Tom Schrader

The Search for Snowy Owls

It’s a bright, sunny Groundhog Day as I write this article.  Punxsutawney Phil and our local groundhog, Woodstock Willie, both saw their shadows today signaling six more weeks of winter.  Whether you subscribe to these rodents’ forecasts or not, we’re in store for a fairly long period of winter weather before spring’s arrival!  I choose … Read more

Winter Birds Visiting from the Arctic

One of my favorite winter birding pastimes is searching for one of the most spectacular birds that visits northern Illinois from the Arctic north during the winter: the Snowy Owl.  While I’m searching for Snowy Owls, I occasionally come across other large raptors like Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, and Rough-legged Hawks.  I also … Read more

Tanagers in the Treetops

By now, regular readers of my blog here know that I spend a lot of time hiking in the Hoover Forest Preserve along the south bank of the Fox River in Yorkville, Illinois.  The preserve offers a wide variety of beautiful trees, colorful wildflowers, interesting animals, and a plethora of amazing birds.  This summer, one … Read more

River Royalty (Part 2)

A few months ago, I wrote about tyrant flycatchers, including the Eastern Kingbird and called them the “kings” of the Fox River Valley for their ferocious feeding habits and their generally fierce (for a cute little bird anyhow) behavior.  This month, I’m writing about another bird with a “royal” title for many of the same … Read more

The Canary in the Coal Mine: A Cautionary Tale

Maybe you have heard of the practice that coal miners used in the pre-modern technology “old days” of mining; they took a canary in a cage with them into the underground mine to detect the presence of deadly gases that would pose a mortal threat to the miners.  The theory was that the canary, more … Read more

The “Kings” of the Air Above the Fox River

I’ve fished the lower Fox River by boat for the last 45 years.  During that time, I’ve caught a lot of fish and seen a lot of neat things along the river.  A recent hike at the Hoover Forest Preserve reminded me of one of my favorite things to do while fishing: observing the birds … Read more

The Great Migration of Small, Colorful Birds

I’m writing this column on the evening of the warmest day of the year so far, where the temperatures peaked in the low 80s after having snowed earlier in the week.  A strong south wind brought these warm, nearly tropical, temperatures to the Fox River Valley.  Those same strong south winds have also brought up … Read more

One of America’s Largest Birds Visits the Fox River Valley

On one recent cloudy, cold and blustery Friday morning, I received a text from a friend telling me that there was a flock of pelicans on the Fox River near the observation platform overlooking the Fox River in the far northeastern corner of the Hoover Forest Preserve in Yorkville, Illinois.  Having the day off, I … Read more