IOS spring weekend: Great camaraderie and scenery, and of course, great birds


IOS spring birding weekend birders gawk at singing Cerluean Warblers.

The IOS Spring Birding Weekend (May 15 – 17) was a terrific weekend of birding on the Mississippi River in northwest Illinois. The event was planned and organized by Urs Geiser using the Chestnut Mountain Resort for accommodations.

For the field trips we split into groups and birded  Lost Mound Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi Palisades State Park, Spring Lake, Ayers Sand Prairie, Thompson Causeway and Lock & Dam 13. We birded the grounds of the Chestnut Mountain Resort and watched nighthawks from the back deck. We birded along roadsides and even checked for warblers in a pine stand at a trailer dump station. (It wouldn’t be a real birding trip without a dump or sewage pond would it?) Bugs? Not too many. Rain? A few showers. But mostly it was dry and birdy.

 A preliminary tally puts us at 150 species of birds for the weekend including some real treats like Brewster’s Warbler, Cerulean Warblers, Kentucky Warbler, Yellow-throated Warblers, Blue Grosbeaks, Eastern Whip-poor-wills, a singing Winter Wren,  and at least three endangered species including Loggerhead Shrike, Yellow-headed Blackbird and Common Gallinule. We were serenaded on and off all day to migrant and nesting warblers as well as Baltimore and Orchard Orioles and other species. We relished every look at the magnificent American White Pelicans gliding overhead and Bald Eagles soaring or perched in trees. 

 We particularly want to thank Urs Geiser for all the work of planning and organizing the weekend, The stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge for escorting and leading our groups into the restricted portion of the Lost Mound Refuge, and Dan Williams, Matt Fraker, Bob Fisher and Urs Geiser for leading field trips.

 Special thanks go to all the IOS members who attended and lent their sharp eyes and ears to the group effort as well as sharing their good humor and boundless curiosity and interest in all things natural history.   


Third day of May — the orioles are back, the spicebushes are fragrant



Today I took my sister to Chicago to the Magic Hedge where many migrant birds had landed just west of Lake Michigan. We saw and heard Baltimore Orioles — in full black and orange regalia — along with a most unusual Least Bittern sitting in a tree in the middle of the shrubbery. This bird belongs in the cattails, but it likely just landed after migrating. That’s the nature of the Magic Hedge.

The orioles are indeed back and came through last night — as my sister and I saw and heard several more at the Skokie Lagoons and then in her back yard — where she promptly went and added grape jelly to her feeder, which the orioles love.

I came home, bemoaning the fact the orioles hadn’t returned to my neck of the woods yet — and lo and behold I heard one singing. Welcome to your summer home, orioles. I don’t know where my darned grape jelly feeder is — my husband better find it when he comes home tonight.

Fragrances abound this time of year, including the sweet smell of Korean spicebush. Wish I could add a link to this photo that would help you enjoy the fragrance.

Tomorrow it is supposed to rain and I have a long day to work — but I will get outside and enjoy something of nature on the fourth day of May.

Photo top: Korean spicebush

Photo below: My sister filling her feeder with grape jelly to attract Baltimore Orioles. Catbirds and tanagers are also attracted to grape jelly.

May 2 — Grunting rails and sea of woodland white


Happy second day of May — I chose to walk through Wright Woods today in Vernon Hills — Of course I was hoping for an influx of migrant birds — but it was fairly quiet — save for a few cool experiences I’ll reveal later on. But the most breathtaking moment, one I just cannot capture in film was the sea of white — the great white trillium carpeting the forest floor. If you have not been to Wright Woods in early May to see the trillium — get yourself there now. They don’t last long. They are in full bloom now and soon they will start to turn pink and wither.

Singing in the woodlands today were yellow-rumped and palm warblers, a northern waterthrush and two dueling yellow warblers —  I heard them singing from a shrub row off the path and hiked in to watch two males flying to and fro and shouting out their songs.   Yellow warblers sing sweet, sweet, sweet, sweeter than sweet, but they also sing a song similar to that of a chestnut-sided warbler — they were doing both today — so of course I had to get off the path to confirm 😉 My reward for getting off the path — two big deer ticks. I know ticks are nature, too, but still — I think it’s going to be a bad tick year.

Another little off the beaten path revealed a pair of wood ducks and a beaver — who realized I was there and swam out of sight, flapping his flat tail behind him.

So now for the grunting rails — while walking along some wetland/cattail areas at Half Day Woods, connected to Wright Woods, I heard a loud grunting noise — followed by another nearby.  I peered in between the cattails to see one rail  dashing after another. They continued their gruntings for a bit — I tired to join in, but they knew I was an imposter.

Here’s a link to the crazy sounds of Virginia rails.

This was really a cool and lucky find — they just decided to get “mad” at each other while I was walking by.

You just never know what you’ll find when you’re out in the wild — and to add joy to the day I met some lovely bird monitors and had a lovey chat with Jackie Dann about life, nature and birds.

Happy May 2.

First day of May


So good morning every-day-in-Mayers. I went outside and took some photos of what I’m calling: Promise. I really love the first days of May, which go by so quickly — I love that not all the buds are open, that some trees, like oaks still seem in winter mode, until you get up and look at the swelling buds. While walking my front and back yard to the sound of a cardinal and chickadee singing — I noticed some grape hyacinths in a place I’ve never seen them before, far away from where I planted them — I also looked at my serviceberry getting ready to shine white in full bloom — it comes and goes so fast. The prairie trillium have buds ready to pop, and the celandine poppy has a soft bit of yellow atop its bloom — ready to greet the spring. It’s still chilly out there, but the sun is shining in defiance of a long winter past. Also, the lovely yellow you see bursting from maple trees is not the leaves, but the flowers. They bloom first, then leaf out — and finally I looked at an old bird house, cracked, but still standing — and it was used last year — will a house wren come to claim it this year? There is promise…..

Photo above left: Celandine Poppy — by Sheryl DeVore

PhIMG_9197oto above right: Blooms of a maple tree — by Sheryl DeVore

Photo right: Bleeding heart — by Sheryl DeVore