Sunday, August 7, 2011

18 Miles and Lots of Birds

Jim and I biked 18 miles yesterday morning, taking advantage of the break in the oppressive heat we've been dealing with here in Illinois. The ride broughtus to within a stone's throw of 200 miles (we're at 192) for the season. The path and roads were pretty wet from rain in the very early morning, so we were quickly coated with water and dirt up our backs. But we didn't care; it was wonderful just to be outside doing something again and not breathing air conditioned air.

Photo: Christopher Taylor
For some reason, we saw an awful lot of birds by Lake Whelon this time out. Perhaps because of the rain and the earlier hour, there were less people out (we did seem to run into a lot less traffic). Less people equal more animals. I'm not a bird watcher in general, but while biking I always like to take note of what I see. Have to rely on the web and a bird identification book Jim has in his library. So here's what we saw (click images to get see the pictures enlarged). First, I saw an ovenbird perched in a tree. It's not a spectacular bird, but I knew it was something different and I made a mental note to find out what it is.

Photo: rattlinantler
The first cool this we saw was a literal flock of goldfinches. I've seen these birds around singly and in small groups of two or three, but I'd never seen so many in one spot. They were all in an area thick with wildflowers, which I know draw them. As we road past, easily forty of them flew into the air and some flew parallel to us as if racing with us. That was awesome to see, as they are really very bright and their flight kind of graceful. It's actually probably not correct to describe them as a flock, since I wonder if these birds actively group. They seemed like a flock though, because there were so many of them.

Photo: Bill Thompson III
Next, I finally saw the 'bluebird' Jim has spotted several times on the path. He'd call out to me, but it'd be too late. I really began to wonder if I was ever going to see it because Jim was only seeing one at a time and at wide time intervals between rides/sightings. Yesterday, we saw two of them! And I finally got my view. Looking through photos online, I think this is an indigo bunting. What the phot doesn't capture is the sheer iridescense of their plumage. The dark blue shines almost like the inside of an oyster shell. Small, jewel-like bird.

Lastly, we saw two hawks feeding their young. Of course, we're guessing here. Two hawks flew across a marsh to an big tree well off the path. They both landed in the same spot and then there were a lot of scree!-scree! calls, which we assumed were chicks and that the two birds were feeding them. Lastly, we saw a huge grey egret standing in the DuPage River, probably fishing for a meal.

Overall, a nice relaxing ride and some good sightings.

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