we’re in iowa ten minutes, and pole’s already ahead

Today was my birthday, so we decided to go to Galena, Illinois and be tourists. It’s a historic town — home to U.S. Grant — but now it’s just full of crummy gift shops and middle-aged Viagra types riding Harleys. We didn’t do any birding, though, but we did make a quick dash across the Mississippi to say we’d been in Iowa. (Who wouldn’t?) We drove through the small, grim island town of Sebula and managed to see lots of Great Egrets roosting in the trees and wading in the water. And while I was keeping my eyes on the road, Pole got a quick glimpse of a Belted Kingfisher. So after ten minutes, she has an Iowa bird list twice as big as mine.

go home, your excellency, or at least get lucky

IBET, the Illinois birding email list, alerted us to the presence of an ORANGE BISHOP at Montrose Beach. It was there all right. All the way from Africa maybe? No, all the way from some moron who released it from its cage. Since it’s almost certainly an escape, we can’t claim it as a lifer, bitchin’ as it was. Apparently, the same poor fella showed up the last year or two, but he’s just a cipher in the birding community until he hooks up with some of his kind and starts a breeding flock. But what do we care if he counts? We’ve got the His Eminence the Northern Cardinal who is just as bitchin’ and outranks our foreign ecclesiastic to boot.

two lifers and least, but not least, a weasel

Today we took a trip up to Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin — our first of the year, I’m surprised to say. The Wisconsin email list reported two rarities, and we saw them both: a BLACK-NECKED STILT and an AMERICAN AVOCET. We hadn’t seen these birds since our trip to Texas last year, and it was a strange sight. Lucky for us, the birds also attracted two very good birders: Tom and Carol Sykes. Tom is the administrator of the WISB list that brought us up here. It was a hot day, and the Sykeses were able to get us two lifers: a WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER and a BAIRD’S SANDPIPER. They helped us navigate our binoculars through the dried-up mud using fish carcases as bearings. Best sighting of the day, though, might have been a LEAST WEASEL that dashed across the road in front of our car. Good day: two rarities, two lifers, and a weasel. But then a weasel day is always a good day.

bbq bird

Pole and I spent today — the Fourth of July — at a barbeque in the Chicago suburbs at the house of one of my sisters. Her backyard abuts a wetland wildlife refuge, so hopeful, I brought my optics. Though we did see some Green Herons with the scope, the big catch for me was a HOUSE WREN. It was nervously hopping about in a locust tree that overhung the deck. An easy lifer for a lazy day.


We made a quick trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden today, and since it was Sunday, the place was packed. We decided to walk away from the main area, and loop around the lagoon through the parking lot. Good thing, too, because as we walked along the path, a large raptor flew in front of us. It looked like it was carrying something and it was being mobbed by some Red-winged Blackbirds. We followed it to the tree where it landed, and Pole spotted it. It was a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk eating a even younger juvenile blackbird. No wonder the parents were upset. It was gruesome sight, but impossible not to watch. The first chunk the hawk ripped off was the head, and it was having a hell of a time eating it. (Skulls are so inconvenient.) The whole thing was amazing to see. I guess species whose names begin with “Red-” don’t always stick together.