Red Crossbill flight calls-3 different types!

In an earlier post on November 5, I reported 11 Red and 1 White-winged Crossbill from Greenwood Cemetery. While Barbara and I were there, we were able to approach the birds fairly closely as they fed in the hemlocks, so I recorded their flight calls on my iPhone. I sent the recording to Matt Young at Cornell Lab. He is doing research on Red Crossbill flight calls and vocalizations. He analyzed my recording and sent back a sonogram which demonstrates (this is Matt’s opinion, I haven’t learned how to read them yet) that my recording contained flight calls of #3 type Red Crossbills. Aaron Boone also recorded #3s in Beloit, WI recently, and this type seems to be the most prevalent in northern IL reported to eBird so far.

In addition, Matt worked on the recording further and, on November 19, he emailed to tell me that the recording also had 2 other types of Red Crossbills, 1 of #4 and 1 of #10. He sent sonograms to confirm those calls.

A very interesting article, complete with range descriptions, is available through eBird. Go to the home page for eBird and scroll down to the topic of crossbill flight calls and click on it. It will take you to the full article. You can download the article and all of the calls for free, and you can register for a license number (free) which you can use to download the Raven Lite program to install on your own computer (also free).

So, it would be very interesting, and useful, for those of you who carry smartphones or other devices capable of recording to whip them out and record crossbills when you encounter them. And, if you don’t want to deal with the software, you can email the recording off of your smartphone directly to Matt Young at Cornell and he will run it through the software and tell you what you recorded!

South Bend Road closed by Rockford airport

South Bend Road, which runs between Belt Line Road and Baxter Road south of the Rockford airport, is permanently closed. This is the road where the Western Kingbird was found this past May/June and where a lot of wildcat dumping of old tires, furniture and garbage has been taking place for years. There are now barriers across the road with large cement barriers on the shoulders. Signs say “Authorized Vehicles Only.” I left a message with the County Highway Department to find out of the right-of-way dedication has been abandoned and conveyed to the airport. David Townsend returned my call and advised that the City of Rockford abandoned the road and transferred it to the airport authority.

shorebird puddle to watch

There is a flooded area at the intersection of Baxter and South Bend Roads that has started to attract shorebirds. Today at noon, there were L. Yellowlegs, Pectoral, Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers along with the expected Killdeer. All birds present (~20) were adults.

This puddle has been there since spring. Despite the recent rains, it seems to have enough exposed mud to attract migrating shorebirds. Since most other flooded places in the county developed only with the recent deluge, they are heavily bordered with vegetation. Not the case here. I looked in that puddle most of the spring but failed to find many shorebirds, so I was pleased to see some migrants there today. Given its proximity to the confluence of the Rock and Kishwaukee Rivers, I hope that it will attract migrants looking for a place to rest and feed among the corn and soybeans.

I know, this isn’t much, either in species or numbers, but it is the best locale I have found so far during this migration season in Winnebago Co. More places may “surface” as the flood water recedes along the Pec and Sugar Rivers. Until then, check this place out now and then. It might even attract post-breeding herons/egrets. Once it a while, we found Snowy Egrets and Little Blue Herons at the quarry pond, not far away, but the recent quarry activity seems to have extracted a lot of sand and gravel from what used to be the shallow gravel flats at the SE corner of the quarry.

Water, water everywhere

I took a drive up to Sugar River FP this evening to see if the loop road was still open during the flooding. It wasn’t. Sugar River FP is closed until further notice due to flooding.
A little further downstream, Winters’ wetland restoration is really flooded! I bet Dave is glad that he doesn’t have crops in that field anymore. The road between Shirland and the bridge at the junction of the Pec and Sugar Rivers is under water and closed from Shirland and IL 75 ends.
Along Meridian Road between IL 75 and the bridge over the Pec River, the fields on both sides appear to be completely flooded (can’t see the slightly higher ground to the east because of the corn). The water is up to the top of the fence posts on the east side of the road.
Didn’t try to go to Pecatonica. The water in the river is so much higher along Meridian Road that I sincerely doubt that Blair Road is open along much of its length, as is all of Pec Wetlands FP. This flooding demonstrates the value of having this property in wetland restoration instead of corn and soybeans–no crop losses and less topsoil washed away downstream.

Lark Sparrows are back

This morning there was a Lark Sparrow in our driveway when I walked out to get the paper.  Steve Gent reported another on IBET from Colored Sands FP.  I see the start of a comment pending posting on this list that there was another seen at Sugar River Alder FP, which is just N of Colored Sands FP.  I found yet another west of Rochelle in a corn field east of the intermodal ponds on IL 38.  The sandy soils in the Colored Sands/Sugar River Alder area make those the best places to find this species in Winnebago County (I believe that they nest at the sand prairie on the north side of Sugar River Alder) , and they can also be found along Yale Bridge Road because of the sandy soils there.  The Christmas tree farms usually have them each summer.  The conifers like the same sandy soils.

Nesting bird caution

We suspect that some folks are wondering if the Mississippi Kites will return to Rockford this year, and we expect that some people will go looking to try to find them. If you do see a kite, please do NOT post it on this page, or on IBET, or other bird internet sites!! It is early in the season, and, if kites are about, they are likely prospecting for nesting sites. If you publicize that you have seen a kite, it may attract a lot of people to that place and scare the kites away from what might be a suitable nest location. So, please, keep any sightings to yourselves, at least for now. Thank you.

Another shorebird spot

This afternoon, I was driving east on Belt Line Road south of the Chicago Rockford airport. On the south side of Belt Line Road, just East of the radar facility and locked gravel quarry, is a storm water retention area that still has a lot of water in it. It has a lot of sand and gravel, plus mud, and had quite a few shorebirds, including 5 Stilt Sandpipers, most of which were in various stages of molt, but which were all adults. A total of 9 species were present, including more Semipalmated Sandpipers than I have previously seen this summer (8).

So, if you are in that neighborhood, check that spot. Even though it is close to the road, a scope will be handy for the peeps.

3 immature Bald Eagles were flying over the quarry pond or perched in a dead tree on the east side of the quarry. One of them was a 3rd year bird with a white head and tail, but with black through the eye, much like an Osprey. Its belly was mostly, but not quite, molted into brown feathers.

A place to check for winter finches

Barbara and I drove through Greenwood Cemetary this morning to check the conifers for cone abundance this winter. The trees are fairly heavily loaded. This will be a good place to look for winter finches this year, although we did not see or hear any this morning. Greenwood Cemetary is located at the intersection of N. Main and Auburn Streets in Rockford. Please remember that this is private property and act accordingly.