Gulls at Rock Falls

On Sunday, January 20, I drove down to Rock Falls to check the gull flock. It is quite a bit larger than when I was there on January 9. I estimate that there was a total of ~1200 gulls there yesterday. It was very hard to estimate because many of them were getting flushed by Bald Eagles and were up in the air. Then, they would rearrange themselves when (if) they landed on the ice to roost. I counted 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (3 adults and 1 1st cycle, 1 Iceland (1st cycle) and 3 Thayer’s (1 adult, 2 1st cycle). There has been a 1st cycle Glaucous Gull around, but I didn’t see it yesterday, although it was there on Friday per Mike Madsen and Jeff Smith. Jeff and Mike also had 5 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Friday.

Most of the gulls are Herring in a wide variety of plumages. Some Ringed-bills are scattered in among the others. The gulls are feeding on shad, which seem plentiful in the Rock River there. Lots of Bald Eagles of many ages are around, and, occasionally, Common Redpolls fly over.

At the lower dam, viewing is more comfortable because you can sit in your car and watch the birds over the lower dam and roosting on the ice right above it. There were 200-300 gulls on the ice between the two dams best viewed from street level (you can sit in your car there, too, but a getting out to scope would be better). At the upper dam, the gulls roost on the ice just above the dam, and a lot of waterfowl and gulls are below the dam. Park in the municipal lot by the powerhouse. It will be necessary to get out of the car here and to use your scope, so dress warmly. Waterdowl in the river includes: Common Goldeneyes (many), Common Mergansers, 1 male Ring-necked Duck, a small flock of Lesser Scaup with 1 for sure Greater mixed in, a Pied-billed Grebe, a couple of coots (often tucked along the south (Rock Falls) shoreline, lots of Canada Geese and Mallards. I did not see the female Bufflehead that was there 10 days ago.

Northern Shrike and other birds at Rock Cut SP

I found a Northern Shrike at Rock Cut SP around noon today. It was near the entrance to the campground on the main loop road, visible from the loop road and from inside the campground just after the entrance road goes past the entrance registration building and turns right (west). Light was much better from inside the campground because it was at my back.

There is still an irregular area of open water on Pierce Lake. It is surrounded by about 1000 Canada Geese with some Cackling Geese mixed in. Ducks included many Mallards, two hybrid Mallard X Indian Black Ducks, 9 Common Goldeneye, 5 L. Scaup, G. Scaup (hen), and a couple of Am. Coots.

Rock Cut CBC Results (12/26/12)

Only 9 counters braved the chilly, overcast weather which we saw light flurries and afternoon sun.

We found 5,474 individual birds of 46 species with 3 more count week species. Some highlights included 2 Red Crossbills, 2 Golden-crowned Kinglets, a lone Great Blue Heron, Lapland Longspur, and Hermit Thrush plus a flock of 100 Sandhill Cranes. A big miss was American Robin. We also had our highest year yet of Horned Larks despite the lack of snow.

This was the 5th count for ILRC and our average species total is a little over 44.

American Black Duck 1
American Coot 3
American Crow 76
American Goldfinch 39
American Kestrel 3
American Tree Sparrow 79
Barred Owl 2
Black-capped Chickadee 61
Blue Jay 17
Brown Creeper 2
Canada Goose 3535
Cedar Waxwing 25
Common Goldeneye 5
Cooper’s Hawk 2
Dark-eyed Junco 174
Downy Woodpecker 25
Eastern Bluebird 4
European Starling 554
Golden-crowned Kinglet 2
Great Blue Heron 1
Hairy Woodpecker 3
Hermit Thrush 1
Herring Gull 2
Horned Lark 87
House Finch 59
House Sparrow 256
Lapland Longspur 1
Lesser Scaup 3
Mallard 125
Mourning Dove 47
Northern Cardinal 60
Northern Flicker 2
Northern Harrier 1
Nothern Shrike 1
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Pine Siskin 6
Red Crossbill 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 14
Red-tailed Hawk 7
Ring-billed Gull 17
Rock Dove 13
Sandhill Crane 100
Song Sparrow 1
Tufted Titmouse 5
White-breasted Nut. 15
Wild Turkey 35

Count Week
Belted Kingfisher
Brown-headed Cowbird

-Eddie Callaway

Blackhawk Park and Klehm Arboretum on 1/8

I found some interesting birds at Blackhawk Park and Klehm Arboretum in Rockford today. From the parking lot at Blackhawk Park, a female Merlin was perched on the west side of the Rock River in an Oak by the Thatcher Black Riverwalk condos. This is almost certainly the same Merlin photographed last week by David Olson. His photo shows the Merlin eating a male Cardinal. Also along the river at Blackhawk were 2 Belted Kingfishers, and 2 Great Blue Herons were on the mud island next to the gravel bar above the 15th Avenue bridge. The herons have been there since at least December 22, when Russ Cline and I counted 6 early that morning.

In Klehm, I was able to relocate the Gray Catbird that Russ and I found on the Kishwaukee CBC on 12/22, plus 2 Fox Sparrows and some White-throated Sparrows. They were in the same place as we found them back in December. 2-3 Hermit Thrushes were hanging with a flock of Cedar Waxwings and Am. Robins. A small flock of Pine Siskins were there, but the large volume of Birch mast is now littering the ground rather than still on the trees; it looks like large flocks of siskins, redpolls and goldfinches have been feasting. I hope that some food is left to attract them for the IOS trip to Klehm this Saturday, 1/12. I did not see any redpolls today.

Final Rockford (ILRO) CBC results

Here are the final species totals for the Rockford CBC held on December 15. For comments and highlights, see my earlier post.

4 Snow Goose
831 Cackling Goose
8731 Canada Goose
12 HC Tundra Swan
 4 Gadwall
 2 American Black Duck
 2079 Mallard
2 Hooded Merganser
1  Ruddy Duck
13 Ring-necked Pheasant
214 Wild Turkey
6 Great Blue Heron
 43 Bald Eagle (a:__18___,i:__25__,
 3 Northern Harrier
2 Sharp-shinned Hawk
12 Cooper’s Hawk
cw  Red-shouldered Hawk
40 Red-tailed Hawk
38 HC Sandhill Crane
 1 Ring-billed Gull
 11 Herring Gul
 1 gull sp.
1 Killdeer
 2 Wilson’s Snipe
656  Rock Pigeon
480 Mourning Dove
3 Eastern Screech-Owl
4 Great Horned Owl
7  Barred Owl
 3 Short-eared Owl
 6 Belted Kingfisher
6 Red-headed Woodpecker
 91 Red-bellied Woodpecker
 170 Downy Woodpecker
 43 Hairy Woodpecker
 15 Northern Flicker
6 Pileated Woodpecker
 22 American Kestrel
1 HC-tie  Merlin
3 Northern Shrike
173 Blue Jay
302 American Crow
50 Horned Lark
 550 Black-capped Chickadee
 31 Tufted Titmouse
 9 Red-breasted Nuthatch
 168 White-breasted Nuthatch
 24 Brown Creeper
 1 Winter Wren
3 HC-tie Carolina Wren
 5 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1  Ruby-crowned Kinglet
10 Eastern Bluebird
1  Hermit Thrush
18 American Robin
2929 European Starling
35 Cedar Waxwing
433 Northern Cardinal
 968 American Tree Sparrow
 1 Field Sparrow
 3 Fox Sparrow
 31 Song Sparrow
 18 Swamp Sparrow
2 White-throated Sparrow
 957 Dark-eyed Junco
 17 Purple Finch
 294 House Finch
 4 Red Crossbill
 101 Pine Siskin
 321 American Goldfinch
 2 Lapland Longspur
 cw Snow Bunting
 57 Rusty Blackbird
cw Common Grackle
 38 Brown-headed Cowbird
1093 House Sparrow

*__1 Owl sp____________________

*__1 Falcon sp._________________

Total Species: 72

Total Birds: 22,221

Kishwaukee CBC results


Dear Christmas Bird Counters,

The stars all lined up for us this year. We covered the circle well, the weather leading up to the count was mild and the count day weather was great – sunny and mostly windless. The previous record for number of species on this count was 73. Our record-breaking total this year was 79 with a Goshawk found two days later included in the count period.

The star of the day was certainly the Rufous Hummingbird that hung on at Sue Anderson’s feeder until Dec. 30. She created a special heater for the feeder with a hand-warmer in the toe of a sock velcroed to the underside of the feeder!

Other highlights included the count’s first ever Sandhill Cranes, Eurasian Collared Doves in four locations, three Pileated Woodpeckers, a Western Meadowlark and a Saw-whet Owl. Klehm Arboretum held a Gray Catbird and a flock of Common Redpolls that included a Hoary Redpoll.

Waterfowl still had access to open water so we found some ducks; Black Duck, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Lesser Scaup, Common Merganser, a Ross’s Goose and a lot of Cackling Geese, that would normally have been pushed out by the ice.

In spite of the open water allowing the Bald Eagles to spread out we found 40 of them and broke our old record of 23. More happy news was the total of 74 Eastern Bluebirds, up dramatically from the record of 20 set in 2009. White- breasted Nuthatches also set a record.

The Crossbills and scattered Evening Grosbeaks that were in the area early in the winter must have moved on as none were found on count day, but the Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls were here in good numbers

The bad news? Once again we missed finding any Pheasants, only two Red-headed Woodpeckers were found and Purple Finch barely made it onto the list with only one individual. Song and Swamp Sparrow numbers were low, especially considering that Dark-eyed Juncos set a record.

American Crow numbers are down partly because they don’t seem to have developed a big roost in town. The late afternoon to dusk flight of crows to roost just isn’t happening.

Where are the Yellow-rumped Warblers? Until early December they were numerous. Then, they seem to have all disappeared. Very odd.

We found a total of 24,522 individual birds, which is on the high side of the normal range. We had 30 counters participating in the field, plus 8 feeder watchers. Three parties went out early to look for owls.

This was the 23rd year of the Kishwaukee count. You can see the results of this count, and all of the others, at the National Audubon Society’s website at The dates for the Rockford and Kishwaukee counts in Dec. 2012 will be the 14th and the 21st. I hope you can join us.

My thanks to all of you for your time and effort.

Barbara Williams

1 Ross’s Goose
711 Cackling Goose
9650 Canada Goose
5 American Black Duck
1444 Mallard
2 Green-winged Teal
7 Canvasback
9 Lesser Scaup
20 Common Goldeneye
3 Common Merganser
64 Wild Turkey
7 Great Blue Heron
40 Bald Eagle (15 ad., 23 im., 2 unknown)
5 Northern Harrier
5 Sharp-shinned Hawk
10 Cooper’s Hawk
1 Goshawk (seen only count week)
73 Red-tailed Hawk
4 Rough-legged Hawk
6 Sandhill Crane
16 American Kestrel
1 Merlin
43 Ring-billed Gull
73 Herring Gull
1 Lesser Black-backed Gull
1 Killdeer
1374 Rock Pigeon
19 Eurasian Collared-Dove
396 Mourning Dove
9 Eastern Screech- Owl
4 Great Horned Owl
2 Barred Owl
1 Northern Saw-whet Owl
1 Rufous Hummingbird
11 Belted Kingfisher
2 Red-headed Woodpecker
123 Red-bellied Woodpecker
3 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
210 Downy Woodpecker
47 Hairy Woodpecker
24 Northern Flicker
3 Pileated Woodpecker
182 Blue Jay
376 American Crow
360 Horned Lark
490 Black-capped Chickadee
63 Tufted Titmouse
11 Red-breasted Nuthatch
226 White-breasted Nuthatch
58 Brown Creeper
4 Carolina Wren
14 Golden-crowned Kinglet
74 Eastern Bluebird
3 Hermit Thrush
56 American Robin
1 Gray Catbird
2201 European Starling
135 Cedar Waxwing
1 Yellow-rumped Warbler
500 Northern Cardinal
1060 American Tree Sparrow
1 Savannah Sparrow
8 Fox Sparrow
35 Song Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow
16 White-throated Sparrow
3 White-crowned Sparrow
1960 Dark-eyed Junco
1 Purple Finch
515 House Finch
107 Common Redpoll
1 Hoary Redpoll
159 Pine Siskin
359 American Goldfinch
31 Lapland Longspur
106 Snow Bunting
2 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Western Meadowlark
1 Common Grackle
5 Brown-headed Cowbird
967 House Sparrow

79 total species + 1 count week Goshawk

24,522 individual birds

Rockford to Rock Falls along Rock River today

I drove down the Rock River from Rockford to Rock Falls today to see what might be in the river after the cold temperatures of the last couple of weeks. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was at the upper dam at Rock Falls. I presume this is the same bird that Dustin Holschuh has been reporting from time to time. Rock Falls also had a few species of ducks, including 3 Greater Scaup, a female Bufflehead, a male Ring-necked Duck, lots of Common Goldeneyes, and a Pied-billed Grebe.

The dam at Oregon (Ogle) had a blue Snow Goose, 2 Lesser Scaup, a drake Canvasback and 6 Common Goldeneye. Around the overlook on the east side of the dam were a Song Sparrow and 5 E. Bluebirds (eating hackberries).

At Lowden State Park, I found 4 Red-headed Woodpeckers on the 1-way drive to the Blackhawk statue.

5 Snipe, plus other sightings

This morning, there were 5 Wilson’s Snipe in the creek bed which runs out of the spring on the Hoople farm and which were visible from Stephens Road.

A Pileated Woodpecker was being harassed by a pair of Red-tailed Hawks at Blackhawk Park around 11:00 a.m. Then, the hawks were harassed by a pair of adult Bald Eagles. There were a lot of Robins feeding on hackberry fruits in the park near the stone picnic shelter. A Carolina Wren continues in the quarry in the park. It was there on December 22 during the Kishwaukee CBC.

A hen Canvasback was in the Rock River at Blackhawk Park this morning with hundreds of Canada Geese. 3-6 Great Blue Herons continue to roost on the mud island next to the gravel bar above the 15th Avenue bridge.

Pine Siskins and Purple Finch were the only winter finches noted at Klehm this morning. A Hermit Thrush was feeding on crabapples with 20 or so Cedar Waxwings. No Robins were seen at Klehm–they must have all flown over to Blackhawk Park.

Rockford airport raptors and some waterfowl

This afternoon I took a ride around the perimeter of the Rockford airport to see what raptors might be hanging around down there. It was a fairly raptor rich area.

My first was a beautiful adult male Northern Harrier at the end of the runway on Beltline Road near the Kishwaukee River bridge. That was closely followed by a spectacular dark morph Rough-legged Hawk hunting over Bell Bowl prairie. While I was watching the dark morph, a light morph flew in from the runways and joined it, both hunting over the prairie and perching in the tippy tops of small branches on shrubs along the fence. Another light morph Rough-leg was perched on a snow pile along the runways and visible from the Sureshot Express parking area, and, while watching it, a second Harrier, this time a subadult male (still some brown barring and brown marks on the back and nape) flew by, while a Red-tailed Hawk flew by in the background.

14 Bald Eagles, 11 of them immature, were hanging around the airport quarry on the south side of Beltline Road. While I was there, several thousand geese were flying in to roost for the night. The quarry pond itself, in addition to several thousand Canada Geese, had 3-400 Cackling Geese, 1 Ross’ Goose (probably same one that was there on the Kishwaukee CBC), 12 Common Mergansers, 2 Ruddy Ducks, 9 Black Ducks, and 1 adult male Green-winged Teal (also likely still there from the Kishwaukee CBC).

3 Great Blue Herons are still hanging out on the mud island by the gravel bar north of the 15th Avenue Bridge. There were 2 more Bald Eagles there (both immature) and an adult Cooper’s Hawk. Jeff Donaldson left a voice message that, earlier in the afternoon, he and David Olson saw a young Peregrine Falcon kill a Sharp-shinned Hawk. Jeff said that David had photos. I hope that I get to see them.