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Conference birding: Chicago in the sunshine 4-6 November 2019

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Old Thursday 7th November 2019, 05:57   #1
MKinHK
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Conference birding: Chicago in the sunshine 4-6 November 2019

It's slightly bad mannered to be starting a new thread before the previous one is finished, but there's nothing like writing a report on the day to capture the feeling of a good day's birding.

And having said that I'll start with my thirty minute foray along the Chicago River on Monday morning while waiting for the coffee shop to open for breakfast. This delivered no surprises, but a few new birds for what might be the year with more diverse travel than any other.

The first of these was House Sparrow, which was - much to my disgust - one of the first birds I saw in Cairns of al places back in June. More interesting were the single White-throated Sparrow and a finely-streaked Lincoln's Sparrow, which were also prospecting the sidewalks for crumbs and dropped chips. The Ring-billed Gull squawking and crapping in front of the Trump Building was one of 20-odd birds along the river along with a couple of American Herring Gulls and best of all a pair of Peregrines that clearly owned the space between the Wrigley Building and the other fine architecture along Wacker Street across the river.

An evening flight to Hong Kong (tediously via Boston) gave me the whole day for birding, and I headed back to Montrose Point - a famous migration watchpoint on a promontory that protrudes from the lake shore a few kilometres north of the famous downtown skyline. A happy hunting ground in September last year it was rather different two months later in the year with migration most definitely winding down before the onset of the big chill.

A Great Blue Heron that flew low over my head as I got out of the Uber and friendly rufous-tailed Hermit Thrush that perched up and showed beautifully outside the reserve made for a promising start before A wonderful few minutes in the overgrown meadow produced a wonderfully confiding flock of American Goldfinches that pished in beautifully and fed on the head-high seed heads just a few feet away, more House and White-throated Sparrows, a couple of Song Sparrows, the first of many Red Cardinals and three wonderful russet-streaked and-tailed Fox Sparrows rooted in the leaf litter.

A little further on a Ruby-crowned Kinglet was equally untroubled by my presence as it fed at the base of the weeds and the first of seven or eight Golden-crowned Kinglets went even lower - rooting in, on and under the grass tussocks with an occasional flash of the black-edged yellow crown and Firecrest-like white supercilium.

Just as things were quieting down a couple of Black-capped Chickadees zipped in to check me out and a dozen newly arriving American Robins perched high in the tallest trees just as a male Downy Woodpecker looped over my head and began working its way up a nearby tree trunk. A non-breeding Yellow-rumped Warbler followed soon after and more exciting a yellow-tipped tail dropping out of a fruiting tree emerged in the top of another tree as four fine adult Cedar Waxwings and a scruffier, but even more distinctive juvenile.

I struggled to find much on the sea - a few more of the same gulls and three or four Double-crested Cormorants, plus some unidentifiably distant and bobbing mergansers. A pair of Mallards were in the narrow channel next to the sea wall and a lovely pair of Buffleheads were taking advantage of the still water in the curve of the "fish-hook" harbour.

Three long-tailed American Tree Sparrows were foraging in the dune grass, but the distinctly green-backed and rather bedraggled Tennessee Warbler that had come down to the freshwater pool to bathe was a very nice surprise, although eBird shows that one has been hanging around for a couple of days. There were no hoped-for waders on the pool behind the beach but a cloud of forty-odd American Crows alerted my attention to a rather brow-looking Cooper's Hawk drifting over the treetops a kilometre or so to the north.

Another trawl of the dunes delivered a Yellow-rumped Warbler - complete with some blue in the wing between the wing-bars and a much brighter-yellow rump that was a much greater credit to its species than the earlier dingy dowager.

But the best was yet to come as I came across a juvenile Cooper's Hawk which had absolutely no fear of mere humans and was walking about on the ground and rooting through the leaf litter looking for something to kill like a chicken on a crack high. At one stage it flew past my head less than two feet away from me and perched right beside the path. It then dropped right at my feet and again began fearlessly rooting in the leaf litter, allowing me to get the linked video and pix on my iPhone - just brilliant!

With the meadow falling quiet I went for a final look at the dunes and was delighted to see two cracking Snow Buntings bounce out onto the edge of the dune pool! I heard on arrival that one had been seen earlier in the day and the day before, but having thoroughly covered the site I had given upon seeing them. They were typically confiding, walking right past me on a couple of occasions, even if this really was a step too far for the iPhone - as the dodgy old-school record shot attests. As this is a species I haven't seen since the 1980s (Scilly and somewhere on the Suffolk coast on the same day as the Benacre White-tailed Eagle twitch) this was a brilliant conclusion to the trip.

Cheers
Mike
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Hong Kong: Wood Warbler, Red-backed Shrike, Chinese Grey Shrike (476)
Greater China: Buff-breasted Sandpiper, European Golden Plover, Glossy Ibis (973)
Lifer: Ash-coloured Tapaculo, Red-crested Cotinga, Tennessee Warbler

Last edited by MKinHK : Thursday 7th November 2019 at 06:41.
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Old Thursday 7th November 2019, 19:07   #2
KenM
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I'm glad I'm just a carbon neutral non ''Globe Trotter'' Mike unlike some...for the time being at any rate

Interesting your encounter with the fearless Cooper's Hawk, I had the same experience in Portland Oregon a few years back...bold was almost an understatement! If only our Accipters were the same (on occasion), your iphone images are excellent!

A few of mine from the ''Bridge''

Cheers
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Old Friday 8th November 2019, 12:37   #3
MKinHK
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Happy to reassure you Ken that all my flights (and indeed all flights by my company) are offset under the policy I established a few years ago.

Nice pix of your own Cooper's Hawk.

Here's a link to the video of the bird foraging in the leaf litter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5M3aKtnXW94

And also, for the sake of completeness, the record shot of the Snow Buntings.

Cheers
Mike
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Hong Kong: Wood Warbler, Red-backed Shrike, Chinese Grey Shrike (476)
Greater China: Buff-breasted Sandpiper, European Golden Plover, Glossy Ibis (973)
Lifer: Ash-coloured Tapaculo, Red-crested Cotinga, Tennessee Warbler

Last edited by MKinHK : Friday 8th November 2019 at 12:45.
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Old Friday 8th November 2019, 18:26   #4
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Apologies Mike for commenting on your “emissions”...I was playing the hypocrite, as I’m “up” at least 6 times per annum.

Was the Cooper’s video also taken on the iphone, bloody good if it was?

The Snow Bunting was interesting the bird to the left, looked as though it had a mask, or am I looking at it the wrong way!

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Old Saturday 9th November 2019, 06:41   #5
MKinHK
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No worries Ken. Actually the purpose for my trips was to encourage the airport sector to set new carbon targets and increase recognition for airports that deliver major reductions, so this is an issue close to my heart.

The Snow Bunting on the left does indeed have a mask, which is not untypical of birds at this time of year.

Cheers
Mike
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Hong Kong: Wood Warbler, Red-backed Shrike, Chinese Grey Shrike (476)
Greater China: Buff-breasted Sandpiper, European Golden Plover, Glossy Ibis (973)
Lifer: Ash-coloured Tapaculo, Red-crested Cotinga, Tennessee Warbler

Last edited by MKinHK : Saturday 9th November 2019 at 11:48.
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