March Birding Full Recap (April and May coming soon!)

Sorry for the long wait everyone. I haven't had as much time lately, and the time that I did have I mostly spent out in the field birding. But now it's summer, so I'll have more time to post and get up to date on my recaps. So here it is: March.

March is usually a pretty dead time for birds in Cook County. Many of the waterfowl have moved on, and the spring migrants have yet to come through. But this March exceeded expectations. Enjoy!

Starting off the month:


After school on Wednesday we went up to Air Station Prairie to try for the continuing Northern Shrike that’s been hanging out. We got it almost right away, along with an adult Bald Eagle and many blackbirds and grackles.

(#93.) Northern Shrike


I started out the day by going over to Mallinkrodt Park, where I came up with a nice total of 22 species. After that, I went back to the yard and just focused on doing some backyard bird photography. I got an awesome shot of a male redpoll, which is my favorite redpoll shot I’ve ever taken. While I was walking around in the front yard, I saw (and heard) a flock of medium-sized passerines fly over me and land in a spruce. I had a a guess as to what they might be, and once they landed I confirmed it. My second yard record White-winged Crossbills! I got a much better view of them this time, as they stayed for almost 10 minutes and they were in a relatively short spruce. Around 4:00 I went over to Mallinkrodt again, hoping to see the Merlin that I’ve been seeing there lately. No luck, and a pretty uneventful walk overall. But it got cut short anyways because my friend Jeff Bilsky had just had a Snow Goose/Ross’s Goose Flyover at the Skokie Lagoons. Normally, I wouldn’t chase flyovers, but this one was low and heading straight towards the Techny/Lake Glenview area. I convinced my dad to drive me over there (thanks dad!). Techny had a lot of mergansers and blackbirds, but barely anything else. We hurried over to Lake Glenview to try to find it there before the sun set, and as soon as we pulled up I got my eyes on my first non-flyover Killdeer of the year. Exciting, but not what we came for. We walked around and found many geese, but they all ended up being Canadas. Meanwhile, Jeff was still at the Lagoons, checking some spots unsuccessfully. I guess we’ll never know where that goose went, but worth a shot nevertheless.


I started out in the morning at Techny North, which is one of my favorite spots. It was an awesome migration day, especially for geese, and I had over 1250 Canadas. I also flushed 3 Gadwalls from the water accidentally, which I wasn’t expecting to get but was happy to see them nonetheless. There were a couple other nice ducks too, including an American Black Duck and a male Green-winged Teal. As I walked down towards the dam, I accidentally flushed a Wilson’s Snipe from the grasses! Sadly, I only got blurry pictures. As I was walking back, I found a cormorant in the water with the mergansers, my last addition for Techny.

(#94.) Gadwall
(#95.) Wilson’s Snipe
(#96.) Double-crested Cormorant

We went back home, so I decided to do a little yard birding. Our yard has a really good view of the sky, so I was just looking for anything that might fly over. I never would have thought that I would get what I did: 2 flocks of Greater White-fronted Geese, totaling about 150 birds! Lifer, year bird, and yard bird all in one!

(#97.) Greater White-fronted Goose

We then went to Gillson, where I picked up a flock of 17 Northern Pintails flying south!

(#98.) Northern Pintail

OK, so do you remember when Jeff Bilsky saw that flyover white goose? And the part where I said we’d never know where it went? Well actually, while we were at Gillson Jeff texted me saying he had found the goose! And even better: IT WAS A ROSS’S!! I eventually convinced mom and dad to drive me over to the spot, which was at a golf course south of techny. We walked over and immediately got the goose! Sadly, it was really hard to see and my pictures were pretty bad. But it’s a freaking Ross’s Goose, so who cares?! Awesome way to end off an awesome day.

(#99.) Ross’s Goose


Today was nuts. I’m just going to say that. I did some yard birding in the morning, and I added a random yard bird, a flyover flock of 8 Northern Pintails. I also counted 61 Killdeer migrating through, and had a Fox Sparrow in my neighbor’s tree. After that, something absolutely ridiculously crazily amazingly INSANE happened!!! A LESSER GOLDFINCH BANDED AT CAMP SAGAWAU!!! I convinced my dad to take me and my brother down there, and while we were driving through Palos I saw 3 Turkey Vultures!

(#100.) Turkey Vulture

We got to Sagawau and my friend Simon Tolzmann got me on the Lesser Goldfinch almost immediately! This particular individual was a female/immature male, and it was much greener than the American Goldfinches around it. It was also a bit smaller. Let me give a little background here: The Lesser Goldfinch is a western species, and the farthest east it normally comes is Texas. So the fact that it's in Illinois at all is just freaking ridiculous. It’s the first state record, EVER!! This may be the rarest bird I get this year. In short, it was just awesome to see.

(#101.) Lesser Goldfinch

After that we headed over to Saganashkee Slough to look for waterfowl. We came up with the following:

2 Gadwalls
2 American Wigeons
150 Canvasbacks
20 Redheads
300 Ring-necked Ducks
8 Greater Scaup
12 Lesser Scaup
2 Common Goldeneyes
4 Hooded Mergansers
12 American Coots

A pretty good haul, plus 1 year bird!

(#102.) American Wigeon


While we were driving to school on Wednesday, I spotted an adult Red-shouldered Hawk! I was super relieved, because I was afraid I had missed them for the season.

(#103.) Red-shouldered Hawk

I continued to see this hawk on the 11th and the 12th, so it seems to be sticking around.


In the evening my dad and I went to Air Station Prairie to listen for woodcocks. We didn’t find any, but we did flush a snipe!


My mom and I went up to the Botanic Garden to look for Blue-winged Teals a little after noon. We didn’t find any teals, but we did see 4 Wood Ducks and 8 Gadwalls. After that we went to Techny North, where we got an awesome look at a snipe! I got great pictures. We also saw 4 Green-winged Teals! We made a quick stop at the Skokie Lagoons, a male Bufflehead was the most exciting thing.


The past few days have been pretty rainy, but even so, we went out to St. Paul Woods today to look for the Rusty Blackbirds that have been hanging out there. I spotted one as soon as we got there, and eventually found 2! I got some decent shots. Believe it or not, this was a very overdue lifer for me, and it puts me at 269. We also saw 2 male Brown-headed Cowbirds, a nice treat.

(#104.) Rusty Blackbird

When we got home, I got out of the car and immediately heard the distinctive calls of Golden-crowned Kinglets! I got pictures, though they aren’t very good.

(#105.) Golden-crowned Kinglet


I started the morning off early at Mallinkrodt, coming up with a nice total of 23 species, highlighted by a Merlin, a Song Sparrow, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet. I was stuck at home for the rest of the day, but had 22 species in the yard throughout the day. We also had a grackle feeding under the feeders, our first for the year.


Yesterday was 60 degrees with warm southerly winds, and today was supposed to be 70, so for me that meant good migrants and Mallinkrodt in the morning. Here were some of the birds:

1 Double-crested Cormorant (flyover)
1 male Wood Duck (flyover)
1 Brown Creeper
3 Golden-crowned Kinglets
2 Brown-headed Cowbirds
121 Common Grackles (mostly migrants)
2 Pine Siskins

The best bird of all was kind of insane. I was looking at flyover birds in the distance and decided they were gulls, and while I was looking at them my eyes landed on a large brownish bird with deep wingbeats. It was far off and about 200 feet in the air. I had a bird in mind, but based off of location and time of day I thought there was no way I could be right. It was flying away so it was hard to tell, but I got a picture as it circled. Incredibly, I was right! IT WAS A SHORT-EARED OWL!! This is only the 4th time I have ever seen this species. I was super excited, because:

C) If I didn’t get this specific Individual, I probably would have had to go all the way down to Killdeer Wetlands at the other end of the county (which I REALLY didn’t want to do)

(#106.) Short-eared Owl


I went to Mallinkrodt in the morning again, even though it was raining. Golden-crowned Kinglets have really come through in the past few days, and I found over 20 at Mallinkrodt. I came home to find a male Brown-headed Cowbird calling in our spruce, and a female on our feeders. In the afternoon I went to Gillson with my mom, and had some great waterfowl. Here are some of the birds from my list:

1 Northern Shoveler
3 Gadwalls
2 Redheads
4 Greater Scaup
26 White-winged Scoters
2 Long-tailed Ducks
2 Bufflehead
3 Common Goldeneyes
2 Hooded Mergansers
67 Red-breasted Mergansers
1 Common Loon! (Year bird!)

We also walked around looking for a Pheobe, which we found!

(#107.) Common Loon
(#108.) Eastern Phoebe

Before we went to Gillson I had texted some of my friends saying that I was “going to Gillson to look for Eastern Phoebe and Common Loon”, and we ended up finding both! It was a very successful trip.


In the morning I went to Mallinkrodt and found yet another Phoebe. Later that morning we decided to drive up to Baker’s Lake in Barrington for a couple of birds that I needed. While we were driving I spotted 2 Tree Swallows over the Skokie Lagoons!

(#109.) Tree Swallow

As soon as we pulled into the parking lot at Baker’s Lake I spotted my first-of-year Great Egrets on the rookery! I scoped from there for a while and had some awesome birds, including an Osprey on the nest platform!

(#110.) Great Egret
(#111.) Osprey

We went around to the other side of Baker’s Lake (Ron Beese Park) where I picked up:

(#112.) Swamp Sparrow
(#113.) Blue-winged Teal


I started off at Mallinkrodt again this morning, and had some great birds including a flyover Common Loon, 6 flyover Wood Ducks, and an early Tree Swallow. Those are all pretty good birds for an inland park in March. I went back to Mallinkrodt after lunch, and I saw 2 birds fly up into the top of a spruce. Knowing very well what they could be, I raised my binoculars. Yup, you guessed it. Yet again, I had WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS!! These 2 birds were very cooperative, and had it not been pouring rain I might have gotten some good shots. I still got some decent ones though.


My birthday!! I started out AGAIN by going to Mallinkrodt, and I got an unexpected year bird, a pair of Sandhill Cranes flying low heading south. I also had another loon flyover. Continuing my loon streak, when I got back to my house yet another bird flew over!

(#114.) Sandhill Crane

We went down south to McGinnis Slough to try for American White Pelicans. There were tons of waterfowl in the slough, and 50 or so Tree Swallows flying over the water as well. After a minute of searching, we picked up the pelicans all the way on the opposite shore of the slough. Success!

(#115.) American White Pelican

Since we were in the area we decided to go to Centennial Park to look for Caspian Terns- a bird that’s really common come spring, but I wanted to boost my numbers early. No luck. After that we went to Costco Slough, where we found a sleeping Trumpeter Swan and a male wigeon but no year birds. Our last stop of the day was Saganashkee Slough, which is HUGE. There were good numbers of mergansers and coots, as well as 2 eagles circling overhead. We also had a total of 59 Sandhill Cranes migrating overhead, and 2 loons really close to shore!


I’m guessing you know where I started out the morning. Yup. Mallinkrodt. Not much today, but I did have an adult Bald Eagle, which is a site bird for the park. In the afternoon, we went to Memorial Park Cemetery to look for sapsuckers. No luck, but I found a woodcock, which is even better! I also had a Winter Wren, which was nice.

(#116.) American Woodcock


Today was the first sunny day we’ve had in a while, and I was at Mallinkrodt again. I had another loon and 4 Fox Sparrows but not much else.

In the early afternoon I decided to try my luck at the Northern Mockingbird that has been hanging out at Harborside Golf Course for the past 5 months. We got there and almost as soon as we gout of the car my mom spotted the mockingbird!

(#117.) Northern Mockingbird

I proceeded to the back patio of the clubhouse on the golf course to scope the waterfowl in Lake Calumet. It was insane. Here are some of the notable counts from my list:

35 Northern Shoveler
75 Gadwall
385 Canvasback!!!
25 Redhead
165 Ring-necked Duck
155 Lesser Scaup
65 Red-breasted Merganser
25 Ruddy Duck
110 American Coot

It was super fun, I could’ve stayed there for hours counting ducks. I also had a harrier hunting over the marsh, he eventually caught something and promptly landed on the golf course to eat it.

We stopped at Big Marsh while we were in the calumet area, highlighted by a harrier and a kingfisher.

We also hopped over to Indian Ridge Marsh, which had Green- and Blue-winged Teals, as well as a flyover American Black Duck. Overall a pretty great day.


We decided to go up to Crabtree Nature Center in the northwestern corner of Cook County to look for a Barred Owl that had been reported that morning. We didn’t find the owl but we did have some other nice raptors and waterfowl, as well as 3 sandhill cranes just walking around! After that we made 2 quick stops on both sides of Bakers Lake, the highlight was a pair of Wigeons in the wetland.


We only had time for one stop, so we went to Montrose where I picked up:

(#118.) Eastern Meadowlark


We stopped at Montrose again, and right as we were about to leave I spotted a sapsucker!

(#119.) Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Later in the day I went up to Techny and got some photos of meadowlarks, and while reviewing my pictures I discovered a very good looking candidate for a Western Meadowlark. I sent it to some of my more knowledgeable friends, and they said that it looked good but the evidence provided was not enough to confirm the ID. To this day we don’t know which species that bird was.

Well, that's a wrap for March! I caught up a little bit and I'm in good shape for April.

See you next month,


Posted on June 10, 2022 02:18 PM by owenbirder13 owenbirder13


@bk-capchickadee12 if you want to read this it’s finally out lol. I’ll post the April and May ones within the next week.

Posted by owenbirder13 about 2 years ago

Wow, you finished March just about where I am now! I think I am at 118 with the Indigo Bunting that I saw yesterday. I have not been able to identify any medowlarks but over the past few days I have seen them on the telephone lines a few times while in a car. Good Luck for finding a another year bird!

Posted by bk-capchickadee12 about 2 years ago

Have you ever been up to Sax-zim bog in northeastern Minnesota?

Posted by owenbirder13 about 2 years ago

No, sadly not, but I will be taking a trip across MN this summer and will be going there!

Posted by bk-capchickadee12 about 2 years ago

Add a Comment

Sign In or Sign Up to add comments