End of April sightings in Winnebago and Boone Counties

There has been a lot of birding activity in Boone and Winnebago County in the last 2 weeks, but no one has posted.

On August 26, Steve Gent spotted a Peregrine Falcon perched on top of the Rockford News Tower.  It was soaked from the rain and stuck around for several hours until it dried off.

Bank and Cliff Swallows, and Purple Martins are back.  I found 5 species of swallows flying over Pierce Lake during a cold, damp day on April 27, and there were many Cliff Swallows and Chimney Swifts seen over the Rock River today, April 30, from the Nelson St. overlook north of the 15th Avenue bridge in Rockford.

A Black Tern was spotted from Nelson Street overlook yesterday, 4/29, by Larry Balch.  It was still there today, 4/30, seen by several, including Joel Neylon, Brad Grover and me, with the above mass of swallows and swifts.

Steve Gent and John Longhenry had some nice finds yesterday, 4/29, with 2 Long-billed Dowitchers in fluddles by Stumpy’s Cornber (the intersection of Winslow and Hauley Roads west of Shirland) and a Wilson’s Phalarope in the oxbow of the pasture on Oliver Road.  Both speciess were relocated by Steve G today.  Only 1 dowitcher was in the flooded pasture on the south side of Winslow on the Moate farm.

Brad Grover found a Wilson’s Phalarope in a fluddle on the west side of Baxter Road just N of the entrance to Kilbuck Forest Preserve.  It was not there later when I checked, but there are American Pipits at the water’s edge and today I saw a Lark Sparrow singing from the tree line along the road by the fluddle.

Last, but certainly not least, Steve Gent (he’s had a really good week) found a Red-necked Grebe on Pierce Lake at Rock Cut SP.  It was in the middle of the lake straight N from the concession stand at the south boat launch facility.  It was with/near a small flock of Ruddy Ducks when I saw it.  (I also took shelter under the eave of the concession stand deck to stay dry because it was raining pretty steadily when I got there).

There are a lot of fluddles in ag areas right now because of all of the rain.  When the winds shift to the south, shorebirds will start to move in large numbers and these puddles might hold them for a little while for rest and food.   We ought to still have water for next weeks spring bird count.


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.

Ridott (Stephenson County) & Rock Cut

Prompted by a post about White-fronted and Snow Geese on IBET, I drove over to Ridott yesterday afternoon.  I quickly found a very large flock of White-fronted Geese on the east side of Rock City Road about 1/4-1/2 mile north of Ridott.  Mixed in with them were some small white geese.  I counted 10 Snow and 8 Ross’ Geese. There was a smattering of Green-winged Teal, Mallards, and 5 Ring-necked Ducks.

Nieman Pond had the usual suspects, including about 24 Pintails and some Am. Wigeon and GW Teal.  Pairs of Sandhill Cranes are scattered about in various corn and soy fields.

The Horned Grebe continues at Rock Cut off of the Lions Club fishing pier in the SE part of the lake.  Also there were 18 buffleheads.  A pair of Pied-billed Grebes were about 100 yards out from the rock pile island near the dam.

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.

Townsend’s Solitaire at Rock Cut SP

This morning, Barbara and I found a Townsend’s Solitaire at Rock Cut.  It was perched in the top of a small tree about 100 meters west of the north entrance road on the west side of the parking lot that is on the north side of the prairie planting.   It flew east over the road to the tree line on the north side of the prairie, then back and perched on the split rail fence in the parking lot.  From there, it fed on Virginia Creeper berries.

A Townsend’s Solitaire was seen in the same place on Friday, November 25 and posted to eBird on Monday, November 28.  This is almost certainly the same bird.

It was still present at noon, when Trip Thienemann saw and photographed it.

Here is one of Barbara’s photos of the bird.


Rock Cut SP shorebirds

Each fall, IDNR lowers Olson Lake.  The draw-down leaves a wide ring of mud flats on the edges and exposes a large mud flat at the eastern end of the lake.  These are attractive to migrant shorebirds.

On Friday, October 7, Eric Secker, a birder from Elgin, found 3 Long-billed Dowitchers and a Stilt Sandpiper, plus both yellowlegs, Pectoral, Spotted, Solitary  and Least Sandpipers. Eric also reported a Cooper’s Hawk and 2 Osprey.

Phil Doncheck and I stopped there on Saturday, October 8 around 3:00 pm.  We were unable to relocate the Stilt Sandpiper, but we saw 1 Long-billed Dowitcher, 3 Greater and 5 Lesser Yellowlegs, 12 Pectoral, 1 Stilt, and 1 Solitary Sandpiper, and a Wilson’s Snipe.  We counted 56 Killdeer.  A Cooper’s Hawk flushed all of the shorebirds as we were scoping them.

There are also a number of puddle ducks over the two days, such as American Wigeon, Blue- and Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, and many Wood Ducks and Mallards.   3 Coots and 3 Pied-billed Grebes were there on Saturday, plus 2 Ruddy Ducks toward the western end of the lake.

If you are at Rock Cut, please check the Olson Lake mudflats and report any shorebirds or other interesting species.  A telescope is necessary.



Rock Cut SP on June 5

I lead a field trip for Lake-Cook Audubon this morning at Rock Cut SP.  Highlights were 2 Cerulean Warblers, 1 Kentucky Warbler, 1 Northern Parula, 1 Yellow-throated Warbler, 1 Black & White Warbler, 2 Hooded Warblers, 4 Acadian Flycatchers, 3 Common Loons (on Pierce Lake-2 in alternate, 1 in basic), 1 male Pileated Woodpecker, 2 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers driving off a cowbird from their nest area, 1 Broad-winged Hawk, 1 Cooper’s Hawk, 1 immature Bald Eagle.

An Osprey was apparently incubating eggs on its nest.

Afterward, we drove to Bloom School and spent an hour but did not see a Mississippi Kite.