One of the great things about nature is that it can be unpredictable and you never know what you'll see when out in the preserves. For interpretive naturalist Bob Bryerton on Thursday, the surprise sighting came in the form of black-bellied whistling ducks at Monee Reservoir.
Based on eBird data, it is the first time this species has ever been seen in Will County, although there have been occasional sightings in other parts of the Chicagoland area.
"These are a southern species and not supposed to be here, not even during migration," Bryerton said. "I'm not sure what they were doing here other than they were flying by and thought that Monee Reservoir looked like a good spot to hang out for a while. For me this is what makes birding so much fun. You never know what you will find when you go out, so each time is a chance to see something rare and unusual."
Black-bellied whistling ducks normally call Texas, Louisiana, and Mexico home, but this year there have been some sightings in southern Illinois, and even as north as Milwaukee.
These birds live up to their name with their loud whistle call and they generally feed at night in agricultural fields.
"This is by far the most rare species of bird I have found in the preserves," Bryerton said. "I actually went by this spot earlier and either the ducks were not there or I missed them. It was not until I was coming back down the trail heading back to the parking lot that I noticed them. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. So even hiking the same trail that I had just been on earlier revealed something new to me when I looked from a different angle or at a different time."
The lesson here?
When out in the preserves, keep your eyes peeled even if it's on a path you've already traveled. You never know what you'll see.
For example, there could be a painted bunting perched atop a branch or a red-throated loon soaring overhead.
But if you're hoping to get a glimpse of the black-bellied whistling ducks, you've probably missed your chance. The last report on eBird indicated they left Monee Reservoir.
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