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SPRING BIRD WALK VIGNETTE
by Phyllis Mertz, The Morton Arboretum
May 19, 2012



Morning at the prairie. An air of expectation begins as birders gather at the 31st Street kiosk to meet Phyllis. Bird calls are heard all around and the group enters the sun-dappled savanna, leaving the sound of traffic noise behind.

Phyllis stops to talk about birds that have passed through on migrations and those we can expect to see who will nest or stay for the season.

As the group emerges into the prairie, the stunning blue of spiderwort blossoms and the golden blooms of wild dandelions add their colors to the lush green landscape. The prairie is growing lanky now, like an adolescent, preparing for pre-summer. The next wave of prairie plants are rapidly overtaking the short early blooming spring ephemerals already going to seed.



Phyllis calls our attention to birds in flight and identifies them. She alerts us to calls from birds not seen but perching in the savanna oaks. The prairie is buzzing with activity from butterflies searching for pollen to the red-tailed hawk circling overhead.

May has been a good month for birding at Wolf Road Prairie and today was no exception. Eleven new species were sighted and added to the Birds of Spring at Wolf Road Prairie list as of May 19, 2012, bringing the total sightings to forty-nine and counting.

Highlights of the Bird Walk include:

Two pairs of Baltimore orioles
A pair of Turkey vultures
Confirmation that bluebirds are raising young in one of the nest boxes
Two pairs of nesting red-winged blackbirds
An American redstart
Olive-sided flycatcher
Yellow throated warbler
Two pairs of Kingbirds
Yellow warbler
Rose-breasted grosbeak
Double crested cormorant
Scarlet tanager
Common yellow-throat warbler
Warbling verio
Song sparrow
Round-headed cowbird
Red-tailed hawk

Although the morning was growing warmer and more humid, the group was reluctant to leave. Many lingered to talk and scan the skies in hopes of seeing just one more bird in flight or hearing one last song.

"Let's do this again," said one of the birders. And we all agreed that we would be back for another bird hike at Wolf Road Prairie soon.

Our thanks to Phyllis for leading the Bird Walk and for sharing with us her extensive knowledge of birds and the natural world.

BIRDS OF SPRING AT WOLF ROAD PRAIRIE AS OF MAY 19, 2012

Baltimore oriole
Turkey vulture
Eastern bluebird
American redstart
Olive-sided flycatcher
Yellow throated warbler
Kingbird
Yellow warbler
Rose-breasted grosbeak
Double crested cormorant
Scarlet tanager
Common yellow-throat warbler
Warbling verio
Song sparrow
Round-headed cowbird
Red-tailed hawk
Woodcock
Red-billed grebe
Great horned howl and baby
Sandhill crane
Tufted titmouse
Yellow rumped warbler
Wild turkey
Vesper sparrow
White-throated sparrow
Chipping sparrow
Red-bellied woodpecker
Red-winged blackbird
Palm warbler
Rose breasted grosbeak
Solitary sandpiper
Indigo bunting
Bluejay
Snipe
Red-tailed hawk
Cooper's hawk
Common flicker
Gold finch
American crow
Mourning dove
Tree swallows
Mallard ducks
Canada geese
Cardinal
Fox sparrow
Field sparrow
Sora
Kildeer
Marsh wren

Photos by Valerie Spale

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