Friday 7 January 2022

The Midwest - Day 11 - Wisconsin to Illinois

An annoying morning beckoned - the new need to get a negative Covid test before being allowed to board the plane home, something had hadn't been a requirement when I left. I did not fancy a $125 test at O'Hare, nor leaving it until the last minute, so resolved to try and find one locally. CVS and Walgreen both do free tests, at least for Americans, so I had booked one of those for mid-morning a couple days before which meant I needed to stay local to Racine and Kenosha for a bit. 

I started off with a bit of sea-watching (well, lake-watching) from Winthrop Harbour which is right on the State line. I had avoided the worst of the storm by coming this far south, but it was still very windy and light snow was falling, so I sheltered with some local birders behind the yacht club. This was a mild day as far as they were concerned, but the weather elsewhere had been anything but. The same weather pattern whose cold side I had taken flight from had brought some very destructive tornados to Kentucky and other States on its southern edge, with in one case almost a whole town flattened - the news channels had blanket coverage and it looked awful. Some broadcasters were musing that climate change might be making these events more severe...

A flight of Scaup went south and a number of Red-throated Divers were just outside the breakwater, whilst in the inner harbour a Ring-necked Duck accompanied various Mergansers and Buffleheads. The passage Scoters I was hoping did not materialise, but by this stage of the trip, and with my plans ripped up, my quest for new ABA birds was basically over and I was more concentrating on my overall trip list. 

I didn't take any photos on Day 11, so here is Wood Duck from Fort Collins CO that I have been holding back.

I had a PCR test done at CVS, but was then told that it was unlikely I would get a result before I flew. Excellent. The next two hours were spent driving around Kenosha trying to find a rapid test. I visited one hospital who sent me to another hospital, who contrary to what the first hospital (same healthcare chain) has said did not offer tests, and eventually ended up at a portacabin in dingy carpark near Target. There a dude gave me test kit which I performed in my car and gave back to him. It would be about an hour he said, and sure enough when I was birding some lakes in northern Illinois later on I got the all important email confirming I was clear and could fly. The whole process had eaten up three hours of prime birding time, so in that sense a better option would have been to suck it up and fork out at the airport, but I just massively object to all these private companies preying on travellers and out of principle preferred to waste my time. I was already paying some Tory crony £60 for a Day 2 PCR test when I got home, paying another bunch of pirates even more for a simple lateral flow test wasn't happening.

I managed to get to Waukegan beach by 12.30pm. Unfortunately the vagrant Elaenia that I had half-pencilled in had departed ahead of the weather (or been killed by it), but I had a good time on the beach looking at more distantly passing wildfowl, and while I was there a total of 169 Sandhill Cranes came in off and headed inland in four flocks. 

Druce Lake had three species of Swan - 19 Trumpeter, and singles of Mute and Bewick's. This latter was actually a new American bird and one that I thought I had missed at this stage, so a final hurrah. Lots of ducks here too, and more generally on all the lakes in this largely suburban area, and all new for my fledgling Illinois list that eBird so helpfully maintained for me. However with most of the morning dedicated to admin I ran out of light quite quickly - birding is over at 3.30pm in mid December. Final day tomorrow - my flight was at 3.50pm which allowed the whole morning birding

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