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.