Greene Valley Acadian
(posted 6-25-07)

Greene Valley Forest Preserve in Woodridge is only 10 miles south of my home. So why had I only been there once or twice before? Well, until this past week, I guess I didn't know what I was missing.

Multiple reports of a very accessible Acadian flycatcher was my catalyst. The bird was first reported on June 6 by Mike Madsen, a veteran birder who knows every inch of Greene Valley--he's been monitoring birds there for years. Mike heard and then sighted the flycatcher in an open scrubby area, which is not typical habitat for an Acadian. It was the first time he had ever seen this species at Greene Valley. Since I had never seen an Acadian flycatcher in my LIFE, I paid close attention to his reports on IBET, the birding list-serve.

And the postings kept coming. Not only was the bird out of place, it was hanging around! On June 20 I decided to go for it. It was a beautiful cool morning--a great day to be out after about a week of hot and sticky conditions. The night before and in the car on the way, I played the empidonax flycatcher track from my Birding by Ear CD series. I played the Acadian segment over and over, trying to burn that sound into my head.

The homework paid off. Once at Greene Valley I located the bird fairly easily--it was right where Mike described it. Naturally I heard the flycatcher first. But within a few minutes I was watching it sing from fairly close range. As birders know, it's very satisfying to find a sought-after "life bird" and be able to observe it at length and in good light. Even better when the bird is vocalizing.

The Acadian made my day, but there was more to be enjoyed. I proceeded along the crushed limestone paths of Greene Valley and found Baltimore and orchard orioles, yellow warbler, common yellowthroat, Eastern towhee and indigo bunting--all nice birds to watch and listen to. Catbirds and red-winged blackbirds were especially plentiful.

Around 7:00 a.m. I reluctantly got back in my car and headed home--it was Wednesday and I had to get to work! After a quick change and a commute on Metra, I was in my Chicago office before 9.

Three days later I found myself back at Greene Valley, this time in a light rain. Like the previous visit, I had a target bird: Bell's vireo. If successful, it would be my second lifer of the week.

Well, sometimes the birding gods get even. They decided to make me really work for the Bell's. And I'm still working. I didn't find one that day in the drizzle, or the next day either. Nice consolations were a white-eyed vireo and a yellow-billed cuckoo. I'll take those birds any day. But my lifer Bell's will have to wait.

Maybe this Saturday my luck with turn. Bell's vireos are confirmed at Greene Valley--my birding colleagues have been finding them with relative ease in recent weeks. They've told me where to look and I know what to listen for. It's a matter of persistence and timing.

So I'll keep trying in the days to come, and I'll keep enjoying Greene Valley. It has more to offer than I ever realized.

Copyright 2007 by Jeff Reiter. All Rights Reserved.