Some Mayslake Birds

by Carl Strang

It seemed the ideal situation. Muskrats had built an enormous mounded den in the center of the parking lot marsh at Mayslake Forest Preserve, and it was a sure bet that it would platform a Canada goose nest in the spring. Sure enough.

A female incubating her nest on April 15.

A female incubating her nest on April 15.

Something happened. The nest was abandoned before incubation was completed. The water is deep, and it’s hard to imagine a coyote making that swim for so small a return. The story wasn’t over, though, as a second attempt was underway by early June.

The same pair? Cannot say, but there was a new nest under incubation by June 3.

The same pair? Cannot say, but there was a new nest under incubation by June 3.

This was very late, but still there would be plenty of time to get young flying by fall. The result, however, was the same.

By June 24 the nest had been abandoned. The eggs appear to be intact.

By June 24 the nest had been abandoned. The eggs appear to be intact.

To close on a more positive note, I will share some recent portraits of Mayslake’s other birds.

Green herons have been regulars in the marshes and lakes.

Green herons have been regulars in the marshes and lakes.

A red-winged blackbird carries lunch for her nestlings.

A red-winged blackbird carries lunch for her nestlings.

A single common yellowthroat is all I’ve been hearing on the preserve.

A single common yellowthroat is all I’ve been hearing on the preserve.

This cedar waxwing thoughtfully lifted its crest as I aimed the camera.

This cedar waxwing thoughtfully lifted its crest as I aimed the camera.

Vertebrate Notes

by Carl Strang

Today I have a few observations on vertebrate animals to report from Mayslake Forest Preserve. The first was a personal nostalgia trip as I watched a green heron foraging in the stream corridor marsh.

While green herons sometimes wade, they more often hunt from a perch.

This brought back childhood memories of watching green herons hunt from the piers at Lake Maxinkuckee in north central Indiana.

Here the heron takes aim at a tadpole or other small animal.

Nearby, at May’s Lake, I found a log protruding from the water a few feet offshore that has become a marking station for a mink.

The mink at Mayslake typically travel in the water, seldom leaving tracks on shore, so such depositions of scats are the best clue to their presence.

In recent days we have been hearing the familiar incessant complaints of a fledgling red-tailed hawk.

It frequently perches in the top of a tree.

This probably is an offspring of the same pair that nested on Mayslake preserve last year. They decided to nest elsewhere this spring, but frequent sightings hinted that their nest was nearby, and the arrival of this youngster supports that idea.

Birds Around the Marsh

by Carl Strang

The area with the greatest diversity of birds at Mayslake Forest Preserve, now that the breeding season is well underway, has been the stream corridor with its adjacent marsh. The corridor itself is wooded, attracting Baltimore orioles, warbling vireos, yellow warblers, common yellowthroats, indigo buntings and downy woodpeckers.

This male downy worked on a nest cavity earlier in the season.

The marsh itself has been a place of interest. During the earlier part of the migration it held a pair of buffleheads for two weeks. More recently I saw one of the most unusual birds of the year there, the preserve’s first least bittern (gone before I could get the camera up; I wasn’t going to pursue and harass it just for a photo).

On Friday the marsh had a trio of herons. I didn’t get a photo of the great blue heron, which nervously departed as soon as I came into view. I had better luck with the green heron.

He landed on this stub after being chased from a preferred corner of the marsh by the bird in the following picture.

The third heron visits Mayslake less often than the others.

Great egrets always are a welcome sight, perhaps to be seen more often in summer now that they are nesting in DuPage County.

I have been most fond of another little group of birds, a momma wood duck and her young.

She started out with 9 ducklings. Only 4 remained when I took this photo.

With the diversity of birds, plants and insects around that marsh, it has been my favorite part of the Mayslake preserve this year.

Mayslake Migrants Late April

by Carl Strang

The migrant songbirds, and other birds that wintered in the tropics, really begin to flow into northeastern Illinois in the last week of April, and will peak in May. April 24 brought Mayslake’s first chimney swifts, brown thrasher, yellow warblers, and pine warblers including this one.

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By the 27th the preserve was hosting newly arrived solitary and spotted sandpipers, green herons, northern waterthrushes, a black-throated green warbler, a blue-winged warbler, a rose-breasted grosbeak, and this Baltimore oriole,

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as well as a northern parula.

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The parula was singing its alternate song, for the most part, the rhythm of which reminds me of the William Tell overture and therefore, inevitably for a member of my generation, the Lone Ranger.

New arrivals on April 28 were warbling vireo, white-crowned and vesper sparrows. The 29th brought house wren, ovenbird, catbird, Tennessee warbler, common yellowthroat, and this red-headed woodpecker.

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I am hoping that Mayslake’s savanna will be of interest to this relatively rare woodpecker as a nesting area. The last day of April brought a single new species but a good one, a golden-winged warbler.

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