Yesterday, my brother and I met up with our friends and fellow birders from San Francisco. Jonah, Max and their dad, joined us to venture to a place very close to my house, called Salt Creek Forest Preserve. We started on the east side of the woods and birded our way in. Since Jonah and Max were from San Francisco, they had a few birds they had never seen before, and their target birds were Rusty Blackbirds and Red-headed Woodpeckers. We started walking on a small trail towards a small swamp. I asked Jonah if we could step off the trail because I had a feeling there were some blackbirds on the other side of the marsh, and there were! On the other side of the swamp we at first just saw Red-winged Blackbirds, but then another blackbird flew into a nearby pool. It caught our eyes because it was completely black with no red on the wing, and it had a yellow eye. It was a Rusty Blackbird, a life bird for Jonah and Max!
After some celebrating. We headed back to the trail and kept on walking. The birdlife was crazy, (but not very diverse) with hundreds of robins, flickers, both kinglets, and lots of Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Once we got to the open meadow/grassland, we headed along the edge of the forest to look for Red-headed Woodpeckers, because that was now their main target. After some intense walking we came to the bike trail, and kept walking on it. Immediately after we hopped on the trail we came upon a small pond, where 10 Wood Ducks were feeding. Almost instantly they flew off into some trees about 100 yards away. At that point, we decided to step off the path because it didn't look very bright ahead for Red-headed Woodpeckers. We took a small path back into the forest and kept on it, until it hit a fork. It was around 5:00 by that time, and we still needed to eat before we went to see the woodcocks. Then my brother Brett heard something. We started walking really fast toward that direction and there they were! Three Red-headed Woodpeckers! Another lifer for Jonah and Max!
After celabrating on lifer number two for the day, we started back to the car, but before we could get there, a falcon/accipiter flew over. Jonah immedietly identified it as a Sharp-shinned Hawk.
After stopping to get more pics of Rusty blackbirds, we continued to the car and headed to a brewery for dinner. After dinner we headed to Mayslake Forest Preserve to look for Great-horned Owls and American Woodcocks. Upon arrival we saw many Song Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, Geese, American Goldfinches, and Tree Swallows. We waited a few minutes and Jonah wandered off in search of the owl. I was going to stay behind with my brother and Max to wait for the Woodcocks. After about ten minutes of goofing around, Jonah came back with a pretty nice photo of the Great-horned Owl. Then we heard the first peeeent and saw the woodcock fly in over our heads. we slowly crept in that direction until we where within twenty feet of where it landed. Then I saw the woodcock all hunkered down to the ground feeding on worms. We got the flashlight on it and we all saw the little patch of brown. Jonah was the only one who got a photo of it.
After getting everyone on it, the woodcock flew to its nightly display patch and drifted off into the grass. We heard it a few more times and then no more. After some more searching we finally had to go back to the train station and drop them off for their ride back to Chicago. I had a great time birding with them and I hope to see them again soon!