January Birding Full Recap!

1/1: I woke up at 7:45 (way later than I wanted to wake up) and started getting ready to go to my first destination, Chicago Botanic Garden. As I was getting ready, I added my first birds of the day:

(1.) Canada Goose
(2.) Mourning Dove
(3.) American Crow
(4.) European Starling
(5.) House Sparrow
(6.) American Goldfinch

While we were driving to CBG, I picked up a couple more species:

(7.) American Robin
(8.) Ring-billed Gull

As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, I spotted a flyover Great Blue Heron, a nice bird for my list.

(9.) Great Blue Heron

Within the next few minutes, I added:

(10.) Brown Creeper
(11.) Herring Gull
(12.) Dark-eyed Junco
(13.) White-throated Sparrow
(14.) Northern Cardinal

After a bit of searching, we found our main target:

(15.) Common Redpoll

We walked all around, looking for the Northern Shrike with no luck, but we did find a nice variety of waterfowl:

(16.) Mallard
(17.) American Black Duck
(18.) Common Goldeneye
(19.) Song Sparrow
(20.) Hooded Merganser
(21.) Wood Duck
(22.) House Finch
(23.) Black-capped Chickadee
(24.) Red-bellied Woodpecker
(25.) Downy Woodpecker
(26.) Red-tailed Hawk
(27.) American Tree Sparrow

We stopped at Turnbull Woods to look for Red-headed Woodpeckers, but didn’t find any.

After that, we drove south along Forest Way Drive in the Skokie Lagoons, and added a surprise male Ring-necked Duck, and a few other species of ducks as well:

(28.) Ring-necked Duck
(29.) Red-breasted Merganser
(30.) Common Merganser
(31.) Rock Pigeon

After that, we tried Gillson, but visibility and conditions were terrible, and I didn’t get any new birds. The snowstorm was coming in quickly, and our day was done.

However, upon returning to my yard, I got:

(32.) Blue Jay
(33.) Pine Siskin
(34). Red-breasted Nuthatch
(35.) Hairy Woodpecker

Overall, a pretty good first day, especially since my birding was cut off early by the snowstorm.


I woke up and immediately went out into the yard to clear the feeders of snow and fill any that needed filling. While I was doing this, I picked up:

(36.) White-breasted Nuthatch

I wasn’t able to leave the house until after noon, but after that we went to our first stop, Calumet Park. Almost right away I added:

(37.) Bufflehead

We spent a long time looking for the Greater White-fronted Geese that had been spotted earlier, but with no luck. The goose flock was flushed soon after we found it, but we eventually relocated the flock and added my life bird:

(38.) Cackling Goose!
(39.) Greater Scaup

I got a text saying that all 3 Swan species were at Wolf Lake, so we rushed over there and got them quickly:

(40.) Mute Swan
(41.) Tundra Swan
(42.) Trumpeter Swan

It was great to get all 3 swans on day 2, and I got good photos of the Mute and Tundra Swans.

We made a stop at Indian Ridge Marsh, where Isoo had a Northern Shrike earlier in the day, but didn’t find it. After that we headed to 31st Street Beach to look for Snowy Owls, but sadly, there were none. Not a bad day, but I missed a few major targets.


We were down in the city for non-bird-related things, but my dad was nice enough to make a quick stop at Lincoln Park Zoo to try for Green-winged Teal in the Duck Pond. However, when we got there, the gates to the zoo were all closed. It was 9:30, and sadly, the zoo opened at 10. We didn’t have time to go anywhere else so we headed home. When I got home, I looked out back and the first thing I saw was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk sitting on our fire pit! Year bird!

(43.) Cooper’s Hawk

I took a quick walk over to Mallinkrodt Park to try for a Merlin, no luck. I did find a calling Northern Flicker though!

(44.) Northern Flicker


I thought I was going to have the whole day for birding, but I ended up not being able to do anything until about 3:30. Even so, we rushed over to Techny North and got 3 male Green-winged Teals as the sun was setting!

(45.) Green-winged Teal

We went back to school on Wednesday 1/5, and I was unable to go birding for the remainder of the week. But on Saturday I got right back to it.


We headed down to southern Cook County again, and while we were on the expressway I saw a Kestrel flying by. I also am pretty sure I saw a Merlin but I didn’t get a good enough look.

(46.) American Kestrel

We arrived at Glenwood Woods to look for the resident flock of Wild Turkeys, but we didn’t see any. We drove around hoping to find one or two turkeys- we never expected 29!! We ended up finding 29 turkeys on the road we came in on. We parked and hiked into the forest. The turkeys were relatively unaffected by our presence, and the whole flock continued to feed in a clearing about 20 feet from us! I got some really good shots.

(47.) Wild Turkey

We decided to hit up Lake Calumet on the way home, and boy, did it pull through. We drove west on 122nd street and my mom spotted a hawk hovering over the Stony Island Landfills. She pulled over and I hopped out of the car, raised my camera, and started taking pictures. The first pic showed it perfectly. It was a Rough-legged Hawk! The roughies seem to like it around here, there have been at least 3 in the calumet area in the past couple days. My mom also saw two birds fly into a tree which ended up being Red-winged Blackbirds, a really good bird for January.

(48.) Rough-legged Hawk
(49.) Red-winged Blackbird

As we were driving back towards Indian Ridge, my mom spotted not just one, but two Northern Harriers hunting over the marsh!

(50.) Northern Harrier

I also had a flock of 17 Redheads and one Lesser Scaup fly over, a good way to end the birding portion of my day. An ice storm was coming in so we had to head home after that.

(51.) Redhead
(52.) Lesser Scaup


We first went to Air Station Prairie to try to find the Northern Shrike that’s been hanging out there, with no luck. Then we drove all the way down to Calumet Park for yet another try at the GWFG that’s been hanging around down there. I picked through 700+ geese with no luck :(

We made a couple more stops but I had no luck, and ended with 0 new year birds.


I didn’t have time to go birding until Wednesday after school, and there had just been a Glaucous Gull spotted at Monroe Harbor! We raced over there, and as soon as we got out of the car my jaw dropped. There were literally THOUSANDS of gulls filling the harbor. On the breakwater, in the air, in the water, it was insane. There was also a good amount of waterfowl in the harbor, and I got my first good look & picture of a male bufflehead this year (the only other one was a distant flyby at Calumet Park). We met up with Woody Goss and he got me on a couple nice gulls right away, including an adult Great Black-backed, an immature Iceland Gull, and a 2nd or 3rd cycle Lesser Black-backed.

(53.) Great Black-backed Gull
(54.) Iceland Gull
(55.) Lesser Black-backed

We still couldn’t find the Glaucous, however. It was getting darker and I folded up my scope to try walking down farther to get better views of the gulls. We had walked about 30 feet from Woody when I heard, “OWEN!!!” I turned around to see Woody waving his arms frantically. I knew what that meant, and I ran back there as fast as I could. I got to Woody and he let me look through his scope, and it was just awesome. A huge adult Glaucous just sitting on the breakwater!!! I set up my scope and snapped a few pictures before the light was gone. Only once we started heading home did I realize that I got all 6 Cook County wintering gulls in UNDER AN HOUR ON A WEEKDAY AFTER SCHOOL!!!Best gull day EVER!

(56.) Glaucous Gull


I wasn’t able to do any birding until Saturday, and I was super excited because:

I had a 3-day weekend
The conditions were set up perfectly for a Black-legged Kittiwake!

So my first stop in the morning was Gillson, of course…but it didn’t really live up to my expectations. I got less than 50 individual ducks, and no kittiwake. There was a redhead in the harbor, though.

We headed home and I was filling the feeders when I got a text from Isoo saying “Go get the BLKI ASAP”. I look at the RBA and the first thing I see is “Black-legged Kittiwake at Park 566”. And not just a flyby. This bird was resting and feeding 100 YARDS FROM SHORE FOR OVER AN HOUR! WHAT??? So of course I rushed down there ASAP. We got there and met up with Alex Haza, and suddenly my mom spotted a small gull fly by and land in the water. I got my scope on it, and sure enough…a kittiwake!!! Or so I thought. It passed 15 feet away from us and hovered there for 30 minutes straight, and I got some great shots, which I sent to the Cook County Bird Chat. But it turns out…that was no kittiwake. It ended up being a Bonaparte’s Gull, which was still awesome (life bird!) but also highly disappointing. Then people started reviewing the previous photos with greater scrutiny, and came to the following conclusion: Dan Lory’s photo, the first one posted, was a Bonaparte’s Gull. Kelly Ballantyne’s photos were actually of a Kittiwake. And my photos were of a Bonaparte’s Gull, but a different one than Dan Lory’s. So 566 had 2 Bonaparte’s Gulls and a Kittiwake in a day. IN JANUARY. Kinda insane.

(57.) Bonaparte’s Gull

As we were heading back I had a flyover Peregrine Falcon, a bird that had avoided me for far too long this year.

(58.) Peregrine Falcon

While we were down there we decided to hit the Skyway Monk Parakeet nests, and literally as we were driving up I spotted them. We parked and I got a few shots. It was cool because I haven’t seen a Monk Parakeet in many years, and I had never seen the nests before.

(59.) Monk Parakeet

We decided to finish up with 31st Street beach to try for Snowy Owls. We walked down to dock K (where it had been reported in the morning), and sure enough I got my scope on it quickly. We got a couple other birders on it too. I got a few good digiscoped pictures. It was a great way to end our day. Plus, I hit 60!

(60.) Snowy Owl


Oh, my god. Was this an insane day or what. We drove to deer grove in the morning, got there around 10:30. We parked and walked towards the Long-eared Owl roost, but we couldn’t really find a way to get there so Henry Meade came out of the huge pine stand and found us. We walked back into the pine stand and Henry got us on the Long-eared Owls!! Life bird #261!! There was a total of 9 owls that we could see, but Simon Tolzmann later counted 12!! I got some really great shots of the owls looking right at me. It was just the coolest experience, and I loved walking around in the pine forest where they were. It felt like we were in Canada. Long-eared Owls are officially my new favorite bird! However, there were a couple of photographers who kept getting unnecessarily close to the owls (literally within 10 feet) and flushed them multiple times. It also turns out it’s easier to walk in than to walk out, it took us about 20 minutes to get back to the trail 😂.

(61.) Long-eared Owl

We got back to a trail and met some other birders, who told us they had just had a Great Horned Owl at the Southwestern corner of the preserve. While we were talking to them, I spotted a flash of black and white fly behind them. “Red-headed Woodpecker!” I practically screamed. The Red-headed landed on a dead tree and gave us really nice views.

(62.) Red-headed Woodpecker

We went to look for the Great Horned, and we found it roosting after a few minutes of searching.

(63.) Great Horned Owl

We had to hustle to get back to the parking lot because I had to be back in Skokie by 3:00, as Josh Engel was going to show us a Northern Saw-whet Owl at Memorial Park Cemetery (thanks Josh!!). Once we got to the car, my mom decided we still had just enough time to try for the Northern Saw-whet roosting in a cedar not far from the parking lot at Deer Grove. We rushed over to the roost site and got it immediately! Life bird #262!!

(64.) Northern Saw-whet Owl

We drove all the way back to Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie, where we met up with Joe Lill, Josh Engel, and a couple others, and Josh got us on the Saw-whet right away. We tried to find the resident Winter Wren but to no avail. While we were looking at the Saw-whet a Merlin flew overhead, another bird that has been strangely eluding me.

(65.) Merlin

We drove to another part of the cemetery where Tom Lally and Jeff Bilsky had seen redpolls and Siskins earlier, as well as a Great-horned Owl. We parked, and while we were standing there Tom’s phone started ringing-er, quacking. Yeah, his ringtone is a mallard. It turns out Jeff was calling him, saying he had found the Great-horned Owl while he was driving. It was in a tree about 100 yards away. We all ran over there and got great views of it sitting in a coniferous tree! A great way to end a 13-Owl day! By far my best owling day ever, with 2 NSWO, 2 GHOW, and 9 LEOW.


We had limited time on Saturday, so I chose to go down and see the Great-tailed Grackle hanging out at a gas station in Will County. My first day out of cook county this year. We got down there and were searching for it for a while unsuccessfully, but then I got a message that it was on the front lawn of the gas station! We drove over there…but no bird. Also, I realized I SOMEHOW left my camera and bins AT HOME! Luckily my mom had her camera and my dad had binoculars, both of which they gave to me (thanks mom and dad!). We looked around for another 15 minutes before my mom spotted it fly to the roof of the gas station! I got a few shots of it up there, and then it flew down to the ground. I lay down on the ground about 25 feet from the bird, trying to get an eye level shot. It walked slowly towards me until it was foraging about 15 feet from me. My mom’s camera doesn’t have a lot of zoom, but boy is it sharp. I lay flat against the ground to get some blurry grasses in front of the bird, and snapped the picture. Perfection. I lay there for another half hour, with the bird feeding in the grass. It was insane. Life bird #263!


We went down to the bend of the Little Calumet in the afternoon, and I gained:

(66.) Bald Eagle
(67.) American Coot


On Tuesday after school we birded the Chicago River, and our first stop was Diversey Turning Basin, where I picked up:

(68.) Ruddy Duck

We then went to Richard Clark park, where I saw the Common Goldeneye x Hooded Merganser hybrid that’s been sighted from Skokie to Chicago on the river. I also heard a kingfisher, a nice bird for January.

(69.) Belted Kingfisher

We went to Horner Park looking for Pied-billed Grebes, but didn’t find any. While I was being disappointed about grebes, I heard the classic “chimp” call of a Winter Wren!! It flew along the opposite bank of the river and landed on a fence post, where I confirmed my ID. Finally, I hit 70!! And on a school day!

(70.) Winter Wren


On Wednesday after school we tried for a Northern Pintail that Josh Engel had the day before on the north shore channel, but no luck.


I wasn’t able to really go birding on this day, so I did a little yard birding. When I was practicing my photography skills, all of the birds suddenly flew away. I turned around to find an adult SHARP-SHINNED HAWK sitting in our pear tree! I got a clear look at it, and after I noted some of its key field marks, it flew directly over my head which gave me an awesome view of the perfectly squared-off tail. Awesome way to get a year bird!

(71.) Sharp-shinned Hawk

In the evening we tried for Eastern Screech-owls at Perkins Woods in Evanston, but didn’t find any.


It was a Sunday, and my last day of birding before the end of January. I started out the day by heading to Deer Grove early in the morning for Eastern Bluebirds. Deer Grove is arguably the most reliable wintering site for them in Cook County. We barely had to walk half a mile before the bluebirds came flying right at us! They briefly perched in a tree which allowed me to snap some doc shots.

(72.) Eastern Bluebird

On our way back home we made a quick stop at River Trail Nature Center and picked up two unexpected targets:

(73.) Fox Sparrow
(74.) White-crowned Sparrow

We stopped back home for a little, and then we all drove down to Maple Lake in the Palos Area, where an Eastern Towhee had been spending the winter. We had to sit and wait a while at the stump where the towhee had been feasting on sunflower seeds, but eventually we got the towhee along with another Fox Sparrow! I also picked up my much-needed year bird Tufted Titmouse at this spot. While we were photographing them, I heard a call that I’ve had memorized for years, because it belongs to one of my favorite birds. “That’s a Pileated!!” I exclaimed. I went into the forest with my dad and could clearly see evidence of the Pileateds, as there were many huge oval-shaped holes in the trees along the trail. As I was showing my dad this, A HUGE MALE PILEATED FLEW OFF OF THE BACK OF THE TREE WE WERE LOOKING AT!! “No way…” I whispered, still in awe of North America’s largest woodpecker. “He was right there the whole time and we didn’t even know he was there.” I snapped a few photos and while my dad ran back to tell my mom and my brother, a female Pileated flew out from a tree about a hundred yards away! She landed in another tree about 20 feet away and stayed there for over 5 minutes! I got much better shots of her. It was absolutely incredible to get such good views of a bird I haven’t seen in Illinois in over three years. It was just the perfect end to an (almost) perfect month.

(75.) Eastern Towhee
(76.) Tufted Titmouse
(77.) Pileated Woodpecker

So that’s it for January. Not as many as I wanted, but not too shabby either. There are definitely some cool birds on my list, and a couple of unexpected wintering birds.

Have fun birding,


Posted on February 19, 2022 12:46 AM by owenbirder13 owenbirder13


This may take you an hour to read lol, I wrote a ton

Posted by owenbirder13 over 2 years ago

Also for some reason the numbers aren't working, I'll see if I can fix that

Posted by owenbirder13 over 2 years ago

OK got the numbers working

Posted by owenbirder13 over 2 years ago

@bk-capchickadee12 my recap is out, I know you wanted to read it! Many of the places I went may not make sense to you because they are in Cook County, Illinois. If you have any questions feel free to ask!

Posted by owenbirder13 over 2 years ago

Wow, lots of detail in your journal! I like it. I always love to read the stories behind the photos and observations on iNat.

Posted by williamwisephoto over 2 years ago

Wow that was a lot, sounds very exciting. I really enjoyed reading it.

Posted by bk-capchickadee12 over 2 years ago

Thanks guys!

Posted by owenbirder13 over 2 years ago

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