This morning I conducted one of the two Breeding Bird Surveys for which I volunteer each year. The Mill Creek BBS begins in Ogle County, about 3-4 miles S of the Montague/Pecatonica Road intersection, on Water Road, and proceeds generally west along Lightsville Road, Coffman Road, and does a little zigging and zagging into Carroll County, where it ends immediately N of Shannon. This is one of the original BBS routes in IL. I inherited it from Lee Johnson.

In past years, this route had a lot of hay fields and CRP land, so the mid-June survey normally has Bobolinks, Dickcissels, Savannah & Grasshopper Sparrows, and, occasionally, Upland Sandpipers. The impact of early mowing has always had a negative impact on the birds in hay fields. Sometimes, if I run the route a week earlier, I find a lot of Bobolinks, but I know that their nests are almost certainly destined to fail because the hay is cut in mid-June. Same with the Upland Sandpipers. What is increasingly apparent on this route is that a lot of hay and CRP is gone and replaced by corn, soybeans and wheat. I did not see or hear a Bobolink anywhere along the 24.5 miles of my survey route this morning, and I only found 1 Dickcissel. I did manage to hear an Upland Sandpiper calling from beyond a ridge line.

Contrast that result to a CRP patch that is located on the route tomorrow west of Pecatonica–I saw and heard 6 Dickcissels right along the road as I cruised by later this morning as I scouted that stretch to look for flooded areas, etc.

Happy Solstice!