Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tree Swallows - Illinois Trip - Day Four

Friday, June 17th

Blue Flag
Today's birding involved visits to Volo Bog State Nature Area and Chain-o-Lakes State Park, both in Lake County to do my birding.  Was interested in yellow-headed blackbirds, mute swans and black terns. The geography of this area of northern Illinois was greatly influenced by the effects of glaciation during the retreat of the great ice age.  My birding these last two days were in parks featuring these effects including moraines and kettles. The moraines would be either tall grass or oak forested preserves.  Whereas the kettles would become the many lakes, marshes, wetlands and bogs common throughout northern Illinois and up into Wisconsin.
Volo Bog
Arrived too early at Volo Bog Nature Center and had to burn a little time before the gate was opened at eight am.  Spent the time birding the roadside and the marsh across the way.  I was aware that willow flycatchers have been seen and heard in the marsh.  But I missed on them.  Did get lots of Tree Swallows, a Mallard, a Mute Swan family, Double Crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret. American Robins continued to be about the most commonly seen bird of the day.

Floating walkway through bog
Once the the bog was opened I took the 2.75 mile Tamarack View Trail, which circles the bog wetlands. The trail passed through forested and grassland covered moraines and down close to to the edges of the ancient bog. The bog was the creation of glaciation were the melting ice left a deep, steep sloped kettle.  First it was a deep lake which through time and sedimentation evolved into the bog we see today. I concentrated on my birding, but the botany here is just as interesting.  Such as bog plants like pitcher plants and rare orchids. The tamarack trees are a species that loves the acid bog environment, but is rare in most of Illinois.  I missed seeing any, but the bog is also home to mink, muskrat and beaver.

Tree Swallows
As for my birding I was able find a wide range of bird life including the mute swans, Canada Geese, a single Blue-wing Teal and more Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and a couple of Green Herons. Other species enjoying life in the bog included a great many Red-winged Blackbirds a family of Sandhill Cranes and another family of Marsh Wrens. In the forests and fields we had  Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbirds, Blue Jay and a lone American Crow. The Tree Swallows were active in the nest boxes provided for them.  As could add Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Eastern Bluebirds, more Robins, Gray Catbirds, a Brown Thrasher, several Cedar Waxwings and Yellow Warblers. Lastly I can add Common Yellowthroats, Savannah Sparrow, several Song Sparrows, several Northern Cardinals and American Goldfinches a lone singing Indigo Bunting and  Brown-headed Cowbirds. One of my favored sighting was an American Kestrel seen in flight.

Chain-o-Lakes State Park
I had never been to this park but found there was a lot of space to explore. Found Red-tailed Hawks and more Tree Swallows soaring over the grasslands. The ponds and marshes held a family of Wood Ducks, more Canada Geese, Double Crested Cormorants, Great Blue Herons and a Great Egret. Other birds included Red-eyed Vireo, Northern Flicker, more Robins and Catbirds.  Plus the usual Northern Cardinals, Indigo Bunting, American Goldfinches and an Orchard Oriole.

My sister and brother-in-laws business in Antioch
Later we joined my Mom for dinner up in Antioch. Here I was able to add a trio of Chimney Swifts soaring over her yard and a Black-capped Chickadee could be heard in a nearby tree, but the most interesting sighting was hearing then seeing a trio of Bobolinks fly overhead.  They certainly seemed out of place.

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