March 2008

Donna and I went out looking for plovers this afternoon. We started at Meridian Road and Rte 75 (M7), then did Moody Road (M), and ended up at Nygren (N). Our only plovers were Killdeer, but lots of waterfowl could be found, and we stopped wherever we could see water. At one stop, 0.5 mi north of 75 on the west side of Meridian, there were at least 4 American Pipits running around at waters' edges. Ring-necked Ducks, Wood Ducks, Shovelers, and Gadwall were particularly numerous. Other species seen were Wigeon, Mallards, both teal, Pintails (N), Canvasback (M7 and 10 on M by the Dead End sign), Redheads, Buffleheads, and Hooded Mergansers. Several Lesser Scaup, a pair of Black Ducks, and a pair of Common Mergansers were at the end of Moody Road. Half a dozen Rusty Blackbirds were with cowbirds, grackles, and redwings halfway down Moody, and Tree Swallows flew by. 100+ Sandhill Cranes were also on Moody.

PS: With the dozen or so Canada Geese around Levings Lake on S. Pierpont Avenue are a pair of Cackling Geese, keeping to themselves.


There was a large turnout for the NCIOS field trip to Rock Cut State Park ! Thanks all for coming and making it such a success. We saw around 40 species, including fly-over Sandhill Cranes, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, and a Brown Creeper.

In the little open water on the east side of Pierce Lake we found Hooded and Common Mergansers, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, American Black Duck, Mallard, Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Great Blue Heron, and Northern Shoveler.

At Olsen Lake, singing Eastern Meadowlarks and an Eastern Phoebe were wonderful signs of spring. The weather was a bit chilly, but the sun was bright and it was a good time.
Eastern Phoebe Sandhill Crane
NCIOS bird trip NCIOS Bird Trip
Birding is fun! NCIOS Bird Trip

Meridian Rd, north of Highway 75 in flooded field on the right there were 2 American Pipits & 2 American Golden Plovers around 1:00 p.m. March 29th,also, Shovelers, BW Teal,Ruddy,Scaup, CanvasBack for Ducks. On Moody Road there was a Pectoral SandPiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Green Wing Teal, & at least 200 Sand Hill Cranes. Phil Schwab, Mary Kisamore, Jean Howell observed these birds, along with 4 birders from Chicago.

Esther Shippers, & I had a Northern Shrike Monday evening {March24} hunting in front of the observation area at the Howard Farm on Rt. 70. Hopefully it wasn't hunting the many Meadowlarks there also. No Swans, Or, White Fronted Geese were seen. Many Sandhill Cranes though.

Barbara and I wandered around parts of Winnebago County for 4.5 hours from 9:30-2:00 today. A lot more of the flooded areas along the Pecatonica River have thawed, but the still water at Rock Cut lakes is still almost completely frozen.

At Rock Cut, the far eastern end of the lake at the Lion's Club fishing pier is open. Found Ring-necked Ducks(15), Lesser Scaup (15), Bufflehead (4), Common Goldeneye (11), Common Merganser (18), Hooded Merganser (24), and Black Duck (2), plus 55 Sandhill Cranes flew over. An adult Bald Eagle was perched in a tree near the dam on Pierce Lake, and there were 12 Turkey Vultures in the air.

Sandhill Cranes seemed to be everywhere. We had 183 at Howard's farm on IL 70 south of Durand. Small groups were flying in as we sat there and watched. There were also 55 White-fronted Geese, a small number of Cackling Geese and 4 Snow Geese, a dozen Hooded Mergansers, plus 11 Canvasbacks among the notable birds.

In the Pecatonica area, another 41 Sandhill Cranes, 5 Trumpeter Swans (unbanded) were in a flooded cornfield on the east side of Pecatonica Road about 1/4 mile N of Blair Road. There were also 10 Sandhills in that field. Over on Blair Road, just W of its intersection with Best Road, there was a soaring adult Red-shoulded Hawk, 10 Turkeys, Bufflehead (20), more Hooded Mergansers, and our first Eastern Phoebe near the closed parking area near the wetland restoration site on Blair Road. It flew toward the really junk-filled 5 acre lot at the corner of Blair Road and Goeke Road on the county line.

Another 150 White-fronted Geese were in the flooded fields on the south side of Maize Road just W of Goeke Road. A number of duck species were there, and Rusty Blackbirds were in flocks at several places. Sandhill Cranes were, of course, also there! We finished with 62 species.

Last year, while looking for specific bird migration studies, we came across The Purple Martin Conservation Association ( we posted about it on last January ).


This organization keeps track of when and where the Purple Martins are arriving and/or staying. They also map the information, which is very interesting. I noticed a report (today) of a Purple Martin in Springfield, Illinois! So, if you see one, please report it on their easy-to-fill-out form: .

Photo courtesy of LaNeta

Around 4 or so, we went to the Howard farm on Trask Bridge Road to see the swans Dan Williams found. Many small flocks of Sandhill Cranes were flying around then. As Dan mentioned, viewing conditions at that time of day are poor, so we went over to Moody Road. All along that road, there are flooded fields with large numbers of Canada Geese and other waterfowl--Wood Ducks, widgeon, Gadwalls, Shovelers, Pintails, and Mallards. Viewing conditions here were very good. On the dead-end section of Moody Road east of Blodgett, you can get very good close views of a flock of 10 Snow Geese and numbers of White-fronted Geese. We didn't check Canada Geese, but it was hard not to notice a few Cackling Geese in flight. More cranes were both on the ground and flying around along Moody. Excellent close views of several displaying male Hooded Mergansers were had immediately off the south side of the bridge on Rockton Road over the wooded creek between Blodgett Road and Eunice Road.

Barbara and I took a drive around and through the flooded Pecatonica River bottoms from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today. Large sections of the oxbows and flooded fields are still frozen, but the open water spots are beginning to attract a lot of waterfowl, and there are large flocks of blackbirds.

Highlight were 10 swans, at least 2 of which were Trumpeters, at the Howard farm. We are not sure about the other 8 because they were so far from the road and the heat haze was getting pretty bad so that even a telescope wasn't much help. There were at least 2 cygnets. None of the swans appeared to be neck-banded. None of the swans were Mute Swans. I intend to go back there tomorrow morning before work and before the heat haze becomes a problem to try to get a better view if they are still there. They were in a flooded field south of the red gate. If anyone goes out there today and gets a better look to identify all 10 swans for certain, please let me know what you find or post to the blog. A telescope will be necessary. Thanks.

Also at Howard's were some White-fronted Geese and what looked like Snow Geese, but, again, the white geese were also way back from the road. The 5 looked too large to be Ross', although the only birds nearby to compare them with were large form Canadas. 4 Eastern Meadowlarks were singing at Howard's, both at the red gate and the overlook parking lot. An immature Bald Eagle was flying over the Pecatonica River to the SE of the observation area.

250 Rusty Blackbirds were in the flooded forest at the intersection of Farwell Bridge Road and River Road in eastern Stephenson County. More Rusty Blackbirds (24) were along Blair Road west of its intersection with Best Road. Also in the flocks were large numbers of Common Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds. We were unable to locate any Brewer's Blackbirds in the flocks.

A nice mix of ducks (Wood Duck, Gadwall, N. Pintail, N. Shoveler, Lesser Scaup, Redhead, Canvasback (11), Ring-necked, C. Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, and Bufflehead) were along Blair Road and then Maize Road west of the intersection with Goeke Road. Also on that road was a light morph Rough-legged Hawk. Two Northern Harriers were also in the area.

Great Blue Herons are beginning to assemble at the small rookery that is visible from Blair Road immediately west of its intersection with Pecatonica Road to the SW.

The Armstrongs left a message that they saw the Northern Shrike at the entrance to the Olson Annex to Rock Cut SP around noon today. Presumably that is the same bird that has been in that vicinity all winter. Barbara and I didn't see a Northern Shrike along Blair Road this morning. It is starting to get late for Northern Shrikes. It will be interesting to see how long the Olson Annex bird hangs around.


Jennie, Dakota, and I went to Rock Cut to check for ducks. We had started our day off at Deer Run Forest Preserve and there were tons of ducks and geese flying around. We saw a group of Common Mergansers and Wood Ducks plus tons of Mallards and Canada Geese. We figured there would be many more ducks at Rock Cut.

Before heading out we heard an Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Bluebirds, and tons of Red-winged Blackbirds.

At Rock Cut the duck highlights included: Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, Redhead, Common Goldeneye, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, and Mallards. Other bird highlights included a lot of Turkey Vultures that were feasting on a deer carcass on the ice.
Turkey Vultures

We also were delighted to see a coyote that first eyed the carcass, then eyed us, and then crossed the frozen lake.

Perhaps the biggest highlight were two TREE SWALLOWS flying over the ice. Seems early for them!!

I've almost been afraid all the ducks would pass by before Pierce Lake opened. And the flood of Ross's Geese into northern Illinois and Indiana seems to have missed Winnebago County. But the usual early land birds that should have been here 3 weeks ago can finally be found with ease. Today our Carolina Wren (Shaw Woods) has been singing all day long, and pretty much on schedule, there was a Turkey Vulture over Sinnissippi Park this afternoon. So I'm convinced.

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