Bird #122 — Horned Grebe

podiceps (from podus, foot, and caput, head) auritus (eared)

Sunday, April 6, 1980 — 2:30 pm

Barrington, Illinois — Baker’s Lake

On the Friday before this, the day that I saw my lifer House Wren, the naturalist at Crabtree told me about Baker’s Lake.  I drove over to see what there was to see.  What I saw was hundreds of ducks and coots.  I brought my wife with me on this Sunday afternoon to share my discovery. The ducks and coots were still there. In among them were four Horned Grebes, swimming in the lake.  Later they slept, with their heads tucked into the feathers on their backs.

Baker’s Lake is a fairly large lake for this area, about 60 acres or so, I’d estimate (which I do very poorly).  It is quite shallow, and at times numerous mud flats are exposed.  Most of the area around the lake is forest preserve covered with scrubby woods, marshes and fields.  One side is lined with homes and a park that consists of an open oak wood lot on a bluff above the lake.

In the center of the lake is a small island.  It can’t be much larger than 80’ x 15’ in area.  When I first began birding there, it was thoroughly covered with scrubby trees, most of them not more than 15 feet tall.  Since then, a huge, mixed flock of herons has built a rookery, and the weight of their nests have crushed the smaller trees and broken most of the branches off the larger trees.  A monstrous scaffolding of two-by-fours has been constructed, and the herons have adopted this as their nesting platform.  Their large stick nests cover every inch of available space.  This makes for a cluttered, unsightly, albeit interesting mess.

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