December 2008

Here are the results from the very first (of hopefully many) Rock Cut Christmas Bird Counts!

We had 19 counters and like the other two area counts, crummy weather.

The List:

  • Cackling Goose - 16
  • Canada Goose - 7,457
  • American Black Duck - 15
  • Mallard - 806
  • duck sp. - 1
  • Common Merganser - 2
  • Wild Turkey - 49
  • Great Blue Heron - 2
  • Bald Eagle - 1 (adult)
  • Northern Harrier - 1
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk - cw [could not relocate the one I found the day before]
  • Cooper's Hawk - 5
  • Red-tailed Hawk - 31
  • American Kestrel - 6
  • Ring-billed Gull - 39
  • Herring Gull - 16
  • Rock Pigeon - 65
  • Mourning Dove - 106
  • Belted Kingfisher - 1
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker - 34
  • Downy Woodpecker - 54
  • Hairy Woodpecker - 12
  • Northern Flicker - 7
  • Blue Jay - 44
  • American Crow - 277
  • Horned Lark - 2
  • Black-capped Chickadee - 154
  • Tufted Titmouse - 10
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch - 2
  • White-breasted Nuthatch - 32
  • Brown Creeper - 21
  • Eastern Bluebird - 1
  • Hermit Thrush - 1
  • American Robin - 20
  • European Starling - 1,219
  • Cedar Waxwing - 331
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler - 3
  • American Tree Sparrow - 123
  • Song Sparrow - 4
  • Swamp Sparrow - 1
  • White-throated Sparrow - 4
  • Dark-eyed Junco - 336
  • Lapland Longspur - cw
  • Northern Cardinal - 135
  • House Finch - 47
  • Pine Siskin - 26
  • American Goldfinch - 140
  • House Sparrow - 289

TOTAL: 11,952 birds

The final reports have been received. The Rockford Count recorded 73 species, plus 2 count week, with a total of 18858 individual birds on count day. I am grateful to everyone who volunteered their time and gasoline to go out into the snow and count birds. I am especially impressed by the team that was out on cross-country skis for 18.5 miles and 15.5 hours!

The deep snow kept a lot of birds around feeders or in sheltered spots, so getting to those places was important. This year, we had 10 feeder watchers, a new count high, which really helped. The feeders produced a lot of birds.

Some highlights: 21 Bald Eagles (8 adults, 13 immatures of various ages), a new count high. 1 Merlin, always rare here in winter, 2 Chipping Sparrows at the Brown feeder (they have been there for around 10 days including count day and were photographed and documented by Joyce), 1 Savannah Sparrow, 2 Carolina Wrens, 7 Winter Wrens (a new count high total), 257 Downy Woodpeckers (new count high), 110 Brown Creepers (new count high), and 806 House Finches (a new count high and probably a new state high, since Rockford held the previous record with 720).

Other species of note: 1 N. Bobwhite, 16 Cooper's Hawks (quite a few buzzing feeders), 20 Great Horned Owls, 2 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 1 Hermit Thrush, 1 Common Grackle (feeder), 1 Rusty Blackbird, 2 White-crowned Sparrows (1 at feeder), 101 Snow Buntings, 5 Lapland Longspurs, 7 Fox Sparrows (3 at one feeder), 1 Hermit Thrush, 24 E. Bluebirds, 4 Northern Shrikes, 5 Pileated Woodpeckers, 1 Red-headed Woodpecker, 3 Cackling Geese (goose numbers were way down this year, almost certainly because the deep snow forced them to move to places where the snow wasn't so deep and the water wasn't frozen), 9 Common Goldeneye and 21 Common Mergansers (both species in the rivers), 1 Killdeer, 4 Wilson's Snipe, and 89 American Robins (not nearly a count high).

Some folks expressed surprise at seeing a Robin in this snow and cold, but they will stick around as long as they have food and water. The food is essentially fruits on old crabapple, buckthorn and hackberry trees.

Count week birds were 3 Trumpeter Swans seen by Martin Kehoe and an Eastern Towhee, also at the feeder of Bill and Joyce Brown, which was seen on Friday the 19th but not on Saturday the 20th.

Happy New Year!

The day isn't over yet, but I can safely say that this has been some of the worst weather for finding birds that I've ever seen on a CBC. Many, many thanks to all of you who went out and counted. If the rain slacks off Dan and I will probably get out again late in the day, but the steady rain and dense fog make for tough bird-finding. Of note was a Peregrine Falcon perched in a large oak between the park drive and the bank of the Rock River in Blackhawk Park. It may sit there until the weather improves if anyone wants to go look.


Drove Kelley Road from Meridian Rd. to Pecatonica Road, then back Cunningham to the town of Winnebago. Found 1 small mixed flock of Horned Larks with Lapland Longspurs (8) and Snow Buntings (6). Shoulders of the roads are getting plowed so that the grassy and gravel edges are starting to show, but today's new snow and now a lot of drifting are covering them up again.

I don't need to repeat the weather report for you. Miserable, followed by a lot of snow. Nevertheless, almost 40 people went out and counted birds, and we are very grateful to them for their effort.

I have not yet received 2 field team reports and 6-8 feeder reports, but, so far, the CBC has recorded 71 species, quite a remarkable total. Highlights are Merlin, Chipping and Savannah Sparrows, 4 species of blackbirds, Hermit Thrush, E. Bluebirds, Killdeer, and a plethora of Bald Eagles and Winter Wrens (there is the big and small of it!).

I expect that the Count will exceed its high count with several species. Despite the deep snow and cold weather, the counters found a remarkable number of passerines, no doubt trapped by the weather. They were almost all at feeders or in sheltered areas with open water. One team managed to survey a great deal of its territory on cross-country skis!!

Thank you to everyone who participated. I will post the final totals when I receive all of the reports. You will also be able to find them in the Sinnissippi Audubon newsletter and, maybe, in the Rockford Register Star.

Sam and Patty Oliveri report that they have 5 Fox Sparrows, 1 White-crowned Sparrow, 2 Red-winged Blackbirds and 1 Savannah Sparrow (good photo) at their feeder today. 1 Chipping Sparrow and the Eastern Towhee are still coming to the Brown feeder. Feeders are the places to search for birds tomorrow! If Martin Kehoe records the birds he saw at feeders the other day, like the Grackle, this could start to add up to something.

Barbara and I still have a sapsucker, several robins,2 White-throated Sparrows, a few siskins and 3 Golden-crowned Kinglets hanging around our place.

If, for some reason, someone out there is reading this post who has feeders within the count circle (basically the northwest quadrant of Winnebago Co. but not including the towns of Pecatonica, Winnebago or Durand, please contact me to let me know where you live and what birds were at your feeder (species and numbers of each). If you read somewhere that there is a $5 fee for participants, that does NOT apply to feeder watchers. Thanks.

I started the count period with 16 species at my feeder. Purple Finches and a Red Breasted Nuthatch were nice additions to my checklist for the Rockford CBC. A drive to my birding area along the Pecatonica River allowed the addition of Canada Goose, Starling and Mallard Duck. A few minutes into my walk and I was in one of the areas that Bluebirds and Yellow-rumped Warblers had been frequenting. The area was devoid of birds but I could hear notes from a trumpet. With high anxiety I was whipping my head around trying to find what I knew had to be Trumpeter Swans. I hear them from the large beaver ponds near my cabin in northern Minnesota each spring. In a few seconds 3 Trumpeter Swans came over the trees heading ENE and toward Rockton, IL. Their calls continued as they disappeared from view.

With my heart rate back to normal the search for other count period birds continued. A Kingfisher was calling and flying from spring to spring. The woods were alive with birds and when I came to a place with a lot of Flickers I also found the Yellow-rumped Warblers. I was counting them in a mixed group of birds when I spotted a White-throated Sparrow. By the time I found there to be 6 warblers a few Bluebirds had arrived in the area. A Pileated called from accross the river and some Turkeys were running around over there too. There were some open water sections on the river and one of these held 5 Common Mergansers and some more Canada Geese. Robins were calling and Song and Swamp Sparrows darted around the grass clumps in the fields.
A Great blue Heron sat near some open water in a slough.

I visited a few feeders after my walk and found a Gracle at one and a White-crowned Sparrow at another. A drive around a few roads turned up several flocks of Snow Buntings, 1 Black Duck and a pheasant. I headed home well pleased with a 9 to 4 birding day. 41 species is more than our CBC group tallies on most count days.

A drainage ditch crosses Love Ridge Road about 3/4 mile north of Marengo Road. Just south of there I found a Northern Shrike at about 8:30 this morning.

Joyce Brown reports that there are 2 Chipping Sparrows and an Eastern Towhee at her feeders. These are quite unusual for December, particularly the Chipping Sparrows. Any Chipping Sparrow in IL after December 1 should be documented and the documentation sent to the IL records committee. I spoke with Lee Johnson this evening. He had been to Joyce's feeder and seen both and said that Joyce had a good photo of one of the Chipping Sparrows.

Hope that these stay around for the Christmas Bird Count on December 20.

I spent the last four days trying to keep warm while walking around the Pecatonica River bottoms. With the wintry conditions I was surprised about the number of Bluebirds flittering about. Robins were less abundant but still out there. Yellow-rumped Warblers were not seen until it calmed down on Sunday afternoon. Three were feeding on large clusters of Poison Ivy berries. Flickers and Bluebirds were abundant in that area also. Three Bald Eagles overhead at the same time were impressive. Pileated Woodpeckers were calling but keeping a low profile most of the time. Hardy Great Blue Herons and Belted Kingfishers were fishing where the springs kept the water open.

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