General Interest

An Unexpected Long-Distance Traveler

by Annette Prince, Director, Chicago Bird Collision Monitors Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (CBCM) receives more than 10,000 calls each year from people reporting birds in need of help. One of the more remarkable calls this past spring came from North Chicago (Lake County). A young person called the CBCM hotline (773-988-1867) to say that her mother had found a bird lying in the street near their home. The family had safely contained the bird in a closed cardboard box and was looking for help to get it to a wildlife rehabilitation center. North Chicago is quite a distance from most of our network, but the young lady and her mother were determined to find help for the bird they had rescued, so I made the drive to pick up the bird.

When I arrived, they showed me the spot where the bird had been lying in the street at the end of an alley. The mother said the bird couldn’t walk or fly and was dragging itself in the street — sure to be hit by a car if she didn’t move it. This being a residential suburban neighborhood, I was expecting nothing more remarkable than a pigeon, robin or sparrow — but during migration you never know! I was surprised when they brought out a large computer box.

Even though the residents assured me the bird could not fly, we NEVER open a container and risk the bird escaping. So I carefully peeked into the box, expecting to find a little bird crouched in a corner. I was astounded to see not a small backyard bird, but a huge and very impressive loon! It must have crash-landed on the street, as aquatic birds sometimes do when they mistake dark wet pavement for water. Once grounded, loons are unable to take off. Their anatomy is specialized for the aquatic life they live, but is not suited for walking on land. To take flight, loons need at least 100 feet of open water to paddle/run along to propel and lift themselves into the air. This bird would surely never have left the street on its own.

I transported the loon to Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn. Upon examination it was found to have multiple grave injuries from which it could not recover, including a broken beak, necrotic foot sores, and primary feather and bone damage to its wings. Sadly, this beautiful bird could not be saved, but it was donated to the Field Museum, where an amazing discovery was made! Initially thought to be an immature or winter-plumaged Common Loon, experts at the museum recognized the delicate necklace below its throat that identified it as a Pacific Loon — a bird normally only seen thousands of miles from North Chicago! Key details leading to the identification were the small body and bill size, dark back with limited spotting, extensive and sharply demarcated dark area on the neck in addition to the diagnostic necklace. This species is a coastal or offshore migrant. It is rarely seen inland, and only very rarely in the Midwest. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Pacific Loon is “perhaps the most abundant loon in North America. It spends most of the year on the Pacific Ocean, returning to inland Arctic tundra lakes only for three months in summer to breed.” To read more about the Pacific Loon and other loons, visit Loon/

This was the first Pacific Loon specimen from Illinois to be added to the Field Museum collection, where it will be available for research for generations to come. The Chicago region is on the path of many birds making remarkable long-distance journeys. It is important to always be alert for any birds that need our help. You never know what surprising travelers you may find! CBCM welcomes your calls and also welcomes volunteers and donations which allow us to continue rescuing and protecting our feathered friends.


Craig Stettner Remembered

by Alan Anderson, CAS Board Member

The Chicago Audubon Society lost a friend, a warm and helpful person, an educator and an excellent birder during a tragic accident while swimming in the ocean in Costa Rica with his family on Christmas Day. But when Craig Stettner unexpectedly passed away that day, so many more were affected: • Students at Harper College, where Craig taught Environmental Science and Biology since 1994 • The Forest Preserves of Cook County, where he spent many hours working to clear invasive species and to restore habitat at Spring Creek Forest Preserve • Citizens for Conservation • Friends of Busse Woods, where he was a board member • The Dragonfly Monitoring Network, which he coordinated from 2005-2011 And, of course, especially his family. Craig really loved his family, frequently making the trip to the Madison, Wisconsin area to spend time with his niece and nephews there. He spent many hours caring for his father who suffered from dementia. After his father passed, Craig visited his elderly mother every evening, to ensure she was well cared for, according to his brother David. One thing is certain. Craig loved birds. David says, “Craig had handwritten bird lists just about everywhere, his car, mom’s house, his house, his attic, I keep finding them. I think we are all amazed he was not in more accidents. His eyes were in the skies more than the roads when he was driving.” Craig began his involvement with Chicago Audubon Society in 2008 on the Illinois Spring Bird Count, when he helped cover a number of forest preserves along the Des Plaines River, as well as a few areas near Harper College. He faithfully helped with the Spring Bird Count every year thereafter, and, because he was an excellent birder with keen eyesight and a ‘great birding ear’, he almost always found some uncommon species on those days. He even found a Sora in his mother’s yard that first year! Craig participated in Christmas Bird Counts and surveyed a number of Northwest Cook areas for nesting birds. Craig joined the Chicago Audubon board in 2012 and actively served on the board until the present. He gave several programs for CAS, including one on dragonfly identification (one of his other specialties) and one on Costa Rica. He led many bird walks, including CAS Birdathon fundraisers. Craig was known for helping ‘wherever needed’ at all our Birding America Symposia (even standing outside to direct participants to the lunch hall — a very important little detail!). He was a regular volunteer at CAS birdseed pickup days helping many folks get their seed bags to their cars. Julie Sacco, former CAS board member and Naturalist at North Park Village Nature Center, said “I always had a great time working with Craig at the CAS birdseed sale because he always smiled, he was always there to sling 40- pound bags and he always checked on fellow volunteers to see if anyone needed anything, from a hot coffee to a pair of gloves.” Another CAS board member said of Craig, “He seemed to have a knack for lending support to others, no matter the relationship or situation. Clearly, he had a humanitarian gift.” Always humble, always helping, always volunteering, always trying to make others happy. The large church where his Memorial Celebration was held was packed with people whose lives Craig had touched. The most striking theme was how much Craig cared about people – really cared. He had so much love. Craig was a great example of just how much influence a good teacher can have in his community and world. He was not just ‘a teacher’ at Harper College. Former student Jennifer Chung said, “He cared about his students. He wasn’t just a professor — he was also a mentor.” He often brought his students into the natural world with excursions outside the classroom. He regularly led trips to Costa Rica to introduce students to the rich flora and fauna of the rainforest. Here are some of the words that Harper students used to describe Craig: Humble, patient, kind, caretaker, educator, altruistic, friend, saint, contagious, brilliant, loyal, dedicated, brave, philanthropist, encourager, optimistic, empathetic, compassionate, funny, quirky, gentle, inspirational, unforgettable, a mentor, friend, selfless, Godly, loving unconditionally, eco-warrior. Many students have said that Craig influenced their choice of profession. Bill Waltrich said he “was the reason I pursued a career in natural resources.” The Chicago Audubon Society plans to honor and remember Craig’s contributions in a number of ways. The CAS Board has renamed our Education Award “The Craig Stettner Award for Environmental Education.” We will have a field trip in his honor in April at Penny Road Pond and adjacent Spring Creek Forest Preserve, where he did so much ecological restoration. Donations to CAS in memory of Craig will be divided between a bench or plaque in the Spring Creek Forest Preserve remembering Craig’s restoration work there and a continuing scholarship in his name in environmental education at Harper College.

Craig received the William H. Miller Conservation Award from the Barrington-based Citizen’s for Conservation in 2013. In response Craig stated, “I’m honored to be the recipient of an award that’s linked directly to conservation. My goal every year is to expose my Harper students to real ecological work in the hope that it inspires them to learn even more about biology, the environment and ecology, and our role in all of it. They’re able to help a good cause, while learning, and that to me is the real reward.” Mission accomplished, Craig, but we will all definitely miss you!