Monday, January 14, 2008

My Bartel Grasslands Field Trip

This last weekend I met up with a whole bunch of passionate birders to seek out the short eared owl and the Norther Harrier at the Bartel Grasslands with birdie leader, Dick Riner, which was sponsored by the
Chicago Ornithological Society.

OH BOY! Here we go, we are walking to the Bartel Grasslands located in Tinley Park, IL. Look at these professionals with their really cool equipment! I had binoculars, a baby camera, and hand warmers...that was the extent of my equipment!

Here is out destination.... right behind these pines lay a mound where birders can set up their scopes and have a magnificent view of the grasslands.

The goal of this trip was to witness short eared owls and or northern harriers. This trip was scheduled for late afternoon which made it perfect for our subjects to put on a show. Unfortunately, the owls never showed, but boy did the harriers make and entrance! Northern harriers are hawks that fly low to the ground in search for prey such as mice, small birds, rabbits, etc.

It was about 30 degrees with a strong biting wind. Such a strong wind that the harriers were able to hover and glide in the same spot for several seconds, real low to the ground. It was really amazing. I witnessed males and females which both dove towards the ground, but I failed to see them rise with prey in their mouths.

This grassland has several metal posts which are strewn about. The owls, I was informed, like to perch on the posts. Not today however, but a female harrier did perch on one for about 5 minutes straight! It was exciting to watch her scope the ground in anticipation for an unsuspected rodent.

As evening quickly approached, we began to retreat to our cars. This scene made me stop and I don't know why. Sometimes I see a scene and think...oh, this would make a good painting, but not this time, it was more like.... maybe there's a story behind here, or maybe it was just the misty sky partnering with some massive oaks (notice the scale of the car, bottom right).

At the end of the evening it began to flurry. It has been a successful night of mostly female and some male northern harriers which gracefully skimmed the grasslands while ignoring us gawkers. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a picture of any harriers because they were too far for my camera to grasp. I guess I'll just have to paint a picture of it!

I hope you have enjoyed this field trip to Bartel Grasslands.