Dozens of Dickcissels

Today was a wonderful day to be out on the prairie at Seward Bluffs Forest Preserve. It was not too hot, the wind kept the bugs down (somewhat) and the birds were lively.

The biggest highlight were the Dickcissels. We counted 26 Dickcissels (possibly some repeats) and heard them for nearly the entire time we were there. Other notable birds were two Orchard Orioles, Lark Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, and the most plump Eastern Meadowlark I’ve ever seen.

We did not find the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (as posted by Dan Williams) but are pretty sure we found a pole that has been “worked over” pretty well.

Dickcissel
Dickcissel {Spiza americana}

Chimney Swifts

A couple of days ago while driving through Rockford I witnessed a group of 5 Chimney Swifts flying into the topmost twiggy branches of a dead tree and snapping off twigs while briefly hovering. Nest-building must be underway. I’ve only seen them actually collecting twigs once before.
There are huge numbers of mosquitoes out – beware!

Hooded Warbler and Lots of Butterflies

I have been going through camera withdrawal as my sister, Susie, has been in Virginia using it. Yesterday I was at Rockford Rotary Forest Preserve and heard a Hooded Warbler. It was along the main road not too far in but I never did see it. Each time I stopped, a billion mosquitoes tried to take up residence on my face.

There were also TONS of butterflies, most of which I don’t know the name of (I usually photograph them to figure them out later). There were several small ones that would group together and then explode out when I got too near them. Fun to watch.

Elsewhere, I heard a Henslow’s Sparrow at Blackhawk Springs (Perryville side) and also was scolded by a male Scarlet Tanager (can they be any redder?) but not much else of note.

Sapsucker on Lake Summerset BBS

While doing the Lake Summerset BBS this morning, I discovered a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at the intersection of Best and Avy School Roads north of Pecatonica. It was drumming on an old telephone pole about 2 poles south of the intersection. There is a swampy thicket of scrubby trees very close by the telephone pole. The bird was being very territorial, so I suspect that it is nesting, or attempting to nest. If you get out there early in the morning (I saw it close to 0630) please look for it/a female/young. YB Sapsuckers do nest in IL, but rarely. Most recent sightings are along the Mississippi River. While Barbara and I were leading an IOS field trip to Spring Lake, in Carroll County, last spring, we found a pair of sapsuckers attending a nest cavity in a tree near the water.

Meanwhile, on the BBS, found only 1 Bobolink (on Maize Road, west of Farwell Bridge Road) in a pasture that was a much larger pasture last summer but has been mostly converted to corn field. Lots of Great Egrets around Pecatonica, including several egret nests that are visible in the Great Blue rookery that you can see from the intersection of Pecatonica and Blair Roads-look to the southwest). Double-crested Cormorants are flying around over the flooded areas north and west of Pecatonica. I suspect that they are nesting out there somewhere.

Two Swamp Sparrows were calling from the south side of Blair Road at Pec Wetlands across from the brown machine shed that is on the north side of the road, and 2 Sedge Wrens were calling from west of the shed on the north side of the road.

Mill Creek BBS results on June 21

This morning I conducted one of the two Breeding Bird Surveys for which I volunteer each year. The Mill Creek BBS begins in Ogle County, about 3-4 miles S of the Montague/Pecatonica Road intersection, on Water Road, and proceeds generally west along Lightsville Road, Coffman Road, and does a little zigging and zagging into Carroll County, where it ends immediately N of Shannon. This is one of the original BBS routes in IL. I inherited it from Lee Johnson.

In past years, this route had a lot of hay fields and CRP land, so the mid-June survey normally has Bobolinks, Dickcissels, Savannah & Grasshopper Sparrows, and, occasionally, Upland Sandpipers. The impact of early mowing has always had a negative impact on the birds in hay fields. Sometimes, if I run the route a week earlier, I find a lot of Bobolinks, but I know that their nests are almost certainly destined to fail because the hay is cut in mid-June. Same with the Upland Sandpipers. What is increasingly apparent on this route is that a lot of hay and CRP is gone and replaced by corn, soybeans and wheat. I did not see or hear a Bobolink anywhere along the 24.5 miles of my survey route this morning, and I only found 1 Dickcissel. I did manage to hear an Upland Sandpiper calling from beyond a ridge line.

Contrast that result to a CRP patch that is located on the route tomorrow west of Pecatonica–I saw and heard 6 Dickcissels right along the road as I cruised by later this morning as I scouted that stretch to look for flooded areas, etc.

Happy Solstice!

Henslow’ Sparrows, Dickcissels

Tonight, Barbara and I found 3 Dickcissels and 2 Henslow’s Sparrows at Wilson Prairie. Wilson Prairie is private property located near the Stephenson County line west of Pecatonica. We were there on a private tour. The Henslow’s Sparrows were calling from a CRP site immediately east of Wilson Prairie. Also calling were Vesper, Grasshopper and Field Sparrows, and Eastern Meadowlarks. A large owl, probably a Great Horned, flew out of the treeline about 30 minutes after sunset.

Henslow’ Sparrows, Dickcissels

Tonight, Barbara and I found 3 Dickcissels and 2 Henslow’s Sparrows at Wilson Prairie. Wilson Prairie is private property located near the Stephenson County line west of Pecatonica. We were there on a private tour. The Henslow’s Sparrows were calling from a CRP site immediately east of Wilson Prairie. Also calling were Vesper, Grasshopper and Field Sparrows, and Eastern Meadowlarks. A large owl, probably a Great Horned, flew out of the treeline about 30 minutes after sunset.

Cattle Egret, Am White Pelicans, Black Terns

The thunderstorm front that arrived early this morning caused me to cancel my BBS route at 5:05 a.m., so I drove around some of the flooded areas on my way home. Discovered a Cattle Egret with 4 Great Egrets on the west side of Meridian Road north of IL 75 and before the Pecatonica River bridge on Meridian. The fields on both sides of the road are extensively flooded.

Jack and Joyce Armstrong called at 11:30 to report that the Cattle Egret was still there. In addition were some Black Terns. They found an American White Pelican on Moody Road near its intersection with Blodgett Road.

Barbara and I found another American White Pelican at Howard’s farm on IL 70, on the south side of the road, way back in the flooded pasture. It was resting on a small knoll with 8 DC Cormorants. A Sandhill Crane nest that I found at Pecatonica Wetlands is now flooded out.

Rock Cut – No Little Blue

Jennie, Dakota, and I were at Rock Cut State Park this morning in hopes of finding the possible Little Blue Heron. In between downpours and lightning, we managed to find a Yellow-breasted Chat north of Hart Road on the main park drive as well as a White-eyed Vireo closer to Hart Road.

We also found Cerulean, Blue-winged, and Yellow Warblers plus American Redstarts. There were several Great Blue Herons along the lakeshore along with a female Wood Duck. Near the picnic area on the west side of Pierce Lake we found a Broad-winged Hawk that was being scolded by a Baltimore Oriole and as it flew off, was trailed by a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Fun morning although a bit wet 🙂

Third hand report of Little Blue Heron

Jeff Donaldson called us today to advise that he had received a voice message from a person whom he did not know, but who said that he (the unknown person) had seen a Little Blue Heron at the east end of Pierce Lake at Rock Cut State Park. As far as I know, this species has never been seen in Rock Cut SP before, and is the first report, if confirmed, in Winnebago County this year. If anyone is out at Rock Cut and sees a Little Blue Heron, please let everyone else know. It is a hotline bird for sure on the Bird Club calling tree.