Thursday, September 29, 2005

Ash-throated Flycatcher at North Pond

Our buddy Mike Miller found an Ash-throated Flycatcher today at North Pond in Chicago's Lincoln Park area. Congrats to Mike for finding a bird that I still don't have on my Illinois list, but unfortunately the bird could not be re-located later in the day, so it may be a one-day wonder.

Ash-throated Flycatchers do show up on a regular basis (for a vagrant, at least) in the Chicago area, but I can't think of one that has been around in the last few years that was truly "chaseable," i.e. one that was in an accessible location and stuck around for a few days.

From the field: A quick Northerly Island report

I snuck over to Northerly Island before work to do a bit of scouting for Saturday's trip. One of the great things about this site is that I can hop into the car, zip over, do about an hour of birding, and still be back home early enough to get ready to go to work. All of this right in the middle of downtown Chicago. Amazingly, it's actually easier to get there early in the day during the week (even during rush hour) than it is on the weekend, because of all of the typical Chicago weekend events that mess up traffic and parking.

The birding was decent but not great. Steve had a Nelson's Sharp-Tailed Sparrow before I got there; the best bird I saw was a Vesper Sparrow that perched out in the open several times. Also had a couple of fly-by Longspurs. Other than that, it was the expected stuff: juncos, Savannah Sparrows, flickers, Yellow-rumps, Winter Wren, sapsucker, etc etc.

One of these days I will start posting some site guides, and the guide to NI will be one of the first I'll finish.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Field Trip to Northerly Island on October 1.

Just a reminder that we will be leading a field trip to Northerly Island this Saturday for the DuPage Birding Club. It should be a lot of fun, and the timing ought to be pretty good for sparrows. We'll be scouting there tomorrow morning, and probably Friday morning as well. (If I can fight off this cold that re-hit me today.) Actually, after reading the directions, if you're headed south on Columbus to 18th Street I think you technically have to get onto LSD first in order to get off on 18th Street. I usually just take LSD anyway so I don't take Columbus too often. Anyway, if you're in the City, just take the Drive south and 18th Street will be just past Soldier Field. We will be visible from the parking lot anyway (NI is a flat, wide-open space) so even if you show up late you should still be able to find us. NI can be surprisingly wet if it has rained, you might not need boots, but if you're just wearing regular gym shoes your feet might get wet.


Saturday, October 1, 2005
7:30 a.m. Northerly Island (Chicago)

Formerly Meigs Field, this spot is proving to be a great migrant area on the lakefront. We will meet in the terminal building parking lot. The building should open at 9:00 am with bathroom facilities.

Directions: From South: take I-55 north into Chicago all the way east to northbound Lake Shore Dr. Exit LSD at the 18th St. exit. Follow the signs to the Adler Planetarium/Burnham Harbor. From West: I-290 (Eisenhower) east to Congress Parkway. Congress Parkway to Columbus Dr. Right on Columbus south to 18th St. exit. Follow signs as above.

Monday, September 26, 2005

From the Field: Birding Shawnee Mission Park, Johnson County, Kansas

Well, this falls under the category of "better late than never" I suppose. I found myself in Kansas City over the Labor Day weekend, and, of course, I had my binoculars along and decided to do a bit of birding.

I was staying in Overland Park, a nice suburb of Kansas City, and since my time was rather limited, I decided to stay local and forget about making a trip to one of the great N.W.R.'s that are found further west in Kansas. As a result, I didn;t really have much of a chance to get any western species, and most of the birds I were likely to see could be seen pretty easily in Illinois. After driving around a bit, I found myself at Shawnee Mission Park in Shawnee, Kansas. The Bluebird Capital of Kansas, or so I'm told. (And I can believe it-one flock of Bluebirds I saw contained at least 40 birds!)

Shawnee Mission Park was a very cool park, with a big lake and a bunch of nice walking trails. The lake itself is about 150 acres, while the entire park is about 1,250 acres, I bet this is a heck of a birding spot year-round. Didn't see any other birders there -- I rarely do on any of my U.S. trips except in true hotspots like the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

I basically stuck to car- and parking lot-birding, but that allowed me to cut through a couple of different parts of the park fairly quickly.

I was hoping to find some migrants to pad my (non-existent) Kansas state list. I pretty much struck out on the migrants, but still had a nice morning of birding. About 40 species total, including the flock of Bluebirds, a couple of Wild Turkeys, and a Red-headed Woodpecker. Nothing spectacular, but hey, the worst morning birding is better than the best morning working.

Shawnee Mission Park

Sunday, September 25, 2005

From the field: Birding Olive Park

Today I decided to stay close to home, due to the generally crummy/rainy weather and the expected Sunday traffic, with the Bears, Cubs, White Sux, and Blackhawks all playing at home today. (Northerly Island is tough to access on days when the Bears are playing.) The rain wasn't actually too bad, but it looks like it will be raining off and on all day. (Right now it's raining at Soldier Field but not at my place a mile or two north.)

So I decided to hit Olive Park, on the Chicago lakefront near Navy Pier at about Ohio Street. I used to regularly bird Olive Park, but lately much of my free time has been spent at Northerly Island, so this is only the first or second time I have gone to the O.P. this fall. Hopefully I will do a site guide for Olive Park in the next few weeks.

Anyway, the birding was a bit slow, but there were decent numbers of birds, including :Northern Flicker (14), House Wren (2), Sedge Wren (1), Nashville (1), Magnolia (1), Yellow-rumped (11), Palm (1), Blackpoll (2), Wilson's (1), Lincoln's Sparrow (3), White-throated Sparrow (19), and White-crowned Sparow (1).

Friday, September 23, 2005

Area where Ivory-billed sightings occurred now open to the public?

Unless my geography skills are off, it looks like the authorities have now opened at least limited access to the areas where the original Elvis sightings occurred. I wonder if this was something that had been planned all along, or if the powers-that-be have concluded that any bird that may have been moving through that area has now departed.


Daily access permits now available for managed access area of Cache River National Wildlife Refuge

BRINKLEY - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now has permits available for the managed access area where the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was spotted in 2004. The managed access area on the Cache River NWR was established to regulate public access in light of the recent rediscovery of the bird in the Big Woods of eastern Arkansas.

Currently, the managed access area affects only 5,000 of the existing 61,000 acres on the refuge. Daily access permits are now available and will be required for each individual sub-unit within the area on a first come basis.

The permits will be made equally available to consumptive users (anglers/hunters) and non-consumptive users (birdwatchers/nature observers). The number of daily access permits available per sub-unit will be as follows:

Sub-Unit A - 10 total permits (5 each) -- Bayou DeView area from Hwy 38 south to Hwy 17
Sub-Unit B - 6 total permits (3 each) -- Bayou DeView area from Hwy 17 south to Dagmar WMA
Sub-Unit C - 20 total permits (10 each) -- Robe Bayou/Dark Corner area north of Dagmar WMA
Sub-Unit D - 20 total permits (10 each) -- Bull Lake areaSub-Unit E - 20 total permits (10 each) -- SW Brinkley area south of Hwy 70

Permits are available free of charge and may be picked up at the Cache River NWR office (26320 Hwy 33 South of Augusta) Monday thru Friday from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. Permits for Saturday - Monday will be available on the preceding Friday. A holiday schedule is in place for all federal holidays.

The daily access permits are non-transferable and must be picked up in person. A valid hunting or fishing license will be required to obtain a permit for consumptive use permits and the appropriate equipment must be possessed in the field. Consumptive use permits for hunting will only be valid during refuge open seasons and all permit holders must adhere to all applicable state, refuge and federal laws and regulations.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel are not eligible for daily permits for Sub-units A and B. No guiding or commercial fishing will be allowed in the MAA. For more information contact the refuge at 870-347-2614.

Anglers and hunters (consumptive users) and all others (non-consumptive users) on or off the MAA are strongly encouraged to report Ivory-billed Woodpecker sightings to 1-800-843-2473 or by email at

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Chicago Way: Feds root out "cash for trees" bribery scandal in City Forestry Department

So, we know from a past indictment that you can bribe your way into landscaping contracts for natural areas in the City of Chicago. Now, another indictment has been handed down, alleging that the "boss" of the City's Forestry Department took bribes to cut down trees! Here's the scoop:

Did scandal go to trees? City forestry boss charged in extortion

September 22, 2005

Not even trees were spared from the corruption at City Hall, federal authorities alleged Wednesday.When two healthy trees in Lincoln Park got in the way of a home builder, developers were allegedly told that city workers would take care of the problem for $5,000, according to court documents. The alleged scheme was stymied by outraged neighbors who awoke one morning in the summer of 2004 to find city crews lopping off branches.

In a criminal complaint filed Wednesday, prosecutors charged Bruno A. Bertucci, a retired boss in the forestry bureau of the city's Streets and Sanitation Department, with obstruction of justice for his role in the failed scheme.

Court records suggest that former city worker John "Quarters" Boyle, a central figure in the city's Hired Truck scandal, also was a go-to man for such mundane favors as tree removal. Boyle pleaded guilty to extorting bribes and was sentenced in August to 7 years in prison. He was not charged Wednesday.

The charges against Bertucci stemmed from conversation in February in which he allegedly told a city employee not to tell federal agents about the scheme, according to court records. Bertucci, 53, of Bridgeview, allegedly told an underling to lie to FBI agents investigating the alleged bribe. "All you do is stick to your story" that an alderman wanted the trees removed, Bertucci allegedly told the worker, according to court records. "You just stick to your story because there ain't no way they could prove anything."

The alderman, Vi Daley (43rd), said in an interview Wednesday that she had opposed cutting down the trees. Bertucci was a member of a political group run by Daniel Katalinic, a retired high-ranking Streets and Sanitation Department official, according to two former department workers. The group was allegedly one of many pro-Mayor Daley political street armies whose members performed campaign work in exchange for city jobs and promotions. Katalinic is cooperating with the federal corruption probe. He secretly recorded a conversation with Robert Sorich, the mayor's patronage chief, who allegedly played a central role in the hiring scheme.

According to court records, developers wanted two trees removed to make room for a driveway between 1905 and 1907 N. Burling St., but they could not obtain city permits. They turned to Boyle, who agreed to pay a $5,000 bribe to a person identified in the complaint only as "a former high-ranking [city] employee."That employee contacted Bertucci, who, for half the $5,000, agreed to contact another city forestry bureau worker to cut down the trees, the records show.

That city worker took a crew out to the property at 7:42 a.m. on July 21, 2004, to cut down the trees. Dr. Alan Buchman, a gastroenterologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said that when he returned home from work late one night, he noticed that Streets and Sanitation workers had posted signs informing neighbors to remove their cars from the block in the morning. Buchman got up early the next morning to find city crews on the street and a tow truck preparing to remove cars. The tow truck driver told Buchman the crews were there to cut down the two trees across the street. Buchman said he called his lawyer, city forestry and then called Ald. Daley. "I said to her, `You know, there's got to be some kind of conspiracy,'" Buchman said. "I was semi-serious. I was not joking."

Another neighbor who complained about the attempted tree removal was Donna Filippo, who lives at 1909 N. Burling. Filippo said she became annoyed when she saw a city crew beginning to cut off the top of one of the trees. When she confronted the workers, one of them told her that the woman who lived in 1907 had asked that the tree be removed because its roots were blocking the storm drain. Filippo said she told the man he was nuts because 1907 was vacant. Filippo went inside her house and called the city's 311 city-services number to complain. The crew left several minutes later, but Filippo said she believes it was Buchman's intervention that halted the work.

John McNaughton, who developed the homes along with Tinkers Development president Pamela Hostert, said Wednesday that he had done nothing wrong. He said he was unaware of allegations that someone offered a $5,000 bribe to city workers to get the job done."I don't know anything about that," McNaughton said. "We have been going through the regular process with the city to get the trees removed."

Bertucci is the 33rd person charged in the City Hall corruption probe. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He was released on his promise to appear in court. He is due back in court on Oct. 3.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Run, run Rita!!!

Well, a number of my friends in Houston have already evacuated (some of whom live in the *western* subrubs), and Rita looks like she will be at least a Category 4 hurricane by the time she (it?) makes landfall on Friday.

While this is not good for folks living on the UTC, the current projected post-landfall track is almost perfect for blowing storm birds into Illinois. And, for once, we might get some storm birds on a weekend. Of course, a lot could change between now and the weekend, but we will be watching this storm very closely here at the BINAC World Headquarters.

This is, coincidentally, the weekend of the annual IOS "pelagic" trip to Carlyle Lake. So while that trip (if it is not washed out) has a great chance of providing a Rita-blown pelagic rarity, it also means that many of the better birders in the southern portion of the state will be concentrated in one place, meaning that some other large southern Illinois lakes may be under-birded.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Lunatic fringe "Anti-Birders" crawl out of their holes!!!

The lunatic fringe has made an appearance on the Wisconsin birding list, lead by people who should know better.

Here is one of the suggestions, made by somoene who masquerades as a birder regularly:


"I suspect there's no way on earth birders would go along with it, but I personally believe that the "sport" of birding, with published lists that look like scores, should be limited to the American Birding Association, and that state ornithological societies should not be fostering competitive birding at all."


Well, I don't usually spend my time telling other people to do things that I *know* they won't do, but I guess some people have more time on their hands than I do.

The moronic idea excerpted above is yet another example of why "Birding is NOT a crime!!!!" exists. There is a small minority -- a vocal minority, though -- of birders that seem to want to consistently tell other birders how to run their lives. Well, those Anti-Birders can kiss my ass. No one has a right to tell me what lists I should or shouldn't keep. No one has the right to tell me how much gas I should or shouldn't use on a birding trip. And, most importantly, no one has the right to complain to me about how I enjoy my life. I like birding. I think it's fun. And I do keep a few lists, but not as many as most hard-core listers. But NO ONE has a right to make me feel guilty about it.

There are so many real environmental tragedies out there in the world today...rain forests being levelled, oil spills, pollution, toxic waste...that I cannot fathom why anyone with the intelligence of a snail would think that the small number of really competitive birders (maybe a thousand or two in the entire U.S.?) makes any difference at all.

You can have my binoculars when you pry them out of my cold, dead figners.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Lesser Sand Plover in Florida

Just got back from a quick birding adventure in Florida. DEtails to follow. There is a bird being seen at St. Marks NWR that is being considered as a Lesser Sand Plover. Not sure how many (if any) Gulf or East Coast records there are for this species.

Coming soon: Reports from Florida and South America.

We have been busy birding, but hopefully we will have some reports from Florida and Brazil/Argentina posted in a few days.

Friday, September 16, 2005

What happened to the North American Fall Migration Count??????

Is anybody out there still doing a fall count?

In Illinois, the Spring Bird Count is still pretty popular, but the fall count is virtually nonexistent.
Is anyone in Illinois doing the North American Migration Count this Fall? I have not heard anything about a "fall count" here in Illinois for several years.

I know that some states, including Florida, do have county coordinators and are attempting to hold their fall count this Saturday, September 17. I found some info on the web but it all seems to be local, I couldn't find any national group or organization that seemed to be in charge of things.

So, what's the deal?

UPDATE: The deal is, apparently, that there used to be some coordination through someone in Maryland (through the MOS?), but areas that are continuing the fall count are pretty much on their own. Some states seem to be pretty active (Alabama was one I noticed), and there are quite a few states (including California, Florida, and Maryland) that are making an effort as well.

Counts like this are, I think, exactly the kind of thing that readers of this site would be interested in. So I propose that we try to resurrect the fall count. Let's start on a small scale first: here in Illinois, everyone try to keep track of what they see this weekend, and just hold on to those results for right now.

I would envision that the IOS or some other group would be the umbrella organization for the count. Maybe it would be possible to use the system that is already in place for the Spring Count...use the same county compilers, etc.

Article on Magnificent Frigatebird in DuPage County--how the media works.

The first person that called me this morning told me to check the Chicago Sun-Times for an article on the Mag Frigatebird seen a few days ago by Bob Fisher. The short story is prominently featured on the Sun-Times website:


Magnificent: Gulf Coast bird sighted here
September 16, 2005
BY DAN ROZEK Staff Reporter

The bird's long, narrow wings and its lazy, effortless glide caught Bob Fisher's eye as he drove near his Downers Grove home.

An avid birder for more than 15 years, Fisher said he quickly recognized it as a magnificent frigatebird, which boasts a 7-foot wingspan and is almost never seen in Illinois.

Fisher, 63, has spotted such birds before, but usually in the Florida Keys or along the Gulf Coast -- their usual habitat.
He and other avian enthusiasts say the lone bird he spotted late last week likely is a straggler that rode the dying winds of Hurricane Katrina all the way to the Chicago area. "This is not a bird you'd at all expect to see in this area, except when they're pushed out of their usual environment by hurricanes,'' he said.

A Field Museum ornithologist agreed, saying the last accepted frigatebird sighting in Illinois was in 1988 after Hurricane Gilbert.

Fisher said he saw the bird for only 30 to 40 seconds and didn't get a picture of it, but is confident it was a frigatebird -- in part because it glided so smoothly.
So, how does a story like this get into the paper? Well, here's how: Last week I got a call from a reporter I know at WBBM 780 radio. That reporter talked to me about West Nile, and the story aired last week. I gave him a tip about the Mag Frigatebird sighting, and gave him Bob Fisher's phone number. So the WBBM reporter called Bob and put the story on the radio.
I have been surprised to learn how many print reporters get their stories or leads from WBBM. The Sun-Times reporter must have heard the story, and then called Bob to talk to him. One time I talked to WBBM and the Sun-Times picked up the story, including a reference to things I had said, without even talking to me!
So, this is a lesson for birders out there that are trying to get publicity for their efforts...conservation, birding clubs, whatever...if you place the first story in the right media outlets, other media will pick up on it.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Snipe hunt/rail stomp scheduled for Saturday!

Well, I have regained (nearly) full control of my faculties, thanks to about 12 hours of sleep last night.

And we are happy to announce that there will be an impromptu field trip to Northerly Island this Saturday. Josh Engel came up with the idea (whichI think is a great one), and it came together pretty quickly.

We will meet at the terminal building at 6:30 am on Saturday morning.

Our focus will be on rails, snipe, and sparrows. This is right in the middle of the migration window for Yellow Rails in the fall, so we do have a slim chance of seeing one. The more people we get on the trip, the more territory we'll be able to cover, and we'll have a better chance of seeing rails. Not quite the rail buggy I rode in on a Texas CBC a few years ago, but still pretty cool.

This is the first organized birding trip to N.I., and will be a good dry run for trip I am leading there in early October for the DuPage Birding Club.

So join us for a chance to see Yellow Rail in Illinois.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

From the Field: Birding Northerly Island.

When I first arrived at N.I., very few birds were present except for large flocks of migrating cormorants. However, when I reached the far eastern edge of the Island, there were birds all over. I did not see a single thrush, but there were dozens and dozens of warblers.

The large majority of the warblers were Palm Warbler, with a few Yellow-rumps and American Redstarts thrown in. I also saw small numbers of Common Yellowthroat, Magnolia, Blackpoll, and Ovenbird.

Other interesting birds included one cuckoo sp., a handful of Wilson's Snipe, at least six rails (1 Virginia, 2 Sora, 1 additional probable Sora, 1 additional probable Virginia, and a "sixth rail", which was not seen well as it scurried underfoot but it appeared to be smaller than a Sora or Virginia and my undocumentable guess would be Yellow Rail), 3 Lincoln's Sparrows, and one Nelson's Sharp-Tailed Sparrow.

I think Steve Huggins had a Yellow Rail at NI a while back so this may be a bit of a spot for them.

The first bird I actually saw was a Virginia Rail huddled against the terminal building. No one was available to try to check out the bird so, as instructed, I gently tried to nudge it away from the corner. The bird had been walking around when I first saw it. It would not budge, however, not even as I approached within an inch or two. So I gently tapped it with my foot. Still nothing. Another very gentle tap, and it scooted (the wrong way) towards the parking lot. I outflanked it and got between it and the parking lot, trying to convince it to turn around and head back to the safety of the tall grass. It stopped, looked at me, then ran right between my legs into the parking lot. I tried to head it off again but somehow it finally got the right idea on its own, did a 360 and darted into the grass.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Heavy nocturnal migration underway. UPDATES

I just got back from my roof top (about 43 stories high in downtown Chicago) and there is a fairly heavy nocturnal migration underway. The skies are clear, winds are moderate, and most of the downtown lights are off, so most of the birds seem to be making their way south quickly and safely. This is certainly not the heaviest migration I have heard from my roof, but its still pretty early, and is probably the heaviest I have heard this year. The birds sound like they are a bit low but probably not low enough for a significant fallout unless a storm arises. It will be interesting to see tomorrrow morning if a lot of birds come down in the lakefront parks, or if most of them just fly over the City without stopping.

I will post throughout the night if I see or hear anything interesting happening.

12:05 UPDATE: Just took a walk around the neighborhood. Migration is audible (barely) above the traffic noise at street level. Still hot and muggy out, so the front hasn't hit here yet. Winds are starting to pick up a bit, though. No downed birds around the John Hancock Building, no birds trapped or circling anywhere. Back up to the roof.

12:20 UPDATE: Back from the roof. Getting a bit windy. Migration still underway, a bit heavier than before. My hearing is not that great, so I can't really pick out species, but it seems lick there were a few more thrushes flying overhead. Radar is still pretty clear, but I could see heavy lightning to the south, some lightning to the north, yet only a few sporadic drops of rain on the roof. I meant clear weather-wise, but I'm wondering how hard it is to distinguish bird images from very light rain on nights like tonight.

Might get interesting if I can stay awake!

12:40 UPDATE: Very heavy audible migration still underway. I actually saw one bird migrating (that happens someimes--so cool!!!!) from the roof. Most of the calls seem to be pretty high in the sky, but a few sounded like they were below the height of my roof. Weather seems to have cleared a bit.

I did a timed count: in two minutes, I heard 190 flight call notes. Obviously, I'm hearing some birds more than once as they fly over, and some are probably circling, there's no wya for me to sort that out, especially with all the ancillary noise (Lake Shore Drive, generators, etc.). But that at least gives you an idea of how constant the flow of birds is.

12:45 UPDATE: I just checked the radar again. Looks like the flow of birds headed south from N. Illinois and Wisconsin are headed straight towards a line of thunderstorms that is moving (roughly) northeast through Central Illinois. Someone is going to have a big fallout tomorrow morning, but probably south/southwest of Chicago proper, so will anyone see it? Palos might be a good place to be tomorrow morning?

1:30-2:50 UPDATE: Dark side of migration. NEED SLEEP! Went for a cruise around the Loop. Minute-by-minute account later. Large fallout occurring in the Loop. 80% warblers, some thrushes, a few flycatchers. Birds caught in lights at AON Building, Blue Cross Blue Shield Building, Bank One, Hyatt Center. Roll down your car window in the Loop and you hear chip notes everywhere. 50+ birds grounded at Hyatt Center. Bucket full o' dead birds in car. Back to the roof, more details later. Hope the lightning is kind to me.

2:40 Steady rain starts, lightning increases.

3:05 UPDATE: Migration has noticably slowed on rooftop. 125 chip notes in two minutes. Steady rain and lightning. Did the migrants "ride" in front of the front? How long can they stay aloft in a medium steady rain, with periodic lightning? Where are all the thrushes? And sparrows? Weather conditions make further rooftop observtaions unlikely. Choice: Sleep or stand on roof of tall building in thunderstorm? Sleep!

Sick day tomorrow?

More later.

3:15 Can't sleep. Fill in some gaps:

1:15 Checked Lakeshore East and Randolph Street. I hereby declare myself the first person to proclaim that the new private park at the Lakeshore East will be a fantastic migrant trap! Check it out! No kills here or on Randolph. Can hear many birds circling near Grant Park/Blue Cross Building.

1:30 1 dead and 1 alive at Blue Cross

1 dead at Two Prudential

1:45 two more dead at Blue Cross

Important to note that kills are occurring as early as 1:30 am.

1:48 No kills at Daley Plaza.

1:52 No kills at Bank One, but birds heard circling the building.

1:56 Slight drizzle begins. 1 dead at Madison & Wacker.

1:58 birds heard circling at Sears Tower. Birds heard circling at AT&T Building

2:00 Major fallout underway at Hyatt Center, 71 S. Wacker. First count, 18 dead or injured. One full circuit of building: 30+ dead, about as many injured, most of the injured fly off quickly when appraoched.

Chip notes heard everywhere on way to Randolph Street, especially along Chicago River, but no dead birds seen.

2:41 Still nothing at Illinois Center. Six dead at Blue Cross Building. Couple more at AON and Two Pru.

7:15 UPDATE: Sleep is overrated! Mini-fallout at Northerly Island. Rails rails rails! More later!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

From the field:Birding Northerly Island

I took a nice walk around Northerly Island on Chicago's lakefont this morning.

The birding was pretty slow. The only obvious migrants were four Palm Warblers and 1 Lincoln's Sparrow. Still a few Song and Savannah Sparrows, along with a Kestrel, a large flock of about 60 Red-winged Blackbirds and 32 Killdeer. Still nice to see these birds right in teh heart of the City.

There were also thousands of butterflies (mostly Monarchs, I think, and those little white moths, with a few other species mixed in), probably the most I have ever seen at one location in Illinois. I counted over 300 perched on a single tree, and there were many more in flight.

Also had an Ovenbird near Seneca Park in Streeterville.

The most inpressive sight of the day, though, was probably the dozen or more buses for the Rolling Stones crew that were parked near the Field Museum. That is probably the largest road crew I've ever seen, the production for tonight's show must be huge.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Mike Hendrickson's Blog and a Minnesota story.

Some of you may know Mike Hendrickson, a well-known MN birder who has been leading tours in Duluth and surrounding areas for many years. A couple of us hired Mike for a day a few years ago and he was a real hoot! The thing I remember most is that it was like twenty degrees out and everyone is bundled up and Mike is wearing short pants! Classic. We had a pretty crappy day and didn't see too much, but it was still a fun birding day.

That whle trip was pretty entertaining. At one point (not when Mike was with us) our group was at the north end of County Road 2 (I think that's the name) looking (unsuccessfully, as usual) for Spruce Grouse. Anyway, there is a port-o-john there, and since we had been out all morning, and this is pretty much the middle of nowhere without any bathrooms, the group took the opportunity to line up to use the restroom. A car comes screeching up to the intersection, a guy jumps out and runs towards the outhouse, stops when he sees all of us, and says to me: "I didn't think there would be a line here." Before I could say anything, he sprinted back into his car and took off.

Anyway, I guess Mike has a blog now (or he re-started one) and it is, as you would expect, a lot of fun. He slams the author of the BirdChick Blog in one of his posts. Now, I love the Bird Chick, but smack talking is cool, so props to Mike for telling it how he sees it and speaking his mind. There is some important stuff in there about conservations in the Sax-Zim area as well, so anyone who has birded in that area and cares about what happens to it should see what Mike has to say.

So check out Mike's site and blog:

End of an Era: "King of the Hill" to enter last season.

It is with great sadness that I note that the best show currently on television, Fox's Tex-centric "King of the Hill," will apparently end after completing the 2005-06 season, which will be its tenth season.

I always tried to figure out what town KOTH's fictional "Arlen, Texas" was modeled after, and although I could never pin it down exactly, I always thought that Harlingen was a strong possibility. (Arlen always had a rivalry with "McMaynerberry" -- McAllen, perhaps?)

The show had a few episodes actually involving birds, the gang even did the Backyard Bird Count in season 7 and hey, what other show on television makes Whataburger references?

BINAC on the radio.

Listen for yours truly on WBBM 780 Radio today discussing the impact of West Nile on Blue Jays. I always think I sound like an idiot when I give interviews like this, because you don't really have time to prepare yourself, or look up the precise facts and figures you need. But any minor factual or grammatical errors in a story about birds are probably outweighed by the benefit derived from having people think about birds and how to help them.

Also, WBBM may be doing a story on storm birds as well, so keep your ears open for that.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Canoeman River Guide Services offers Ivory-billed Woodpecker Tours.

So, I stumbled onto another site offering Ivory-billed Woodpecker tours: At least he's quite a bit cheaper than the Mallard Pointe tours.

I am sure that more of these operators will be popping up on the web as we get closer to fall. I have heard that Wildlife Farms will also be offering tours this year, but there is nothing on their web site about woodpecker tours yet. We would be very interested in hearing from anyone who takes any of the IBWO tours being offered in Arkansas this fall. Anyone who has hired a birding guide before knows that it is kinda hit-and-miss, so it would be nice to be able to "rate" the tours and guides in Arkansas.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Frigatebird in Iowa.

There has also been a recent sighting of a Mag. Frigatebird in Iowa. Check out a great photo at:

UPDATE: There has also been a Frigatebird seen in Ohio. So we've got birds in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

Epitaph for a Blue Birdmobile

I was very pleasantly surprised to open up the new issue of Birding and see an article (p. 528) by DuPage County's own Bob Fisher (no, not the Missouri Bob Fisher!) lamenting the demise of what was perhaps the most recognizable birding vehicle in the State of Illinois: The Fishers' Blue Birdmobile!

I remember the first time I ever saw the Blue Birdmobile, on a windy fall day at the Palos West slough. You could also count on the presence of the Blue Birdmobile when a rarity was around, often sharing a parking lot with cars bearing license plates like Falcon or Avocet. Oh, the birds that Suburban has seen; I bet it had a longer life list than most of the birders in Illinois!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Volunteer to help Cornell search for the IBWO -- and sign away all of your rights!

So, Cornell is seeking volunteers now to search for the IBWO. Check out the waiver they want birders to sign. In my view, the most egregious provision of this "volunteer agreement" is that Cornell is asking you to sign over your intellectual property rights if you take a photo of the bird! This means that if you volunteer and are lucky enough to take "the" photo of the bird, Cornell can put that photo on t-shirts and coffee mugs and thongs, and you'll get nothing!!!

I have no problem with Cornell requiring that searchers keep the location of any sightings confidential, but why would they need to keep photos or field notes or sound recordings confidential? (If you read it carefully, I think that in paragraph 6 they also ask you to sign over your first-born to Cornell.) I personally would never even consider signing such a release, and I would strongly advise any "volunteer" searcher to consult with their own personal attorney before signing such a draconian "agreement." You have been warned.

Volunteer Agreement

Ivory-billed Woodpecker SearchDecember 5, 2005- April 23, 2006

I, __________ (name), agree to the following terms and conditions governing my participation as a Volunteer in the Ivory Billed Woodpecker Search Project (hereinafter “Search Project”) in the Cache River and White River National Wildlife Refuges:

1. I agree that as a Cornell University Volunteer, my participation in the Search Project is without pay or other compensation. Any data, drawings, field notes, audio or visual recordings (including, without limitation, photographs and motion picture video) that I may generate or assist in creating during my participation in the Search Project will be the sole property of Cornell University, and I hereby assign any and all rights that I might assert in the same (including copyright) to Cornell University. I may not distribute, copy, release or disclose any such data, drawings, notes or recordings personally or through any form of media to any third party without the prior written consent of an authorized representative of Cornell University. In addition, I agree to keep confidential any information I learn as a direct result of my participation in the Search Project that is identified by Cornell as sensitive information, including (without limitation) information on the location of Ivory-Billed Woodpecker roosting or nesting sites.

2. I understand that Cornell University may, in its sole discretion, terminate my participation in the Search Project without prior notice. I understand that I am not a University employee and that I do not have a formal work appointment for any services I may render as a participant in the Search Project. Notwithstanding the above, I agree to abide by all applicable University policies during my participation in the Search Project.

3. I understand that as a University Volunteer, Cornell does not provide me with accident or medical insurance and is therefore not responsible for any accident or medical expenses incurred by me. Further, I understand that I am neither covered by Worker’s Compensation nor entitled to employee benefits as a result of my participation in the Search Project.

4. Cornell University agrees to provide me with third party liability insurance to protect me from any third-party claims filed against me related to my good faith performance of any activities described in the attached Cornell University Description of Volunteer Duties. In exchange, I, on behalf of myself, my heirs and my representatives, do hereby release, indemnify, and hold harmless Cornell University or any of its officers, agents, or employees from any and all liability, damages, or claims of any nature arising out of or related to my volunteer activities.

5. I understand the terms and conditions of this agreement and I am signing this agreement of my own free will. Further, by signing this agreement I attest to the fact that I am eighteen years of age or older.

6. This agreement will be valid from [date] to [date]. The insurance and indemnity provision in paragraph 4 will survive the termination of this Agreement. This agreement may only be modified in writing with the consent of both Cornell University and the above-named Volunteer.

This agreement shall be construed by the laws of the State of New York, without regard to conflicts of laws principles.

Signature of Volunteer: Date: Home Address of Volunteer: Telephone: Emergency Contact:


P.S. OK, this is BINAC is a great law-school hypothetical: If the federal goverment closes access to a particular piece of federal land, without *any* public input or comment, and grants access to that land to one or two favored groups, to the exclusion of all others, and that favored group makes money off of their activities in that area...for example, in selling photos taken on that land...has any federal law or regulation been violated? Interesting, eh?


SIX-STAR UPADTE******: Bob Fisher just reported a Frigatebird soaring near his house in DuPage County, Illinois!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, September 01, 2005


There has just been a frigatebird reported from Eagle Creek near Indianapolis!

This almost guarantees that something good will show up at Miller Beach or the Chicago Lakefront this weekend when I am gone!!!!

Swallow-tailed Kites in Northern Indiana!

There have been two Swallow-tailed Kites reported from Northern Indiana today.

Be on the lookout for this species to appear in Illinois, possibly even in the Chicago area, over the next few days. I am out of town for the holiday so expect them to show up along the lakefront on Saturday morning!


Storm birds.

An incomplete list of some of the interesting storm birds pushed inland (mostly KY and TN)would include Mag Frigatebirds (TN), Band-rumped Storm Petrel (KY and TN), Greater Shearwater (!) (TN), and an unidentified large skua (?) (TN).

If anyone has any further info on these or other extraordinary storm birds (especially the skua), please let us know at .


Mo' money, mo' money...distributor of "Kill the Ivory-billed Woodpecker" t-shirts now sells "IBWO Found" IBWO thongs!!!

So, here are a bunch of IBWO items you can buy:

Funny, press is the same outfit that caused a furor when it sold "Kill the IBWO" merchadise a month or two ago. Playing both sides of the coin, pretty sweet deal for cafe press.

And hey, ladies, you can even buy "intimate apparel"--get your IBWO thong while they're still in stock! And no, I am *not* making this up!

Are Ivory-billed Woodpecker sightings being suppressed for profit?

Question based on the preceding post: If there has been a sighting of the IBWO on the Mallard Pointe property, has this sighting been reported to the proper authorities? If so, why has it not been publicized? Has the sighting been kept secret to allow Mallard Pointe to milk more money from us po' old birders?

And can someone clarify another point for us: Will these Mallard Pointe tours have access to any areas that are off-limits to the general public?

Oh yeah, one more question: I think it's great that Mallard Pointe and Little Rock tours are apparently giving some of the tour money to TNC; the question is, are they getting anything in return?

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Tours: The Fleecing Becomes More Organized!

We here at BINAC were the first blog to highlight the "deluxe" $2300 tours from Mallard Pointe Lodge. Tom Nelson just pointed out on his web site a very interesting post from the "always-entertaining" Missouri birding list:


I received a solicitation in my mailbox today from a well-known birding tour company. It offers a 4-day, $1550 "Ivory-billed Woodpecker Tour." Persons who take the tour will stay in "an extremely nice hunting lodge (which normally charges $500 per night)" near Brinkley, Arkansas.

They will be fed "high quality, basic food." (Does that mean the bread will be fresh?).

The lodge's land holding is said to be "the only private land adjoining the Restricted Zone. In fact, the lodge's lands are bordered by the Bayou de View, very near the point from which the bird was first seen."

The solicitation goes on to say, "THE BIRD has been seen once on this property since the announcement." (The solicitation does not make it clear that "THE BIRD" is an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, but why should anyone think otherwise?)

Notwithstanding the high end lodge accommodations, the solicitation goes on to say, "Participants will be taken each day before dawn using 4 wheel-drive vehicle to one of our new blinds or to one of the boats built especially for this tour and will be returned around dark. "Each participant gets two trips in the boats and two in the blinds.

A day in a boat will not be too different from a day in a blind. The boats will go northeast as far as allowed on the Bayou de View and then "hold position for the day." The blinds are said to be "rain resistant." The boats are "completely camouflaged and weather protected." "Rough sanitation facilities" will be provided with the blinds. "Crude sanitation set-ups" are available on each boat. The 19-foot long, 5-foot wide boats are "mounted with swivel chairs having back rests."

The solicitation contains reassurance that those who tick IBWO right away will not waste the rest of the tour. It says, "Should you see Ivory-billed Woodpecker early in the tour there will be opportunities to bird the 2500 acres of private land or take a guided tour down steam on the Bayou de View."

The solicitation, which altogether is 7 pages long, contains a page each from US Fish & Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Also included is an "Enrollment Form." One page consists entirely of "Special Rules and Regulations."

These require participants to:1. Swear to keep the location secret.2. Not take GPS equipment outside the lodge.3. Drink and smoke only in designated areas of the lodge.4. Use cameras only after all members have seen the bird and then "only without extending lenses beyond the shelter or using flash."5. "Each group will have a captain to enforce stealthy movement within the blinds, soft voices and restriction to the interior of the shelter."

Persons who disobey the rules after warning can lose their payments and not be allowed to return to the field.From the special rules and regulations page, I also learned the following:1. The group will be divided into teams of up to 12 persons with each team having a specific site for the day. The accommodations inside each blind are described as "tight quarters."2. The well-known tour company, which sent the solicitation is not the entity actually conducting the tour. That entity is named "Little Rock Tours, Inc." (I have not heard that name before).3. Some of the rooms for which the lodge "normally charges $500 per night" are evidently "'dorm' type accommodations." Every attempt will be made to put married couples in a room together, but this cannot be guaranteed.

In contrast to the $1550 package, designated an "Ivory-billed focus trip," the solicitation also offers an "Ivory-billed and other birds" package at the reduced rate of $1295. I'm not sure what the difference is.I do not quite know how to evaluate the following additional paragraph of the solicitation:"

We definitely hope that you will try to raise some money for The Nature Conservancy beyond that which is included in the trip price. Conversion of the successful hunting lodge into a birding lodge is very much desired. Further, there are needs for additional hunting lands to relieve pressure from the local population to replace areas of the Refuge which are now restricted.

Further, we urge you to purchase a Federal Duck Stamp and to bring it with you as an aid in the political struggles."(How does one handle political struggles while huddling from dawn to dark with 12 people in the tight quarters of a blind? Will there be bubbas with shotguns wandering the 2500 acres who need reassurance that the blind contains NRA-certified good 'ole boys and good 'ole gals who have bought duck stamps?)

I must say this solicitation is very tempting, but I probably won't do it for the following three reasons:1. I really don't want to bird 2500 acres of Arkansas swampland for three days after I tick IBWO on the first day.2. In view of the difficulties a Cornell team of 60, spending 14 months in the field, has had getting a satisfactory photo of IBWO, I really don't want to hold off getting a good picture of the bird until all 12 people in my blind say they've seen it. I mean, what do you do if someone keeps saying he/she has not had a good enough look yet?3. I guess I'm a selfish SOB, but when I pay 1550 bucks to see an IBWO, I want to drink my champagne right away! Making me wait until we get back to the dorm is too much delayed gratification for me!

Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri


BINAC here again...actually, I think Bob's post may have been to BirdChat and not the Missouri list, I got that part wrong...but still pretty entertaining. There is an entertaining thread on the Missouri list right now entitled "Chasers are scum."