Bird #203 — Wilson’s Phalarope

phalaropus (from phalaris, coot, and pous, foot) tricolor (three colors)

Friday, May 15, 1981 — 6:30 am

Hanover Park, Illinois — field by Hanover Park water tower

I went birding at Baker’s Lake on the 13th.  I struck up a conversation with another birder as we watched a wave of warblers.  He told me he had seen a lot of shorebirds in a field by the Hanover Park water tower.

On the 15th, I went on my first big day.  I decided to start at that field and see what I could see. But before I go on, let me explain.

One of the major competitions among birders is to go out, usually with a group, and see how many different species of birds can be spotted in one 24-hour period.  The usual goal is 100, although in some bird-rich states lists of over 200 have been compiled.

I drove to Hanover Park in the dawn mist.  I didn’t know how to get to the water tower, but I could see it in the distance.  I headed up one street and down another until I found it.  The tower was in a housing development, but across the street was a farm, surrounded by muddy fields.  I put on my boots and walked up over a little rise. There was a large flooded area in a weedy field.  I could see some sandpipers foraging around the edges, and I moved in for a better look.  Four Wilson’s Phalaropes flew in and landed at the water’s edge.  Through my binoculars, I could see one swimming around while the other three preened and splashed.  Just as I found them in my scope, they took off and disappeared inexorably from sight.

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