Rock Cut CBC

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Rock Cut CBC this year. We managed to have a rather cold day for it and several counters were having difficulty in finding birds. However we did manage to find 57 species on count day and 5 count week species. which beat the previous high of 48.

We had 13 field counters and 5 feeder watchers, which is a few more counters then usual, which made it so teams could be assigned to areas that don’t generally get counted. We beat several records, but we also had several notable no shows, including Gulls, Belted Kingfisher, and Eurasian Collared-Dove. Waterfowl in general were low (very little open water), as were hawks. One area we did particularly well in was owls, this count usually gets 1-2 species with 2-3 individuals, we got 4 species and 11 individuals.

Here is the list, species marked with an * would be new high count species. Species marked with ** are first time sightings on this count. Count week birds are cw.

cw Greater White-fronted Goose
43 Cackling Goose*
3231 Canada Goose
1 Gadwall
4 American Black Duck
108 Mallard
1 Lesser Scaup
3 Common Goldeneye
54 Wild Turkey
1 Great Blue Heron**
1 Bald Eagle
cw Northern Harrier
2 Sharp-shinned Hawk
3 Cooper’s Hawk
14 Red-tailed Hawk
cw American Coot
1 Wilson’s Snipe**
106 Rock Pigeon
59 Mourning Dove
3 Eastern Screech Owl**
3 Great Horned Owl*
2 Barred Owl
1 Northern Saw-whet Owl**
3 Red-headed Woodpecker**
49 Red-bellied Woodpecker*
52 Downy Woodpecker*
6 Hairy Woodpecker
5 Northern Flicker
1 Pileated Woodpecker
2 American Kestrel
1 Merlin**
1 Northern Shrike**
76 Blue Jay*
65 American Crow
36 Horned Lark*
104 Black-capped Chickadee
8 Tufted Titmouse*
2 Red-breasted Nuthatch
42 White-breasted Nuthatch
3 Brown Creeper
1 Winter Wren
cw Golden-crowned Kinglet
16 Eastern Bluebird
16 American Robin
278 European Starling
63 Cedar Waxwing
cw Lapland Longspur
184 American Tree Sparrow*
3 Fox Sparrow*
379 Dark-eyed Junco*
2 White-crowned Sparrow**
23 White-throated Sparrow**
2 Song Sparrow
10 Swamp Sparrow*
105 Northern Cardinal*
10 Common Grackle
43 House Finch
8 Purple Finch**
38 Pine Siskins**
110 American Goldfinch*
431 House Sparrow*

Kishwaukee CBC – 23 Dec 2017

Thank you all for your efforts on behalf of the Kishwaukee CBC.

Mild weather on count day made for easy walking and relatively comfortable birding. But, like the Rockford count one week earlier, the abundance of open water to our north probably allowed waterbirds to stay to our north. Waterfowl were in short supply. The lack of snow cover meant that Horned Larks, Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs were really hard to find, and birds were not concentrated at feeders. Numbers were lower than normal for most species.

We had particularly low numbers of American Robins, gulls, waterfowl, open country birds and most of the sparrows. We always worry about the low numbers of Red-headed Woodpeckers. Expected in small numbers but completely absent from the count were Ring-necked Pheasant, Common Redpoll and Lapland Longspur.

We had a some notable highlights. Four calling Trumpeter Swans circled the Rockford Airport quarry, Red-breasted Nuthatches seemed to be everywhere and blew away the previous record high count of 48. Pine Siskins also set a record. Owls came through well thanks to several early birders who collectively walked more than six miles before dawn searching and listening. We found more Carolina Wrens, Winter Wrens and Golden-crowned Kinglets than normal.

The final tally was 70 species and 16767 individual birds. We had 28 counters participating in the field, plus 4 feeder watchers.

Kishwaukee Christmas Bird Count

25 Cackling Goose
2726 Canada Goose
4 Trumpeter Swan
1 Wood Duck
7 American Black Duck
1145 Mallard
8 Common Goldeneye
15 Common Merganser
59 Wild Turkey
5 Great Blue Heron
38 Bald Eagle (27 ad., 11 imm.)
3 Northern Harrier
2 Sharp-shinned Hawk
12 Cooper’s Hawk
1 Red-shouldered Hawk
56 Red-tailed Hawk
3 Rough-legged Hawk
4 Ring-billed Gull
14 Herring Gull
2 gull sp.
700 Rock Pigeon
49 Eurasian Collared-Dove
279 Mourning Dove
9 Eastern Screech- Owl
10 Great Horned Owl
6 Barred Owl
3 Northern Saw-whet Owl
6 Belted Kingfisher
2 Red-headed Woodpecker
148 Red-bellied Woodpecker
2 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
181 Downy Woodpecker
43 Hairy Woodpecker
28 Northern Flicker
4 Pileated Woodpecker
11 American Kestrel
1 Merlin
242 Blue Jay
394 American Crow
8 Horned Lark
286 Black-capped Chickadee
23 Tufted Titmouse
70 Red-breasted Nuthatch
208 White-breasted Nuthatch
50 Brown Creeper
6 Winter Wren
4 Carolina Wren
7 Golden-crowned Kinglet
85 Eastern Bluebird
37 American Robin
2 Hermit Thrush
5408 European Starling
165 Cedar Waxwing
1 Snow Bunting
19 Yellow-rumped Warbler
431 American Tree Sparrow
1 Chipping Sparrow
8 Fox Sparrow
1385 Dark-eyed Junco
2 White-crowned Sparrow
30 White-throated Sparrow
8 Song Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow
1 Eastern Towhee
289 Northern Cardinal
346 House Finch
23 Purple Finch
1 Red Crossbill
192 Pine Siskin
290 American Goldfinch
1132 House Sparrow

Total species – 70

Total individual birds – 16767

My County Big Year

This year I decided to have a go at a county Big Year. I consulted with some of the luminaries in the county, and found that no one had done this before. I did know of a few day records, but no more. So asked what a good total would be, and was told 130. I would miss a few weeks because of trips to Colombia and the UK (2). With that in mind I set to. A big thanks to all those who tipped me off to various birds throughout the year: John Longhenry , Dan and Barbara Williams, Lee and Lynda Johnson, Joel Neylon and Phil Doncheck. Although the year is not quite done, I do not see my total improving. It stands at 242. I know Dan Williams is there about.  My list abides by ABA rules.

Although this was a successful year, I did miss a few species: White-rumped and Upland Sandpipers, Yellow-headed Blackbird, marbled godwit, Surf Scoter, White-winged crossbill and cattle egret. As far as I know, no-one saw hooded warbler in the county.

Highlights were many; night herons in winter, northern shrike ( a poor year for them),  a late Pine Grosbeak in April, American Bittern and calling Least Bittern (both new county birds), red-necked (2) and Wilson’s phalaropes (5+), black-necked stilts ( 5th county record), Caspian Tern, Neotropic cormorant ( first county record found by John Longhenry and myself), Brewer’s blackbird, Virginia rail, Le Conte’s , clay-colored, and Henslow’s sparrow, American golden plover ( new county bird for me). Finally finding sedge and marsh wrens after much trying. Managing to find cerulean warbler, which is getting more difficult every year. Catching up with the winter finches; good numbers of pine siskin, purple finches, red-breasted nuthatches and one red crossbill, merlin and both swans. The year ended with a bonus snowy owl shortly before my first UK trip. Another has been found as I write this.

An eventful year, with many good birds in the county, this was a good year to do this. Although I am happy with my total, I know it can be beaten.

Rock Cut CBC

I would like to thank everyone who participated in the Rock Cut CBC this year. We did have a very cold day and in general the consensus was that most of the birds weren’t moving making it very difficult to find them. I don’t have all of the lists in yet but here are a few early highlights that turned up.

A few Screech Owls turned up in the northern areas.
A Saw-whet Owl at Kinnikinnick Creek CA.
A Merlin at O.O. Stimes outside of Capron.
A Shrike on the Kishwaukee.
Horned Larks were also found by some of the teams.

I will post more when I have the rest of the lists in.

Rockford Christmas Bird Count 2017-2018 results

All of the field and feeder reports have been received.  This is the first time that I have had all of the bird lists within 7 days of the count.  Thanks to all who were so diligent and cooperative in completing their reports and getting them back to me.  Using the internet has sped up the process by at least 50%.

Here are some highlights:

76 species, which is about the average of the last 5 years.

Unusual species:  3 Trumpeter Swans, 69 Bald Eagles (new count high), Merlin, 2 E. Phoebes (1st records on this count in 65 years, and new count high), 6 owl species, including 1 Saw-whet (but no Snowy), 18 Pileated Woodpeckers (new count high vs. 13), 5 Winter and 2 Carolina Wrens,  1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 11 Yellow-rumped Warblers (new count high vs 7), 19 White-crowned Sparrows (new count high vs 6), 1 Eastern Towhee, 277 Pine Siskins (new count high).

Red-bellied Woodpecker (225) and Red-breasted Nuthatch (75) missed a tie with their previous high by 1.

No Horned Larks, Lapland Longspurs, Snow Buntings or Northern Shrikes were recorded.  Waterfowl species and numbers were also very low.  The count of House Finches was only 204 vs our state record all-time high of 806 set in 2009.  The crest of that wave has passed.

Rockford Christmas Bird Count Results
16 Dec 2017
3 Snow Goose
17 Cackling Goose
6788 Canada Goose
1 Mute Swan
3 Trumpeter Swan
1 Wood Duck
3 American Black Duck
558 Mallard
1 Lesser Scaup
99 Common Goldeneye
2 Ruddy Duck
11 Ring-necked Pheasant
98 Wild Turkey
20 Great Blue Heron
69 Bald Eagle (34 Adult, 35 immatures) (high count)
2 Northern Harrier
2 Sharp-shinned Hawk
10 Cooper’s Hawk
99 Red-tailed Hawk
4 Rough-legged Hawk
1 Wilson’s Snipe
2 Ring-billed Gull
14 Herring Gull
539 Rock Pigeon
1 Eurasian Collared-dove
513 Mourning Dove
4 Eastern Screech- Owl
10 Great Horned Owl
12 Barred Owl
1 Long-eared Owl
2 Short-eared Owl
1 Northern Saw-whet Owl
14 Belted Kingfisher
63 Red-headed Woodpecker
225 Red-bellied Woodpecker
4 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
210 Downy Woodpecker
62 Hairy Woodpecker
48 Northern Flicker
18 Pileated Woodpecker (high count)
13 American Kestrel
1 Merlin
2 Eastern Phoebe (high count)

374 Blue Jay
394 American Crow

408 Black-capped Chickadee (high count)
24 Tufted Titmouse
75 Red-breasted Nuthatch
281 White-breasted Nuthatch
57 Brown Creeper
5 Winter Wren
2 Carolina Wren
2 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
50 Eastern Bluebird
4 Hermit Thrush
14 American Robin
1453 European Starling
123 Cedar Waxwing
11 Yellow-rumped Warbler (high count)
915 American Tree Sparrow
3 Fox Sparrow (high count)
1514 Dark-eyed Junco
19 White-crowned Sparrow (high count)
43 White-throated Sparrow (high count)
50 Song Sparrow
9 Swamp Sparrow
1 Eastern Towhee
400 Northern Cardinal
1 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Brown-headed Cowbird (high count)
204 House Finch
11 Purple Finch
277 Pine Siskin (high count)
368 American Goldfinch
851 House Sparrow
17,745 total birds

76 species, plus 1 count week.

Some Rockford CBC birds of note

At least 4 field teams and several feeder reports are still pending.  Here are some of the early highlights:

1 Short-eared Owl @ Ferguson FP, a Saw-whet Owl near Howard’s;

57 Red-headed Woodpeckers in the Pec River bottoms

Ruby-crowned Kinglet near Shirland;

Merlin and E Phoebe @ Atwood Homestead FP;

Wood Duck in Rock River; L Scaup and 3 Snow Geese at Westlake; 2 Trumpeter Swans; Ruddy Duck & 80 C. Goldeneyes in a private quarry in Roscoe area;

Kishwaukee Christmas Bird Count to be held Saturday Dec 23

A post from a few days ago gave a species count from one territory of the Rockford CBC that was held on Dec. 16. It was incorrectly labeled as from the Kishwaukee CBC.  It has been corrected.

Please note that the Kishwaukee CBC is still set for Dec 23.

Apologies for any confusion.

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