beach area to see if I could see the Harlequin Duck male that everyone else has seen but me. I did see the two females associated with this group on a stormy Wednesday afternoon, February 8th, but in several attempts to see the prized male Harlequin, I had struck out.

At the beach I did not find them near the Chess Pavilion, but I saw another birder out near the break water with a scope. It was noted area bird photographer and birder Kanae H. She was looking to see the same birds, but she didn't see a thing. After a few short words of introduction, I had to get back to the office, and I left. About 2 hours later I read in IBET that she had seen the duck, however distant, and lamented I missed her sighting by about 2 minutes! If only I could bird all day.

So today, just one new bird, the:


North Avenue Beach Breakwater

Chicago on the lake front at North Avenue

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006, 415pm

FINALLY! After trying Saturday evening at Belmont Harbor, twice Sunday at North Avenue Beach Chess Pavilion, and after having an unsatisfactory look at 5 Harlequin Ducks in a 80mm scope this morning (2 males and 3 females...I thought), I finally saw the Harlequin Duck males this afternoon. I read an IBET post by Greg N that he had JUST seen two males inside the hook of breakwater, and also
seen another male and two females (so I didn't get this AMs look quite right...they were a long way off) outside the breakwater with 5 Buffleheads.

As fast as traffic would allow, I zipped back over to the lakefront to see if I could get a look at these impressive birds. As soon as I parked I noticed another birder intently
using a scope on the breakwater looking toward its hooked end, he had to be looking at the Harlequins. He was. It was Bob H, a noted birder extraordinaire watching two male Harlequin Ducks at the end of the breakwater.

They were so beautiful. Bob let me look through his scope, and that was a wonderful close up view. It was what I wanted. After he left, I watched the birds for another 30 minutes or so as they dove, and surfaced, dove and surfaced. Were they were there was also a Lesser Scaup and eventually 4 Buffleheads (3m 1f). It was a warm Chicago February, and it just looked like all 7 birds were just having fun before sunset. I would have stayed longer, but I had to get home to be daddy so our nanny could go home, but this time the walk back to the car was one where I had a spring to my step, as I had finally seen the impressive and distinctive beauty of the males of my life bird #62, #25 for Chicago, the Harlequin Duck (photo Ed Teune). It was worth the wait and all the troubles.


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