Sights and Sounds Along the Trails

During spring migration some really beautiful warblers pass through the area. I had my binoculars on vireos in the tree tops when this beauty hopped onto a bush just a few feet away. He was very focused on a bug he wanted to consume and only gave me a quick glance back before moving on to the next branch and bug. This is a black-throated green warbler. The obvious black throat patch and olive green head and back feathers make this warbler easy to Identify by sight. Note that the belly is white with black spots along the side. It also has two white wing bars on each wing. Birding by sound as well as by visually identifying birds is a fun challenge. Spring migration provides the perfect opportunity to learn and try to remember the sounds of birds. I learned this spring that song associated with this bird has a raspy buzz like repartee that goes “zee-zee-zee-zoo-zee” It is really quite beautiful.

This welcome visitor is a female bay-breasted warbler. She spent a good deal of her time gleening bugs from the canopy of Shabbona Lake’s trees before continuing on her migration path toward the boral forests of northern North America/Canada. Binoculars provide great views of the jewels within the branches along the hiking trails of Lake Shabbona. Remember to pack a pair for your hike.

Another tree top treasure to enjoy is the vireo. They arrive in spring and stay for the summer to breed. Warbling vireos are dainty gray birds with white bellies. You may look right past this small dull colored bird. If one catches your eye, do take a moment to take another look. They are very interesting to watch. Vireos move quickly through the tree tops collecting bugs like caterpillars from branches and leaves. The vireo is quite the proficient hunter. Upon capturing it’s prey it will strike it’s catch up against the branch it is standing on to render it defenseless.. then gobble it down! It is amazing to watch such a dainty looking bird demonstrate such speed and strength! Even more amazing is this small bird’s exuberant repetitive song. It will cause you to pause and listen. The notes rapidly enter the air asking the question “Do you want coffee or Do you want tea?” A more experienced birder from a local bird group taught me this warbling mnemonic to listen for when learning to Identify this bird song. Armed with this new information I returned to the park and heard it over and over and over. It was wonderful! The next time you hear a rapid warbling at the park see if you can hear this phrase in the notes. When you hear it and recognize the sound you are sure to smile!  Another popular warbling vireo mnemonic phrase to listen for is, “If I sees you; I will seize you; and I’ll squeeze you till you squirt!”  Great bird! Look for it while visiting the park.

Ground level beauty is ever changing and can be enjoyed along the trails as you hike. I love the way the tiny white bells of lily of the valley hang their heads as if to curtsy. The sweet spring aroma really wakes up your senses you pass.

A patch of wild fern grow lake side with an artistic flow that really catches your eye as you pass.

The fern’s fiddlehead is a tightly wrapped fern leaf that resembles a fist to me. The leaf fingers of this tight fist like fiddlehead slowly open when ready.

As it unfurls it presents the beautiful fern leaf in all it’s uniqueness.

While passing this shallow reservoir near the campground a group of boys pointed out these tadpoles, frog and young fish that seemed protected until ready to venture out into the larger lake waters. Above the reservoir a Green heron uses the height of this tree to it’s advantage. What a good perch to scan the lake and search for a meal.

There is something to enjoy from every angle as you explore through the trails.
Look up, look down, take your time … see what you can find.

Have a great hike!