Surf Scoter at Rock Cut SP

Around 11:00 a.m. today, I found a Surf Scoter on Pierce Lake at Rock Cut.  It was a young male molting into adult plumage.  The bill was bright orange with white patches at the sides near the base of the bill.  There were no white cheek spots, which presumably had molted into black feathers.  The white patch on the nape was visible, but not fully molted in.  In flight, the wings were all black.

Surf Scoters are only occasional, and mostly rare, in Winnebago County.  When here, they tend to be at Rock Cut or, on rarer occasion, on Lake Summerset.

Another nice surprise today was a singing Lincoln’s Sparrow at the Olson Annex. I suspect that this was an overwintering bird, not a migrant.  It was in a low, wet area of thick shrubs along the entry drive toward the beach.

Mississippi River field trip report

On Saturday, March 18, Anne Straight lead a field trip to the Mississippi River in Carroll and Whiteside counties.  Destinations were Spring Lake, Big Slough, Thomson Causeway, Lock & Dam 13, Spring Lake Road by the airport south of Savanna, and, at the end, the public areas of Lost Mound in Carroll County.

A total of 72 species were recorded for the group.  Since it was primarily a waterfowl trip, 23 species were recorded.  There were thousands of ducks of various species, most numerous being Canvasbacks, Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaup and Gadwall.  Some Blue-winged Teal were found here and there.  Some Tundra Swans were seen in flight giving their distinctive calls.  En route from Rockford, we saw 3 Trumpeter Swans flying around, then landing in a farm pond at Lanark.  Another pair was seen at Spring Lake.

Several skeins of White-fronted Geese, with white-morph Snow Geese mixed in, flew over us at Lock & Dam 13. Later, we saw lines of several thousand of them over the Iowa side of the river, with many more Snow Geese among them.

Although too early for most passserine migrants, 1 Eastern Phoebe at L & D 13 was seen, and 2 Western Meadowlarks were briefly seen and mostly heard on Spring Lake Road behind the Savanna airport.  A nice group of Rusty Blackbirds put on a great show at Thomson Causeway as they foraged on the mud flats.  We watched them with the sun behind us, so they were really gleaming.

We stopped for a tasty lunch at the Heritage Cafe in Thomson.

Thank you, Anne, for a terrific day!



Nygren wetland on March 17

I visited Nygren around 11:00 a.m. today.  There have been Tundra Swans there in varying numbers since Sunday, so I wanted to check on their status.  I counted 40.  Most Sandhill Cranes were foraging out in the ag fields west of Nygren, so just a few remained in the marsh.

Many species of ducks and 110 American Coots, plus 3 Pied-billed Grebes, were in the marsh.

Land birds included a pair of Eastern Phoebes and a Red-headed Woodpecker.  Eastern Meadowlarks were singing, as were many Song Sparrows.