Sunday, April 22, 2012
Bird Chase in Chicago for an Elaenia
This past week 2 teenage birder brothers found either a white crested or small billed elaenia at Douglas Park just outside of Chicago. The former species has been documented only once in the ABA area in south Texas in 2008, and the latter has never been recorded here. Both species are residents of South America. So on Friday nite when I found out that several birding friends from Ohio were planning to drive to Chicago Sat. to try for the bird, I called Dan and Doreene who agreed to pick me up at O'Hare airport.
I got a frequent flyer ticket that had me into Chicago by 9:30 yesterday morning. Dan and Doreene were on the curb waiting for me, and we hauled down to the park where there were already at least 50 birders including the 2 brothers, Aaron and Ethan Gyllenhaal. Very quickly we joined a few of them who were tracking the elaenia's movements. The photo above gives you a sense of how many birders were looking at and/or photographing the bird (click on any photo to enlarge). The photo below of the bird, like the one above, was taken by my friend Laura Keene--you may remember that she took so many great photos earlier this year when we birded together in AZ and CA. Elaenia's are similar looking to the small flycatchers we see here in the U.S.
We spent 2 hours following the bird around the park, seeking better views and photos. Some trees as in the photo above already had lots of thick leaves, but others were still just budding out. As you can imagine, the sparsely leaved trees provided much better viewing of the elaenia. Besides several birding acquaintances from Ohio, there were many other birders from around the country that had made a special trip to see the bird. Now we are all waiting to see if the photographs will provide sufficient information to make a call on which of these 2 very similar species this bird actually is. Another key piece of info is that the bird seemed to respond to the call of the white crested, but not to the call of the small billed.
While at the park word began to circulate that a first ever sighting of a tropical mockingbird in the ABA area occurred at Sabine Woods in Texas. That bird was also seen again this morning. I am leaving later this week to go to Kansas to take in the spring migration there. I just might have to drive thru Texas on my way to try for the mockingbird. Stay tuned!