Lowell Park, Dixon on Saturday

Yesterday, Larry Balch and I drove down to Lowell Park in Dixon.  For those of you not familiar with Lowell Park, it is located on the west bank of the Rock River north of Dixon,  just downstream from Grand Detour.  It is a beautiful woodland which has been designated an Illinois Nature Preserve.  There is a nature center at the entrance off of Lowell Park Road.  Recent storms have damaged quite a few trees. 

A Yellow-throated Warbler and a Pine Warbler were calling from the stand of White Pines across the driveway from the nature center.  We drove down to the parking lot for boat trailers along the river and walked the loop road clockwise from the south side of the preserve back to the nature center.  There is an overlook with a wonderful vista of the river valley near the top of the bluffs. 

Along the walk, we counted 10 Acadian Flycatchers, including a pair feeding a chick at a nest.  When we returned about an hour later, a bird was sitting on the nest, so we suspect that it was still incubating other eggs.   We heard at least 5 Wood Thrushes (my count may be low), but no Veeries.  I heard a Cerulean Warbler that called twice from the nature preserve about half-way between the nature center and the overlook shelter house, but Larry was unable to hear it and it didn’t call again. 

Else, we had the expected species, including Yellow-throated and Red-eyed Vireos, lots of pewees, Great-crested Flycatchers, and a few E. Phoebe’s which were certainly nesting in the eaves of a shed near the concession stand and bathrooms near the boat lauch.  Quite a few Bank Swallows were feeding and plunge-bathing over the Rock River.  A Barred Owl called from south of the park along the river.

Further Mississippi Kite sightings

At this link there is a map showing some recent sightings, as well as significant occurrences in 2008 and 2009. In order to get a better idea of whether we have an emerging colony of kites here in Rockford, it would be helpful if we gathered as many kite sighting reports as possible. You can help by reporting your kite sighting details. If you are not comfortable posting on this site, or adding a comment, you can call one of the following numbers. (If you reach an answering machine, please leave the details, your name, and a way of reaching you in case there are questions.) The numbers are for reports, not for obtaining information on where to find kites. The above-mentioned map should suffice for that.

Thanks for your help.


50 White Pelicans on Sunday, 6/20

This morning, I received a telephone call from Bob Nieman, the realtor.  He told me that there were about 50 White Pelicans in the pond behind his house on Sunday!  From his description (pink bills) these were all non-breeding birds that are out roaming around feeding here and there.  Bob lives east of Pecatonica and his pond is along the river bottom.

3 Mississippi Kites over Rock River, Rockford

Around 6:15 p.m. tonight, I was driving across the Auburn Street bridge over the Rock River (in Rockford) when I saw what appeared to be an adult gull, which, in itself, is a little odd for here in mid-June.  Behind the gull, I saw the shape of a kite, and then, 2 kites, hunting over the river.  I hurried to turn around and get to a place on the east bank of the river to look more carefully, but not at the gull.
After I parked and got to the edge of the river, I saw 3 MIKI.  On closer look, I identified all of them as adult males!  They were continuously feeding on insects and, occasionally, soaring around over several Turkey Vultures which had moved in from the SE.  I stayed at the park and watched for over 30 minutes, but did not see more than the 3, nor did I see any females or immatures of either sex.  I will leave it to your collective imaginations to speculate on what this does, or does not, (or might, or might not) imply.  I think that it too soon to tell anything, but the possibilities sure are interesting.
The bridge and river are not more than 1 mile away from Bloom School, where kites have successfully nested for two years in a row, and a pair are back there this year.  Despite hours of searching last year, we were unable to find more than the 4 kites seen by Larry Balch in late May and none along the Rock River at any time.  Clearly, more field investigation is required.  I have an idea where I might be taking a “rest stop” on my way home from work this summer.  

I still don’t know, for sure, what that gull was, but I strongly suspect Ring-billed.

Western Kingbird in SE Winnebago Co.

Late this morning, I was alerted to a Western Kingbird near the Rockford airport that was found by Tom Little.  He first spotted this bird on May 16 and again on May 18, but no one could relocate it and it was presumed gone.  He refound it this morning. 
There are a lot of bridges closed for construction in the area, so here are the directions to follow:  From the intersection of US 20 (bypass) and IL 251 go South on 251.  Or, from the interchange of I-39 and exit for Baxter Road, go W on Baxter Road.  Either way will get you to the intersection of IL 251 and Baxter Road.  This is south of the town of New Milford.  If coming from the N on 251, the road sign says that Baxter Road is on the east side of the intersection and Belt Line Road is on the west.   Turn right off of 251 toward Belt Line Road (or proceed straight across the intersection headed west on Baxter Road).  In about 100 yards, Baxter Road (it actually does cross IL 251) turns S (left turn).  TURN LEFT.  This road will have a sign saying that it is closed in 1 mile.  Don’t worry–you will turn before the closed spot).
Proceed about 1/2 mile on Baxter Road, crossing a RR track.  Shortly after the RR track, South Bend Road enters from the right at the bottom of a slight curving downhill grade.  TURN RIGHT on to South Bend Road.  WARNING:  This is a very sharp angled turn, so watch your speed and the potholes.  The Western Kingbird has been seen on South Bend Road.  This location is immediately SSE of the Rockford airport.
Once on South Bend Road, there will be fence line on your left and, after passing a wood lot on the right, a cornfield.  Go about 1/4-1/2 mile to where the road makes a curve to the right.  On the west, or left hand side, of the road is a yellow diamond warning sign with a curve arrow.  It is bent over about 45 degrees.  The kingbird has been seen 3 times right near this sign and 1-2 times within the next 200 or so yards further past the sign.  Today at noon, it flew from the fence line, where it was feeding, toward the NW and a patch of Siberian Elms and other trees several hundred yards into the field behind the fence.  If you go and see the bird, please post your sighting.  Thank you.

Winnebago Co. on Sunday morning

I joined Al Stokie and Bob Erickson on a morning circuit of Winnebago County this morning.  We started at Rock Cut SP at 0700 in the parking area about 100 yards up the road from the spillway parking lot.  Could not find Cerulean Warblers there (we did have a singing Chestnut-sided Warbler), but we did find 2 Ceruleans in the picnic ground on the south side of the dam in the Bur Oak opening there.  We then walked west on the Rock Cut trail and found an Acadian Flycatcher.  On the way out of the park on the main road going toward IL 173, a White-eyed Vireo was singing about half way between the nature preserve hardwood forest and the intersection for the campground. 

We could not locate the Bell’s Vireo that I found 10 days ago along the equestrian trail on the N side of Hart Road.

From Rock Cut, we drove to Sugar River FP and met Lee and Lynda Johnson.  We located a singing Yellow-throated Warbler, and heard another Acadian Flycatcher, but could not find a Yellow-crowned Night-heron. 

Several Grasshopper Sparrows were singing along Haas Road opposing the parking area for the Sugar River Alder FP, but no Lark Sparrows were heard or seen.

Finally, we ended up at Bloom School in Rockford around 10:15 a.m.  In one hour, we saw 2 adult Broad-winged Hawks, an adult Cooper’s Hawk, a pair of Red-tailed Hawks, a TV, and an immature Red-shouldered Hawk (!).  Finally, after an hour, a male Mississippi Kite flew over.

Summer Tanager at Rockford Rotary Forest Preserve

I found a male Summer Tanager at Rockford Rotary Forest Preserve (5390 Rotary Road, Cherry Valley, IL 61063). Location: Take the newly paved road in till it ends and then continue left before you reach the first trail on the right. He was down this trail a few hundred feet or so.

Also of note was a male Eastern Towhee that called oddly in what appeared to be a distracting call while the female was in the open. I turned to look at the male and *poof* the female had returned to what I’m guessing was a nest.

Great fun for a short lunch time walk.