This year, Chicago Audubon has accepted a challenge from the Forest Preserves of Cook County to explore the rich bird life of the forest preserves and to engage some new birders while we’re doing it. #birdthepreserves is an initiative that will connect new and diverse communities to the preserves by expanding birding programs and partnerships.
The forest preserves are rich in bird life, and we want to make 2016 the year we trek though lots and lots of grasslands, wetlands, shrublands, savannas and woodlands … and see lots and lots of birds! We are especially excited about the Big Year competition, which runs from March 1 through December 31, 2016. There are two competitions:
~~Which preserve has the most bird species? (Judged by the number of bird species accepted by eBird for the site hotspot.)
~~Which preserve team engages the most new birders in their Big Year efforts? (Judged by field trip attendance sheets.)
Chicago Audubon’s official team will be led by our president, Dave Willard and will bird the Skokie Lagoons, famed for its spring warblers and migrating waterfowl. We are also sponsoring other walks: Salt Creek (spring migrants, woodlands), Spring Creek (grasslands), Paul Douglas (grasslands, migrating waterfowl and herons) and Miller Meadow (spring migrants, grasslands), along with not one but two woodcock walks. You’ll find all the details following this article and on our website (chicagoaudubon.org).
The forest preserves will be featuring “Bird of the Month” posters and rack cards at their six nature centers:
~March: American Woodcock
~April: Wood Duck
~May: Baltimore Oriole
~June: Great Egret
~August: Ruby-throated Hummingbird
~September: Black-capped Chickadee
~October: Red-bellied Woodpecker
~November: Eastern Screech-Owl
Here’s how you can participate:
~Bird at our team site, the Skokie Lagoons, (or at one of our sister sites, Salt Creek, Spring Creek or Paul Douglas and more--all are listed below) and enter your sightings into the eBird hotspot (not an eBird “personal location”). If you haven’t used eBird, it’s easy to join at www.ebird.org;
~Come on out to our field trips and bring your friends! We want to introduce new people to Chicago Audubon and to birding. We’re going to some fantastic places with some excellent guides. The Forest Preserves’ new bird checklist will be available on all trips, and there are small prizes for new birders who reach the milestones of 25, 50 and 75 birds;
~Send ideas for groups of potential new birders that we might want to reach out to: email@example.com;
~When you post on social media about Cook County forest preserve birds, use the hashtag #birdthepreserves;
~Get trained to be a field trip leader or helper, or encourage someone you think would be good to attend a training session. Intermediate birders are welcome as well as experts: Friday, March 4, at Trailside Museum; Saturday, March 5 at Crabtree, and Saturday April 2 at Little Red Schoolhouse. Hours for all three sessions are 9 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.;
~Check out the many activities at fpdcc.com/birding. You can join our Big Year team or sign up for training. You’ll find more field trips, a Big Sit on May 7, a series of Bird Conservation Success Story walks, and more.
The following is a list of bird walks, including two events to observe Woodcocks performing their magnificant aerial courtship displays. Please be sure to keep an eye on this website (chicagoaudubon.org) for any changes in dates and times.
Skokie Lagoons Bird Walks: March through July, every third Tuesday of each month: March 15, April 19, May 17, June 21, and July 19. Starting time for the March 15 and April 19 walks will be 7:00 a.m. Keep checking our website (chicagoaudubon.org) for the starting times of the subsequent Tuesdays in case we need to change either the starting time or the location. The Walks will last about two hours, but because these walks will be on a weekday, join us for as long as you can and leave early if you need to get to work. Meet at the Forest Preserve parking lot north of Willow Road, just east of the Edens Expressway in Winnetka. Walk Leader and contact: Dave Willard, firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-665-7731.
March 23 (Wednesday, 6:15 p.m.): [Trip Now Full] Wayside Woods Woodcock Walk, Morton Grove. Come to hear and see the amazing springtime aerial courting displays of the American Woodcock at dusk! Wayside Woods Forest Preserve in Morton Grove has had woodcocks displaying for the past several years. Meet at 6:15 p.m. at the forest preserve parking lot on the west side of Lehigh Avenue, just north of Dempster Street. We may be sitting or kneeling on the ground so wear old clothes. The group is limited to 12 participants so please call the Chicago Audubon office to reserve a space and leave your email address (773-539-6793). The walk leader will scout the site earlier in the week. If woodcocks are not present or in case of rain, the trip will be cancelled and participants will be notified via email.
March 26 (Saturday, 8:00 a.m.): Salt Creek Bird Walk,Western Springs. Look for spring migrants in this newly restored woodland. Meet at the Bemis Woods parking lot on the west side of Wolf Road, south of 31st Street and north of Ogden. Walk leader and contact: Doug Stotz, email@example.com.
March 26 (Saturday, 9:00 a.m.): Spring Creek Bird Walk, South Barrington. Meet at Penny Road Pond parking lot (on Penny Rd. about one mile west of Old Sutton Rd. We will visit the Hidden Lake, The Other Hidden Lake, Beverly Lake, The Really Hidden Lake, and Headwaters Marsh. Migratory waterfowl will be our target. May be muddy. Walk Leader and contact: Craig Stettner, firstname.lastname@example.org; 847-925-6214.
March 26 (Saturday, 2:00 p.m.): Bird Conservation Success Story, Paul Douglas Preserve, Hoffman Estates. Meet at the preserve parking lot on Central, west of Ela. Enjoy waterfowl, herons and early grassland birds. Learn about this successful wetland restoration from Dan White, of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, and Stan Stec, Bird Conservation Network bird monitor. Walk leader and contact: Judy Pollock, email@example.com.
March 26 (Saturday, 6:30 p.m.): Woodcock Watch at Wolf Road Prairie, Westchester. Meet at the kiosk at 31st Street, just west of Wolf Road. Parking is limited. Parking is also available at the pull-offs that are east and west of the kiosk. Please be careful! Walk leader and contact: John Elliott, firstname.lastname@example.org; 708-567-4363.
April 16 (Saturday, 7:00 a.m.): Skokie Lagoons Bird Walk, Winnetka. Meet at the Forest Preserve parking lot north of Willow Road, just east of the Edens Expressway. Walks will last about two hours. Check our website (chicagoaudubon.org) to confirm if changes have become necessary. Walk Leader and contact: Dave Willard, email@example.com; or 312-665-7731.
April 16 (Saturday, 7:30 a.m.): Miller Meadow Bird Walk, Forest Park. This site gets a good variety of birds in the grassland, river, and woods. Meet at Miller Meadow North, Roosevelt Road between Des Plaines and 1st Avenues, end of east parking arm. Walk leader and contact: John Elliott, firstname.lastname@example.org; 708-567-4363.
April 22 EARTH DAY (Friday, 7:00 a.m.): Spring Creek Bird Walk, South Barrington. Meet at Penny Road Pond parking lot on Penny Road, about one mile west of Old Sutton Road. We will look for migrants in the lakes and wet areas between Penny and Higgins Roads. May be muddy. Walk Leader and contact: Craig Stettner, email@example.com; 847-925-6214.
April 30 (Saturday, 8:00 a.m.): Salt Creek Bird Walk,Western Springs. Look for spring migrants in this newly restored woodland. Meet at the Bemis Woods parking lot on the west side of Wolf Road, south of 31st Street and north of Ogden in Western Springs. Walk leader and contact: Doug Stotz, firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 3 (Tuesday), 8:00 a.m.): Big Bend Bird Walk, Lake Forest Preserve, Des Plaines. Meet at the picnic shelter on the right/north, after you enter the preserve. Entrance is on East River Road, between Golf Road and Ballard Road in Des Plaines. We'll be searching for sparrows, late migrant waterfowl, early warblers and year round resident birds. Wear hiking boots (trails can be wet) and bring binoculars. The first half of the trip will be around the lake and Des Plaines River, and the second half we'll be walking in the woods and on the bicycle path. Walk leader and contact is Alan Anderson. Maximum is 15 participants. Please register with Alan at email@example.com.
May 5 (Thursday, 7:30 a.m.): Busse Woods South Bird Walk, Arlington Heights. We'll be searching for sparrows, late migrant waterfowl, and early warblers. Wear hiking boots (we'll be walking on paved and unpaved paths), bring binoculars. The walk will last about 2 hours. Meet in the parking lot of the Boathouse at the far end of the Busse Woods Boating Center entrance. The entrance is just west of the new bridge over Higgins Road, and just east of I-290/IL 53. Walk leader and contact: Alan Anderson. Maximum is 15 participants. Please register with Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 11 (Wednesday, 7:00 a.m.): Salt Creek Bird Walk,Western Springs. Look for spring migrants in this newly restored woodland. Meet at the Bemis Woods parking lot on the west side of Wolf Road, south of 31st Street and north of Ogden in Western Spring. Walk leader and contact: Doug Stotz, email@example.com.
May 13 (Friday, 6:30 a.m.): Spring Creek Bird Walk, South Barrington. Meet at Penny Road Pond parking lot, which is on Penny Road about one mile west of Old Sutton Road. We will be following the route of the Chicago Audubon Birdathon! 2014 championship almost exactly two years after that great triumph. May be muddy, wear long pants. Walk Leader and contact: Craig Stettner, firstname.lastname@example.org; 847-925-6214.
May 14 (ALL DAY SATURDAY STARTING AT 6:00 A.M.): Skokie Lagoons Bird Walk, Winnetka. Please join us for whatever part of the day is possible for you. This walk is part of Chicago Audubon’s Birdathon! 2016 annual two-day bird count. On this day, join us when you can, leave when you must. Meet at the Skokie Lagoons Forest Preserve parking lot north of Willow Road, just east of the Edens Expressway. Check our website (chicagoaudubon.org) to confirm if changes have become necessary. Walk leader and contact: Dave Willard, email@example.com; 312-665-7731.
May 17 (Tuesday), 7:00 a.m.): Skokie Lagoons Bird Walk, Winnetka. The walk will last about two hours, but because this walk is on a weekday, join us for as long as you can, then leave early if you need to get to work. Meet at the Forest Preserve parking lot north of Willow Road, just east of the Edens Expressway in Winnetka. Keep checking this website (chicagoaudubon.org) for confirmation in case we need to change either the starting time or the location. Walk leader and contact: Dave Willard, firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-665-7731.
May 22 (Sunday, 8:00 a.m.): Bird Conservation Network’s Beginning Birder Walk, Skokie Lagoons, Winnetka. Bring binoculars if you have them; some will be available to borrow. Walk will end at 9:30 a.m. Meet at the Erickson Woods parking lot off Willow Road, just east of the Edens Expressway at the south end of Skokie Lagoons. Although there is no maximum number for the walk, please RSVP to the Walk Leader, Mary Lou Mellon, at email@example.com. Binoculars are definitely needed. Please advise at time of registration if you need a loaner pair. Thank you.
(Click "Read more" for continuation of Bird Walk schedule)
Record Breaking Attendance at Chicago Audubon's
Birding America XI on March 19 at North Park University
Chicago Audubon wishes to thank the incredible selection of speakers from all over the country who shared their knowledge, enthusiasum, and love for the world of birds, birding, bird song, birds of the region, birds of the world, gardening for birds, and the restoration and preservation of the environment.
And we wish to thank everyone who attended the symposium and everyone who worked so hard to make it such a great success!
We could not have done it without all of you!!
THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!
We hope to see you all in two years for Birding America XII !!
In the meantime, Good Birding to all!!
We know you have many charitable causes to consider as we enter the holiday season and we hope you will include Chicago Audubon Society in your end-of-year gift giving plans. We are asking for your help so we may continue our mission to educate others about natural history and advocate sound environmental decisions. Without your donations, we simply could not accomplish all that we have done. If you would like to donate to our 2015 Annual Appeal, please click here.
On the conservation front, for many years we have been the home of the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (CBCM), a volunteer group that rescues several thousand birds a year from all over the Chicago region. CBCM also administers the “Lights Out Chicago” program, which we believe saves thousands of additional migratory birds. We have a representative on the Mayor’s Nature and Wildlife Committee participating in the discussions on issues and plans that can affect our natural areas. Members of our board regularly attend citizens’ meetings regarding local environmental issues, keeping us abreast of developments at important areas such as Montrose Point and plans for the Lucas Museum and Obama Library. We are an active member of the Bird Conservation Network, a consortium of twenty conservation groups where our voice has a more powerful impact through strength in numbers. With other local groups, we are part of a Cook County Forest Preserve grant to enhance habitat and introduce more people to nature. We also have received a grant to develop a beginner’s bird guide in Spanish.
In addition, we offer public programs ranging from introductions to exotic locations of the world like Namibia and Cuba to discussions of environmental issues such as how climate change is affecting birds of the Midwest. We host regular nature walks that give many people their first taste of birding. In 2015, we hosted our biannual awards dinner honoring twelve local environmentalists for their contributions. We are currently deep in the planning for the 11th Birding America symposium which will be held on March 19, 2016. We are one of the only natural history groups in the region that maintains a full-time office where people can call with questions ranging from “What is this strange bird in my backyard?” to “How do I stop woodpeckers from ruining my cedar siding?”
By donating to the 2015 Annual Appeal, you will be helping us maintain our educational and environmental missions. You may enter your donation online by clicking here. If you prefer, you may also contribute by calling our office with your card information (773-539-6793), or you may send a donation by regular mail to Chicago Audubon, 5801 North Pulaski Road, Chicago, Illinois 60646.
We Thank You for Your Support in the Past and in the Future!
And May Your New Year be Filled with Many Many Birds!!!
"This network of pools, channels and islands winds between Winnetka, Northfield and Glencoe. With public boat access (boasting some of Cook County’s best fishing), biking and hiking trails and picnic areas, this well loved, wooded preserve offers peaceful retreats and activities around every bend. The Skokie Lagoons Forest Preserve covers 894 acres." Cook County Forest Preserve District fpdcc.com.
THE SKOKIE LAGOONS -- By John Elliott, Chicago Audubon Society Conservation Committee
Long before there was a forest preserve, before a settlement called Chicago was founded on the prairie, before Jean Baptiste DuSable built a trading post on the Chicago River, when explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet made the first recorded passage by Europeans over the Chicago Portage, a grand old bur oak much like the one pictured here would have already been a maturing tree. Known to relatively few, the original still stands today surrounded by a tangle of buckthorn on the western edge of Erickson Woods preserve of the Skokie Lagoons.
When the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the Skokie Lagoons during the great depression of the 1930’s, the region gained a fishing, boating, hiking and biking recreation area—at the cost of losing a diverse marshland home to many wild creatures. From Willow Road to Lake-Cook Road in Winnetka the only remnants of those original communities is a sedge meadow and the neighboring grand old oak that lie between the levee and drainage channel of the lagoons. Over the years much of the land was overrun by buckthorn and other invasive species of marginal value to wildlife. After the lakes of the lagoon system were dredged and rehabilitated in the 1990’s, some hardy volunteers took on the challenge of remedying at least a small portion of past neglect. Chicago Audubon’s Jerry Garden was the first volunteer steward to work on removing invasive species at a lagoon site along Tower Road in Winnetka, beginning at the shore just east of the parking area along Tower Road. After Jerry left us for Alaska, Dave Kosnik and Daniel Kielson took over as stewards. A few years later, Gary Morrissey also joined the stewardship team. In the past few years, work has been concentrated north of Tower, working east towards Forestway Drive. Buckthorn has been removed from much of the target area. While buckthorn removal remains a regular workday activity—and a favorite of many volunteers—there is a renewed emphasis on follow-up work. Even though “it’s not as much fun,” Dave says, follow up maintenance is defense against recolonization and is now a very important task. In spring, control of garlic mustard is also needed.
Quite a few years ago I put in my small bit of effort working with Mighty Acorns school groups removing buckthorn around that historic oak. In the past few years, responsibility for restoration there has fallen to Adam Kessel of the Cook County Forest Preserves. Unfortunately, he reports, the last school working there left the program two years ago, and the re-sprouting of buckthorn threatens to overwhelm what had been accomplished. Meanwhile, volunteers worked with district contractors to remove teasel from the sedge meadow. Dave Kosnik reports success. If all goes well the meadow will only need prescribed fire for maintenance. Teasel removal was spearheaded by the site’s bird monitors who then documented the return of shrubland birds like Willow Flycatchers. Daniel Kielsen is also president of an organization called the Backyard Nature Center (BYNC) which works with schools, turning the lagoons into something of an outdoor classroom. Their main focus of late has been on aquatics. The BYNC is a community organization in New Trier Township spanning Glencoe and Winnetka that works to connect children, youth, and adults with local natural areas. It is particularly active in bringing school groups to the Lagoons (and other preserves) for science lessons and service learning.
Prothonotary Warblers and Red-headed Woodpeckers that have nested here testify to the importance of restoration for habitat. Migrant birds are finding critical resting stops here now. Lake restoration greatly improved resources for wintering waterfowl, including a Barrow’s Goldeneye that was a winter visitor several years ago. Dave says, “The Skokie Lagoons is a special place, a big area with a lot of diverse habitat in the middle of suburbia. Many people use the lagoons for recreation, and the many native and migrant birds and other animals that live there make it a really important place.” Thanks Dave, Daniel, and Gary! Thanks volunteers! The reward is knowing you have contributed in a perhaps small but no doubt valuable way to the revival of habitat for birds and other creatures.
Workdays every second Saturday of the month welcome any and all volunteers. Contact Dave Kosnik at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Feeder Placement for Reducing Window Strikes—Placement of feeders within three feet of a window or more than 30 feet away from a window are the safest positions. When feeders are close to a window, a bird leaving the feeder cannot gain enough momentum to do itself harm if it strikes the window. And if feeders are more than 30 feet from a window, the birds are less likely to perceive windows as a pathway to other parts of your yard.Some other possibilities for hanging a feeder include hanging from the eaves at the corner of a house, or fixing it directly to a window. Also, periodically moving feeders to a different location helps to minimize the build up of waste on the ground. And placement near (but not over) a water feature, such as a bird bath, will almost ensure that birds will find your feeder.
Providing Safe Haven Near the Feeder—Birds are more often than not completely out in the open when at a feeder, making them targets for local predators. A brush pile or shrub within about 10 feet of the feeder will provide a place for birds to quickly fly into when a predator is within striking distant.The term “brush pile” describes a mound or heap of woody vegetative material, usually loosely constructed to furnish additional wildlife cover. Brush piles can be tidy or wild, large or small, and mostly made up of wood which can be alive or dead. Discarded Christmas trees (without the tinsel) can be used as a base for a brush pile—then build up from there. Our resident and migrating birds need the kind of cover that brush piles offer.
Three Seeds that Attract Many Birds:
Black Oil Sunflower: A favorite with many species—Cardinals, Woodpeckers, Blue jays, Goldfinches, Purple Finches, Chickadees, Titmice, Nuthatches and others. Because of raccoons and squirrels, it’s best to put most of your sunflower seeds in hanging feeders. The black sunflower seed, sometimes called oil seed is best rather than the grey-and-white-striped sunflower seed. It’s called black oil because they are higher in oil content and they also have softer shells.
Nyjer: Goldfinches adore Nyjer seed. It is also very popular with Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls and other small-billed seed-eating birds—Nuthatches, Chickadees, Doves, and Downy Woodpeckers—but no one loves it more than Goldfinches! And Nyjer doesn’t look large enough to have a shell, but it does! And because it’s so small, it’s easy to mistake ground debris under a Nyjer feeder for seed that has fallen, but take a closer look at what looks like fallen seed—it’s most likely tiny Nyjer seed shells on the ground. The birds eat the seeds and the shells drop. And, happily for the birds, squirrels typically ignore Nyjer seed (which is good for you as well because it is expensive). Do not mix the Nyjer with other seeds because you will have squirrels and Grackles sweeping through the mixture to get at what they want.
Safflower: Squirrels do not like Safflower, and Grackles may try it once but then generally leave it alone after the first encounter. Its thick shell is difficult for some birds to crack open, but it is loved by many species and high in protein. Put Safflower in tube feeders for House Finches, Chickadees, and Nuthatches. Use elevated feeders for Blue Jays, Cardinals, and other Grosbeaks, and put it in ground feeders for Doves. And, as with the Nyjer, be careful not to mix Safflower in with other seed.
Thank You for Feeding the Birds All Year Long!!
Book Review by Gail Goldberger
A CENTURY OF CHANGE
ILLINOIS BIRDS: A CENTURY OF CHANGE
is published by the Illinois Natural History
Survey Special Publication 31, 2010, and
can be found at
Commissioned by the Illinois Natural History Survey, data compiled from bird counts at three fifty-year intervals, and repeated at the same locations, make up the oldest standardized survey in the nation.
Ian Cheney’s 2011 award winning documentary – The City Dark – gives audiences an appreciation of what is being lost as we live in a world that is increasingly filled with light pollution. Besides no longer being able to enjoy stars in a night sky or inquire about the cosmos by peering deep into space – there are real dangers to human health and the well-being of the planet when we live in a 24-hour light cycle.
Migratory birds fatally attracted to urban lighting, baby turtles disoriented and confused by beach front lights are all victims of the rapid introduction of excessive outdoor lighting that has occurred in just the last generation. Changing light in the environment is altering habitat in a way that is not good for nature and humans.
National Audubon, among other organizations, co-sponsors Delta Dispatches, an online newsletter that keeps us abreast of current environmental updates regarding Coastal Louisiana. This website is a great resource for the latest information on the region: www.mississippiriverdelta.org/