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Chicago outdoors: Egrets, COVID opens fishing, Iowa pheasants, and youth and sporting clays

A wonderful photo of great egrets (and one great blue heron), the river fishing options COVID opened, the prospects for Iowa pheasants, and a record for youth and sporting clays are among the notes around Chicago outdoors.

Great egrets and one great blue heron feasting at Buffalo Creek. Credit: Larry Spence
Great egrets and one great blue heron feasting at Buffalo Creek.
Larry Spence

Notes come from all around Chicago outdoors.


Larry Spence photographed this cool shot of a bunch of great egrets and at least one great blue heron at Buffalo Creek on Sept. 15.

To confirm what I was seeing, I tweeted the Field Museum’s senior conservation ecologist Doug Stotz, who sent back the kind of information-packed reply I have come to expect from him:

All of the white birds appear to be Great Egrets (large, nearly Great Blue size, yellow bill, dark legs). I see one Great Blue Heron off to the front left. The other 3 white herons in Illinois, immature Little Blue Heron, Cattle and Snowy Egret are all obviously smaller, and have different combos of leg and bill color. They are all much less common as well. I don’t know Buffalo Creek, so I can’t speak directly to that place, but in late summer and early fall, a scene like this is not too uncommon. When water levels are low, conditions for herons are good. A concentration like this means shallow water with lots of fish. I typically see a scene like this a few times a year. Dixon Waterfowl refuge is a good place for such a scene, although this year water levels are high.

WOTW, the celebration of wild stories and photos around Chicago outdoors, runs most weeks in the special two-page outdoors section in the Sun-Times Sports Saturday. Submit nominations by message on Facebook (Dale Bowman), on Twitter (@BowmanOutside) and Instagram (@BowmanOutside) or email (



Saturday-next Sunday: Oct. 3-4: Mokena, (708) 479-1020

Oct. 17: Waterman,

Oct. 17-18: Tinley Park, (708) 342-4200

Oct. 24-25: Joliet, (815) 935-2700


Monday, Sept. 28: Final day, third lottery online, public duck/goose hunting

Thursday, Oct. 1: Opening day, archery deer and turkey . . . First-come, first-served online public duck/goose hunting permits


“COVID has provided me this opportunity to fish that river all year the way I have always wanted to since I do not have to be in an office for most of 2020. I usually would be commuting downtown five days a week. Haven’t had to [be in] since 3/16 and will not be until next year.” A faithful reader

A: The good side of the pandemic is the reprioritizing of life that many of us have been forced to do. One of the leading changes is our interaction with the natural world around us and nearby, especially through fishing.


10,700: Record number of fall-season athletes in USA Clay Target League, nation’s largest youth clay target shooting sport program.


“Pheasant hunters [in Iowa] should expect significantly better pheasant numbers in 2020. Pheasant hunting this fall could be some of the best the state has seen in a decade.”

Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, on an average of 20.2 birds counted on 30-mile routes in the 2020 annual survey.