Barbara and I took a drive around and through the flooded Pecatonica River bottoms from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today. Large sections of the oxbows and flooded fields are still frozen, but the open water spots are beginning to attract a lot of waterfowl, and there are large flocks of blackbirds.
Highlight were 10 swans, at least 2 of which were Trumpeters, at the Howard farm. We are not sure about the other 8 because they were so far from the road and the heat haze was getting pretty bad so that even a telescope wasn’t much help. There were at least 2 cygnets. None of the swans appeared to be neck-banded. None of the swans were Mute Swans. I intend to go back there tomorrow morning before work and before the heat haze becomes a problem to try to get a better view if they are still there. They were in a flooded field south of the red gate. If anyone goes out there today and gets a better look to identify all 10 swans for certain, please let me know what you find or post to the blog. A telescope will be necessary. Thanks.
Also at Howard’s were some White-fronted Geese and what looked like Snow Geese, but, again, the white geese were also way back from the road. The 5 looked too large to be Ross’, although the only birds nearby to compare them with were large form Canadas. 4 Eastern Meadowlarks were singing at Howard’s, both at the red gate and the overlook parking lot. An immature Bald Eagle was flying over the Pecatonica River to the SE of the observation area.
250 Rusty Blackbirds were in the flooded forest at the intersection of Farwell Bridge Road and River Road in eastern Stephenson County. More Rusty Blackbirds (24) were along Blair Road west of its intersection with Best Road. Also in the flocks were large numbers of Common Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds. We were unable to locate any Brewer’s Blackbirds in the flocks.
A nice mix of ducks (Wood Duck, Gadwall, N. Pintail, N. Shoveler, Lesser Scaup, Redhead, Canvasback (11), Ring-necked, C. Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, and Bufflehead) were along Blair Road and then Maize Road west of the intersection with Goeke Road. Also on that road was a light morph Rough-legged Hawk. Two Northern Harriers were also in the area.
Great Blue Herons are beginning to assemble at the small rookery that is visible from Blair Road immediately west of its intersection with Pecatonica Road to the SW.
The Armstrongs left a message that they saw the Northern Shrike at the entrance to the Olson Annex to Rock Cut SP around noon today. Presumably that is the same bird that has been in that vicinity all winter. Barbara and I didn’t see a Northern Shrike along Blair Road this morning. It is starting to get late for Northern Shrikes. It will be interesting to see how long the Olson Annex bird hangs around.