The boys and I spent the entire day conducting our part of the Chicago Urban Christmas Bird Count. Nationally, Christmas counts are organized by the National Audubon Society. The Chicago Urban count circle is sponsored by Evanston North Shore Bird Club and Chicago Audubon Society, with Jeff Sanders as the compiler.
Our part of the count covers the following areas in Chicago and Oak Park: Birding on foot in Columbus Park, Douglas Park, and south Oak Park residential areas; feeder watching at our home on South Elmwood in Oak Park; and driving through industrial and residential areas in between these sites.
This year, birding from sunrise to sunset, we found a total of 26 species. The highlights of our day included:
- Four species of hawks, including a MERLIN at Columbus Park (photo below), 2 AMERICAN KESTRELS, 2 COOPER’S HAWKS, and 2 RED-TAILED HAWKS.
- A WINTER WREN beside the Columbus Park lagoon (where we saw this species often through the fall — photo below).
- An AMERICAN PIPIT at Columbus Park, in the same field where we saw a Pipt on December 11 (photo below).
- A SWAMP SPARROW at Columbus Park (photo of its rump, below), plus 20 AMERICAN TREE SPARROWS (15 at Douglas, 5 at Columbus).
We were also pleased that WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCHES put in 2 appearances, since we’ve been seeing them much more frequently this year. We also were happy to see a BLUE JAY, because they were common this summer, then mostly disappeared within the last few weeks. We were disappointed that overall sparrow numbers were down at Douglas Park, where the golf-course sanctuary often holds 50 or 60 sparrows this late in the year. And we were very sad that we did NOT see the Great Horned Owl that had been roosting near Austin in late November and early December. (We still hope it returns in time to be registered as a count-week species!)
Here’s our entire list for today, with count numbers:
Canada Goose 280
Cooper’s Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 2
American Kestrel 2
Herring Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 5
Rock Pigeon 115
Mourning Dove 45
Downy Woodpecker 4
Hairy Woodpecker 3
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 9
Black-capped Chickadee 9
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Winter Wren 1
American Robin 55
European Starling 350
American Pipit 1
American Tree Sparrow 20
Swamp Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 25
Northern Cardinal 21
House Finch 14
American Goldfinch 30
House Sparrow 180
We also have two count-week species so far for our areas:
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker (seen in Douglas Park 12/17/09)
2 African Collared-Dove and/or African X Eurasian Collared-Dove (seen in south Oak Park 12/18/09). We are soliciting input on these photos, taken on Dec. 18th — what do you think they are?
Here are some of Aaron’s photos from today:
The Merlin roosted in several trees around the lagoon, but it was tough to get a good photo because of the distance and overcast skies. Note the back color, streaking on the side of the breast, and minimal patterning on the head (all of which we could see much better through our binoculars). Photo by Aaron Gyllenhaal.
This shot, from even further away, gives another view of the Merlin's head. Photo by Aaron Gyllenhaal.
Although it was hard to get a clear shot at the Winter Wren, a few times it hopped into the open, possibly to get a better look at us! Photo by Aaron Gyllenhaal.
There was a large, if late, migration of American Pipits to inland parts of Chicago earlier in December. We were happy that one stuck around Columbus Park for the Christmas Count! Photo by Aaron Gyllenhaal.
Here's a front-on view of the American Pipit. It was hanging out at the north end of the large ball field that fills the southeast corner of Columbus Park, sometimes visiting a seepage area that has some unfrozen water. Photo by Aaron Gyllenhaal.
Although we got good binocular views of the Swamp Sparrow's gray-patterned head, Aaron only got photos of its butt! Photo by Aaron Gyllenhaal.
We’ll post links to Ethan’s photos once he gets them online.