Photo by Carol Cooley
A varied thrush, native to the Pacific Northwest, found its way to Palos Park this winter, and has drawn birders from throughout Illinois hoping to get a photo.
Dozens of birdwatchers have flocked to Palos Park in recent weeks hoping to snap photos of a little bird not commonly found around here—a varied thrush.
The slate gray and orange bird native to the Pacific Northwest found its way to 125th Street, where Kelly and Kent Oliven first noticed it a couple weeks ago at the birdfeeder stocked with seeds and dried fruit outside their house west of Windsor Drive. Since word spread, the bird has been drawing crowds of birders to the area hoping for a peek at it, sometimes tying up traffic on 125th Street.
But Kelly Oliven said this week that there have been no sightings of the bird since Friday, so the dozen or so people who were there around noon on Friday with long-lens cameras may have been the last to see him.
“Maybe he moved on when the weather got a little warmer over the weekend,” she said.
On Friday, she mingled with the birders quietly snapping photos of the thrush, which had found shelter in a stand of evergreens and other trees east of Windsor Drive. As the bird flitted between branches, and then landed on the ground, the birdwatchers bundled up against the cold pointed him out, and made sure everyone got a look.
“He’s cheating on me over here,” she joked.
At one point, the colorful bird flew from the trees onto a bare branch beside the road, as if to make sure all the “paparazzi” could get clear photos before he left town.
Mel Tracy, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at 13012 S. LaGrange Road, came over to see the star attraction.
“I’m not surprised to see him in these trees. This is the type of habitat he is used to in the Pacific Northwest,” said Tracy.
He noted that it is unusual but not unheard of to see a varied thrush in the Chicago area. He said one was seen in the northern suburbs, near O’Hare Airport, last year.
Karen Garrett, took a break from her job at the Little Red School House to come over and see the bird.
“It’s a great way to spend a lunch hour,” said Garrett, after catching a glimpse of it.
She said someone brought a dead varied thrush into Little Red Schoolhouse last year, after it flew into a window.
“Sometimes we do stuff them and keep them in our collection,” she explained.
Photo by Dermot Connolly
Kelly Oliven walks past a crowd of birdwatchers taking photos of a varied thrush, rarely seen in Chicagoland, which had taken up residence in a stand of trees on 125th Street in Palos Park. A nearby resident, she was the first to call attention to the presence of the little bird, which is native to the Pacific Northwest, when she saw it visiting her birdfeeder.
But its appearance in Palos Park was unusual enough to attract people from throughout the Chicago area, and even southern Illinois, according to all the names listed in the notebook the Olivens left outside for visitors to sign.
“Just to see it is nice,” said Jim Lukancic, who came from Channahon on Friday. “I’ll go anywhere within 50 miles (to see unusual birds).”
Nikki Rumpf and Jennifer Green came from Lemont to see the bird, stopping first in the Orland Grasslands in Orland Park, where they saw another unusual visitor, a snowy owl native to Canada.
“It was a very productive day, getting to see both of them,” said Rumpf.
Debbie Garcy and her husband, Tony, are avid birders from Orland Park, who also saw the snowy owl before coming to Palos Park to try their luck again.
Carol Cooley, a Joliet resident, was able to capture some beautiful photos of the thrush on Friday, too, including one she graciously contributed for this article.
From there, she also made the trek to Orland Grasslands South to see the snowy owl.
“There are many snowy owls seen in the Chicago area and lakefront locations this winter. It is a year of irruption for this bird,” she said, using the term for a great southern migration. “They’re charming, however they’re fragile. And they have come a long way,” she said, advising birdwatchers to keep a respectful distance from them so the winged creatures won’t get scared.