Post-snow NW Winnebago Co. birding

I went cruising this morning, hoping to find big flocks of longspurs, as Karen Lund did yesterday in McHenry County. I found one—Lapland Longspur, that is, not flock. I also found only one raptor, a beautiful adult Peregrine Falcon perched at the top of a dead tree where the creek crosses Knapp Road about a half-mile west of Harrison. After I watched it for a few minutes, it flew off in a south by southeast direction.

There were two Rusty Blackbirds all by themselves on Wempleton Rd, just north of Route 70. Other than that, I saw mixed flocks of grackles and redwings, small flocks (up to 40) of robins, fair numbers of Horned Larks, Tree Sparrows, juncos, and a few Killdeer. I heard one Eastern Meadowlark. There was very little water that wasn’t iced over.

Pierce Lake ice melting slowly

Even with weather in the 60’s and 70’s the last four days, there has been little increase in open water at Pierce Lake in Rock Cut SP. The east end is now open only as far west as the shelter in the Lions picnic area. That’s 2-3 times as much as Friday, but there aren’t many more waterfowl. Today around noon there were 14 Common Mergs, 2 male Red-breasted Mergs, a dozen Lesser Scaup, half a dozen Ring-necked Ducks, a pair of Buffleheads, 4 Mallards, no (!) geese, a dozen Herring Gulls, and a lone Ring-billed Gull. Missing from Friday were a Gadwall, a Common Goldeneye, a Greater Scaup, and 2 adult Bald Eagles.

The teeny patch of open water at the west end near the dam held 16 more Herring Gulls,m 2 more Ring-billed Gulls, and a few Mallards.

A Killdeer has returned to the Home Depot parking lot in Rockford.

Attu talk

A talk about the history of birding on Attu Island, Alaska will be given by Larry Balch, who used to organize tours there.  It will be Thursday night, 8 May, at the NCIOS meeting at Severson Dells. A business meeting starts at 7:00, and the talk will start 30 to 45 minutes later. Those interested are invited to attend.

Many Collared Doves in Ogle County

Gary Jahnke and I counted 93 Eurasian Collared Doves Saturday in our Kishwaukee Christmas count territory in northern Ogle County. 7 of them were scattered about the small town of Holcomb, where they have been for several years. At 8:30, we counted 24 on wires (mostly) and in trees along Route 72 near the grain elevators in Davis Junction. Those birds later scattered throughout town. Later in the morning, while we were counting 10 birds in trees around farm buildings on E. Scott road, near Moulton Road, a single flock of 40 flew over us, headed east. Somewhere around one o’clock, we had nine birds in the residential area between Route 72 and E. Royster Road, east of Timberline Drive off 72, and west of Kilbuck Road. Lone birds at scattered locations accounted for the rest of our count.

Kites return to Rockford

Others and I started looking for kites on May 2, and when I hadn’t seen any through yesterday, I concluded they wouldn’t be here this year. Their latest arrival in previous years had been May 12. But I was wrong, thankfully. John Longhenry spotted 2 males yesterday afternoon, one at Bloom School, and one in the large dead tree visible from the corner of Buckingham Drive and Pleasant View Court, about 3 blocks north of the school.

This morning, I watched a male fly briefly around the school parking lot and then sit for 20 minutes preening at the top of a tree on the corner of Grenham Pl and Barrington Pl, across from the school lot entrance. Then it flew low to the north along Grenham.

15 minutes later, a male flew into the school lot from the east, circled the trees by the memorial bench, and then rose higher and higher and higher into the sky. As I once infamously said about a Hawfinch on Attu, “the last time I saw it it was out of sight”. Incredible.

Perhaps the birds arrived earlier than yesterday–with such behavior, a kite is tough to find.

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A little history:

Kites were first noted near Bloom School in the summer of 2008, and it seemed numbers were slowly increasing each year after. On some days 5 or possibly 6 individual birds were distinguished. It appears the peak numbers were in 2010. Judging from counts of individuals and kite perching behavior, I think they might have nested in 4 different Bloom School area locations that year. Also, on August 30, 2010, a migrating flock of 9 birds (probably including a subadult from the Bloom neighborhood) was seen just before a rainstorm arrived.

At least one successful nest was found every year; 3 young were known to have fledged in 2010, and 2 fledglings were documented last year by John Longhenry. No nest with 2 young, the typical number, has yet been found. Perhaps this year.

Signs of Spring—An interesting afternoon

Donna and I have been cruising around western parts of Winnebago County every few days, looking for early migrants. 5 Killdeer 2 weeks ago were clearly that, on a day when we saw not much else beyond 300 Horned Larks, with not a single longspur or bunting.

It’s been slow since, but we gave it another go just before noon today. We were spurred on by Operation Migration’s report of 3 Whooping Cranes yesterday afternoon. We didn’t find them, but there was a total of 19 Sandhill Cranes in two groups on Oliver Road, and a few elsewhere.

Robins were widespread, and we saw scattered Red-wingeds, along with a few small flocks. At Four Lakes F.P., a flock of 18 blackbirds was half grackles and half Rusty.

It’s time for waterfowl, but there is very little open water. One exception was the farmer’s pond at 12704 Telegraph Road, where we saw a couple of Ring-necked Ducks, a Greater Scaup, and half a dozen Redheads. A dozen or so White-fronted Geese were on Oliver Road, and flocks of 60-70 were at both 11059 Trask Bridge Road and the end of Theodorff Road.

Raptors: we saw 10 Red-tailed Hawks, and at the end of Anderson Road we found an adult Bald Eagle and a light-phase Rough-legged Hawk. A second one of the latter flew over us on Oliver Road. Most surprising was our total of 16 Kestrels.

Snow is starting to disappear from the fields, so our Horned Lark count was way down from two weeks ago, and again, no buntings or longspurs. But a couple of meadowlarks were our first of the year.

It never got above 26º, and temperatures forecast for the next week are somewhat winter-like, but it’s clear that spring is on the way.

Kites return to Rockford

Dan Williams, I, and perhaps others, have been checking the Bloom School neighborhood daily without seeing any kites through yesterday. However, today Jeff Donaldson spotted a Mississippi Kite soaring east of the school. Between 5 and 5:30 pm, Donna and I found 3 kites. Two were soaring together near Rural St. and Woodlane Ave, which is a few blocks south of the school. A third bird, missing 1 or 2 primaries on the left wing at about the position of P4 or P5, was circling a block west of the school.

They’ve come back just in time for the Spring Count!

More Yellow-throated Warblers

This species has been present the last few years in two places in Sinnissippi Park. One is the stand of white pines on the north side of the park road where Arlington Avenue ends. The second place is where I heard one singing this afternoon, which is farther up the road going east another 0.3 mile. More precisely, it was singing in the white pines across the road from the parking lot for the Golf Course Shelter 1 &2 and the Music Shell, about 75 yds northeast of Gilbey’s Place. In past years, I’ve also heard them in the pines another 120 yards up the road.

Rock Cut gulls

At 8:45 this morning, I walked down to the shoreline from the parking lot at West Bay, and scanned 180 degrees, west to east. Due west, I saw an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. Scanning around to the east, there were many small groups of gulls standing on the ice, totaling approximately 70 Herring Gulls and 15-20 Ring-billed Gulls. I drove to the boat launch area 15 minutes later, but the LBBG was no longer there. There were no gulls or geese at the east end of Pierce Lake.