It was a day off from school, so the boys and I left the neighborhood and spent the morning chasing shorebirds in Kane County, Illinois. (That’s the second county west of Chicago).
We found our main target bird within seconds of arriving in Montgomery, Illinois. The Black-necked Stilt — a year bird — was in a flooded field southeast of the intersection of Orchard and Aucutt Roads, along with two Greater Yellowlegs. We pulled off the side of the road onto a wide gravel shoulder and watched the birds out the car window:
The Stilt and Greater Yellowlegs were about the same size:
This photo shows the Stilt’s pink legs and tongue:
We identified the other shorebirds as Greater Yellowlegs because of their size, bill length, and the dark bars extending behind the legs on the flanks:
We had to make sure these birds weren’t Lesser Yellowlegs. Lesser Yellowlegs would have been a few inches shorter than the Stilt. They also would have had shorter bills and dark bars only on the front parts of their flanks.
We first saw the Stilt at about 9:30 a.m. It was still there, but on the northeast corner, when we returned just after 11 a.m. At least six other cars stopped to watch the Stilt while we were there, and most of them had cameras. This may be one of the most photographed birds of the year in the Chicago area!
Between visits to the Stilt we drove to Sauer Family Priaire Kame Preserve, also in Kane County. We walked about a mile across fallow fields to reach the lakes:
There were big flocks of blackbirds in the fields, like the ones we often see while driving along country roads this time of year. It’s much more exciting when they are flying all around you (as long as they don’t poop on your head):
We heard Western Meadowlarks singing in the fields (another year bird for us). However, we were a bit disappointed once we reached the lakes. The only shorebirds we saw were Killdeer and three Lesser Yellowlegs. We were hoping for more shorebirds, but it’s either too early in the spring or the water here was too deep for shorebirds to feed easily.
One consolation for me: On the drive out from Oak Park, we saw Great Egrets on the shores of a lake where I-88 west exits to Orchard Road. That was a year bird for me.
So, the morning ended with two year birds for the boys, and three for me. Aaron’s 2009 total was at 152, and mine had reached 143. Go here to see my updated 2009 year list.