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, March 06, 2006

Only 10 birds, total, and a near fall into the river at Bunker Hill Forest Preserve

Bunker Hill Forest Preserve, Chicago, Illinois
North of Devon, west of Caldwell on Chicago's NW side

Sunday, March 5th, 2006, 1030am-12pm

After yesterday's great day in the field in Lake and McHenry Counties, I thought I would take about 2 hours I had in the late morning to check out a familar Chicago running area and see what it might hold for my new birding interest. Unlike yesterday, today it was cloudy, cold with a humid chill in the air. Snow was in the forecast. I thought this might lead to good bird activity ahead of the snow. Instead, I must have missed my window and had a very quiet birding morning.

I parked right inside the Bunker Hill area off of Caldwell, and decided to head south toward the Bunker Hill open area and then swing along the river to see what I could see. Not much.

An American Robin (photo KC Foggin) was right at the path as I entered the area, but then I didn't see or hear anything in the Bunker Hill prairie area. The most interesting find were the bones, skull and hide of a long dead white-tailed deer. I had heard a woodpecker or two, but they sounded like they were on the river side of the path. I meandered that way.

Quickly, I discovered a Hairy Woodpecker male, and right after that a Red-bellied Woodpecker male. Then, as I was looking up for yet a third woodpecker, I slipped on leaves atop a mud patch and found myself dangling over the river perched precariously on my butt and hands on a 5 foot high river bank. It took 15 minutes of carefully negotiating the slippery bank to keep from falling into cold and swiftly moving the river. My gloves or jeans were terribly mud covered after this little birding mishap.

I walked along the river to Devon, and under the bridge were the expected Mallard Ducks, 5 of them, two females and three males. I walked from here back across the path to the Bunker Hill prairie area and forested area to the east of there, and on the way I found a dead raccoon skull and skeleton. Didn't realize how sharp their teeth really were.

By now the snow was coming down gently, and the place was terribly quiet. You could hear the snow landing. A Northern Cardinal (photo Richard Fray), a female Dark-eyed Junco (photo KC Foggin) and nothing else. As I got back to the river and woods near were the car was parked, I swear I heard a hoot of an owl, and I heard it again. But it was almost noon and we promised to take Anna Grace to see Curious George at Webster Place, and it was simply time for me to head home. Reluctantly, I did.

Quiet day, 10 total birds, 6 species and nothing new. Sure hope for a better birding trip the next time I head to Bunker Hill, I hear it can be great for birding.


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