Winter Birding Basics with Eric Gyllenhaal

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Show/Hide Gallery

By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Nature blogger

Last year about NOW is when I changed up my urban "farming" practices to focus on gardening for food and wildlife  --  butterflies, native bees, beneficial insects, and especially in winter, backyard BIRDS!

Initially, my interest in doing this was sparked by meeting Eric Gyllenhaal, the local Naturalist who is currently a science/nature educator at Wonder Works, A Children's Museum in Oak Park. 

It was in his teenage years when Eric says his interest in birding started by seeing a Cooper's Hawk at his family's bird feeder.  

Since then, he has become an avid birder, and participates in citizen scientist programming to assist in monitoring the dynamics of neighborhood birds by keeping a running count of them in Oak Park, as well as  several public parks in Chicago.

He likes to pitch in with these two birding groups e-Bird and Project Feeder Watch, he says. 

Around here, many birding enthusiasts probably recall how in 2011 Eric, and his two teenage sons, Ethan and Aaron discovered a rare hummingbird in Oak Park.

The next spring, as a features reporter for the Wednesday Journal, I was assigned to spend a late afternoon counting birds with Eric and his sons in the "tucked away" butterfly and bird sanctuary surrounding the lagoon in Chicago's Columbus Park. 

I got another heads up about the doings of Eric and his birding boys in 2013 when his younger son Aaron, made a big media splash when at age 16 he counted 276 species of birds -- a top flight accomplishment in the world of birding. 

So, at the height of Fall migration, 2014, I went "hummingbird-ing"  with Eric, and blogged about how he attracts hummingbirds and other species to his backyard. 

Now, as a beginner backyard birder, I was feeling that what I was doing could be fun for others, and of course,  "tweetable,"  since into my yard have come American Cardinals, Downy Woodpeckers, Black-Capped Chickadees, House Finches, Dark-Eyed Juncos, Mourning Doves, and Blue Jays, plus several varieties of sparrows, including this one, just in time for me -- AND YOU -- to join in the National Audubon Society's (and Cornell Lab of Ornothology's 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count February 12-15).

The organizers say:  GBBC is a free, fun and easy online event that engages bird enthusiasts of all ages in counting birds to create a data-driven, real-time snapshot of bird populations.  During GBBC, you can count the birds in your backyard for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as you wish) on one or more days of the four day event, then report your sightings here.

My biggest concern was how in the heck does one count birds in their backyard without duplication?  Well, to figure that all out, in mid-January I invited Eric to assess my backyard birding strategies, and, of course he did, and then some.

Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

No Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Latest Comments