Monday, September 24, 2007

I'm Back!!

At last I've managed to fight off the lethargy that seems to have dogged me of late, and I'm back blogging. As some of you know, I've been in the US for several weeks (NE Illinois), my fifth trip there. I usually look forward to seeing a range of interesting waders, yellowlegs, dowitchers, stilt sandpiper and similar, but it wasn't to be this year. In the first 2 weeks it rained over 300mm, we had a tornado warning, and the county I was in, along with adjoining counties, were declared "state of emergency " areas. Nearly 5000 trees had to be cleared from roads, and much of the areas around the rivers were, as you might expect, flooded. Many people went days before the electricity supply was restored. Fortunately, where I was staying, with my son and his family, was not seriously affected. The dramatic warning, pictured, together with a 'siren' sounding, came up on all TV channels (there are several hundred channels!) coupled with a warning to take cover immediately. We also watched the storms approach on the weather radar in real time on the internet. In the event, the tornado was minor, but it was embedded in a serious storm front--which did most of the damage. The approaching storm got the adrenalin going and I must admit to wanting the tornado to come close enough to see, but not close enough to experience it first hand!
I did still get to see a good range of both local and migrating birds--the western shore of Lake Michigan is a migrant bird flyway. The downside of all the standing water was the mosquitoes. I've never seen so many, (or been bitten by so many) some nearly the size of hummingbirds--I exaggerate (a little). With West Nile Virus widespread in the area, the local authorities undertake widespread spraying, from vehicles, of the urban areas. This disease (similar I believe to Ross River Virus, also spread by mosquitoes), has caused several deaths in the area, and has been blamed for the serious decline in the numbers of American Crows.
Meanwhile, back in Tasmania--Spring breeding is well underway, and many of the migrants have already arrived. I've noted Woodswallows, Cuckoo-shrikes, martins and swallows, all the expected cuckoos (including Horsfield bronze at 3 different locales), and most of the migrant waders, so it's all happening out there. A tour of local birding sites showed that many birds have started breeding, with young Yellow-rumped and Brown Thornbills already on the wing. So I'll start reporting on the local scene soon.

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