I birded Rock Cut from 11:30 a.m. To 1:00 p.m. On Thursday, April 17. New arrivals were Louisiana Waterthrush (2), Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (2), and Broad-winged Hawk (1), all along the creek below the dam at Pierce Lake.

Pierce Lake still had loons(4), Horned (5) and Pied-billed (47) grebes, Double-crested Cormorants (3), and Osprey (4), plus a mixture of ducks. Fishermen flushed most of the ducks over to Olson Lake.

Great Egret, Bonaparte’s Gull at Pierce Lake- 7 Double-Crested Cormorants at Olson Lake, also 1 Lesser Yellowlegs.

Around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday evening (tonight) Jeff Donaldson and I arrived at the Rochelle Intermodal Ponds after an unsuccessful search for a pair of Whimbrels that had been reported earlier in the afternoon near White Pines SP. Jeff was the 1st to spot a male Yellow-headed Blackbird (there were a couple of others, too). Pretty rare bird in Ogle County.

On closer fronts, Tom Little reported a Western Meadowlark at Bell Bowl, by the Rockford airport. It was still there around 11:00 today. And, Kilbuck FP was full of Hermit Thrushes and a couple of Winter Wrens at noon. No Yellow-throated Warblers or Carolina Wrens were heard or seen during my visit.

Many thanks to those that participated in this year’s Midwest Crane Count last Saturday.  Results are still coming in, but 26 signed up this year to participate!

I pinch hit this year at Pecatonica River Forest Preserve.  Weather was beautiful at 5:30am–54 degrees and calm.  I am SO glad the wind and hail didn’t arrive until a few hours later!  I heard three distinct groups of cranes calling from the observation deck, but all out of sight.  Calls were heard from the SSE, South, and Southwest, with the last group being the most distant.

Upon arrival, I was greeting by a great-horned owl and three barred owls.  Highlights were a singing winter wren at the observation deck and a singing ruby-crowned kinglet near the boat launch.

Joyce and I were joined by Kevin Kaltenbach with our winter coats for some mid-day birding at Rock Cut State Park and Bauman Park.  We found a total of 47 species in about 3 hours.  Notable observations were 4 loons – one at Bauman and the rest at Rock Cut, 6 Horned Grebes,  about 75 Pied-billed Grebes, 2 Buffleheads, 1 Sharp-Shinned Hawk, 1 Osprey (near nest platform), rafts of Coots, Killdeer, many Yellow-Shafted Flickers, 1 Eastern Phoebe, Many Tree Swallows, 5 Brown Creepers, 2 Eastern Bluebirds, 1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, about 15 Yellow-Rumped Warblers, 2 Tree Sparrows, 2 Field Sparrows, 1 White-Throated Sparrow  and 5 Song Sparrows.  Blowing snow, cold temperatures, and north winds didn’t help the birding.

Jack Armstrong

This morning, I checked several Winnebago County spots for shorebirds. Oliver Road had both species of yellowlegs (small numbers) and 2 Wilson’s Snipe. Ferguson Forest Preserve had 4 Greater and 13 Lesser Yellowlegs, 5 Pectoral Sandpipers, and 3 Wilson’s Snipe.

Ferguson still has a lot of water in the marsh, but the levels are dropping. Most of the ducks today were puddle ducks, with fewer than 10 Ring-necked, only a pair of Lesser Scaup, and 6 Hooded Mergansers (all hens).

Rusty Blackbirds are in small numbers at all of the swamps where I stopped: Oliver Road, Ferguson, Meridian Road north of the Pec River (on the east side) and the loop area at Sugar River FP.

30 Lapland Longspurs were along the roadside at Knapp & Eddie Roads.

Joyce and I found 2 pair of sandhill cranes on Sat. morning at Lou Cambier’s.  We also had a Brown Thrasher, Sora Rail, many Song Sparrows, Tree Sparrows, Juncos, Red-Tailed Hawk, Mallards, Winnowing Snipe and others.  It was probably the warmest count day we have ever had.

Jack Armstrong

Barbara and I participated in the annual Sandhill Crane count this morning. Our patch was at the ICF Torstenson property at the end of Wiegert Road. We counted 7 cranes, including 2 pairs that were unison calling, and we also recorded several new spring arrivals, at least for us. We had a singing Brown Thrasher, a nice male Eastern Towhee, and our first Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Other birds of note were Pileated and Red-headed woodpeckers, 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 2 Northern Harriers, and a lot of winnowing Wilson’s Snipe. We made it home just before the thunderstorm with a load of hail arrived.

While working in the yard this morning, I heard the song of a Northern Parula. Fortunately, my binoculars were close and I was able to see it, a beautiful male, in a tree nearby. Not long afterward, I heard and saw a Chipping Sparrow on the garden fence, and a Vesper Sparrow was calling from the oak tree near the garden. It looks like last night was a good one for migrants. I wouldn’t be surprised if Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, Yellow-rumped and Pine Warblers are being seen across northern IL today.

Later, a Pileated Woodpecker called from the area of Kent Creek in Anna Page Park, just north of our house.  At 1:00 p.m., Barbara heard it, then saw it fly into the trees behind our house.  It is a male and is working the Black Cherry trees, particularly the dead trunks, looking for food.  I can see him as I type this.  Nice!

Yesterday, Barbara and I checked Lake Summerset for waterfowl. Highlights were 5 Common Loons, 2 Horned Grebes in alternate plumage, and a Red-breasted Merganser. Else, the lake was pretty quiet, and no gulls were visible.

Following Lake Summerset, we drove over to the Ridott oxbows. A Eurasian Collared-dove flew over as we drove through the town. The oxbows had a lot of puddle ducks and a few divin gducks-Redhead, L. Scaup and Ring-necked. No shorebirds there except Killdeer was disappointing. With all of the reports of shorebirds down at Emiquon, I expected a few species to be around.

At Howard’s farm on IL 70, one Greater Yellowlegs was feeding in the ditch visible from the red gate and 4 Wilson’s Snipe flew in and landed in the grasses nearby the ditch.

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