It’s baby bird time!

A two- mile walk around the Fort  Sheridan Forest Preserve on July 25 turned out to be a revelry in young birds.

Eastern Kingbird Trio

First, my husband and I (and it was our wedding anniversary), watched a male and female Bobolink tending to their young. We didn’t actually see the young, but saw what confirmed their were newborn Bobolinks around. The male stayed close to the female as she flew in and out of the grasses and then landed on a perch, her mouth clutching a dangling chartreuse katydid. She didn’t eat the katydid.  She flitted around, listened to her mate’s encouraging chips, then darted in the grasslands, emerging a few moments later sans the bug. That was a confirmation they had young about — either still in their nest or meandering around the grasslands still begging for food.

After enjoying that scene, we continued our hike and heard an Eastern Wood-Pewee singing — an adult male! Steve then got his binoculars on a pewee in an oak tree. This pewee had a shorter-than-normal tail with an indentation in the middle. The last feathers to grow in a young bird are its tail feathers — this was a young, still not fully grown. Soon, its parent, with a longer, squared-off tail flew to its side. Another confirmation of young.

We continued our walk and then heard the chip note of an Eastern Kingbird. I looked to a leafless tree with my binoculars and saw a kingbird, with a shaved tail and knew it was young. You’ll see a photo above of three young Eastern Kingbirds all with the white line at the end of their tail, which adults have, but with shorter tails. We eventually saw four kingbirds on the tree – two adults and two young — An adult would fly out into the air to catch an insect, and we assumed it was trying to teach its young how to catch flies! It’s time for the young to be on their own, and yet some birds are still on their nests — for example, the young American Robins in our front yard Norway spruce. This was the second nesting for this adult robin and she’s still feeding th em at the nest.

Enjoy this special time of year and look for the young with their funny tails and down stil atop their heads.

The best two-mile walk

Describe your best two-mile walk. Here’s mine.



Started at the McHenry Dam portion of Moraine Hills State Park about 10:30 a.m., it was warm, sunny and nearly windless — you’d expect the birds to be quiet by this time — but they weren’t. In fact, the first bird I heard when I pulled into the parking lot with my windows rolled down was a Yellow-throated Warbler. What a gorgeous bird — it was flitting among the sycamores and pines, a perfect place for it to nest, and indeed, this avian species, rare in northeastern Illinois, has nested here. The prescient appearance of this lovely bird signaled a lovely two mile walk around Black Tern Marsh and through upland woods featuring stately bur oak trees.

Now, I’m a birder — and have seen more than 300 species in Illinois — some of them very common, others rare. Birders are usually looking for the rarities. But I was just soaking up every single bird and bird song I heard — Common  Yellowthroats sang Wichity Wichity from the shrubs, while a Yellow Warbler pretended it was a Chestnut-sided Warbler with its song from higher up (those yellow warblers like to fool you!) I saw a great blue heron out ont he marsh, but when I rounded the bend, there was an opening and a different view of hte marsh. Great Egrets — lots of them — OK, well maybe 10 or 11 — but I just love their white beauty, which belies their croaking noises, which they were making when I was there.

Heaven to me! And a Great Crested Flycatcher sang “Wheep” from the nearby oak woods.

I also met a 68-year-old man named Tom who teased me about being one of those crazy birders. He actually knew what a Yellow-headed Blackbird was and that this species was no longer breeding at Black Tern Marsh. Luckily there are still at Glacial Park, also in McHenry County.

Continuing on, I heard the “Three-eight” song of the Yellow-throated Vireo. Love that bird! What’s lovely about this place is you can walk for a while and not hear or see traffic! imagine that in suburbia!   As I rounded another bend, I heard the unmistakable song of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. I had to see that bird. So I stood, mosquitoes enveloping me (you must have a few mosquitoes to make your walk worthwhile 😉 continued to find different angles, until there it was, the bird with the long tail and decurved bill, shy, but still singing.


As I rounded yet another bend, I heard Orchard Oriole, Indigo Bunting and many other more common birds — and  yes, the Northern Cardinal sang for me. Such a common bird, such a beautiful bird. When I was nearly done with my walk, the cardinal flew right in front of me. I wish that hardcore birders would remember to look at these common species and see how beautiful they still are, no matter how many times you see them. I enjoyed meeting a couple who asked me to tell them the difference between egrets, cranes and great blue herons.

To end the walk, I did a bit of a sprint to get some exercise, running up hill a bit, and then feeling ready for a drink of water, which was right there as I exited —  a drinking fountain. Well water. I reveled in the taste of the well water  — though some don’t like it, it was a fitting end to one of my best two-mile walks.

Tell me about yours.







Press coverage of the Hobby Lobby ruling

Facebook chatter has been fast and furious after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby being able to limit which types of contraceptives can be covered under its employees’ health care plan.

I’m thinking the above statement is pretty accurate and straightforward. But folks, more so the conservatives than the liberals, are complaining that the media have hyped this story and turning it into a much bigger issue than it is, as well as leaving out the important information such as which contraceptives will still be allowed to be covered in the health care plan.

Do you think the media are getting the story correct and giving it the right amount of coverage? In my opinion, as with all media coverage, yes and no.

For example, some of the headlines make it sound as if no contraceptives will be covered under the employee health care plan, which isn’t true. But then, some stories are missing out on an obvious angle — if Hobby Lobby is using its decision based on its religious beliefs, then why does it allow its 401K plan to include stocks purchased by its employees, of companies that make the products Hobby Lobby doesn’t want to pay for?

Have any of you read any thing really outlandish regarding this issue, or something that is accurate and well thought out regarding the issue — stories or commentaries — or otherwise.

Please comment with a link — this is another interesting issue in which the media get blamed for distorting the truth.