Hazard to Songbirds

In the Rockford Register Star on Monday or Tuesday there was an article suggesting that city and county support is being sought for the establishment and maintenance of “managed cat colonies” in Rockford. The theory is that wild cats can’t be tamed so if they are “trapped, neutered and released” eventually the wild cat population will die out. The fact is that these colonies become a magnet for anyone who wishes to abandon a cat and the colonies grow rather than shrink. “Caretakers” feed the cats enough to keep them in the area and in some cases they are vaccinated against some feline diseases. Because they are still living as wild cats they hunt constantly and take a terrible toll on wildlife. The cats put intense predator pressure on many songbirds that are already under stress from loss of habitat, pesticides, window collisions, cell tower collisions, etc.
If free-roaming cats are trapped they should not be re-released. They can be tamed. It is bad for the cats to be released. They are exposed to many dangers (cars, poisons, parasites, coyotes), they are a nuisance to neighbors and they are a disaster for wildlife.
I have written a letter to the editor of the paper and am composing a letter to the director of Winnebago County Animal Control opposing “managed cat colonies”. Please write letters, send e-mails, and raise your voices. Saving habitat doesn’t help if we allow the habitat to be filled with cats.

Harbingers of spring

Today Jerry Rosenband and I cruised around SW Winnebago County, in hopes of finally finding a county Roughlegged Hawk this winter. We failed at that, but we saw many Horned Larks, and good numbers of both Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs that were coming into breeding plumage. The largest concentrations of the last two species were seen along Klinger Road, between Edwardsville Road and Montague Road. But our harbingers of spring were three meadowlarks seen along Klinger in two widely-separated spots.

Northern Shrike on Harrison Road (Winnebago Co)

On Sunday, 2/7, Northern Shrike was sitting in the top of a scrubby tree in the dog training area on the west side of Harrison Road, about 1/2 mile N of its intersection with Auburn Road, and just before the bridge which crosses Kent Creek.  There has been a bird off and on here all winter (we found one here on the Rockford CBC) but I haven’t seen it in about 3 weeks until yesterday.