Post by Christine Williamson
The vast prairie-wetland habitat at Paul Douglas Forest Preserve in Hoffman Estates lived up to its promise as a haven for nesting grassland, marsh and woodland birds.
The morning was cool and rain threatened, but held off until we were done seeing a total of 40 resident bird species.
Our crew of 11 heard, but never saw any of the five male Sedge Wrens singing loudly in territorial defense in the cattails along the edge of the property’s largest marsh. This species is hard to see, but easy to hear!
Sharp-eyed Lin Johnston spotted the first of two Pied-billed grebes in the same marsh which also was home to a pair of Osprey nesting on a tall platform. We were lucky enough to see both parents feeding tiny bits of raw fish to at least one chick.
Although Osprey have had better breeding success in the state in recent years, the species remains on the Illinois Endangered Species List, so it was great to see breeding success for this pair.
Very close to the Osprey nesting platform, we first heard the screechy, rusted-wheel call of a male Yellow-headed Blackbird, another state-endangered species. Some of our team got great, if distant looks, at this big blackbird with a lemon-colored head. The female did not show herself; she likely was sitting on a nest within the cattails at the water’s edge.
Yellow-headed Blackbirds have become scarcer in Illinois because of wetland habitat loss, so marshes like those at Paul Douglas F.P. are important nesting sites for this species.
As we climbed up a glacial ridge to get a view of the wide prairie meadow which covers most of the central part of the preserve, we were greeted by a chorus of the deliriously happy sound of the bubbly display calls of male Bobolinks. The males were soaring above the prairie doing aerial territory displays while the few females we saw were busy tending to their nests.
Other grassland birds included a smattering of Dicksissels and large group of Eastern Meadowlarks, which clearly had already had good nesting success with young birds within the group.
Paul Douglas Preserve was created by combining a mixture of farmland and wooded private land which mostly is on higher glacial ridges featuring very mature oak woodlands. It was exciting to explore the oak-covered ridges and the ponds between them as we found woodland and meadow species including Eastern Wood-Pewee, Baltimore Orioles, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Cedar Waxwings.
By the end of our trip, we compiled a list of 40 bird species, all summer residents of this beautiful preserve.