Northern Shrike, Lesser Black-backed Gull

I found a Northern Shrike at Bell Bowl prairie at Rockford airport late this morning.  It was best viewed from Cessna Drive about half-way from Belt Line to the left turn on Cessna.  In the last week, 2 different Rough-legged Hawks have been at the Airport, 1 light and 1 dark morph.

An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was with about 85 Herring Gulls at the Edson Road dump in Winnebago County.

longspurs and buntings

The new snow has driven field birds to the edges of roadways in SW Winnebago County.  This morning, I found small flocks (4-15 birds) of Horned Larks feeding and getting grit along the shoulder of Kelly, Kendall and Osborne Roads.  There was a flock of 31 Snow Buntings on Kendall Road between Kelly and Cunningham.  It also had several Lapland Longspurs and Horned Larks in it.

Rockford CBC on December 19, 2015

Happy New Year Everyone!

Attached is the final report of the Rockford CBC conducted on Saturday, December 19, 2015. The weather on December 19 was fairly pleasant-reasonable temperatures, mostly sunny, low wind-so birding conditions were favorable.

Each year our count manages to produce some surprises, and this year was not an exception. We tallied 75 species and 20,849 individuals on count day. A small flock of 5 swans was unable to be identified to species because they were flying over a vehicle at the time of observation. A Northern Saw-whet Owl was a count week bird on December 21.

Many of us noted that it was often difficult to find birds, particularly land birds, and we had to dig them out. This was likely due to the unseasonably warm weather experienced in the Rockford area during the fall and into December. While the factors that go into an analysis are often complicated, and opinions aren’t often worth the paper they are printed on, the unseasonable mild temperatures probably had several contradictory effects on birds and the count.

Warm temperatures were recorded far north of Illinois, so the wetlands and lakes in those regions remained open, delaying waterfowl migration. Their resident water birds delayed their departure from the north. (See my note on Sandhill Cranes that follows). Passerines in our area, that would normally have moved on, apparently lingered until the major snow storm (12″ of snow in northwest Winnebago County). As a result, many birds either moved on or did not survive the storm. Then, it got warm again and rained, so that by Thanksgiving Day, all of the snow was melted. Still, waterfowl had not moved in, and other migrants had not arrived, so we were caught in the doldrums of migration.

The front that arrived on December 17-18 dropped temperatures and caused some still water to freeze, but, because northern waterfowl and passerines had not arrived, we had some low numbers on the count. The passerines that were formerly spread out because of the lack of snow and access to natural foods had not had time to find and congregate at feeders or in more sheltered spots.

Surprise #1: Total number of individuals counted was only 821 below the last 10-year rolling average of 21,670. And, surprise #2, the 75 species seen, 4 more than the 10-year rolling average of 71, is 4th place high count on the all-time list for the Rockford CBC. Last year’s high of 80 set the record; there were 79 in 1998-99 and 76 in 2013-14.

Some highlights. SANDHILL CRANES (321) completely smashed the old record high (38) by nearly 10X. 296 were at Nygren Wetlands. This was not a surprise, since thousands of Sandhills were reported to be still migrating over Chicago on New Year’s weekend. The cold front got them moving.

A PEREGRINE FALCON was recorded for the first time on the count. EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVES have increased incrementally, with 5. For some reason, they are still sparse in Winnebago County, but thriving in Ogle County, where one team on the Kishwaukee CBC had 155 on December 26. PILEATED WOODPECKERS continue to increase. 13 tied the high set last year. BALD EAGLES (64) exceeded the old high of 44.

Species for which only a single individual was observed were: Snow and Ross’ Goose, Mute Swan, Gadwall, American Black Duck, Horned Grebe, Rough-legged Hawk (no snow up north), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Shrike, Carolina Wren, Eastern Towhee, Red-winged and Rusty Blackbirds, and Purple Finch.

Some low lights: No Hermit Thrushes, Common Grackles, Snow Buntings, Short-eared Owls, Ruby-crowned Kinglets (with the warm temps, these were expected) or White-crowned Sparrows. Low numbers of waterfowl overall; Pine Siskins and Purple Finches weren’t gathering in numbers around feeders.



Dec 26, 2015 Kishwaukee Christmas Bird Count

Thanks to all for your efforts on behalf of the Kishwaukee CBC. I was a bit nervous about being out of town for the count.  I’ve organized and compiled this count for eleven years and this is the first time I’ve missed the count itself. But as I expected, you all did a good job and covered your territories. I needn’t have worried.

Unfortunately, there just weren’t many birds around on count day. Many of you commented on the low numbers of birds and the species that were not found. A few days later when the snow fell and the temperatures dropped, birds showed up on the roadsides, at feeders and on patches of open water. Too late!

We can’t pick a different day and do it over. We have to stick with the day that was chosen. The final data will show the numbers and species of birds in relation to the hours put in afield and watching feeders, the number of miles that counters walked and drove while searching for birds, the temperature, precipitation and wind. Sometimes the most interesting counts are the ones that illustrate why certain species are missing from an area. Sometimes it takes years for the patterns in the data to emerge and be understood. It is worthwhile to go out and collect the information even when its not a great birding day.

As on the Rockford count, we can guess that the abundance of open water to our north allowed waterfowl to stay to our north. Waterfowl were in short supply with only three (!) species of waterfowl. The lack of snow cover meant that Horned Larks, Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs, if present, were really hard to find.

Light rain and wind almost always make it harder to find, see and identify birds. That was certainly true on December 26th. While many species were represented by only about half of the normal number, we had particularly low numbers of Great Blue Heron, Pileated & Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, Cedar Waxwings, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Song Sparrow, Tree Sparrow and even House Sparrow! Expected in small numbers but completely absent from the count were Pheasant, Northern Harrier, Red-headed Woodpecker, Hermit Thrush, Purple Finch, Swamp Sparrow.

We had only a few highlights. Our previous record for Wild Turkey was 108, so 135 found in several locations was quite a leap forward. Larry Balch and Gary Jahnke were determined to break 100 on their tally of Eurasian Collared Doves after getting to a record 99 last year. They are justifiably proud of their total of 155 for this year. Thanks to the presence of Klehm Arboretum within the count circle we often get a pretty good total of American Robins. Small numbers of Robins are found in about half the territories in the circle, but Klehm often has large flocks feeding on the many crabapples in the gardens. The previous record was 612. This year Klehm produced a surprising 937. The total for the circle ended up at 1058. So much for Robins being a sign of spring!

A single Saw-whet Owl, one Carolina Wren, two Winter Wrens and a single Ruby-crowned Kinglet were nice finds that brightened up the day.

At the end of the day a total of 56 species and 16,419 individual birds were tallied with 6 Green-winged Teal seen during the count week. We had 28 counters participating in the field, plus 5 feeder watchers.

Thanks again for all your time and effort. Happy New Year!

Barbara Williams

Kishwaukee Christmas Bird Count Results

11     Cackling Goose
2648 Canada Goose
543   Mallard
cw    Green-winged Teal
135   Wild Turkey
2       Great Blue Heron
1       Sharp-shinned Hawk
12    Cooper’s Hawk
12    Bald Eagle (6 ad., 6 im.)
52    Red-tailed Hawk
2      Rough-legged Hawk
296  Ring-billed Gull
82    Herring Gull
250  Gull sp. (unidentified)
502   Rock Pigeon
155   Eurasian Collared-Dove
444   Mourning Dove
4      Eastern Screech- Owl
3      Great Horned Owl
3      Barred Owl
1      Northern Saw-whet Owl
6      Belted Kingfisher
71    Red-bellied Woodpecker
3      Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
156  Downy Woodpecker
34    Hairy Woodpecker
13    Northern Flicker
2      Pileated Woodpecker
20    American Kestrel
92    Blue Jay
632  American Crow
16    Horned Lark
426  Black-capped Chickadee
37    Tufted Titmouse
9      Red-breasted Nuthatch
180  White-breasted Nuthatch
92    Brown Creeper
1      Winter Wren
2      Carolina Wren
26    Golden-crowned Kinglet
1      Ruby-crowned Kinglet
75    Eastern Bluebird
1058 American Robin
6119 European Starling
17     Lapland Longspur
4      Yellow-rumped Warbler
225  American Tree Sparrow
623  Dark-eyed Junco
8      White-crowned Sparrow
18    White-throated Sparrow
5      Song Sparrow
256  Northern Cardinal
12    Brown-headed Cowbird
378  House Finch
20    Pine Siskin
171  American Goldfinch
421  House Sparrow

Total species – 56
Total individual birds – 16,419

Redpolls at North Love Baptist

DSCN9845I received a call from Joel Neylon, a young birder in the area who volunteers a North Love Baptist Church on Riverside.  He stated that a number of Redpolls were in the birch tree on the west side of the church.  Joyce and I went there and saw them this morning.  The birch tree is just on the west side of the church.  There are about 11 redpolls that we saw.  Joel said they sometimes go to another birch tree between the three parking lots.  He posts his sightings on ebird regularly.


Jack Armstrong

January 9 at Klehm and other places

I hadn’t been to Klehm yet this month, so I visited late this morning, arriving around 11:20 a.m. The parking lot had a lot of bird activity, most notably E. Bluebirds. There were 7 at the west end of the parking lot nearest to Clarcor Pavilion. With them were several White-throated Sparrows.

A bunch of Am. Robins were also in the trees nearby. Robins, E. Bluebirds and Cedar Waxwings (15) were feeding in a small crabapple near the small pond with bubbler just to the south.

Some pishing coaxed out 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches and more White-throated Sparrows near the Clarcor Pavilion, plus 7 more E. Bluebirds were feeding in the crabapple next to the building. I headed for the Taylor trail and investigated the center of the west loop. More pishing brought in 12 juncos, 2 more White-throated Sparrows, some cardinals and chickadees, and 2 Hermit Thrushes.

Back on the west loop paved trail, a small mixed flock of Common Redpolls and Pine Siskins flew over. I played a recording of C. Redpolls and the flock returned. I counted 11 C. Redpolls and 5 Pine Siskins in the flock. There were also 2 more Red-breasted Nuthatches in the conifers in the SW arc of the trail.

4 Eurasian Collared-doves were near the intersection of Halley and Tate Roads, NW of Rockford. A dark morph Rough-legged Hawk was at the Rockford airport.

Gasoline is $1.74/gal. at the Phillips station at the corner of Rockton and Riverside in NW Rockford.

Winnebago County gulls

There have been some interesting and challenging gulls in Winnebago County lately, including 2 that may be new county records.

On January 2, I had a Lesser Black-backed Gull at Rock Cut SP during the CBC. On January 4, also at Rock Cut, Brad Grover photographed (at a distance) 2 large first cycle gulls. From Brad’s description, these may be Great Black-backed Gulls. I went to Rock Cut yesterday afternoon from 3:30-4:45pm but those 2 gulls were not present while I was there. I did find 2 adult Thayer’s Gulls there.

A note about Rock Cut gulls: they don’t seem to stay very long. When I arrived at 3:30, a stream of gulls was flying over from West to East. They kept going. After 10-15 minutes, other gulls flew over and settled into the lake and ice. That is when I found the 2 Thayer’s Gulls. Lee Johnson arrived just in time to see the Thayer’s before they flew off.

Today, I checked the landfill along IL 251/Edson Road on the Winnebago County side. Only 35-40 gulls were present, but 1 of them was an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. This area should be regularly checked for gulls this winter.

Rock Cut CBC partial totals from Rock Cut SP

Yesterday, January 2, I was assigned to count the territory that included most of Rock Cut SP on the Rock Cut CBC. I started at the east end of the lake around 0745, when the park opened. As I counted up the endless number of Canada Geese and Mallards, I was interested in the Herring Gulls that kepy flying in from the east. When I got to the boat launch parking lot by the concession stand, the gulls were beginning to build and were cirling over the open water, and some were settling down on the ice to roost. I met Jack and Joyce Armstrong, who were also checking the lake. After they left, I started counting the Canada Geese at that end. I took a break after getting 1050 in the flock on the north side of the lake, and still had several thousand, I guessed, to go. So, I decided it would be fun to count the gulls. It was a nice surprise to find an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull sleeping on the ice with a lot of Herring Gulls and a few Ring-billed Gulls. So, I was able to reach Jack and Joyce on their cell and they returned to see the LBB.

My total count of Canada Geese between 0745 and 0930 was 4489. Other waterfowl included 1 Snow (blue) Goose, 4 Am. Black Ducks, 4 Common Goldeneye, and 5 Am. Coots. The 4 Common Mergansers that Larry Balch and I counted on January 1 could not be relocated.

The Black Scoter that had been on Pierce Lake since late November has not been seen in a week. Larry Balch looked, but was unable to find it on December 31, and neither the Rockford Bird Club field trip on 1/1, or Larry and I, were able to find it later on 1/1. I did not see it on 1/2.

I counted 31 Cedar Waxwings and 2 Eastern Bluebirds near the Harlem Road entrance at the Olson Annex. Jack and Joyce found a 3rd bluebird there (that is their territory on the count), plus found waxwings at the same place.

2 Red-breasted Nuthatches were in the White Pine stand at the driveway to Red Oak picnic area. Overall, land birds were very quiet and hard to locate, at least by me.