The 117th Annual Christmas Bird Count

A Message from John Elliott, Conservation Committee

Chicago Audubon Society

'Tis the Season ... to join friends, fellow birders and conservationists for the

117th Annual Christmas Bird Count

At the end of the 19th century, unregulated hunting and collecting decimated populations of all kinds of birds. Waterfowl and shorebirds were victims of market hunting—egrets, herons and songbirds provided decorations for elaborate ladies hats. Collectors for public and private museums took entire nests with eggs. Into this devastation stepped a hardy band of early champions for conservation who, among other worthy efforts, started the first Audubon Societies. One of the popular “sports” of the time was the Christmas side hunt. Families and groups that gathered to celebrate the holidays would choose sides for a day of competitive hunting. Whoever brought in the most feathered and furred victims—and any species was “game”—was the winner. As an alternative to such destruction, on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, a pioneer in the new Audubon Society, proposed a “Christmas Bird Census” to count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them. Today, and for many years, Chicago Audubon Society members have taken part in any of ten Chicago Region counts. Many of us join friends for the counts on Chicago Urban and Chicago Lakefront, Waukegan, Calumet City/Sand Ridge, Barrington, Indiana Dunes and others. Each count is in a circle of a seven and-a-half mile radius centered on a point chosen to include the most likely habitat for winter birds. A compiler coordinates assignment of parties, which can be from one to several counters, and then collects the results for submission to National Audubon.  

The Count Days and contacts for this season include:

Sunday, December 18, Chicago Urban:  Jeffrey Sanders, email at [email protected].

Monday, December 19, Barrington:  Duane Heaton, email at [email protected].

 New participants will join experienced birders, so everyone is welcome!

MAY YOUR HOLIDAY SEASON BE FILLED WITH MANY MANY BIRDS!

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Chicago Audubon Annual Appeal 2016

  ~~ ANNUAL APPEAL 2016  ~~

Your donation to our 2016 Annual Appeal will help us to achieve our on-going goals of protecting migratory birds, the restoration and protection of bird habitat and habitat for all wildlife, and educating the public about the importance of these goals. Please click here if you would like to donate using you credit card. If you prefer, you may call our office to speak to the Administrator and make a charge over the phone (773-539-6793). If you reach voice mail, please  leave a message with your name and phone number (only), and the Administrator will return your call. Another option would be to donate by mailing a check made out to Chicago Audubon Society to our address at:  Chicago Audubon Society, 5801-C North Pulaski Road, Chicago, IL  60646. If you have any questions, please call ourr office at the number just above.

We thank you for your timely support and for your support in the past!

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CHICAGO AUDUBON'S ANNUAL BIRD SEED SALE

~  CHICAGO AUDUBON ANNUAL BIRD SEED SALE 2016  ~

We wish to extend many, many thanks to

Good Earth Greenhouse in River Forest and to Nature House in Chicago

for hosting our pickup day for the bird seed sale this year on November 5.

Without your help and the help of all of our wonderful Volunteers,

this sale would not be possible!

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CHICAGO AUDUBON'S FIRST ANNUAL PHOTO CONTEST WINNERS:

Congratulations to the winners of Chicago Audubon's First Annual Photo Contest. We would like to thank all of you who entered for sharing your beautiful images with us. We also thank our judges for their valuable time and support. And many thanks to the Field Museum and the Chicago Botanic Garden for donating prizes.

 

 1st Place:  Steven Jner Palm Warbler

 


2nd Place:  John Picken Mourning Warbler

 

3rd Place:  Jennifer Marshall Black-crowned Night Heron

 

 We look forward to seeing even more entries for Chicago Audubon's

Second Annual Photo Contest in 2017.

 Have a magical bird-filled summer!
 
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The Skokie Lagoons: A Jewel for Recreation and A Paradise for Volunteers

"This network of pools, channels and islands winds between Winnetka, Northfield and Glencoe. With public boat access (boasting some of Cook County’s best fishing), biking and hiking trails and picnic areas, this well loved, wooded preserve offers peaceful retreats and activities around every bend. The Skokie Lagoons Forest Preserve covers 894 acres."   Cook County Forest Preserve District fpdcc.com.

THE SKOKIE LAGOONS -- By John Elliott, Chicago Audubon Society Conservation Committee

Bur Oak.  Photo by A.L. Gibson.Long before there was a forest preserve, before a settlement called Chicago was founded on the prairie, before Jean Baptiste DuSable built a trading post on the Chicago River, when explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet made the first recorded passage by Europeans over the Chicago Portage, a grand old bur oak much like the one pictured here would have already been a maturing tree. Known to relatively few, the original still stands today surrounded by a tangle of buckthorn on the western edge of Erickson Woods preserve of the Skokie Lagoons.

When the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the Skokie Lagoons during the great depression of the 1930’s, the region gained a fishing, boating, hiking and biking recreation area—at the cost of losing a diverse marshland home to many wild creatures. From Willow Road to Lake-Cook Road in Winnetka the only remnants of those original communities is a sedge meadow and the neighboring grand old oak that lie between the levee and drainage channel of the lagoons. Over the years much of the land was overrun by buckthorn and other invasive species of marginal value to wildlife. After the lakes of the lagoon system were dredged and rehabilitated in the 1990’s, some hardy volunteers took on the challenge of remedying at least a small portion of past neglect. Chicago Audubon’s Jerry Garden was the first volunteer steward to work on removing invasive species at a lagoon site along Tower Road in Winnetka, beginning at the shore just east of the parking area along Tower Road. After Jerry left us for Alaska, Dave Kosnik and Daniel Kielson took over as stewards. A few years later, Gary Morrissey also joined the stewardship team. In the past few years, work has been concentrated north of Tower, working east towards Forestway Drive. Buckthorn has been removed from much of the target area. While buckthorn removal remains a regular workday activity—and a favorite of many volunteers—there is a renewed emphasis on follow-up work. Even though “it’s not as much fun,” Dave says, follow up maintenance is defense against recolonization and is now a very important task. In spring, control of garlic mustard is also needed. 

Quite a few years ago I put in my small bit of effort working with Mighty Acorns school groups removing buckthorn around that historic oak. In the past few years, responsibility for restoration there has fallen to Adam Kessel of the Cook County Forest Preserves. Unfortunately, he reports, the last school working there left the program two years ago, and the re-sprouting of buckthorn threatens to overwhelm what had been accomplished. Meanwhile, volunteers worked with district contractors to remove teasel from the sedge meadow. Dave Kosnik reports success. If all goes well the meadow will only need prescribed fire for maintenance. Teasel removal was spearheaded by the site’s bird monitors who then documented the return of shrubland birds like Willow Flycatchers. Daniel Kielsen is also president of an organization called the Backyard Nature Center (BYNC) which works with schools, turning the lagoons into something of an outdoor classroom. Their main focus of late has been on aquatics. The BYNC is a community organization in New Trier Township spanning Glencoe and Winnetka that works to connect children, youth, and adults with local natural areas. It is particularly active in bringing school groups to the Lagoons (and other preserves) for science lessons and service learning.

Prothonotary Warblers and Red-headed Woodpeckers that have nested here testify to the importance of restoration for habitat. Migrant birds are finding critical resting stops here now. Lake restoration greatly improved resources for wintering waterfowl, including a Barrow’s Goldeneye that was a winter visitor several years ago. Dave says, “The Skokie Lagoons is a special place, a big area with a lot of diverse habitat in the middle of suburbia. Many people use the lagoons for recreation, and the many native and migrant birds and other animals that live there make it a really important place.”  Thanks Dave, Daniel, and Gary! Thanks volunteers!  The reward is knowing you have contributed in a perhaps small but no doubt valuable way to the revival of habitat for birds and other creatures. 

Workdays every second Saturday of the month welcome any and all volunteers. Contact Dave Kosnik at [email protected] for information. 

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A Few Things to Keep in Mind About Birdfeeders - in the Winter and All Year

Feeder Placement for Reducing Window Strikes—Placement of feeders within three feet of a window or more than 30 feet away from a window are the safest positions. When feeders are close to a window, a bird leaving the feeder cannot gain enough momentum to do itself harm if it strikes the window. And if feeders are more than 30 feet from a window, the birds are less likely to perceive windows as a pathway to other parts of your yard.Some other possibilities for hanging a feeder include hanging from the eaves at the corner of a house, or fixing it directly to a window. Also, periodically moving feeders to a different location helps to minimize the build up of waste on the ground. And placement near (but not over) a water feature, such as a bird bath, will almost ensure that birds will find your feeder.

Providing Safe Haven Near the FeederBirds are more often than not completely out in the open when at a feeder, making them targets for local predators. A brush pile or shrub within about 10 feet of the feeder will provide a place for birds to quickly fly into when a predator is within striking distant.The term “brush pile” describes a mound or heap of woody vegetative material, usually loosely constructed to furnish additional wildlife cover. Brush piles can be tidy or wild, large or small, and mostly made up of wood which can be alive or dead. Discarded Christmas trees (without the tinsel) can be used as a base for a brush pile—then build up from there. Our resident and migrating birds need the kind of cover that brush piles offer. 

Three Seeds that Attract Many Birds:

Black Oil Sunflower:  A favorite with many species—Cardinals, Woodpeckers, Blue jays, Goldfinches, Purple Finches, Chickadees, Titmice, Nuthatches and others. Because of raccoons and squirrels, it’s best to put most of your sunflower seeds in hanging feeders. The black sunflower seed, sometimes called oil seed is best rather than the grey-and-white-striped sunflower seed. It’s called black oil because they are higher in oil content and they also have softer shells.

Nyjer:  Goldfinches adore Nyjer seed. It is also very popular with Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls and other small-billed seed-eating birds—Nuthatches, Chickadees, Doves, and Downy Woodpeckers—but no one loves it more than Goldfinches! And Nyjer doesn’t look large enough to have a shell, but it does! And because it’s so small, it’s easy to mistake ground debris under a Nyjer feeder for seed that has fallen, but take a closer look at what looks like fallen seed—it’s most likely tiny Nyjer seed shells on the ground. The birds eat the seeds and the shells drop. And, happily for the birds, squirrels typically ignore Nyjer seed (which is good for you as well because it is expensive). Do not mix the Nyjer with other seeds because you will have squirrels and Grackles sweeping through the mixture to get at what they want.

Safflower:  Squirrels do not like Safflower, and Grackles may try it once but then generally leave it alone after the first encounter. Its thick shell is difficult for some birds to crack open, but it is loved by many species and high in protein. Put Safflower in tube feeders for House Finches, Chickadees, and Nuthatches. Use elevated feeders for Blue Jays, Cardinals, and other Grosbeaks, and put it in ground feeders for Doves. And, as with the Nyjer, be careful not to mix Safflower in with other seed.

Thank You for Feeding the Birds All Year Long!!

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Illinois Birds: A Century of Change

Book Review by Gail Goldberger

 

ILLINOIS BIRDS:
A CENTURY OF CHANGE

Illinois Birds: A Century of Change cover art

ILLINOIS BIRDS: A CENTURY OF CHANGE
is published by the Illinois Natural History
Survey Special Publication 31, 2010, and
can be found at
https://shop.inrs.illinois.edu/inhs-spec-pub.html.

Summary

Commissioned by the Illinois Natural History Survey, data compiled from bird counts at three fifty-year intervals, and repeated at the same locations, make up the oldest standardized survey in the nation.

The City Dark

The City Dark Ian Cheney’s 2011 award winning documentary – The City Dark – gives audiences an appreciation of what is being lost as we live in a world that is increasingly filled with light pollution. Besides no longer being able to enjoy stars in a night sky or inquire about the cosmos by peering deep into space – there are real dangers to human health and the well-being of the planet when we live in a 24-hour light cycle.

Migratory birds fatally attracted to urban lighting, baby turtles disoriented and confused by beach front lights are all victims of the rapid introduction of excessive outdoor lighting that has occurred in just the last generation. Changing light in the environment is altering habitat in a way that is not good for nature and humans.

Delta Dispatches: The latest news on efforts to restore Coastal Louisiana

National Audubon, among other organizations, co-sponsors Delta Dispatches, an online newsletter that keeps us abreast of current environmental updates regarding Coastal Louisiana. This website is a great resource for the latest information on the region: www.mississippiriverdelta.org/

Volunteers Needed to Help Save the Birds!

Chicago Bird Collision Monitors is looking for volunteers to assist in their conservation and rescue efforts for migratory birds in downtown Chicago and outlying areas. Help rescue the birds! CBCM is a conservation project of the Chicago Audubon Society. For further information, please call (773) 988-1867.

For even more info go to www.birdmonitors.net

What to do if you find an entangled bird:

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