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.