Monday, October 4, 2010

Birding Chicago: lakeside parks and the magic hedge

The weekend of September 23 - 25 I traveled to Chicago for a hematology conference.  When making my plans I easily recalled my last visit to Chicago in October, 2009 and the great two hours of birding I enjoyed in one of Chicago's numerous lakeside parks.  

This time I planned to make an effort to visit the famous "magic hedge" in Lincoln Park.  I found out where it was located and, as it happens, it was an easy trip on the red line of the "L" - stop at Wilson Avenue. From the Wilson Avenue "L" station the Lincoln Park area of the magic hedge was a many block walk though a so-so neighborhood - took me approximately 15-20 minutes.  It was a hot and very windy afternoon so less than ideal birding conditions, but this was my one chance during this visit to at least see the area.  Once I arrived in the park, I had to find the hedge.  I had a rudimentary map and I just continued walking in the direction suggested by the map.

I began seeing birds well before arriving at the hedge.  The first was a Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulalus) that I was not able to photograph.  Other photos are below.     

Palm Warbler (Dendroica palmarum)

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)

Cape May Warbler (Dendroica tigrina

Finally, I arrived at the magic hedge.  As far as birds go it was very quiet.  I saw a flycatching Eastern Wood Pewee, a Swainson's Thrush and the Ruby-crowned Kinglet below.  In other shubbery around the hedge, there were more Palm Warblers and a few other birds that escaped identification.

I could easily see how the magic hedge would be a great birding location during peak and good migration conditions - either spring or fall.  I didn't have much luck this time but I now know where it is and how to get there for future visits.

Another Ruby-crowned Kinglet in the "magic hedge"

The magic hedge is very near the beach and great dune-like, scrubby habitat.  It was not birdy for me - again, a few Palm Warblers - but also easy to see how great birds could be discovered here.

Wilson Avenue "L" stop platform

With my remaining free time, I had to look much closer to my hotel for other places to bird.  The hotel was just a couple of blocks walk from Millennium Park, Grant Park and a lakeside park - don't know which - with a marina.  Much of the green area is very manicured, but Chicago seems to be trying to improve this and I found large areas of habitat such as above in Millennium Park.  It was full of sparrows, mostly White-throated but also a couple of Lincoln's, and goldfinches, chickadees and a Palm Warbler.

In a wooded area, I also found a couple of Yellow-breasted Sapsuckers. It was very dark and overcast and a light rain fell on this morning of birding.

At the end of the day on Friday, the sun came out and I returned to the park for a couple more hours of birding.  Several warbler species, more sparrows, sapsuckers and thrushes were seen in the tall trees of habitat shown in the photo above - manicured, but many trees.

On the walk back to the hotel, in the shaded courtyards of the Chicago Art Museum there were both Swainson's and Gray-cheeked thrush, Wilson's Warbler and resident cardinals still with begging young.

Chicago:  nice place to bird.

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