December 2007

When the fog finally lifted this morning sometime after 11:00 a.m., it revealed that there was ice on both of the airport quarry ponds. No open water was visible on either pond, and no birds were present, particularly no gull-like substances were viewed. Apparently both ponds froze overnight and the birds left.

Barbara and I found a winter adult Black-legged Kittiwake today at the quarry pond that is north of Belt Line Road and south of the Rockford airport runways. We watched it on the water, then it flew around for a while over that pond before flying south into the large quarry pond at the sand and gravel operation on the south side of Belt Line Rd. We were able to put out some calls to folks whose cell #s we had. Brad and Randy Grover and Larry Balch were able to get to the area and relocate the bird. As far as I know, this is the first time that this species has been seen in Winnebago County. A great bird for the Kishwaukee CBC!

I have completed data entry to National Audubon. The Rockford Count concluded with 70 species and 19,601 individual birds. In addition to the 70 species seen on count day (12/15) the following were seen in the count week period, which is three days before and three days after the count day: Common Merganser, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Eurasian Tree Sparrow. We recorded 1 new species for the count: Sandhill Crane. New highs were seen for the following species (with the number in parentheses after the bird name): Cooper's Hawk (17), Snowy Owl (1-tie), Barred Owl (16-tie), Northern Shrike (7), Carolina Wren (3-tie), Cedar Waxwing (246), Savannah Sparrow (5), Northern Cardinal (769), Brewer's Blackbird (2), and American Goldfinch (627).

As I mentioned in my preliminary report, our counters could not find Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, or Lapland Longspur. Waterfowl numbers were very low due to the lack of open water and the snow cover. The snow cover undoubtedly accounted for the high numbers of birds attracted to feeders, such as Northern Cardinal and American Goldfinch. The siskins and redpolls were only found at feeders. The snow conditions probably kept the number of Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, and Lapland Longspurs low because the road shoulders were not yet plowed and they had no place to pick up grit and seeds that made them easily visible.

This is a big year for Northern Shrikes throughout northern IL, and our 7 is probably 1 or 2 short of what birds are actually in the count circle. For instance, we found one on Sunday in our territory that wasn't near that spot on Saturday.

The Snowy Owl was a nice find, and represents only the second time that species has been seen on the Rockford count. Sandhill Crane was only a count week bird previously. A complete list of the species list and numbers can be found at the Audubon website I will be mailing out the species list to the participants with the totals of the Kishwaukee count, which will be held tomorrow, 12/29.

Thank you to all who participated. I really appreciate your efforts and assistance.


Aaron Boone saw the Snowy Owl on Christmas Day around 11:30 a.m. He said that it was along the south side of Gleasman Road.

Merry Christmas everyone!

On Old State about 2 miles west of Annie Glidden in Dekalb County I saw a large flock (50 or so) of Snow Buntings.

Barbara and I received a telephone call around 1:30 p.m. today from Sam and Patty Oliveri. They are feeder watchers on the Rockford CBC. They have a lot of bird feeders, and have had some very interesting birds and other wildlife in their yard. They discovered a bird at their feeder that they believed was a Eurasian Tree Sparrow and asked if we wanted to come up and see it. We threw on our boots and coats and drove there. Sure enough, an adult Eurasian Tree Sparrow was at their feeder. With their permission, we put out the word.

Other birders showed up pretty quickly, but by then a Cooper's Hawk had scattered the birds. After waiting a while, some folks left. The 3 who stayed were rewarded when the bird returned at 4:08 p.m.

Sam and Patty live at 6608 Halley Rd, Rockford. This is outside of the Rockford city limits. Halley Rd. runs east off of Meridian Road about 1/4 mile south of the Cemetary Rd. intersection with Meridian. Their house is about 1/4 mile east of Meridian, first driveway on the south side of the road. You should call first to see if they are home, if the bird is there, and if it is convenient for birders to come by and look for it. The bird is not visible from the driveway. It is necessary to go inside their house, so please understand if they tell you if certain times are not convenient. Their # is 815-963-3863.

As far as I know, this is the first Winnebago County record of this species. Unfortunately, they did not see it yesterday during the Rockford CBC.

Dan Williams

Here are the preliminary totals and comments about yesterday's Rockford CBC. I am still missing 1 field team report and most feeder reports.

68 species are confirmed so far. We found a number of interesting and not-often-seen species, together with some large numbers of the annual birds. For instance, we have already set new count highs for Cardinal (655), American goldfinch (586), and Cedar Waxwing (264). Tied for high counts were Barred Owl (16), Carolina Wren (3). Then there are new highs for the rare/unusual birds: Snowy Owl (1) (previously recorded on the Rockford CBC only in 1965), Northern Shrike (7) (previous high 4), Brewer's Blackbird (2), and Savannah Sparrow (5).

Including the Snowy Owl, 6 species of owls were seen. A Sandhill Crane persists (and was seen again today), a couple of Green-winged Teal and 4 Wilson's Snipe are hanging out in some spring-fed open water areas, 9 E. bluebirds, 3 Fox Sparrows, 8 Common Redpolls, 4 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 1 Common Grackle, 13 Red-winged Blackbirds, 1 Winter Wren all were nice finds.

Misses so far include Snow Bunting, Lapland Longspur, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Pine Siskin, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

The freezing rain and crusty snow over the previous 10 days, combined with snow all day long on count day, and frozen still water, certainly impacted the results. Virtually no geese or other waterfowl were at the Howard farm on IL 70, no diving ducks were in the Rock River, only 4 individual gulls were seen, 2 each of Herring and Ring-billed. The snow over the roads covered the road edges, so there weren't any spots for Horned Larks, longspurs and Snow Buntings to eat seeds and find grit. We only have 12 Horned Larks recorded so far. No Gray Partridges were seen. If anyone sees a Gray Partridge, please call the NCIOS hotline to report the day, time and location, plus please post on this blog. This species is getting rarer and rarer in IL.

This is a big year for Northern Shrikes across northern Illinois. Keep your eye on IBET or Illinois Bird Forum for a discussion of this species as the winter season progresses. They seem to be reported from most every county, and are even turning up in central Illinois, with one record in southern IL.

Thank you to everyone who came out in the snow and helped with the CBC. I had a lot of fun birding in the snow, but the crusty and sometimes icy conditions made walking and driving difficult. Don't forget the Kishwaukee CBC on December 29. Please call (815-968-4732) or email Barbara ( if you can help out.


Steve & Dottie Cooper saw the Snowy Owl 8:30-9:00 am today in the same areas as described before on the web site. The owl was active. We observed it on both sides of the road. First seen on a lone fence post on the south side of the road about 1/4 of a mile west of the bend in Gleasman Road. A crow landed by the owl and walked around and checked it out. Then a Red-Tailed Hawk flew by several times until the owl flew to the power pole with several transformers on it. We think the owl caught a small rodent in the ditch. The owl doesn't appear to be disturbed by the traffic.
It was a life bird for both of us.

Hope the Christmas Count is productive for all of you hardy souls.

This morning before work there was a Common Redpoll ( Carduelis flammea ) on one of our thistle feeders in our backyard. We live in a fairly busy section of Rockford with Alpine and Harrison Roads nearby. This marks our 96th Yard Bird!! (and a lifer for me!!)

I believe it to be a female because I couldn't see any pinkish color on the front. Hopefully we can get a picture today.

This and the Snowy Owl hopefully will lead to an amazing Christmas Bird Count season.

I received a report that the Snowy Owl was seen near dusk today, December 9, at the same spot as yesterday. If anyone sees it, or hears from others that it was seen again, please post the news or email me directly. That area is within the Rockford CBC circle and I would like to keep that area team updated with the news.

I went up to the owl spot about 3:30 p.m. today and met a birder from Wisconsin. He had been there for 45 miknutes without luck. I also saw Jan and John Lockwood (no sighting). Jan told me that Lisa Weckerly had not seen it earlier in the day. Then I met a fellow who said that he was from a near-by subdivision. He said that he had seen the bird 3 times over the previous 2 weeks, each time at 0700. I told him that many people saw the bird throughout the day yesterday, which surprised him. When I got home, I received the call that the bird had been seen after I left.

With news that the bird has been around for 2 weeks, I have increased hope that it will still be there next Saturday for the Christmas Bird Count.

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