This evening, Barbara and I went to Four Lakes FP to do a Woodcock survey. We started in the parking lot on IL 70 on the north side at 7:30 p.m. Woodcocks were doing flight songs and displays, and peenting as we got out of the car. We counted 4.

After 20 minutes, we drove around to the east side by the wet prairie and marsh along Fish Hatchery Rd. Between 8:50-9:05, we had another 4.

March 22 Field Trip Report

This morning, 7 hardy birders braved 37F temperatures and wind to participate in the Winnebago County waterfowl trip. We recorded a total of 60 species, which was pretty good given the conditions and relative lack of passerines. Some of the birds that I found yesterday while scouting were unable to be found today, particularly American Pipits on Blodgett Road. Nevertheless, there were plenty of highlights, including a group of 3 Trumpeter Swans, a nice flock of 11 Rusty Blackbirds along Moody Road, 5 Snow Geese visible from Meridian Road just south of the Pecatonica River bridge, 40 Cackling Geese on Oliver Road, a Pileated Woodpecker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker as nearly the first birds sighted in the morning at the parking lot by the Pierce Lake dam at Rock Cut SP, and huge numbers of Greater White-fronted Geese: 875 at Winters’ wetland and around 1000 more at the oxbow on Oliver Road. 19 Tree Swallows, first of the year for most participants, were hunting low over the water at Winters and wishing that they had stayed in southern Illinois another few days.

The full list of species follows:

Greater White-fronted Goose (more than 2000)
Snow Goose (5)
Cackling Goose (42)
Canada Goose (more than 1200)
Trumpeter Swan (3 at Winters)
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
Northern Shoveler (3)
Northern Pintail (50)
Green-winged Teal (dozens)
Canvasback (~20)
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Ruddy Duck (1)
Ring-necked Pheasant (3 calling)
Wild Turkey (all over the place)
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture (5 at Rock Cut)
Bald Eagle (3 at Winters)
Cooper’s Hawk (along the road)
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk (2 at Winters)
American Coot (2 at Winters)
Sanhill Crane (many-Nygren, Blodgett, Moody, Winters)
Ring-billed Gull (Winters and Meridian Road)
Rock Pigeon
Mouning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flilcker
Pileated Woodpecker (1 at Rock Cut SP)
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
American Robin
European Starling
Am. Tree Sparrow
Fox Sparrow (singing at Rock Cut and Winters)
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird
Common C=Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Pipits in Winnebago County, and other news

This afternoon, I heard, then saw, 9 American Pipits on Blodgett Road between Rockton Road and Moody Road. They were feeding around a fluddle on the west side of the road just before the old RR right-of-way. 34 Wood Ducks and a smattering of other puddle ducks (Gadwall, Pintails, Mallards) were in the fluddle. At Blodgett/Moody were 81 Sandhill Cranes, a lot of Canada Geese, and some White-fronted Geese.

Rusty Blackbirds were mixed into several flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds near Dennis Stein’s house and further west near the large pasture. A pair of Shovelers was in a fluddle just east of Dennis’ house.

The east end of Pierce Lake at Rock Cut SP has open water for about 500 feet west from the cattails. In the open water at 2:00p.m. were Hooded and Common Mergansers, a pair of GWTeal, Mallards, 5 Ring-necked Ducks, 5 L. Scaup, a drake C. Goldeneye, plus 4 Great Blue Herons; an adult Bald Eagle and a TV flew over while I was there.

For those planning to attend the NCIOS waterfowl trip tomorrow morning, remember that we are meeting at the parking lot by the dam at Pierce Lake in Rock Cut. We will probably go immediately to the east end, since the rest of the lake is still frozen, and from there proceed north and west. The gate is unlocked for the overlook at Nygren, but most of the marsh is still frozen, so we’ll check that spot in the morning, but likely won’t find much. I am hopeful that Moody Road will be productive. We also plan to walk in along the levee at the former Winters property now owned by the Forest Preserve. Footgear that will keep your feet dry is a must unless you enjoy wet feet. I’m likely to wear my Wellington boots.

Eastern Phoebe

We awoke this morning to the sound of a singing Eastern Phoebe. It was sitting on the railing of our back deck.

This is 1 week earlier than our first in 2013 (March 28). In 2011, our first was March 21 and in 2012, the early warm spring, the first one arrived on March 13.

We also have a calling male E. Bluebird and a YBSapsucker around the house, and a couple of male White-throated Sparrows are singing. A lot of Killdeer are flying overhead and in our neighbors’ horse pastures.

Northwest Winnebago County

On Thursday evening, Phil Doncheck and I checked for waterfowl at the new, as yet unnamed, forest preserve that was the Winters wetland in Shirland. Hundreds of ducks and geese were flying in for the night.

We found 3 Trumpeter Swans, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Pintails, Wood Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks, L. Scaup, Bufflehead, C. Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, and lots of White-fronted Geese.

At 7:25pm, 4 Short-eared Owls began hunting over the marsh. A Barred Owl and Pileated Woodpecker were heard, but no Woodcocks. 8 Sandhill Cranes (4 pairs) were present flying and calling.

At 7:45, we headed to Colored Sands FP. While standing by the locked gates, we heard 2 Barred Owls and 2 Woodcocks.

More migrants

Yesterday, March 16, Sam Oliveri sent an email in which he reported a total of 530 Sandhill Cranes flying over their house late in the afternoon. Barbara and I had seen a few small flocks at our house, but hadn’t been outside a lot and didn’t catch the full show.

This morning, we had a male Purple Finch singing in a tree in front of the house. This is the first of that species I have seen since last December.

Winnebago County on Saturday morning

This morning, Larry Balch and I birded the northwest quadrant of Winnebago County. Our primary goal was to look for waterfowl in flooded fields. We started on Oliver Road, where Mike Descamps told me that he had ~100 White-fronted Geese on Friday, 3/14. Larry and I found 190 there this morning, plus over 400 Canada Geese and 2 Cackling Geese. Also there was a large flock of blackbirds, including 80 Rusty Blackbirds which I reported to the Rusty Blackbird Blitz on eBird. About 75% of them were males. Also in the flock were Cowbirds and Red-wings. 5 Eastern Meadowlarks were in the horse pasture on the south side of the road, and a few Killdeer were calling. An adult Bald Eagle was in the tree line pretty far back toward the river, and 2 Sandhill Cranes were separately flying and calling, so they did not appear to be a pair.

A male Wood Duck was in the creek across from the beaver dam on the N-S stretch of Oliver Road after it makes the turn at Big Bend.

19 Wild Turkeys were in a field along Eddie Road just north of IL 70.

15 Lesser Scaup, 1 male Canvasback, and 2 White-fronted Geese were on the small area of open water in the southeastern pond at Four Lakes FP. 6 Sandhill Cranes were in a field on the east side of Winnebago Road between Fish Hatchery and IL 70.

The area viewed from the red gate at Howard’s Farm held 39 more White-fronted Geese, and 10 Cackling Geese were among several hundred Canadas there. Also in the few areas of open water were 12 Pintails and a pair of Gadwall. A young Bald Eagle kept the ducks agitated and flying, and a Rough-legged Hawk was perched on top of a tree out in the pasture.

East of Pecatonica along Sumner Road, Sumner Creek was overflowing into the surrounding ag fields and attracting waterfowl. We counted 7 Ring-necked Ducks (5m, 2f) and 7 Common Goldeneye (5m, 2f), plus 35 more White-fronted Geese.

Snowy Owls Still Hanging Around House

As of Sunday we are still getting periodic visits of Snowy Owls by (and on) our house outside Genoa. There are at least two; I believe one to be an immature male and the other an immature female.

Combined, my wife and I have spotted one or the other or both nearly a dozen times now, often on the nastiest of days which there have been many! Sunday produced high winds.

Here is a video I shot from the garage window and then from the dining room window. The owls have been using the roof as a hunting perch but move around a lot.

If the video embed doesn’t work, go here to see video.

Email me if you want directions (I don’t really want to post my address on here).