Monday, May 23, 2011

New Location - the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary - 5.22.11

So I was walking through the Hedge last week when I saw this sign:

Now, I know the Lily Pool well.  I was just complaining about having hiked over there from the South Pond last week only to find that it still isn't open.  :(  But I hadn't heard of this Bill Jarvis place.  I think the sign must be new, because I'm pretty sure I would have seen it before, I'm only at the Hedge about once a week.  And I'm at the North Pond almost as often.

Anyway, I came home and Googled this place.  It's near the golf course on the east side of Lake Shore Drive on the North Side.  Or, as the directions I got said, "East of Lake Shore Drive, at the end of Addison Ave. (3400 N.)

Well, I was going to be in that general vicinity yesterday morning so I took all my photography gear with me and planned to stop on my way back.  According to Google Maps, I needed to take the 36 bus back down Broadway and then walk the few blocks east to Lake Shore Drive and then cross it, and basically I'd be there.

If you're from Chicago, you see the problem.  If you're not from Chicago, imagine crossing your area's busiest eight-lane expressway.  Not a highway with cross streets that will cause cars to occasionally come to a stop.  An expressway with on- and off-ramps so no one stops on this road ever. (Okay there's a light at Chicago Ave, but that was nowhere near me.)

There are a few underpasses.  The east side of the drive is a *highly* developed recreation area in a very upscale section of town.  Of course, I hopped off the bus where I had to hike up about a mile north to get to an underpass, cross under and then hike back about a quarter mile to get back to where I actually wanted to be.

Not helping things, I was in jeans and boots and a t-shirt and the temp had shot up from the mid sixties to the mid eighties between the time I left my house and the time I got to this sanctuary.

Now, me being uncomfortable isn't the end of the world.  I had water and snacks and I was in the shade a fair bit of the time.  Unfortunately I'd left the house without turning on the air conditioning for the ferrets.  I'm sure dog and cat people think that's kind of a ridiculous thing to get worried about, but ferrets don't handle heat well at all.  Logi (especially) is happy to snorkle and play in the snow all day long.  But ferrets tolerate temperatures above 80* F about as well as most people tolerate temps at about 100* F.  We CAN survive it, but it's going to be a miserable time. And then, only for short periods.  So I was feeling a little pressure to move through this place at a quicker pace than I might otherwise investigate a new shooting location.

That said, the set up for this place is... not great.  I didn't have a great desire to linger there.

Unlike the Magic Hedge or the Lily Pond, you can't actually walk through this sanctuary.  The entire thing is surrounded by a ten foot high chain-link fence.  There's a path around it, but you can't go in.  Part of me says, "Well that's great for the birds, really." The rest of me says, "If the point is to increase nature awareness in the city, you might want to let us get as close as we can in the other parks.  Because that fence is a huge turn off."  It might have been better if it was split rail or something a little less "institutionalized, prison-height" black chain-link.  For some reason that fence read much more as "Keep people OUT" rather than "keep nature safe."

There is a platform that lets you see over the fence at one end.  Sort of.  When I read on the website, I was thinking of the one like they have at Volo Bog.  At Volo the platform isn't ridiculously high off the ground from where it was - maybe 8 or 10 steps up.  But once you're up there, you can look over a huge lowered section of the bog.  You get a great view from that slightly increased height.  It's where I took this shot:

The platform at Bill Jarvis is only about four steps up.  And yes, it does help you see over the fence and it's a great spot to set up your tripod.  The downside is that the birds have completely figured out that they're exposed on that face of the sanctuary and they tend to not hop up to be visible while there are people on the platform.

As you go around, there are a few trees on the outside of the actual sanctuary and a few areas that I think will be wildflower and butterfly gardens in a month, but aren't much of anything right now.

It's a small area that has a parking lot on the north and an archery range (yes, really, Chicago has a public archery range.  And there were even people out there shooting arrows at targets when I was out there) on the northeast and a jogging path that butts *right* up against Lake Shore Drive all along the west side.  So it's not a phenomenal spot for getting in touch with nature.

These signs every twelve feet or so, certainly didn't help.

All that said, I did see a few species I haven't seen anywhere else in Chicago... or, you know, anywhere else at all.

 This is a hairy woodpecker.  I've seen the RedHeaded at the North Pond, and I've seen Red-Breasted and Flickers at the Hedge.  This guy took me a bit to identify because most woodpeckers in Northern Illinois are black and white with various checks and stripes on their wings.
 An Indigo Bunting!  A blue bird.  I love finding blue in nature.  He really didn't want to come out of the leaves.  He was singing his little heart out though, so he wasn't too completely dedicated to staying hidden.

And another warbler to add to the collection.  This one is called a Magnolia Warbler.  I really need to get a lens a little better than the telephoto I have now.  Warblers tend to stay *just* out of range of the lens I have now.  I ran into a guy out there who was looking for his 30th warbler species for the spring.  Last year he saw 32 distinct species.  I guess I still have a lot of birds to find.

So, yeah, three new species, but I need to head back to this spot one more time without worrying about me being hot or the ferrets being hot (seriously, I was more worried about them) or being annoyed by the 'great new place' being badly set up before I form a more permanent opinion.

So, the final verdict?   33 of 50 new species, and a location that needs re-evaluation.

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