by Carl Strang
Saturday was the DuPage Birding Club’s Christmas Bird Count, which centers on Fermilab, the famous physics research facility that straddles western DuPage and eastern Kane Counties. Here my group pauses attentively as yet-to-be identified birds call and flutter in the brush.
For a group portrait go here to the account of the 2008 outing. The weather has been very cold, most bodies of water are frozen, and for the most part the count was unremarkable. One exception for our group was this purple finch that Linda Padera spotted just before our lunch break.
In the afternoon we stopped at West Branch Forest Preserve, home to one of the county’s major Canada goose roosts until it freezes over. Some birds had kept a hole open in the ice.
While we watched, the main swimming activity keeping the hole open was provided by 14 common goldeneye ducks and a coot.
On the ice fringing the nearby West Branch of the DuPage River, we noticed these remarkable traces in the snow.
A close look revealed distinctive footprints of a great horned owl close to the bank. It looks like the bird came in for a landing at speed, with most of the lines drawn by the bird’s tail feathers as it put on the brakes. Undulations suggest the owl made two strong backsweeps with its wings as its tail feathers dragged. It stood for a moment before springing back into the air.