22 June 2010

Northerly Island, Rediscovered

The first time I was on Northerly Island, it was 2004 and I was lost. Victor and I were trying to take the lakefront bike path south, and somehow got sidetracked onto this narrow peninsula. We didn't know that it used to be an airport. We just knew we couldn't get where we wanted to go from there, and it was a windy day and we were tired. We ended up surrendering the attempt to bike south of the Museum Campus that day; we didn't try again for a few years. (Now we have a hard time imagining how we could have lost our way.)

On foot, I have returned to the mainland edge of Northerly Island a couple of times in the past few years to eavesdrop on concerts, but only ventured there by bike for the first time (since that 2004 confusion) as part of a Chicago Architecture Foundation tour. The tour had its drawbacks (rather long and slow and continuing right through lunchtime--enough to make anybody cranky), but I am grateful for the re-introduction to Northerly Island, which has become a stunning natural area with well-paved bike/walking paths and amazing views.

I went back to Northerly Island on my own yesterday morning and was thrilled to glimpse my first Dickcissel--a beautiful and persistent singer. I would have loved to linger and confirm the sighting, but the skies were dark and thunder rumbled; I headed home to avoid the storm.

This morning, with hardly a cloud in sight, I rode my bike there again, and this time looped the "island" three times, in my delight at being in such a gorgeous environment, full of wildflowers, bunnies, and birdsong. I easily confirmed the Dickcissel and added my first really positive identification of the Savannah Sparrow--I may well have seen one before, but now I'm sure I have. They were all over the peninsula, trilling from perches on bare branches, tall grasses, and even from mowed ground.

It was hard to make myself leave. Northerly Island has become one of my favorite places in Chicago, offering beauty, nature, tranquility, and views.

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