Glimpses from the car window, bootprints on the trail

Like most of you reading this, my life is busy. Even though I work outdoors in the forest preserves, not all of my nature experiences occur there. Many days I have to take the glimpses of nature where I can get them. On my drive home from work last week, glancing at the “not-so-glamorous” retention pond next to the tollway, I spotted my first hooded merganser of the year. I knew the gang was back, although some of them not for long. This “gang” I’m referring to is the group of migratory waterfowl that show up here in the early spring during migration en route to their final destinations further north. With names like horned grebe, American wigeon, northern shoveler, and gadwall (just a few of the species seen in the past few days at Independence Grove Forest Preserve, here is the complete list), who wouldn’t want to meet this cast of characters?

This time of year is the perfect opportunity to take a peek at some fascinating birds close to home. Here are some great spots in Lake County to see these birds (much better than craning your neck as your drive by the tollway retention pond): Cuba Marsh, Rollins Savanna, Independence Grove and Van Patten Woods. But they head farther north shortly after they arrive, so don’t miss the opportunity.

Want to get updates on the latest bird sightings? I recommend joining the list-serve IBET (Illinois Birders Exchanging Thoughts).

And my hooded merganser buddy? This is a bird that nests in tree cavities in forested wetlands throughout Lake County. If you keep your eyes peeled, you just might see their chicks later this spring. I’m going to let my glimpse of him along a congested highway inspire me to get my boots muddy as I search for his babies in more pristine habitats. Hoping something you see along the “road” will inspire you to do the same.

3 thoughts on “Glimpses from the car window, bootprints on the trail

  1. Loved your post. Hurray for ducks! Do you think we are seeing them here earlier than usual because of the warm winter?

    • Certainly! These birds rely on open water for feeding on plants, aquatic invertebrates, even fish. Since the ice has melted sooner on the ponds and lakes in our area, these habitats are open to the birds earlier than in years past.

  2. Cool! I saw two herons on the north branch of the Chicago river one time. A little green heron and a great blue. Right next to the water reclamation plant! There’s nature everywhere.

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