Wild Turkey a LaBagh Woods first, plus the return of Rose

This Week in Birding identifies the first turkey on the Northwest Side in decades as area gobbler sightings continue to rise.

LaBagh Woods is 80 acres of meticulously restored nature on the city’s Northwest Side. It’s uniquely situated as the first of a thin chain of forest preserves that snake their way north from the city.

I’ve really only been to LaBagh a handful of times, as much as I recognize it’s one of the top six birding hotspots in the city limits. I live closer to the site now and decided to head there Saturday to register some spring migration time in the field.

I was basking in the glow of my first Palm Warbler of the season as I stood on the old trestle in the middle of the site. That’s when my attention turned to a large form landing on a cottonwood. My first thought was “raptor,” as I’d seen a Cooper’s Hawk and a distant buteo earlier on the walk. But this bird had the long neck and relatively stubby wings of a game bird. It was undoubtedly, incontrovertibly a Wild Turkey.

I snapped a few photos and gestured toward a group of birders who were approaching the cottonwood. Before long, the turkey flew off to the north and east, in the direction of the Sauganash neighborhood. I tried to re-find the Galliforme with the help of Jeff Skrentny, LaBagh’s majordomo who’s led the years-long effort to restore and maintain the site’s natural character. We circled a section of bottomland carpeted with Lesser Celandine and searched the trees to no avail. Skrentny and Kelly Ballantyne stuck around even longer and still couldn’t find the gobbler.

Turkeys aren’t common in Chicago, or really Chicagoland for that matter. But perhaps they’re expanding their range. There have been more sightings of turkeys of late in the city, one on the North Side two years ago and several on the South Side and in the South Suburbs as well.

The turkey proved to be the first recorded at LaBagh. This was not what I expected at all when I left home on Saturday morning. I was really just hoping to tick a few year birds and get a better sense of LaBagh. But the thrill of discovery is one of the things that draws us to nature and keeps us coming back for more.

Rose is baaaaack!

I was just back from an early-morning run yesterday when I received a message that a Piping Plover was at Montrose Beach (!). It wasn’t wholly unexpected, but it was still a welcome piece of news and raised hopes that it would be Monty or Rose. The bird’s band combination suggested strongly that it was Rose. And later in the afternoon it was confirmed: this was indeed Rose, the female Piping Plover that has nested at Chicago’s Montrose Beach the past two years.

Rose winters at Anclote Key in Florida, which is about 1,100 miles from Montrose Beach. So any journey of that length is one to celebrate. Now we’ll wait to hear about Monty, who was seen last week in Texas, and about young Chicago-hatched plovers Esperanza, Hazel and Nish. More news to come.

Spring migration update

I’m reminded each year that spring migration usually arrives…later than expected. In the winter, one fantasizes about April days where the trees are dripping with warblers. The truth is that those days often don’t arrive until May. Yellow-rumped Warblers, Palm Warblers and Pine Warblers are starting to trickle back now though. Here’s a clip of me and Josh Engel talking a year ago about the phenomenon of early spring warblers.

New t-shirts!

With Rose back, I was moved to create these shirts featuring Golden Plovers, Sociable Plovers and Piping Plovers (of course). Order yours today and get a free PLOVERIZED sticker while supplies last. Sizes run small, particularly for the women's shirts. Shirts are made of 100% recycled materials and are a 60/40 recycled cotton/recycled polyester blend construction. Golden Plovers and Piping Plovers are found in North America. Sociable Plovers, also called Sociable Lapwings, are critically endangered birds of Central Asia grasslands.

Order now

TWiB Notes

The Eagle and the Fox sounds like the name of one of Aesop’s fables. But that is apt for this clip of a Bald Eagle and a Red Fox from Shepherdstown, W.V. Cool stuff, plus some stunning nest cam footage of two eaglets….The Chicago Tribune wrote about Illinois birding destinations in its Lifestyles section yesterday. There are some neat spots here, including Mississippi Palisades in the northwest part of the state and Goose Lake Prairie closer to home…..The American Ornithological Society held a panel conversation on April 16 about problematic bird names. Many species have been named after unsavory characters to say the least. The possibility exists a raft of species will be renamed in the near future…..Montrose Point and veteran birder Bob Hughes have done it again. A White-faced Ibis seen over the weekend was the latest addition to a site list that is approaching 350.

Click below to become a subscriber today, and join a community where telling stories of birds and making films like “Monty and Rose” and “Dodger” is possible.