Lesser Black-backed Gull at Rock Cut SP

On Saturday morning, Barbara spotted an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull on Pierce Lake during the Rock Cut Christmas Bird Count.  It was on the ice with a lot of Herring Gulls and a few Ring-billed Gulls.

We starting counting at 8:00 a.m., when the park opened.  The lake was full of Canada Geese-9790 of them.  Other waterfowl included Cackling Geese (35), Mallards, American Black Ducks (3), Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser (1), Common Merganser, and Ruddy Duck (5).  There were also 8 Coots.

There were over 150 Herring Gulls and 13 Ring-billed Gulls.

We recommend that you go there to arrive at 8:00 a.m. to have the best chance to find birds on the lake before they dissipate.  The Canadas started to depart around 9:00, and that got the gulls up in the air.  The Lesser Black-backed was not seen in the afternoon.

2014 Kishwaukee CBC report

Thanks to all the participants who helped with the Kishwaukee CBC. A preliminary report is below.

The weather was fairly mild and skies were overcast. There was no wind & ponds and lakes were partly open.

We missed finding any Lapland Longspurs or Snow Buntings. Even without snow I would have guessed that a few would have been around but they were not to be found. Similarly, no Savannah Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows or Northern Shrikes, all open-country birds, were found.

Only single birds were found of some species that are usually more numerous: Sharp-shinned Hawk, Fox Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Carolina Wren. The very cold weather in November may have pushed some of those birds to the south of us.

Collared Dove flocks continue to grow. They were found in Holcomb and Davis Junction. In other good news Bald Eagles, Pileated Woodpeckers and Eastern Bluebirds seem to be showing steadily increasing numbers. Time will tell if it is a long-term trend or just a few deceptively good years.

I’ll get the final report out in a couple of days.

Next year’s Kishwaukee CBC will be on December 26, 2015.  I hope you can join us and help out!

Thanks again and Happy New Year to everyone!

188 Cackling Goose
4445 Canada Goose
3 American Black Duck
1143 Mallard
1 Lesser Scaup
18 Common Goldeneye
4 Bufflehead
53 Common Merganser
11 American Coot
2 Ring-necked Pheasant
99 Wild Turkey
4 Great Blue Heron
47 Bald Eagle (24 ad., 23 im.)
4 Northern Harrier
1 Sharp-shinned Hawk
17 Cooper’s Hawk
98 Red-tailed Hawk
1 Red-shouldered Hawk
3 Rough-legged Hawk
20 American Kestrel
1 Merlin
89 Ring-billed Gull
110 Herring Gull
115 Rock Pigeon
99 Eurasian Collared-Dove
685 Mourning Dove
8 Eastern Screech- Owl
4 Great Horned Owl
8 Barred Owl
4 Northern Saw-whet Owl
12 Belted Kingfisher
2 Red-headed Woodpecker
190 Red-bellied Woodpecker
7 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
277 Downy Woodpecker
63 Hairy Woodpecker
58 Northern Flicker
10 Pileated Woodpecker
281 Blue Jay
545 American Crow
12 Horned Lark
676 Black-capped Chickadee
50 Tufted Titmouse
338 White-breasted Nuthatch
85 Brown Creeper
1 Carolina Wren
3 Winter Wren
4 Golden-crowned Kinglet
98 Eastern Bluebird
103 American Robin
2 Hermit Thrush
2302 European Starling
294 Cedar Waxwing
27 Yellow-rumped Warbler
452 Northern Cardinal
367 American Tree Sparrow
1 Field Sparrow
1 Fox Sparrow
18 Song Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow
3 White-throated Sparrow
1306 Dark-eyed Junco
20 Purple Finch
523 House Finch
19 Common Redpoll
33 Pine Siskin
302 American Goldfinch
30 Brown-headed Cowbird
2164 House Sparrow

Total species – 69

Total individual birds – 19,005

Rockford CBC highlights: A new high total

The Rockford Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, December 14.  Despite the fog, which got worse in the afternoon, the combined teams managed to locate 80 species, plus 2 “count week” birds-Golden Eagle and Short-eared Owl.  This is the highest total in count history, edging the old mark of 79 set in 1999.

Here are a few highlights:

Waterfowl are the big news this year.  The team of Donaldson, Vincent, Kielback and Maynard had 13 waterfowl species (plus 25 Coots), Don Miller and company had a Wood Duck, and two teams had Snow Goose.  Two teams (Kisamore and Longhenry) recorded  Cackling Geese(27).  Longhenry had the only Tundra Swan: a grand total of 17 species.

Some species were only found by one team (captains listed), such as:  White-crowned Sparrow  and Merlin (Eickman); Snow Bunting and Brown-headed Cowbird (Grover); Hermit Thrush, Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Canvasback, Bufflehead, Northern Shoveler, Lesser Scaup (Vincent); Tundra Swan (Longhenry); Rusty Blackbird and Lapland Longspur (Armstrong); Long-eared Owl (Johnson); Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Kehoe); Eurasian Collared-dove and Chipping Sparrow (Oliveri); Northern Shrike (Williams); Wood Duck (Miller).

5 Winter Wrens by 3 teams was very good.  1 team had 3.  The Ruby-crowned Kinglet and  Chipping Sparrow are well-documented.  The Pecatonica Bottoms is the hotspot for Red-headed Woodpeckers, and they were only found there.  33 were recorded by Team Grover (19) on the north side of the Pecatonica River and the team of Phil Doncheck, Gary Jahnke and me (14) on the south side in the ICF/Torstenson property.  Red-breasted Nuthatch is very scarce this year, and none were reported from feeders.  But, 3 were found (2 and 1, respectively) in the center of the circle, which has a lot of wide open agriculture.  I presume that these birds were found in cemetery conifers.

Winter finches are scarce.  We managed to find only 3 Common Redpolls, 7 Purple Finches, and 65 Pine Siskins.  After setting a state high count of 806 House Finches in 2009, this year’s search only found 299.  I believe that the peak has passed  and we won’t see numbers approaching the high total again.

Count high totals for individual species were set by the following:

Bufflehead (4), Hooded Merganser (8), Common Merganser (282), Ruddy Duck (6), American Coot (26), Barred Owl (17), Red-bellied Woodpecker (second record in a row 226), Downy Woodpecker (392), Hairy Woodpecker (86), Pileated Woodpecker ( second year in a row-13), Blue Jay (411), Black-capped Chickadee (814), White-breasted Nuthatch (374).

Low total was Ring-necked Pheasant (5).  I attribute this to substantial loss of habitat, primarily by changing agricultural practices.  Species often seen on the count, such as Wilson’s Snipe, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Fox Sparrow, were not seen this year.  Continuing their trend, Gray Partridge and Bobwhite were not seen again this year.  I believe that the only ones around are recent releases or escapes from hunt clubs.

We had 47 field counters, which is more than average.  There was no snow cover so birds were scattered.  While the fog made visibility difficult, the wind was low., and the mild temperatures before the count caused some still water to re-open. Good coverage by good birders, open water, and mild temperatures all combined to produce this high total.

Thank you to all who contributed their time and talent to make this count successful.  Next year the count is Saturday, December 19, 2015.



Short-eared Owls at Ferguson Forest Preserve

On Dec. 17 I saw two Short-eared Owls when I stopped at the preserve at 4:10 PM. I stopped at 4:40 PM on Dec. 20 and again saw two  Short-eared Owls flying. They were very vocal and I suspected there were more owls that I could not see in the fading  light. A good viewing location is accessed from a new pull through parking area a quarter mile west of the town on Shirland on Winslow Road. Use a crude trail from the parking lot to walk south 50 yards. This will put you at enough elevation to be able to scan the entire wetland. Ferguson Forest Preserve is a new Winnebago County Forest Preserve that is located along Winslow Road. You can view the wetland from the road that goes south from Shirland IL but it will be harder to see all of the wetland.

Christmas Bird Count and Pot-Luck

Rockford Christmas Bird count will be held on Dec. 14, 2014. Our annual winter bird census improves out understanding of the populations and problems of birds locally and nationwide. People are welcome to help census the birds by counting all they can find in the 24 hour period. You may count for a few hours or many. Teams and assignments will be organized in advance of the count date. To participate, please call Dan Williams at 815-079-8335. This count is a 15 mile diameter circle north and west of Rockford. For those whose wish to get together after the count, Larry and DeDe McPharon will host a pot-luck dinner at their home- 4701 White Oak Ave. Rockford starting at 5:00 PM (after dark). Please call Larry or DeDe at 815-978-0251 to add you name to the list.

Counters can get go over what they found on the count without doing an official list.

Jack Armstrong