Outdoor Column | Les Winkeler: Birding is its personal sport | Outdoor

Monday’s barred owl sighting was like a walk-off house run within the backside of the ninth to salvage a 4-3 win.

It might sound ludicrous to the uninitiated, however birding and baseball (or hockey, soccer, basketball, and many others.) are fairly comparable. There are some days you’re in your recreation – you’ll be able to spot a ruby-throated hummingbird within the forest from 30 yards. Then there are days you almost run over a turkey since you didn’t see it standing within the highway.

And, there are days you simply don’t get the bounces. Something that may probably go fallacious does.

Usually talking, Monday fell into the latter class.

I arrived at Crab Orchard Lake about 8 a.m. with fellow Harrisburg resident and photograph/birding fanatic Lennie Kaylor. It was as if each chicken calling Crab Orchard house was both on trip or in a enterprise assembly.

At a naked minimal, a drive round Crab Orchard Lake this time of yr usually produces high quality photograph alternatives for nice blue herons, ring-billed gulls and white-throated sparrows. Nope, it wasn’t occurring. Even the herons stayed out of photograph vary.

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The dearth of birds was exacerbated by low water circumstances as a consequence of ongoing repairs on the spillway. The lake, which is dramatically decrease than regular was primarily froze.

Undeterred, we headed south to Mermet.

If there’s anyplace in Southern Illinois that has a magnetic pull on wildlife, it’s Mermet.

And, if we’re being fully sincere, though the lap across the levee wasn’t as much as typical Mermet requirements, we noticed fairly a little bit of wildlife. There have been the requisite gulls and nice blue herons, however we additionally noticed mallards, an immature bald eagle, widespread goldeneye and a hooded merganser or two.

Nonetheless, the birds have been both out of vary or positioned straight into the solar.

Now, three hours into the journey, we have been primarily empty-handed.

We thought a tour of Sahara Woods State Fish and Wildlife Space, situated between Provider Mills and Harrisburg, would produce alternatives to {photograph} kinglets, blue jays or woodpecker.

By now, we’re transferring into the late innings of the day and we’re down 3-0.

The comeback began as soon as we left Sahara Woods. We have been practically again to Route 13 when Lennie all of a sudden braked his pickup and pointed to a raptor sitting atop an influence pole. There was some dialogue as as to if it was a sharp-shinned hawk, a feminine kestrel or a merlin.

Our images later verified it was certainly a merlin – a lifer for me. For the file, I’m positive I’ve seen merlin’s prior to now, I simply haven’t had a optimistic ID.

Now, we had a little bit of momentum as we headed towards Glen O. Jones Lake.

The day continued to get higher as we discovered a whole lot of trumpeter swans and 1000’s of snow geese in mine ponds close to Equality. As well as, we situated a rough-legged hawk in usually the identical location Lennie had seen it late final week.

Issues continued to enhance at Glen O. Jones the place we photographed lesser scaup and all kinds of track birds.

However, the day earned red-letter standing when a barred owl was noticed simply outdoors the doorway to Saline County State Fish and Wildlife Space. We obtained a number of images of the chicken whereas it was perched within the tree line alongside the highway, however, as steadily occurs, site visitors compelled us to maneuver.

We circled and returned to the spot to seek out the owl had halved the gap to the highway and was perched atop a utility marker within the highway ditch. What’s extra, the owl was completely unconcerned about our presence.

We each snapped dozens of frames.

As Jack Buck would have stated, “And, that’s a winner.”

LES WINKELER is the outside author for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at [email protected], on Twitter @LesWinkeler.