Walk the Trails .. See the Sights .. Gather the Memories

One of the larger flycatchers you are likely to see along many of the trails around the lake is the eastern kingbird. They tend to perch on open branches that extend over areas with abundant insects. Lake Shabbona offers many settings like the open forest edges that encompass the lake and the acres of prairies flowing with native plants and  insects these kingbirds crave. You may be surprised by the size of the insects they are capable of consuming. I know I was. They seem to prefer the bigger juicer bugs. To help gain control of it’s large prey an eastern kingbird will use it’s look out branch as a tool to help hammer the bug’s wiggling body against it until the victim goes limp. Once the insect is helpless the kingbirds swallows it whole. I watched this adult eastern kingbird bring the adolescent this enormous kadydid or praying mantis. The size of the bug seemed to overwhelm the young kingbird. After a few attempts the adult retrieved the live meal and returned it in a more submissive and easier to consume state. The young kingbird received a little lesson on this necessary smash and gulp technique and was finally able to consume this prized bug.

Because osprey consume mainly fish you will most likely see this beautiful raptor over the lake soaring and searching for it’s next meal. A pair of osprey have returned to Lake Shabbona during the past month for the bountiful fish in the lake. Sightings of them together in the evening have been reported in the dead tree near the cabins in the campground area.  If you are lucky enough to see both of them together, the larger osprey is the female. If you view one soaring as I did take notice of the beautiful pattern in the wing span. The tips of the wings are dark as are the symmetrical wrist patches. The majority of the bird is white when seen over head. The wing linings, it’s chin, chest and belly as well as legs are all white making it an easy raptor to identify in flight.

A common loon has decided to spend the summer months at Lake Shabbona. Many visitors enjoy watching it cruise above and below the lake’s surface as it fishes. It is not unusual to see a loon pass through the area during spring and fall migration months. Summer sightings are a bit more unusual. I am not sure why this loon has decided to summer here but it is good to see it healthy and happy during this extended visit. This loon feels right at home with boats and people fishing from the shore. We walked along the dam path watching the loon fish and preen. It even took a cat nap then stretched it’s legs before going fishing again. The area along the dam must have a lot of crawfish because it caught several and gobbled them down right in front of us.

Another skilled fisher is the green heron. This one really likes to fish along the water near the campground. Click on the movie above to watch it stretch it’s neck out as it senses a fish below the surface. The hairs on the heron’s neck stick straight up as it tunes in to the fishes movement below. When you blink the heron snaps it’s beak and face into the lake and out it comes with a shad fish. After it swallows the fish whole take notice of the rufous area on the heron’s neck. You can actually see the fish wiggling inside the heron for  a few seconds.

During  your hike you may choose a sunny prairie trail view with lush fields of native prairie plants, buzzing insects and goldfinch gorging on seed. Perhaps a shaded peaceful woodland trail where you can close your eyes and listen to the breeze, catbirds calling or the scuffle of leaves beneath a towhee, thrasher or sparrows feet.  Maybe a path close to or along the lake where herons wade and waterfowl dabble or dive.

Walk the trails
See the sights
Gather the memories

Some other sightings at Lake Shabbona this past month include:
The sunshine yellow of the gorgeous goldfinch
This one I heard “Pee-a-weeeee” eastern wood pewee
Some birds are just hard to ID flycatcher
Blue heron … skilled fisher
Volley bug .. eastern kingbird catching bug from volleyball net
All the way across the lake … red headed woodpecker
Catbird .. sleek and slate
Cedar waxwing .. vogue bird