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We’ve been in Lombard, IL for two and a half months, much longer than our normal stops. On June 1, when we should be flying from Athens to Vienna, we will be leaving Lombard, IL for Conneaut, OH, the last town before the PA border.

Why?

Lake Erie, for starters. We’ve never been there, and our new house overlooks the lake. There is also beach combing. Cleveland and other places threw all their trash into the lake for about a century and today pieces rounded by the water and sand wash up waiting for people like me to see them. I’m looking forward to new surroundings, and a lake for swimming.

The change of seasons has also gotten to us. Our cute house is cozy and warm in cold weather, but it doesn’t have air conditioning. Chicago has sneaky spring weather, staying cool, even chilly, into May. There’s a reason that people don’t plant their gardens until mid-May. One day, though, you open the front door and step into a cloud of hot steam. Step outside and it feels like you are breathing through a hot washcloth. Summer has arrived in Chicago! It will be hot and humid on many days between today and September. For us, it’s time to move on.

Our stay here began just before the official start of spring. We went for walks and started seeing birds, even when we had to bundle up in heavy coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. Back when the branches were bare, we got used to spotting smaller birds that we had barely seen before.

Birdwatching is made for the current times. We walk slowly, scrutinizing the sides of the path or looking up into the trees, turning away from anyone who may be passing on the other side of the path. Watching for a flicker of wings among the twigs and brambles my mind wanders, testing the cold, the wind, checking the angle of the sun. I understand how people who spend their lives outdoors know the season and the time by the feel of the day.

We occasionally stop and chat with people who are fishing or who ask what birds we have seen. Most park walkers are polite and observant of social distancing. Sometimes we meet a regular birdwatcher who points us toward a better viewing spot, or a new bird. That’s how I spotted a Blackburnian warbler.

Dupage County has more parks and forest preserves than we have been able to visit, places we never set foot in when we lived here for twenty-four years, but now we appreciate them day after day. The knoll at the center of Lincoln Marsh, its grove of tall trees ringed by a vast spread of brown reed stems, reminds me of The Invisible Island, one of my favorite books growing up.

There’s a list of the sixty-three different birds we’ve been able to identify at the end of this post. We’ve seen surprising animals, as well. I didn’t realize that beavers had made such a comeback in this region. There must be quite a few living in the Dupage River system, as we’ve seen beavers swimming by several times. One day, a beaver swam by us, and as we watched, it climbed out of the water (below), waddled into the reeds and returned with a stick in it’s mouth. It set off swimming down the river until we lost sight of it.

As the days passed, we got better at spotting woodpeckers up in the trees. I don’t feel like a walk is officially over until we’ve seen at least one woodpecker. They are so funny-looking, hopping up the tree like a colorful squirrel. The brush on either side of the path became slightly greener as the trees budded. It was a bit more difficult to see birds, but improved our spotting of warblers and kinglets.

Over the weeks, we visited more places, and through other birders, discovered the hotspots in Dupage County, like Elsen’s Hill, in W. Dupage Woods, where we saw bushes full of warblers.

There was a Great Horned Owl mother and baby at Lincoln Marsh, and the tiny nest of a blue-gray gnatcatcher, barely the size of a baseball, at Fabyan Forest Preserve. Every colorful bird is a marvel. At the top of a tree we spotted a male cardinal, scarlet red in all his glory, facing a Baltimore oriole in bright orange and black.

Now our stay here is ending, just as the goslings and ducklings are hatching. We saw a multi-mother flock of goslings on the Fox River, spreading out across the water as their mothers looked on. We must have gotten a bit too close, because one of the geese gave off a short sharp sound, and in seconds the group of more than 20 goslings merged into a single ball of fluff.

The brush along the trails has gone from a handful of gray sticks to a dense mat of green. There are wild phlox in little gaps in the trees and lining some of the picnic areas. The migrating birds have moved on toward Canada and the Arctic for the summer, leaving the permanent residents to raise their chicks, and often, to make another nest and do it all over again before fall arrives. We are moving on as well. Every day, I think about my family, and miss being able to visit them, and to hug each one. Instead, I am grateful for the company that nature has provided.

Clockwise from upper left: Eastern bluebird, Red-headed woodpecker, Swainson’s thrush, robin’s nest on our drainpipe, palm warbler.

Midwest birds 2020
BirdDateLocation
cormorant
Canada goose
Mallard
Wood duck13-AprChurchill Woods
Pied bill grebe30-AprChurchill Woods
Double crested cormorant8-AprHidden Lakes Park
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Turkey Vulture25-MayLincoln Marsh
Red tailed Hawk26-MayLincoln Marsh
American Coot30-AprChurchill Woods
Caspian TernDupage River
Mourning Dove1-MayChurchill Woods
Great Horned Owl8-MayLincoln Marsh
Belted Kingfisher13-MarChurchill Woods
Red headed woodpecker25-MayLincoln Marsh
Red bellied woodpecker2-AprChurchill Woods
Yellow bellied sapsucker13-AprChurchill Woods
Downy Woodpecker8-AprHidden Lakes Park
Hairy Woodpecker25-MayLincoln Marsh
yellow bellied flycatcher22-AprChurchill Woods
Eastern Phoebe25-AprChurchill Woods
Eastern Kingbird16-MayLincoln Marsh
Yellow throated Vireo22-AprChurchill Woods
Blue Jay15-Apr506 W. Maple St.
Tree Swallow30-AprHidden Lakes Park
Red breasted nuthatch31-Mar506 W. Maple St.
Brown creeper31-MarChurchill Woods
House Wren15-MayLincoln Marsh
BlueGray Gnatcatcher23-MayFabyan Forest Preserve
Golden Crowned Kinglet13-AprChurchill Woods
Ruby Crowned Kinglet13-AprChurchill Woods
Eastern Bluebird8-MayLincoln Marsh
Swainsons Thrush12-MayChurchill Woods
American Robin
Red wing Blackbird
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher24-AprE. Branch Dupage R.
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing5-MayLilac Park, Lombard
Black and white warbler11-MayElsen’s Hill
Golden Winged Warbler16-AprChurchill Woods
Nashville Warbler7-MayChurchill Woods
Mourning Warbler7-MayChurchill Woods
Common Yellowthroat25-MayLincoln Marsh
American Redstart15-MayRice Lake
Magnolia Warbler22-MayChurchill Woods
Blackburnian Warbler11-MayElsen’s Hill
Yellow Warbler14-MayDupage River
Pine Warbler13-AprChurchill Woods
Palm Warbler23-AprChurchill Woods
Yellow rumped warbler8-AprChurchill Woods
Chipping Sparrow12-MayChurchill Woods
Savannah Sparrow23-AprChurchill Woods
Song Sparrow13-AprChurchill Woods
White Crowned Sparrow8-MayChurchill Woods
Northern Cardinal
Rose breasted grosbeak8-MayLincoln Marsh
Indigo Bunting25-MayLincoln Marsh
Brewers Blackbird14-MayDupage River
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle8-MayLincoln Marsh
Brown headed Cowbird8-AprHidden Lakes Park
House Sparrow506 W. Maple St.