I rarely bird Jackson Park on Chicago’s south side in the fall (this day was November 3) but I was headed to a destination near by and was running quite early. I parked on the east side and crossed the bridge to Wooded Isle when I encountered my longtime friend Paul Clyne, who has made the park his birding project for some decades now.  Long before e-Bird made it easy, Paul has been meticulous in his data collection  We had not seen each other for a while and so I wound up spending more time here than I had originally anticipated.

pond

Pond

 

Paul and I tallied a total of 24 species, none of which were particularly unusual. There were  lots of late season passerines, including 2 winter wrens, 2 brown creepers, 2 ruby-crowned kinglets, 2 fox sparrows, 4 white throated sparrows, and, at 11, more golden-crowned kinglets than I usually encounter. The fox sparrows were especially gratifying because they migrate through here early in spring and late in fall while I am spending most of my time looking at water or at hawk watches.

Golden-crowned kinglet (Photo by John Cassady)

Golden-crowned kinglet (Photo by John Cassady)

 

I mentioned that I was on my way to another destination: A new birding area on the south side of Chicago’s lakefront has opened up. Closed to outsiders since its abandonment in 1992, the former United States Steel (EUX) Plant encompasses 600 acres just north of the Indiana border. A lot of effort has gone into figuring out what to do with potentially plum real estate and there has emerged The Chicago Lake Development plan which calls for 13,775 houses, over 17 million feet of retail space, a high school, and most anything else you can imagine. And 125 acres are slated to be public land. It will take an expected 25-45 years to complete a cost of over four billion dollars.

I visited the site some years ago as part of a tour and recall seeing huge numbers of red admirals, which were in particular abundance that year. But just this fall a portion of the property was opened to the public under the name Park 523. My friend Kathleen Soler suggested on Facebook that she would like to have a field trip there and so we arranged to meet on October 27.

The birding was slow with few land birds although some nice numbers of horned grebes and a common loon offshore. Perhaps most interesting are the concrete walls that were once part of loading docks where ore was moved from ships to the factory where steel was made. They form canyon walls flanking wetlands supporting dense stands of Phragmites.  Kathleen and I tried to fight our way through this morass in the hopes of flushing some secretive migrants but to no avail. Arguably our least expected find was meeting Charles Anderson, whom I occasionally run into at Jackson Park and whose company I enjoy very much. (I had asked Paul if he had seen him lately and he said he had not. So I was quite surprised upon encountering Charles an hour later).

 

Friends

Kathleen and Charles in front of the canyon walls.

 

Fall is also Jasper Pulaski time. This year I made two trips and invited a bunch of friends. One was on November 16 and the other November 24. Time truly spent with special birds and special people makes these outings particularly important to me. The first trip was warm and we had a relatively small group. Amanda Zeigler met me at my house and we drove to Kankakee Fish and Game where we met Jeanette Jaskula and the Sass family, which consisted of the full  compliment of Steve, Jodi, Sarah, and Lindsey. There were some ducks at Kankakee Fish and Wildlife Area, including green-winged teal, shovelers, and pintail. Jeanette had arrived earlier and saw a bald eagle. Maybe the highlight was a light-morph rough-legged hawk I spotted perched on the ground. It was my first of the year.

family

The November 16 crew: on the left side of the table, Steve, Amanda, and Jeanette; on the right side Jodi, Lindsey, and Sarah.

A few days before,  there  had been waves of cranes flying south over the Chicago region. The most recent count for cranes as Jasper Pulaski was 10,500 and indeed the sights and sounds were not disappointing. Warm weather and lots of cranes spelled lots of people too. Well over a hundred at any given time. Steve said he was betting I would meet 10 people I knew. When he and his family left, I had not seen anyone but by the time  Jeanette, Amanda, and I had left  for dinner the number had grown to 5.

The following week’s  group of comrades promised to be really large: 15 people indicated an interest, but for a variety of reasons, including temperatures in the teens, only Tim Wallace and Stefanie Altneau arrived. But there were more birds to be seen. At Kankakee we had the same ducks although more of them. Treats awaited,  however, amidst the Canada geese. There were cackling but even more gratifying were three adult white-fronted standing on a close dike. It was a lifer for Stefanie.

white-fronted-goose

Canada and Greater White-fronted Goose (photo by Tim Wallace).

Just as we ascended the ramp that leads to the Jasper Pulaski viewing platform a heavy movement of cranes arrived before alighting in the field. There seemed to be fewer cranes than the previous week but still nothing to sneeze at. White tailed deer wondered through the groups of  cranes as they always do no turkeys on either trip. In trees near the parking lot a small flock of eastern bluebirds milled about. The sun was getting lower and temperatures were inching down, when Barny Dunning, there with a group of students from  Purdue University, spotted an adult whooping cranes coming in for a landing with a few sandhills. It was a gorgeous adult bird with appropriate bling on its legs. It was in a perambulating mood, walking into a ditch where it became a shapeless blob of white and then moved onto the flat ground where we watch him until it was time  to leave.

Sandhill crane at Jasper Pulaski (Photo by David Scott)

Sandhill crane at Jasper Pulaski (Photo by David Scott)

 

blog jas pulas

Sandhill Cranes and Whooping Crane (photo by David Scott)

 

 

 

 

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