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In my Element

07/29/2013

My wife has been looking for a Honda Element off and on for as long as I’ve known her.  As luck would have it, friends of our’s were selling their’s for a very good price.  But it was in Detroit.  But after crunching the numbers it was still a good deal for me to fly up there and drive it back, which is what I did on Friday.  I got in late afternoon and got to meet my friends’ daughters.  The older one is exactly a day older than my oldest and their younger one is a bit over a week older than my son.  So it was neat to compare the kids, and wow were they similar.  Especially the older girls, they are going to cause so much trouble when they finally meet some day.   We then walked to a great local bar where I drank my way around Michigan and had an okay veggie burger on a great pretzel bun.  The following day I woke up and headed home.  The first time driving the new Element was on my way out of town.
I had asked for some advice on where to stop to bird on the way home and found out that you can bird at Fermilab outside of Chicago!  I was going to stop in Chicago for lunch anyway, so I thought that I could pull it off.  After a late start and so much traffic in Chicago, I decided to skip lunch and just go to Fermilab, and it was late in the day.  I made it there and saw some birds in just a few minutes.

Here is the A.E. Sea, one of a few ponds on the grounds.

A.E. Sea, Fermilab, Chicago IL

A.E. Sea, Fermilab, Chicago IL

The first birds that I noticed were a hundred swallows flying over the water.  Then a few Mallards and some shorebirds near the shore.

Solitary Sandpiper, Killdeer and Herring Gull, Fermilab, Chicago IL

Solitary Sandpiper, Killdeer and Herring Gull, Fermilab, Chicago IL

Another pond had some Great Egrets, Canada Geese and this Great Blue Heron.

Great-Blue Heron and other birds, Fermilab, Chicago IL

Great-Blue Heron and other birds, Fermilab, Chicago IL

Did I mention that it was really cold and windy?  I was smart enough to bring my raincoat along, which served as a windbreaker for me.  I found a well grown-in field and followed a trail hoping to get to the back edge of the water.  I never found the water, but I did find a small bird that was making a very odd call towards me, a series of buzzes and clicks.  It was a Sedge Wren, a bird that I never even knew existed.

Sedge Wren, Fermilab, Chicago IL

Sedge Wren, Fermilab, Chicago IL

And some American Goldfinches were hanging out on nearby wires.

American Goldfinch, Fermilab, Chicago IL

American Goldfinch, Fermilab, Chicago IL

But I didn’t see any Bobolink, Vesper Sparrows or Dickcissels, but I did hear an Eastern Meadowlark.  I left the meadow and headed back towards the exit, and the wetlands, when I saw a sign for the bird viewing area.  So I ignored my schedule and stopped to check it out.  I found a path that meandered between 2 of the bigger ponds where I saw a Caspian Tern flying overhead.

Caspian Tern, Fermilab Chicago IL

Caspian Tern, Fermilab Chicago IL

The Tern landed and joined 10 or so other Terns on the ground.  There were also more shorebirds nearby.  This photo will show you the diversity of the birds in such a small area.

Variety of birds at Fermilab Chicago IL.

Variety of birds at Fermilab Chicago IL.

I think that I see a Solitary Sandpiper, some Killdeer, a Lesser Yellowlegs, various Swallows and a Red-Winged Blackbird.  There was a tree with 30-40 swallows sitting in it too, but the lighting was horrible for photos by this point.  Since I had only driven a few hundred miles out of my almost 2000 mile journey and the Sun was setting, I decided to finally get out of town.  I managed to make it a fair amount into Missouri before finding a place to catch a few hours of sleep.

I was up with the sunrise Sunday morning and excited to get close to Oklahoma.  I was so excited to maybe see a Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher and I had found a few places to try my luck along I-40.  After getting breakfast at a Pantera Bread, where the kid behind the counter had never heard of a red-eye before, I was off.   One thing that I noticed along the way was the number of dead Armadillos on the shoulders of the road.  Do assholes hit them on purpose?  That is the only explanation that I could think of.  What a shame, they look like a neat animal to have around.
Finding the Scissor-Tails ended up being really easy.  I was passing by a field and I noticed some really light colored birds sitting on a fence among some European Starlings.  I had no idea what they could have been, so I did a U-turn at the next exit and went back to see.  I stopped on the shoulder near them and got one in my binoculars and I saw a really light-colored Kingbird.  I had no idea what it was since the tail was normal sized.  But I looked it up with my Sibley App and behold, it was a juvenile Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher!

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Juvenile, Roadside Oklahoma

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Juvenile, Roadside Oklahoma

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Roadside Oklahoma

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Roadside Oklahoma

I ended up seeing 5 in the one spot.  There appeared to be a family group of 2 adults and 2 juveniles, with another male making a fly-over.  I also saw some Eastern Meadowlarks, but they were very camera shy.  If I had to give a number, I must have seen at least 30 Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers in Oklahoma.  I stopped a few more times where I managed to get some photos of a male flying.

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Roadside Oklahoma

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Roadside Oklahoma

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher,, Roadside Oklahoma

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher,, Roadside Oklahoma

I was almost into Texas when I recognized the name of an exit.  There was an Ebird list of Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers, along with Mississippi Kites, 10 of them. So I stopped once again to see what I could.  I didn’t see any Kites, but I spotted a couple of Lark Sparrows sitting on a fence.

Lark Sparrows, Roadside Oklahoma

Lark Sparrows, Roadside Oklahoma

And a regular old Western Kingbird sitting on a wire (sorry, I love you guys, but those Scissor-Tails are so cool!).

Western Kingbird, Roadside Oklahoma

Western Kingbird, Roadside Oklahoma

And I spotted a curious brown bird hopping in and out of a small stand of trees in a cloverleaf.  It looked brown and very plain.  I had to ask for some help and turns out that it was a female, and maybe young, Painted Bunting, another life bird for me.  But if I had been able to ID her there, I would have tried much harder to see a male version.
And of course, another Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher was out catching some of the many, many grasshoppers that were everywhere.

Scissor-Tailed Flycathcer, Roadside Oklahoma

Scissor-Tailed Flycathcer, Roadside Oklahoma

Which landed on a sign, which I feel was trying to tell me something…

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Roadside Oklahoma

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Roadside Oklahoma

I wish that I had more time to explore Fermilab.  It’s now on a short list of places for me to go back to.  I recommend checking it out, I have no idea how much of the science stuff that you can see.  And apparently they have a herd of Bison.  I also want to go back to Oklahoma and to the Ozarks and spend more time there.  I made a pass of the Oklahoma City Bombing Monument and it was too emotional for me to stop.  I can remember exactly where I was when I heard about the bombing and the day care that part of the destruction.  But I’ll go back some day.  And I’m curious as to why OKC needs a giant, but beautiful, skyscraper in tornado alley.

Thanks for making it this far,

Cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Comment
  1. great post, love the pictures of the Scissor-tailed. I don’t think they’ll ever get old to look at. I’ve also missed on Caspian tern like 5 times this year…

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