Now that you have familiarized yourself with the 300+ species that regularly occur in Illinois, using the library materials I mentioned in my previous blog post, you have to find out where they are.
Birding has evolved over the past two decades, from an arcane hobby relegated to bespectacled academics and characters like Jane Hathaway from the Beverly Hillbillies to a competitive sport on par with Iron Man triathlons and the Masters tournament. The most modern birder uses GPS and the latest in hi-tech outdoor wear. They rely on vast electronic networks of Rare Bird Alerts, blogs, and listservs to get them up-to-the-minute locations of the continent's most wanted species of birds.
More traditional resources are available at Oak Park Public Library:
Sheryl DeVore's Birding Illinois covers over 116 sites in the state from the Cypress swamps from the extreme ("pointy") south, to the windswept dunes of Illinois Beach State Park in the state's northeast corner. Handy bar graphs show you when you can most expect to see the species that migrate through the state, and which region is best suited for our resident species.
Advanced birders can find helpful tools at Oak Park Public Library as well. With spring migration comes the wave upon wave of brightly colored warbler's through Oak Park and the nearby forest preserves. But, as the season progresses, these feathered jewels are hidden in the leafy canopy. Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs: Eastern Region by Don and Lillian Stokes is a CD collection of bird songs and calls that will aid you in identifying the obscured warbler singing in the treetop.
'And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.' After you master most of what North America birdlife has to offer you will be tempted by the bizarre and beautiful birdlife of the Neotropics and beyond. Oak Park Public Library has on hand several bird and field guides to such exotic locales as Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Peru, East Africa, and Australia to name a few. Pick one up on your next trip abroad to expand your Life List.
A Life List is a list a birder keeps of all the bird species they have seen, usually in the wild (and not stuffed.) Phoebe Snetsiger was a remarkable woman, who before "bucket list" was a common term, took the adversity of a cancer diagnosis and went on an 18 year long field trip to see 8,398 species, more than any other birder at that time. Pheobe's life has been commemorated in Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds by Olivia Gentile.
Now is the perfect time to start your own Life List; become hooked this summer, just in time for the return of the legendary "Confusing Fall Warblers."
-- Ed O'Brien is a librarian at Oak Park Public Library
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