Birding at North Pond
A Wonderful Spot to View Nature
in Chicago's Lincoln Park

 


Bird Walks around North Pond

The Chicago Ornithological Society (COS) holds bird walks around North Pond on most Wednesdays during the year. Starting in mid-March, walks are held weekly through mid-June. One summer walk takes place in mid-July, then in mid-August the walks again go on a weekly basis through mid-November. During the winter months of December, January and February, one walk is held in the middle of each month. Then in mid-March it starts all over again. See the COS web site for details about current walks. These walks start at 7:00am and last about two hours. If you can't stay for the whole walk, there's no problem in leaving early. The group meets near the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum at the southeast corner of North Pond. Generally, we gather on the casting pier out in the pond, just west of the museum. If you don't find us there, check the area along the west side of the museum. The group proceeds counterclockwise around the pond from there.

During 2017, walks will be held on the following dates: 18 January, 15 February, every Wednesday from 15 March to 14 June, 12 July, every Wednesday from 16 August to 15 November, and 13 December. You can also see all dates for the walks in 2017 in the information flyer (pdf-format) at the link below. Share it with anyone who might be interested.

You are invited to join the growing list of people who have enjoyed the North Pond Bird Walks! See who has attended the North Pond Bird Walks by following this link.

Here are the tallies of birds that have been seen on the North Pond Bird Walks.

For more information on the birds you can see at North Pond, along with some photographs, visit my North Pond Birdlife page.

Photos of North Pond taken during each of the 2010 North Pond Bird Walks can be seen on the Year 2010 in Photos page.

On the North Pond Bird Walk on 17 December 2003, the walk started with the group noticing that there was a cat frozen to the ice on the pond. Read about how this cat was rescued, and see a video, and the North Pond Cat Rescue page.


The North Pond Area

North Pond is located in Lincoln Park, a beautiful urban park on the north side of Chicago, Illinois. The North Pond area is bounded on the north and the east by Cannon Drive, the south by Fullerton Parkway, and the west by Stockton Drive.

This photo shows North Pond and the immediately surrounding area. The top of the photo is east, left is north, right is south, and bottom is west. You can see Diversey Harbor at the top, with its array of docking piers. The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is the large building in the upper right of the photo at the east end of North Pond. The "X" shape in the pond next to the museum is the Casting Pier. At the north (left) end of the pond you can see North Pond restaurant

This small area has hosted 214 different species of birds. Beavers and Red Fox have visited the pond site, though Gray Squirrels are the more common mammalian residents (other than Homo sapiens and Canus domesticus).


The North Pond Photo Gallery

While approaching the North Pond Restaurant on the 24 May 2017 walk, we heard a Connecticut Warbler singing from the shrubs at the northwest corner of the pond. A quick walk over there enabled us to find the bird and to get some nice looks at it. It put on quite a show for us.

 

We had great views of a Blue-headed Vireo on the 3 May 2017 walk, plus also a nice look at a Green Heron. Canada Geese were nesting on a roof ledge of the Nature Museum in the middle of some cacti.

 

The major highlight of our walk on 15 March 2017 was the two coyotes prowling the pond edge at the start of the walk. As we back down to the south end of the pond at the end of the walk, we spotted the coyotes again. They crossed over the pond, walking gingerly on the ice, giving everyone great views. This shot is of one of the animals looking back at our group after it had traversed the ice.

 

Leading up to the 20 October 2016 walk, there had been about a week of southerly winds, but the night before had the first northerly blow, bringing a number of migrants in for our walk. Among them were this American Woodcock, Rusty Blackbird, and Purple Finch.

 

 

Also on the 20 October 2016 walk, we had nice views of an adult Cooper's Hawk. Here is the bird perched in a tree just before we saw it dive to the ground to catch a sparrow.

From time to time during the warm months, we find a turtle laying eggs, or preparing to lay eggs, somewhere in the pond's environs. The 15 June 2016 walk was one of those occasions. This Painted Turtle chose the playground north of the pond as the place where she wanted to put her eggs. The photograph was taken by Gary Mellman.

 

On the 4 May 2016 walk, Paul Quintas checked his smart phone and found that Josh Engel had seen a Prothonotary Warbler over at the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool. Of course, at the end of the walk we crossed to street to get a look at this little gem.

 

Periodically we get a migrant Solitary Sandpiper on the pond, one of the few shorebird species that we see on a regular basis. This one was rather confiding, standing on a log at the north end of the pond on 4 May 2016.

 

On 11 November 2015, Chicago Ornithological Society held its 500th North Pond Bird Walk. Looking back on the 15 year history of the walks on this occasion revealed the following statistics about these 500 walks:

  • 15 years
  • 500 walks
  • 200 different species seen
  • 206,486 individual birds counted
  • 80 was the largest number of species observed on any one walk (21 May 2014)
  • 6 was the smallest number of species observed on any one walk (18 December 2002)
  • 7205 was the total attendance of birders on the walks
  • 602 unique participants
  • 60 participants was the maximum on any one walk (8 May 2013)
  • 1 participant was the minimum on any one walk (14 February 2007)
  • 21 different countries represented among the participants
  • 21 different U.S. states (plus the District of Columbia)
  • 13 leaders

Here is everyone gathering in the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum for the celebration of the 500th bird walk.

We all enjoyed this wonderful cake, created by Alysha Boze of The Goddess and the Grocer, thanks to Phyllis Petrilli.

 

Without a doubt the top mammal sighting in the 15 year history of the North Pond Bird Walks was of a Striped Skunk on the 21 October 2015 outing. Jatta Soderdahm acted fast and captured this quick snap of the creature before it skedaddled under the casting pier, not to be seen again.

 

The group had good, close-up views of a Bay-breasted Warbler on the 14 October 2015 walk. This bird was foraging slowly and quite low, given the temperatures in the 40s.

 

This Purple Finch obligingly sat on the birds feeders in back of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on the 7 October 2015 walk.

 

On the 23 September 2015 walk, Julie Samansky spotted a Blue-headed Vireo that was very accommodating and gave everyone lots of close, eye-level looks.

 

On the 10 June 2015 walk, the North Pond area was loaded with dragonflies, mostly Common Green Darners, Blue Dashers, Twelve-spotted Skimmers, and Black Saddlebags. But we also caught sight of a nice Swamp Darner that obligingly perched for us in a shrub near the path.

 

On the 14 May 2014 walk, the group had the pleasure of seeing an immature male Summer Tanager. Since this is a "good bird," we were careful to try to give everyone an opportunity to see it before approaching and possibly flushing it further away. However, the bird proved cooperative as it fed on insects rather openly before us.

The group coming to the 23 April 2014 walk had gathered not down on the casting pier, but rather up along the sidewalk just south of the Natuer Museum. Why? Because an immature male Orchard Oriole was feeding on the ground there. The chilly weather conditions (39 degrees F) brought many of the birds that day close to the ground.

In mid-February, the diversity of birds around North Pond is at low ebb, so that we sometimes foray away from the immediate vicinity of the pond to visit Diversey Harbor. At that time of year, there are often interesting ducks and gulls to be seen there. However, at the time of the 12 February 2014 walk, Diversey Harbor was frozen nearly 100% solid. John Purcell suggested we go out to the harbor mouth anyway, because he (and a few of the other participants that day) had recently visited there and some of the water was open. We hoped to find some White-winged Scoters, since there were many along the Chicago lakefront. Sure enough, we got to get up-close-and-personal with several of these, underneath the Lake Shore Drive bridge over the harbor's entrance channel. Here is one of the White-winged Scoters and one of the Greater Scaup we saw there.

 

On the 18 December 2013 walk, we found a Mallard showing characteristics both of the male and female of the species. It was among some 170+ Mallards that were congregated in the small areas of open water around the aerators in the pond. Otherwise the pond was frozen. It is the bird in the front in the picture below, with a male behind it and a female behind the male. Note the gray wing feathers, the red breast, and the curled-up central tail feathers characteristic of a male (also, the bird had a white collar which is hard to see in this photo). Also see the female-type plumage of the sides and back, and the female-colored bill. The head is intermediate between male and female.

 

The 16 October 2013 walk was special because it marked the second time that we recorded a Harris's Sparrow on the walk. The first time was in spring, on 7 May 2008. The October 2013 Harris's was found a couple of days prior to the walk by Judy Friedman, a North Pond Walk regular. Here is a photo of the bird.

 

On the 28 August 2013 walk, we encounted a group of 30+ White-lined Sphinx Moths (Hyles lineata) feeding in the Obedient Plants (Physostegia virginiana) at the northwest corner of the pond. Here is one of them.

 

On the 12 June 2013 walk, we saw a Black-crowned Night-Heron that had captured a large goldfish and was trying to figure out how to swallow it.

 

Here is a Red-eared Slider with all four legs stuck out to catch the sun. It looks like it has visions of Superman in its head. John Purcell and I found this sunning slider on 10 September 2011.

 

The 7 September 2011 walk was a good one, with 44 species of birds seen, including the unexpected bonus of seeing an Eastern Whip-poor-will. Here the bird is perched on a limb of one of the trees east of the pond.

 

This Halloween Pennant, seen on the 8 June 2011 walk, was a new species of dragonfly for me in Lincoln Park..

 

One of the better spots for warblers at North Pond is the grove of trees just west of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Unfortunately, the birds are often high in these trees. In this photo, taken 8 Sep 2010, John Purcell, Judy Friedman, and Ward Boulten (three of the North Pond Bird Walk "regulars") work either on their warbler identification or on muscle strain in the neck.

 

On the same walk, we saw a male Downy Woodpecker bring some food to his nest hole. He briefly disappeared inside, re-emerging a short time later with a fecal sac. This photo shows him before he entered the hole. [Note: a couple of weeks after this photo was taken, and major wind storm took down this tree.]

 

On the 9 June 2010 walk, the group went "out of bounds" by walking over to Diversey Harbor to see if we could find some swans that we saw (briefly) flying south along Lake Michigan. We didn't find the swans, but this gave us an excuse to look at the swallow nests under the Lake Shore Drive bridge at the mouth of Diversey Harbor. Here are some Cliff Swallow nests (left) and a Barn Swallow nest (right), showing the different nest styles.

 

After the 19 May 2010 walk, John Purcell (left) and Ward Boulton (right) discussed the Least Bittern that had been seen that day which enjoying coffee and doughnut holes in the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. This is where the group gathers at the end of the walk to tally up the morning's sightings.

 

 

Here are some of the North Pond Bird Walk regulars, gathering on the casting pier near the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum prior to the 28 April 2010 walk. That's Michael Teller on the left, and then to his left is Joan Norek with John Chalmers standing behing her. Off on the right is Judy Friedman; notice how intent she is, all ready to pick out birds at the south end. The fellow in black with his legs crossing is Stanley Greenberg, a photographer from New York City who was visiting Chicago to oversee the set-up of an exhibit of his work at The Art Institute of Chicago.

 

 

This junco was initially spotted at the very start of the 17 March 2010 walk, when it was up high in a tree and backlit by the rising sun. We couldn't get a good look at it, but it seemed like a possibility for an "Oregon-type" Junco. It flew over to near the Nature Museum's feeders, and I chased it over there, but it wasn't readily visible and I had to get back to the group. By the time everyone had wandered over to the feeders, not a junco was to be seen. Fortunately, at the end of the walk, a group of sparrows were feeding on birdseed thrown out on the sidewalks near the museum, and this one was among them. I am presuming that this is an Oregon Junco, but I am not sure if I can definitively rule out the possibility that it is what people refer to as Cassiar Junco. The flanks in this photo look mostly gray (like what a Cassiar would have), but other photos of what I assume is the same bird show much buffier color there (as would be expected for Oregon).

 

On the 16 July 2008 walk, Ted Bretter took the following photos showing a Blue Dasher (one of the common summer dragonflies at the pond) and an American Kestrel having an aerial meal.

 

 

On the 13 June 2007, a large Red-eared Slider was seen walking in the park grass north of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. After the walk, Chris Traynor and Geoff Williamson relocated the turtle and saw that it was digging a hole in the lawn, presumably to lay eggs.

 

 

Edward Warden found a Snapping Turtle on the 6 June 2007 walk. Here it is, presumably digging (or filling in) a hole for eggs.

 

 

 

The group spotted this Painted Turtle on our 14 June 2006 walk. We see mostly Red-eared Sliders, so a Painted Turtle was a nice find.

 

 

This Red-spotted Purple butterfly entertained the group on 7 June 2006, a day when we saw five different species of butterflies along with 39 different species of birds.

 

 

This Barred Owl, found and photographed by Veronica Cook on 9 November 2005, represented the 193rd species recorded in the vicinity of the North Pond.

 

 

Here is North Pond, looking south from the north end, in July 2003. That's the John Hancock Building (third tallest in Chicago) that you can see in the distance with the two antennae on top.

 

 

Here is a view of the North Pond Cafe at the north end of North Pond. The bronze statue you can see on the rise behind the cafe is of Richard James Oglesby (1824 - 1899). Oglesby was a Civil War soldier who later served as governor of Illinois for "three" terms (1865 - 1869; Jan. 13-23, 1873 after which he resigned to become U.S. Senator; 1885-1889) and as a U.S. senator for one term (1873-1879). This statue sits atop the highest point in Lincoln Park. The North Pond Bird Walks often climb this hill to take advantage of the elevation while checking the nearby trees for migrant birds.

Photo by Prakash Pandit, who visited Chicago from India during 2003 and enjoyed the North Pond Bird Walks during his stay. On his departure, Prakash said, "I am leaving Chicago tonight with memories of bird watching especially at North Pond every Wednesday. I had no idea while coming to Chicago that this area serves as an 'airport' for so many birds."

 

During the warmer months you can see Red-eared Sliders, a type of turtle, basking on the logs at North Pond. Here is one, peeking through the reeds.

 

 

One can also find dragonflies about the pond. Here is what I believe to be a freshly-emerged Blue Dasher. This photo was taken on 15 June 2005.


This site last updated on 15 October 2017.
Contact Geoff Williamson with any comments, updates or suggestions.