Journal archives for December 2020

09 December, 2020

New Personal iNat Project

Hey guys,
I realized that i did not meet my goal of getting to 2,000 species of living things observed in 2020. I was just recently looking through lots and lots of pictures from the year and noticed with my more keen eyes that there were a lot of things that I just missed, like galls on plants in the outer edges of photos, or trees something is perched on. For the next while I will be going through this year's photos, cropping them and uploading as many observations as I can to see how many new species I can get. I predict that it will be between 20-30. I'm starting at 2136 total species and 9,623 observations. What do you think?

EDIT I ended with 10,108 observations and 2,316 species! 180 new self-ID'd species!
All for now,

Posted on 09 December, 2020 23:42 by brdnrdr brdnrdr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

11 December, 2020

Rare Bird Journal for Birders

A while back I made a post talking about fall (bird) rarity finding in the Chicago area. I think it is now time to go very in depth and start doing individual species accounts that tell you what species can be found where around Chicago, when, which habitats, images of the habitats, the birds and pretty much anything you need to know about those species. I might start by doing just fall, and then branching out to spring, winter and summer.

All for now,

Posted on 11 December, 2020 14:05 by brdnrdr brdnrdr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

23 December, 2020

BRANT - Fall/Winter Rarity Finding in Chicago : Journal #1

To kick off my journal of finding rarities in the months of September-December in Chicago, I thought I'd start off going taxonomically. The first rarity is Brant.

The Brant (Branta bernicla), is a coastal and high arctic bird with a tendency to wander inland. There are 4 different typed to be found, the, 'Black', 'Black-bellied', 'Gray-bellied' and 'Atlantic' subspecies. Going in the order I put them, the plumages get gradually lighter. Throughout its range, you can find large flocks, mixed with other species of geese and ducks, or flocks of only Brant.
The 'Black' Brant tends to be overall sooty black with the classic brant white "necklace", white feathers on the mid-flanks, snowy-white vent/undertail-coverts and rump.
This subspecies is the Eurasian subspecies, so anyone would be hard-pressed finding on in the US, much less Chicago. The 'Black-bellied' Brant tends to be a sootier gray overall with a contrasting breast and belly. The breast, head and neck will be solid black minus the white "necklace", and the belly will be gray that goes up and over the wings and mantle with limited white on the mid-flanks.
The 'Gray-bellied' Brant tends to be more pale than the 'Black-bellied' with more extensive white on the flanks, and a paler gray on the belly and back. The white "necklace" tends to be less pronounced on this subspecies.
The 'Atlantic' (or 'Pale-bellied') Brant is the palest of them all. They nearly have a completely white belly and flanks, but they usually have some light gray barring. The black head, neck and breast is more contrasting with the belly on this subspecies. They are also the the most vagrant subspecies out of the 4.
All subspecies will have black corners to the tail, which is most visible in flight. They also all have a very acute black triangle extending down the middle of the rump and upper-tail coverts.
Brant average to be much smaller than your everyday Canada Goose. Brant average smaller than the much more common Cackling Goose, but variability in size is always prevalent in birds.
Both sexes are alike plumage-wise.

BEST MONTH TO FIND ONE November-December
WHERE TO FIND ONE: Lakefront grassy lawns/parks with flocks of Canada Geese. Inland grassy parks with flocks of Canada Geese is a good place to look too.
IDEAL CONDITIONS TO FIND ONE: Strong easterly winds, typically from somewhere on the east coast, but even northeasterly winds from Lake Ontario at this time can potentially produce them.
eBird link for photos:

I hope that this can be of some assistance, and I'll be posting one a day until I run out of birds to write about!

Posted on 23 December, 2020 21:15 by brdnrdr brdnrdr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

24 December, 2020

EURASIAN WIGEON - Fall/Winter Rarity Finding in Chicago : Journal #2

The Eurasian Wigeon is a dabbling duck from the Old World that has begun to make itself home in numbers on the Pacific coast and most of the Atlantic Coast as well. In Eurasia where they are the most common, you will find dozens or even hundreds on small lakes and ponds during waterfowl migration.
The Eurasian Wigeon adult male (Ad. M.) in breeding plumage (which will be in the fall through the spring as some waterfowl breed in the winter or early spring) will be very easy to pick out in flocks or rafts of sitting ducks. Immediately, the most visible field mark is the bright coppery head with an even brighter yellowish forehead and crown stripe. The American Wigeons we have here have a dull green head with a white crown stripe.
The Ad. M. Eurasian Wigeon will also be overall brighter gray compared to most of our dabbling ducks. Even at a distance an Ad. M. Eurasian Wigeon will appear to be nearly white bodied compared to our more buffy or brownish-pink bodied American Wigeons.Ad. M. Eurasian Wigeons will have a buffy-orange breast though.
An Ad. M. nonbreeding plumage Eurasian Wigeon will look nearly entirely coppery overall compared to the duller buffy with a dark head of the American Wigeon. Finding a Eurasian Wigeon in this plumage will be far less likely than finding one in breeding plumage though.
An adult female Eurasian Wigeon (Ad. F.) will average grayer and somewhat less patterned than an Ad. F. American Wigeon. An Ad. F. Eurasian Wigeon will have a buffier or warmer brown head coloration rather than the dull gray-brown head of an Ad. F. American Wigeon.
An Ad. F. Eurasian Wigeon will lack a very thin black border around the gape which an Ad. F. American Wigeon has.
An Ad. F. Eurasian Wigeon will also likely have gray outer-tail feathers, which can sometimes be difficult to differentiate from the buffier outer-tail feathers of an Ad. F. American Wigeon.
In flight, the Eurasian wigeon will have no white on the secondary coverts and a completely gray underwing rather than the white strip on the secondary coverts and white axilleries and center of the wing on the American Wigeon. Eurasian Wigeons may also appear to have more of a "pin-tail" than the American Wigeon.
As far as the hybrids go, field marks to look for an include a small amount of bright green on an Ad. M. in breeding plumage Eurasian Wigeon's head, more buffy coloration on the body overall, or even a buffier face with a more dark coppery coloration.
Eurasian Wigeons will likely associate with American Wigeons, Gadwall, Mallards and pretty much any other flocks of dabbling ducks.

BEST MONTH TO FIND ONE - April, September-November
WHERE TO FIND ONE - Inland, small lakes and ponds in the Palos forest preserve area, small lakes and ponds in the Calumet area, small lakes and ponds in the NW and NE suburbs.
IDEAL CONDITIONS TO FIND ONE - Strong winds from the upper East coast, or even winds from overseas in Eurasia can cause one to land on lakes and ponds around in the Chicago area. In the time ranges mentioned above, if you pass by a small lake or pond in the areas I mentioned above, stop to scan through all of the ducks to to to spot one. Looking in the hard to access, back corners of ponds and lakes can be very rewarding.

My own iNat observation for a photo of how you might find one on a pond -
eBird link for more detailed photos -

Eurasian Wigeon is a species known to sometimes hybridize with our extremely common American Wigeon, and the hybrids can sometimes be difficult to pick out.

Posted on 24 December, 2020 15:35 by brdnrdr brdnrdr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

26 December, 2020

KING EIDER - Fall/Winter Rarity Finding in Chicago : Journal #3

The King Eider is a large sea duck from the New England area and high arctic. Within their range, they can be found in very large flocks with other ducks and waterfowl.
When King Eiders venture inland, they are almost always never adults in breeding or transitioning plumage, meaning that they won't have that striking, silky black and white body with a beautiful blue head and orange forehead knob.
A young male King Eider will be overall chocolatey brown with darker brown mottling. Some will have a partially orange bill and a small knob, but can also have a solid black or dark gray bill with very little trace of the forehead knob. Another thing to look for is the very interestingly patterned belly. It is a gray and brown scaled pattern on the lower breast and the rest of the belly is covered with fine brown barring. The upper breast is usually white with some scattered scaling.
In flight, a young male King Eider will have dark underwings with a white or light gray triangle from the axilleries somewhat bleeding over into the secondary underwing coverts. On the upperwing, there is no brightly colored speculum, but there is a white border on the inner secondaries stopping at the trailing edge and secondary coverts.
King Eiders are sea ducks, and have large and strong feet and yellow legs that are a dull yellowish-orange coloration for paddling through the harsh, winter, Atlantic surf.
King Eiders are fairly large, about half the size of a Canada Goose. They are very bulky bodied with extremely rear placed legs. They are not well suited for walking on land, similar to many other water birds.

BEST MONTH TO FIND ONE - November - February
WHERE TO FIND ONE - Overall Lake Michigan shoreline. Waters off beaches, harbors, piers are all great places to look. The Chicago River, Calumet River and Little Calumet River turning basins are great places to look as the water in the turning basins usually stays open even when the rest of the rivers freeze over.
IDEAL CONDITIONS TO FIND ONE - Strong easterly winds particularly from the New England region in the range of time specified. November is always the best month to potentially find one, but February also has multiple records.

SIDE NOTE - The Common Eider is another Atlantic sea duck closely related to the King Eider, and multiple have found their way to the Great Lakes region in the past. Common Eiders are exponentially rarer though. You would likely find one in the nonbreeding season, so the plumage you might find one in would look similar to a King Eider. Common Eiders are a bit larger, sit lower in the water, more like a Common Loon, are darker brown and more finely barred overall, and have a longer, solid black bill, closer in appearance to the bill of a White-winged scoter.

My own iNat observation -
eBird link for more photos -

Also sorry for the delay on this one, I was just super busy yesterday with the festivities all happening at once, and I'll be doing one a day from now on!

Posted on 26 December, 2020 21:22 by brdnrdr brdnrdr | 2 comments | Leave a comment