Well, the tick-filled summer breeding season is almost over, and shorebird migration is starting to slow down a bit as well. (At least there *was* a shorebird migration in Chicago this year, and it was a pretty good one.)
As temperatures hover in the mid-80's, a young man's fancy turns to the more important things in life...like the fast-approaching Christmas Bird Counts! It is never too early to begin scouting or doing a dry-run of your routes, and we at BINAC have been scouting since, well, I guess about February.
OK, this might sound a bit extreme, but as the weather gets colder and the holiday season approaches (and daylight decreases), most people find it hard to spend a lot of time walknig their CBC routes. So we get the grunt work done early, that way we know exactly what the habitat is like this year, work out any new routes or areas, and see what is accessible this year that was not last year. This means that we can concentrate on seeding and actual birding in the last few weekends before the count. This is really critical in most northern Illinois CBCs, because there is almost always a hard freeze right around the first or second weekend in December.
It is crucial to know where your "deep water" is before December; you have to know which ponds have ducks on them, and where the ducks will go if their ponds freeze up.
For example, in the COS/Lisle/Morton Arboretum CBC, Area 6 (aka the "best" area) has a lto of little ponds that will hold puddle ducks if there has not been a freeze. If there has been a light freeze, most puddle ducks will leave, but there will still be at least some waterfowl on the deeper ponds and quarry lakes. If there is a really hard freeze, we have one or two really deep quarries that will usually not freeze until January, and we also have some spots on the Des Plaines River that don't typically freeze (if at all) until after the count.