'Slow birding' on the North Shore Channel
Plus, join us for a Favorite Fluddles virtual chat on World Wetlands Day, Feb. 2
The New York Times published a piece in December on “Slow Birding” and a book of the same name. The idea is to focus on careful study of everyday birds rather than building up a lengthy checklist. There’s joy to be found in the contemplation of birds. In slow birding, more isn’t always better.
With that in mind I stopped off for a walk along the North Shore Channel last week. This is two years in a row I’ve gravitated to the canal that runs between Lake Michigan at Wilmette to the North Branch of the Chicago River near Foster Avenue. It helps that the waterway mostly stays unfrozen all winter and is equidistant between my home and my daughters’ school.
First I walked north toward Lincolnwood, pausing across the channel from Bernard Stone Park and scanning for ducks and any late-season waders. There were a few Mallards around but not much else. Here the channel skirts a shopping center and flows under Devon Avenue. There’s a big Metropolitan Water Reclamation District outflow that occasionally roils the surface.
I turned around and walked south of Peterson Avenue, and here’s where the action was, even on an endlessly dreary day. First, a pair of Hooded Mergansers diving around and under some downed tree limbs. Then a Great Blue Heron that flushed as I walked toward Bryn Mawr Avenue. There’s some typical parkland here with some nice prairie plantings along the channel. I walked under Bryn Mawr, craned to see south and picked an American Black Duck out of all the Mallards.
I’ve begun 2023 eschewing the urge to chase after rare birds or challenge myself to increase my life list. So there was something particularly fun about a few discoveries on the channel in a time of year considered the birding doldrums. This small experience portends good things to come in what I hope will be a year of ‘slow birding.’
Joins for a Favorite Fluddles chat on World Wetlands Day, including a new film trailer
Regular TWiB readers may enjoy the upcoming virtual chat hosted by me and Red Hill Birding Guide Steve Huggins on Thursday evening, Feb. 2. We’ll be talking about some of our favorite wetland destinations as well as efforts to protect and expand wetlands. All too often, fluddles have been viewed as nuisances, watery areas best off drained for agriculture or for a prettier lawn.
We’ll be joined by Stephanie Beilke of Audubon Great Lakes, Dr. Gary Sullivan of The Wetlands Initiative, and Madie McFarland of Ducks Unlimited. We’ll conclude the evening with the release of the trailer for my new film FLUDDLES and share opportunities to visit fluddles this spring.
This event is sponsored by Turnstone Strategies and Red Hill Birding, which provides professionally guided birding and wildlife tours all over the planet.
A look at the Lake Sangchris Christmas Bird Count
Seven participants totaled 50 bird species around Lake Sangchris during the annual Christmas Bird Count there on Dec. 16. The count circle is centered in Kincaid, Ill, population 1,349, a village in Christian County that’s right between Bulpitt and Jeisyville. The circle spills over into Sangamon County (Sangamon + Christian = Sangchris, get it?). It was a blustery day with winds 20 to 30 mph, from the south-southwest. Notables included a count first American White Pelican, and another year with the elusive Eurasian Tree Sparrow (an Illinois specialty). Full disclosure: Thanks to an agreement with coordinator Jarod Hitchings, a TWiB contributor, I am the count “sponsor” as part of Turnstone Strategies. I look forward to supporting the count in the future and seeing it grow under Hitchings’ leadership.
TWiB reader Betsy Brill messaged me to ask about this unusual duck at Montrose Harbor recently. This domestic duck, nicknamed Dom, has been hanging around Montrose for at least the past two years. I didn’t realize until recently that nearly all domestic ducks—even the white ones—derive from the Mallard. But this one can be a bit confusing and easily thought of as a type of hybrid. How did it get to Montrose? That’s not certain, but people have been known to leave unwanted pets of all types in Chicago parks (see alligator Chance the Snapper from a few years ago).
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Love slow-birding, and being a lover of words as well, it is a great term indeed.
I live on a lake and see the geese pecking away at the sunchipped ice, making spots to swim and hop, wading on sheeted ice-walks, even from my encased glass window, they can hear me gasp, and standing on one leg, the white and blue herons, the sandhill cranes and the swans, the mallards and the endless canadian geese, this lake home made a bird watcher out of me.