As part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s Bird the Preserves initiative, we are featuring one Birder of the Week September through October to highlight the unique experiences and diversity of the birding community. To learn more about birding or to attend an upcoming bird walk, visit our Birding Page.
Name: Aerin Tedesco
Hometown/neighborhood: Brant, NY (near Buffalo)/ Ravenswood, Chicago
Profession: I work at the Old Town School of Folk Music, and I am also a freelance musician
Number of years birding: Since 2003
Why did you start birding?
I saw birds coming to a feeder along the Chicago River in Albany Park… I was fascinated by the different kinds and had to know what they were!
What do you like most about birding?
Being out in nature and peace and quiet (hopefully!) and then getting to see and hear really beautiful species of birds
What is your favorite bird species and why?
Way too many to list, but if I had to narrow it down: wood and hermit thrush have the most beautiful song. I love warblers, especially prairie, blackburnian, black-throated blue, Cape May and many more. I really like the common nighthawk because its call is soothing to me for some unknown reason, and I like the way they dive when they fly.
What species do you still want to see and haven’t spotted yet?
Northern pintail! So silly I’ve still never seen this duck! Also, American pipit, a bunch of owls: great grey, northern saw-whet, barn and burrowing, Atlantic puffin, painted bunting, Swainson’s warbler, vesper sparrow and many more!
What is your favorite place(s) in the Forest Preserves of Cook County to bird?
I bird most at Montrose Point because it’s close to my house, but in terms of Forest Preserves proper, LaBagh Woods is my other go-to site. I also like Skokie Lagoons and most recently Burnham Prairie. I would like to get to know Busse Woods better, too, because there are so many different species seen there!
What would you say to others to get them to start birding?
Birds are beautiful, fascinating and are everywhere! You don’t have to go out of your way to see them as you would mammals. All you need is a pair of decent binoculars and a field guide/app and you can get started!
What is the most helpful tool you use as a birder?
I use the Peterson guide app on my phone, but am thinking of getting the Sibley since it is more thorough. And of course binoculars. I recently got a scope, which is essential to see ducks and shorebirds. But the absolute best way to learn how to bird is to go birding with an experienced birder! That way you get instant confirmation of what you are seeing and you see it with your eyes, which is better than any field guide or app! It’s also a great way to learn bird songs.
Birders often brave the elements to see birds, have there been any extreme weather conditions that you have birded in?
I once put on a rain suit and birded for five hours in constant downpour. Luckily birds don’t mind the rain and I saw about 18 different warbler species that day! I also went out in 17 degree weather to try to find a snowy owl.
What type/brand of binoculars do you use?
Eagle optics radian (the cheapest “good” binoculars you can get).
How far have you traveled to go birding?
Thailand was furthest, followed by Alaska, California and Arizona.
What is the most unexpected thing you have seen while birding?
I once found a fledgling warbling vireo dangling from a nest by its foot! I had to climb the tree with a net to get it down and I could still barely reach it!
What is the most important lesson you have learned through birding?
I need to bird in order to survive living in an urban setting. I chose to live in a city for other reasons, but I do not love the constant noise, light pollution and concrete! Being out in nature and seeing how birds live their lives helps me “reset” and relax. Without it I would lose my mind!
What’s your favorite time of year to go birding?
One word: May! Spring migration is incredible!
If you were a bird what kind of bird would you be?
Probably a swallow because they are so agile and swoop and dive at incredible speeds!
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the interviewee and not necessarily those of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Support for the Bird the Preserves initiative was generously provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through Chicago Wilderness.