I received a note after the Outdoor Column featuring Kim Van Hoogen and some great eagle pictures she shot on Lake Catherine and she also noted there were a bunch of mute swans on the lake as well. My friend Charles A. Haling, someone who has lived here his whole life and runs Haling & Sons Resort and Marina on Grass Lake sent me an email about her swan comment. "I think they are the whistling swans. I see many at C.J.Smiths Resort on Grass Lake Road. You can see them daily from the road. Whistling swans are plentiful on the chain & smaller than the mute swan," he wrote. So we doubled back with Kim and she sent along a picture to verify, which you see above, and this note: "ÊIÕm no expert butÉIÕm pretty sure the swans on Lake Catherine and Bluff Lake are Mute Swans. Their bills are orange and their feet are definitely not black." For the love of birds, that's what this all boils down to, but to make things square, Chuck did not get to see the pictures until now and he would probably agree with her. His email noted that Whistling swans "have black bills with a yellow spot at the base and their legs and feet are black." But I bet Chuck has got Van Hoogen, who has recently jumped into birding with both feet, and certainly me, wanting to go out and check out a Whistling swan, which I don't believe I have ever seen before. Thank you Kim and Chuck.Ê| Special to Sun-Times Media
HOW BIG IS BIG?
When it comes to yellow perch, you don’t have “big” until you get into the two-pound range. The state mark for biggest yellow perch caught is 2 pounds, 8.75 ounces. Amazingly, if you were fishing in England, catching a perch that big wouldn’t move the excitement meter a bit. There, catching a three-pounder is no big deal.
Updated: May 22, 2013 2:42AM
From the observation deck ...
So there I am about a week ago, feeling a little blue while covering a senseless murder/suicide in Antioch Township, and I went into the nearby Sandbar Bar & Grille on Douglas Road on Lake Marie to write the story. Lunch, e-mails and updates, and after a few hours I had turned in everything I knew for the story and I was waiting for the editors to set me free for the day and I went outside for a break.
The first thing you see out the door is of course, Lake Marie. In this spot, there is a channel off to the left that had a little open water and there were a few gulls flying and calling, but straight from where I was standing was all ice and it had probably 200 gulls just hunkered down on the ice. If I were a gull, I’d at least hunker down at the Grayslake landfill where it was probably warmer.
So I’m looking at these gulls and kind of shaking my head thinking “stupid gulls” when the calling increased and the number of birds in flight increased. Starting from my left, a succession of gulls were getting spooked into the air and I expected to see a coyote on the ice or something that was making them fly as it drew close.
Well, they kept spooking up and I couldn’t see anything on the ice when I noticed a brown bird with a white head and tail, a bald eagle, lazily flying 20-30 feet above the ice. It wasn’t bearing down on the gulls, just flushing them up. Maybe if one had shown some sign of weakness, it might have gone into hunting mode.
I did a story a number of years ago when a resident of Prairie Crossing sent us pictures of an eagle that had snatched a gull and began eating on the ice of Aldo Leopold Lake.
I was so excited by the sighting I ran into the bar and announced it and a few people came out to see it. The eagle eventually landed on the ice and just looked around as the gulls swarmed wearily off to the side. I wondered if it was one of the pair that used to nest in 1999 near the Grass Lake Road bridge until a storm a few years ago blew down the nest in an old heron rookery. I got to watch that nest from across the channel at Jeannie Ptasienski’s house, a teacher at West Lake Christian Academy in Grayslake, who lived across from Ackerman Island.
So my spirits soared seeing an eagle so close to home and I’m not alone in that feeling considering how many people go to see eagles along the Mississippi River and Illinois River in the Land of Lincoln and other adjoining states.
The Illinois Audubon Society recently released the results of its annual survey for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from January 2-16. Despite warmer than normal temperatures that left more open back waters, the survey of 45 different routes was up 173 birds over last year’s 2,152 for a grand total of 2,325. Not bad considering how our national symbol was seriously jeopardized because of pollution and some pesticides that weakened their shells.
Of the 45 routes, 29 are located on the Mississippi River and nine are on the Illinois River. Other routes included Ohio and Wabash Rivers, Crab Orchard Lake, Horseshoe Lake Conservation Area and Carlyle Lake.
As you might guess, the largest populations of eagles spotted were counted along the Mississippi River (83 percent of the overall total), followed by 13 percent observed on the Illinois River and four percent on the remaining routes.
“The number of adults versus immature eagles reported on these surveys, an important indicator of recovery and survival, remains at 60 percent and 40 percent, respectively,” read their release, so things are going good for the eagle. I am still amazed that they can now be found around the Chain O’ Lakes, which probably was part of their range many, many, many years ago. I get excited like a little kid when I see one.
Birdscaping in the Midwest
The Antioch Garden Club is hosting a Birdscaping in the Midwest lecture on Monday, April 1, at 7 p.m. in St. Ignatius Church Fellowship Hall, 500 E. Depot St., Antioch. Registration at 6:30 p.m. for Mariette Nowak, author of a book of the same name that shows you how to increase the number and variety of birds in your yard by creating a sanctuary for them with native plants.
Lake County Audubon’s meeting will feature an expert who will tell you how to recognize Warblers by sight and sound. The meeting is Monday, April 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the Libertyville Village Hall, 118 W. Cook Street.
Author and longtime birder Sheryl DeVore will present a slide show along with song recordings of the common and not-so-common warblers that pass through Illinois in spring. She has written three books on birding and has given presentations at the Midwest Birding Symposium, The Nature Conservancy, The Field Museum, and the Chicago Botanic Garden. She has a life-time commitment to ornithology.
Look up in the sky ...
The College of Lake County will host an Astronomy Day on Saturday, April 20, where you can view the sky through powerful telescopes and enjoy a variety of educational activities that are free and open to all ages. There are day time events from noon to 4 p.m. and an evening star party from 7-9 p.m. around the Technology Building at the Grayslake campus, 19351 W. Washington Street.
The evening star party is your chance to see the Moon, Jupiter and its four moons, stars and other night sky wonders through a wide range of telescopes. The evening star party is weather dependent.
Activities for children and adults will allow them to capture views of sunspots and massive solar flares in special telescopes, tour a scale model of our solar system, make a comet, use a telescope, view exhibits about astronomy.
Participants arriving before 3 p.m. may sign up to win a telescope and other prizes. The event is sponsored by the Lake County Astronomical Society and CLC’s Engineering, Math and Physical Sciences division. For more information or directions visit www .lcas-astronomy.org.