southeast Winn Co.

After receiving a message from Kevin Kaltenbach on Sat. afternoon, Joyce an I checked the bridge over the Kishwaukee River at Oak Ridge Forest Preserve today.   Kevin had found a Red-shouldered Hawk at the bridge.  We found the bird on the wire at the bridge.   It is an adult bird.  We also saw a large number of Tree Sparrows and three White-crowned Sparrows along Shirley Rd. just north of Edson Rd.  They were flying in and out of the brushy sides.

Jack and Joyce Armstrong

Winnebago Co back roads

Today I toured a few places in Winnebago County looking to see what I could scare up. On route 70 by the intersection with Winnebago Rd I saw a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk. I presume the is the same bird I have seen several times since the Rockford CBC in December. There is a large flock of Canada Geese on OLIVER RD. I estimated 750-1000. However the oxbow is freezing over, and so the flock is somewhat distant, and many of the geese were hidden from view. I only saw Canadas here. There were three GREEN-WINGED TEAL here. No geese were seen an Howard’s farm, and I did not see anything other than Mallards at Hooples.

Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings

Since we had a little snow overnight, I decided to try to find some longspurs and Snow Buntings along roadsides in SW Winnebago County.  I managed to find one small flock.  It was located on Edwardsville Road between Spielman Road and Pecatonica Road, closer to Spielman.  I counted 12 Lapland Longspurs, 10 Snow Buntings, and 2 Horned Larks.  There may have been 1 or 2 more of each species, but the birds were often hidden behind clumps of dirt and were hard to count.

Winnebago County shrikes

There are at least 3 Northern Shrikes in Winnebago County right now.

1 has been at Ferguson Forest Preserve, at Shirland, since at least Saturday, 1/21. It is way out in the middle of the marsh and can’t be seen from the road. It is necessary to park in the gravel lot on the north side (Winslow Road) and walk south to the grass trail, then west, scanning as you go. It is approximately equidistant from the E-W and N-S boundaries.

Another shrike was found yesterday on Harrison Road, just N of Auburn Road, near the model airplane flying field owned by the Rockford Park District. I saw it again today perched in a scrubby tree along the road near the flying field entrance gate.

About an hour later, I found another shrike on Oliver Road south of Knapp Road and before the oxbow swamp at the 90 degree bend in Oliver Road. It was in the tree line along the road between the creek culvert and the turn.

A short while later, I found a Greater White-fronted Goose with about 500 Canada Geese in a flooded cornfield on the E-W stretch of Oliver Road. A few White-crowned Sparrows continue in the mixed species flock along that stretch of road.

Finally, on Monday, 1/22, Steve Gent found a Eurasian Collared-dove at the intersection of IL 70 and Wempletown Road.  There is a small grain elevator there.  I went there today (1/25) and discovered a pair of them perched on top of a light pole behind the Burritt Community Church at that intersection.

Ferguson Forest Preserve

A number of interesting birds have been found at Ferguson FP since Saturday, 1/21.  1-2 Short-eared Owls have been since for the last 2 late afternoons on Sunday, 1/22 and tonight, 1/23.  They appeared to fly in from the west around 5:05 tonight, and about the same time last night.

A Northern Shrike has been seen daily since Saturday, 1/21.

2-3 Northern Harriers have been here Saturday and tonight (Monday) but were not seen Sunday evening.  Ditto for Rough-legged Hawks, with 3 Saturday, zero on Sunday, and 1 today.

Other birds in the area are Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, Cooper’s Hawk (all seen Saturday and today) and a Barred Owl has called several times.

NW Winnebago County sightings

On January 20, John Longhenry reported 2 Green-winged Teal in the flooded oxbow on Oliver Road.  There were also some White-crowned Sparrows along the road in a mixed flock of sparrows and House Finches.

I checked the Sugar River FP campground late yesterday morning.  Highlights were 4 Brown Creepers, 1 Golden-crowned Kinglet, a Barred Owl being harassed by crows, 4 Eastern Bluebirds (fly-over) and a mixed flock of sparrows that included 7-8 White-throated Sparrows.

Kishwaukee Christmas Bird Count

This year we held the count on Wednesday, December 21. We had 28 counters in the field and 4 reporting as feeder watchers. 9 participants got up early and went owling. I am always grateful to them for their extra effort.

The weather and the birds co-operated pretty well. The total of 73 species is not a record for this count but it’s pretty good. The average for the Kishwaukee count is in the high sixties. Dark-eyed Juncos were particularly abundant and Hermit Thrushes set a high count record. One party found a surprising 42 White-crowned Sparrows all in one flock. Although we didn’t break many records most of our birds were present in average, to above average, numbers. A few single birds that helped push up the species total were Northern Shrike, Purple Finch, Brown Thrasher, Savannah Sparrow, Western Meadowlark. The one Ruby-crowned Kinglet was actually coming to a feeder! Let’s hope that the lonely single Swamp Sparrow is an anomaly. Normally we have a dozen or more Swamp Sparrows.

The birds found in unusually low numbers were mostly species that vary their numbers dramatically from one winter to the next. Snow Buntings, Longspurs, Shrikes, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Siskins (missed entirely!) and Purple Finches don’t always show up in northern Illinois in big numbers, possibly due to conditions to our north. Lack of much open water probably kept the gull and waterfowl numbers down. But, it is worrying that we only found one Red-headed Woodpecker. Red-heads are a species of much concern as they continue to lose habitat.

I am attaching the report of the count, including the birdlist, from the Audubon Christmas Bird Count system.You can get access to all the CBC information and past records at:

Many thanks to all of you who participated. Volunteer effort is the lifeblood of the CBC program. You make it work.

Barbara Williams

Kishwaukee CBC 21 Dec 2016

Rockford CBC report

This is a report of the results of the December 17, 2016 Rockford Christmas Bird Count.

Happily, the bad weather that had been forecast for December 17 failed to materialize, so we had a pretty good day to count birds.  The snow held off until later in the afternoon and had little impact on the count unless you had planned to go owling in the evening.  Morning conditions for owling were good.  The snow from the night before meant that some places were not accessible, and walking was difficult in forest preserves and other unplowed areas.

The cold weather that preceded the count meant that most of the still water (ponds, lakes) were frozen, although a quarry was open near Roscoe.  Moving water was mostly open except the Rock River above the Fordham Dam, but the Rock river below the Rockton dam was open.

Normally we have 35-40 counters, but this year only 31 were able to participate.

Those 31, plus feeder watchers, counted a total of 78 species, (3 above the last 5 year average) and 17,914 individuals (approximately 5,000 lower than the last 5 year average), so even though the species list was high, the total number of birds was down. Most of the difference was in the waterfowl category (all of that frozen water and snow cover). There were 2 count week (“cw”) species – Sandhill Crane and Eastern Meadowlark.

Highlights include a species new to the count, Black-crowned Night-heron; first one, then a second, immature bird was seen in the willows along the stream below the Westlake dam.  At least one was still present on Monday, the 19th.  New high counts were: Greater White-fronted Goose (9), Wild Turkey (228, edging out the previous high of 226), Hermit Thrush (7), Fox Sparrow (17), and Dark-eyed Junco (3,172).  It seemed like juncos were everywhere along the roadsides this year.

Waterbirds were very scarce.  A few were in creeks and small streams where the water was open, but most were in the Roscoe quarry.  Very few gulls were spotted. We also had fairly low numbers of raptors.  Great Horned, Barred and Eastern Screech-owls were low.  I suspect that the snow depth caused some hawks to move.  The lower owl count is partially the result of the inability of observers to access the areas where they are normally found.  After several years of increasing woodpecker numbers, that group had much lower totals.  I don’t know why (low # of counters?).  For the first time in a number of years, no Northern Shrikes were reported.

The high counts of Hermit Thrushes and Fox Sparrows could be the result of birds being trapped by the series of snowstorms and cold fronts that hit the area a week earlier and kept (and are still) coming.

Winter finches have not moved into northern IL so far this year, and Red-breasted Nuthatches are very scarce.  The total absence of Pine Siskins is disappointing, plus few Purple Finches were seen, a continuing and troubling trend.  There was a single Common Redpoll reported.  There was a report of 10 redpolls at a feeder in Pecatonica that same day, but the feeder was outside of the count circle.

On the subject of “outside the count circle,” a reporter on eBird posted that he saw thousands of geese, including both large and small white geese, plus a Short-eared Owl, flying west to east over I-90 in South Beloit on count day.  South Beloit is not in the count circle, but the sighting is evidence that a lot of birds were in that part of the county, perhaps in Lake Victoria in South Beloit, which is an old quarry, and which might have been open on count day.  So close, but yet so far.

The final count report filed with National Audubon is attached below.

Thanks to all of you who participated.  I appreciate it very much.  Next year’s count will be held on Saturday, December 16, 2017.  Please save the date.  I hope that you will participate.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

ILRO 2016-17Results


Black-crowned Night-herons, Great Blues, and Rough-legged Hawks

On December 17, Steve Gent and John Longhenry found an immature Black-crowned Night-heron in the willow thicket below the dam spillway at Westlake, near Pecatonica.  I was able to respond to their call and arrived at the site about an hour later, when I saw one bird, then accidentally flushed a second bird that was perched in a bush along the creek on the north side of the bridge.

One or two birds have been seen regularly at that location since then, as well as 1-2 Great Blue Herons.  Today, two herons (1 of each species) were down in the creek on the north side of the bridge.

Another Great Blue was perched out of the wind near the road at Four Lakes FP.  It was in the spring-fed creek that crosses under Fish Hatchery Road.

Two light morph Rough-legged Hawks were hunting along Blair Road at Pecatonica Wetlands FP.  Another, plus a harrier, were seen at the Rockford airport yesterday.

Gulls at Rock Cut SP

Several interesting gulls have been sighted on Pierce Lake in Rock Cut SP in the last 2 weeks, but they don’t stick around for very long.  On 12/24, two birders from Chicago spotted a 3rd cycle Iceland Gull at 10:30 a.m. but it was gone by 1:00 p.m. when I went to look for it.  I did see an adult Thayer’s Gull, though.

A Bonaparte’s Gull was spotted there sometime after the Rock Cut CBC that was held on December 26, but not on count day or during count period.

2 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls were reported from there yesterday, January 3 at 2:00 p.m., but they were not there today between 11:30-1:30.