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Published: September 9, 2016

Merlin confirmed nesting in Illinois for the first time!

Joshua Engel, Research Assistant II, Integrative Research Center
Merlin by John Picken

Merlin. Photo © John Picken / www.picken.com

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Published: February 8, 2016

Of Ivory Gulls and Parasites

Joshua Engel, Research Assistant II, Integrative Research Center
Ivory Gull by Nathan Goldberg

Ivory Gull (Pagophila eburnea) photo by Nathan Goldberg.

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Published: February 2, 2016

Things seen in the Bird Division #11: 'Til death do us part

Joshua Engel, Research Assistant II, Integrative Research Center

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). Photo © Jeff Skrentny.

Sibling birds-of-prey often play-fight with their talons. It's practice for hunting, fighting, and passing prey to a mate. But the Red-tailed Hawks in the photos below are adults. They probably got their talons locked together in a territorial battle. Apparently they were unable to unlock them, causing both birds to perish. Maybe they should have played more as youngsters. "To the victor go the spoils," the saying goes. Unless there is no victor. 

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Published: January 19, 2016

Post-storm Northerly Island update

Joshua Engel, Research Assistant II, Integrative Research Center
Storm damage Northerly Island

Northerly Island, the Museum Campus park that occupies the peninsula where small planes once took off from Meigs Field, was re-opened last fall after a two-year, $9.7 million renovation project. I wrote a review of it at the time.

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Published: October 1, 2015

Things seen in the Bird Division #10: Where did the waxwing go?

Joshua Engel, Research Assistant II, Integrative Research Center

The power of museum collections often comes from volume: with a higher sample size, more can be learned with great precision. But sometimes you can learn a great deal from a single specimen, too.

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Published: September 4, 2015

Northerly Island reopens!

Joshua Engel, Research Assistant II, Integrative Research Center

It's been a long time coming: after more than two years of construction, this morning Northerly Island officially reopened. Although not "officially" open until 10am, many people were out early this morning enjoying the new paved walkway that loops through the southern 40 acres of the park. I was one of those people, hoping for some interesting migrants and checking out the site's birding potential. 

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Published: September 3, 2015

Illinois' first White-winged Dove specimen

Joshua Engel, Research Assistant II, Integrative Research Center

The only White-winged Dove that I've seen in Illinois, on the campus of Northwestern University, Evanston, on 27 May 2007. © Josh Engel

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Published: July 15, 2015

A tropical wanderer visits the Midwest

Joshua Engel, Research Assistant II, Integrative Research Center

Photo © Nathan Goldberg, taken in St. Joseph, Berrien Co., Michigan, on 11 July 2015.

I was riding south on the lakefront bike path, like I do most mornings, on my way to the museum. It was a lovely morning, cool, overcast, and with a nice tailwind. I passed the construction fence at Fullerton Avenue and glanced towards the water, as I do frequently during my ride. Then I nearly fell off my bike. A frigatebird was flying over!

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Published: May 28, 2015

The traveling knot

Joshua Engel, Research Assistant II, Integrative Research Center

On 22 May, Rob Curtis discovered a flock of seven Red Knots (Calidris canutus) on Montrose Beach, on Chicago's north side, a beach almost as famous for its birds as its sand. One Red Knot in the Chicago area is unusual, but seven is remarkable. Even more remarkable was that one of the knots--a particularly brightly colored one--had an engraved "flag" on its leg, with a readable alpha-numeric code unique to that individual.

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Published: May 18, 2015

History and birds come together: "Spring Migration Notes" from 1920 and its famous authors

Joshua Engel, Research Assistant II, Integrative Research Center

This little booklet has so much history, it's hard to know even where to begin. Let's start with the fact that the first author, James D. Watson, is the father of one of the most famous scientists of the 20th century, also named James D. Watson, who along with Francis Crick is credited with the discovery of the structure of DNA. But that's the least of it. The third author is even more intriguing.