Yesterday, May 29, my morning was busy with meetings, so I headed off to Rock Cut SP at exactly the wrong time of day, arriving at noon. I hoped that the overnight rains and mixed sun and clouds might keep the birds active and in song, and it was pleasantly so. I managed to see or hear 74 species in 2 hours and I didn’t really walk very much.
Highlights were 10 warbler species, all of which nest in the park, including 2 Cerulean, 2 Hooded, 1 Blue-winged, several Ovenbirds, 1 N. Parula, and a female Chestnut-sided. There were 2 White-eyed Vireos and 5 Henslow’s Sparrows along the equestrian trail that runs south of Hart Road on the west side of the park, plus 1 Olive-sided Flycatcher in a dead tree near the trail entrance.
I saw/heard all 5 empid species, which was good. Lots of Willows, of course, with both Alder and Yellow-bellied migrants singing regularly. Acadians (only 1 heard along the loop road-I didn’t walk to their usual haunts) are annual (and nest) in the park, but the Least was a nice surprise.
I found a few shorebirds around today. Oliver Road oxbow was pretty empty, but I’d heard from Phil Doncheck & Steve Gent that they had a couple of Godwits in a flooded spot at the intersection of Moody and Blodgett Roads. I looked there and found no Godwits but a handful of Dunlin, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, two Baird’s Sandpipers and a White-rumped Sandpiper along with a blizzard of five species of swallows.
On the SW corner of the intersection of Roscoe Road and Gleasman Road there is a flooded pasture that had Semipalmated Plover and Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, another White-rumped Sandpiper and five Dunlin. There was another five species swallow blizzard going on there, too.
No shorebirds visible but 18 Great Egrets at the Nygren Wetland overlook.
Only three of us went on the trip this morning – Kevin Kaltenbach, Phil Donchek and Barbara Williams. The migrant warblers and thrushes were in short supply. We had only a couple species of swallows and only three species of vireos. We had a slim selection of raptors. Nevertheless, we found 56 species of birds in four hours of relaxed birding.
We had stellar views of Bell’s Vireo, Lark Sparrows and Dickcissels. Bobolinks were in full song and Henslow’s Sparrows were calling. Cream Indigo, Shooting Stars, Bird-foot Violets, Blue-eyed grass, Lupines, blankets of Wild Geranium, and rafts of Sweet Cicely were in full bloom. The prairies look healthy and robust. The forested areas are lovely, and we had the whole place almost completely to ourselves.
Others and I started looking for kites on May 2, and when I hadn’t seen any through yesterday, I concluded they wouldn’t be here this year. Their latest arrival in previous years had been May 12. But I was wrong, thankfully. John Longhenry spotted 2 males yesterday afternoon, one at Bloom School, and one in the large dead tree visible from the corner of Buckingham Drive and Pleasant View Court, about 3 blocks north of the school.
This morning, I watched a male fly briefly around the school parking lot and then sit for 20 minutes preening at the top of a tree on the corner of Grenham Pl and Barrington Pl, across from the school lot entrance. Then it flew low to the north along Grenham.
15 minutes later, a male flew into the school lot from the east, circled the trees by the memorial bench, and then rose higher and higher and higher into the sky. As I once infamously said about a Hawfinch on Attu, “the last time I saw it it was out of sight”. Incredible.
Perhaps the birds arrived earlier than yesterday–with such behavior, a kite is tough to find.
A little history:
Kites were first noted near Bloom School in the summer of 2008, and it seemed numbers were slowly increasing each year after. On some days 5 or possibly 6 individual birds were distinguished. It appears the peak numbers were in 2010. Judging from counts of individuals and kite perching behavior, I think they might have nested in 4 different Bloom School area locations that year. Also, on August 30, 2010, a migrating flock of 9 birds (probably including a subadult from the Bloom neighborhood) was seen just before a rainstorm arrived.
At least one successful nest was found every year; 3 young were known to have fledged in 2010, and 2 fledglings were documented last year by John Longhenry. No nest with 2 young, the typical number, has yet been found. Perhaps this year.
This morning, there were 3 Short-billed Dowitchers in the flooded field along Baxter Road just north of the entrance to upper Kilbuck FP. Also in the puddle were Lesser Yellowlegs (10), Solitary Sandpiper (1), Spotted Sandpiper (4), Least Sandpiper (at least 5, but likely more), some Killdeer and 2 Pectoral Sandpipers. The puddle along Kishwaukee Road held 4 Spotted Sandpipers and 8 Least Sandpipers.
Down near Byron, in a flooded field on Kishwaukee Road just N of IL 72, in addition to Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers, there were at least 3 Semipalmated Plovers (they were playing hide and seek in the corn stubble) and 4 or more American Pipits. Well, ok, these aren’t shorebirds, but they hang around the edges of puddles.
Finally, Lake Sule in Rochelle has had an increasing number of Black Terns throughout the day. Aaron Boone texted me at 8:10 a.m. to report that he had 15 of them. When I got there at 10:30, I counted 23. Russ Cline just called me to report that he counted 3x and had between 24-28.
Today I saw and heard my first Willow Flycatchers of the season. Many pewees are now calling, as are Great Crested Flycatchers. A Clay-colored Sparrow that I found at Indian Hill Manor, across from the Forest Preserve, was most likely still migrating, but the 2 Lark Sparrows calling from the ag fields across the road were seemingly on territories.
We had 13 in attendance at our field trip to the Howard Coleman Hall Creek Preserve on May 11. The 280 acre preserve is a recent acquisition of the Byron Forest Preserve, with easement access located at 12848 Meridian Road. There is also a West entrance and parking lot off of Weldon Rd, but there is not a good way from the West entrance to cross the creek and access the mown paths on the East side of Hall creek other than walking through the creek. The preserve’s northern boundary is the Winnebago-Ogle county line.
It was the first visit to this property for all in attendance (except the leader). We had cooperative weather, and a count of 64 species while at the preserve, plus another seven species at the flooded area on Kishwaukee Rd just North of Rt 72. Highlights were a female summer tanager, 10 warbler species (Common Yellowthroat, Tennessee, Nashville, Cape May, Northern Parula, Ovenbird, Palm, N. Waterthrush, Redstart, Yellow-Rumped), thrushes (wood, gray-cheeked, veery, and Swainson’s), brown creeper, great looks at a singing Lincoln’s sparrow, a pair of scarlet tanagers, red-headed woodpecker, and a flyover peregrine falcon.
The strong southerly winds have been bringing a lot of migrants to the woods around our house in the last 2 days. Yesterday had a squad of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and we had up to 7 at the feeder at one time. Barbara saw a male Indigo Bunting, and new warblers are appearing daily. Today we had spectacular male Chestnut-sided, Cape May, Blackburnian, Black-throated Green and American Redstarts, as well as lots of Palm, Yellow and Yellow-rumped. The male Parula that was here yesterday is still present. A Baltimore Oriole has been here for 2 days. Two Red-headed Woodpeckers have livened up the trees, and White-crowned Sparrows are singing out in the bushes. A Lincoln’s Sparrow furtively hopped through and headed toward the ravine.
We still have 4 Pine Siskins and a Red-breasted Nuthatch (female) plus we are now up to 7 Purple Finches at the sunflower and nyger feeders.
Today I was out in search of warblers, a great morning producing, Black throated Green warblers,Magnolia warblers,Chestnut sided, Pine and Palm warblers were all present. Kilbuck and Hinchcliff forest presrves were loaded. Rose breasted grosbeaks and my first Baltimore orioles showed up yesterday at my feeders. Lots of eastern meadowlarks at Byron forest preserve. Also saw Mississippi kite last week a few miles west of Bloom school.