March 2010

Thanks to Susan Williams comment to my earlier post, I was alerted to Am. White Pelicans at Nygren. I went out there after work today and counted 45. While there, I met Martin Kehoe, who assisted in a controlled burn on another part of the property. He told me that Greg Keilbach counted "around 100'' scattered through the ponds in the lower levels of the preserve. Most of the pelicans I saw flew up from the area of the big oxbow that is below the hill on which the barn sits. Also visible from the overlook was a pair of Sandhill Cranes, a Harrier, about 8 GWTeal, a similar number of N. Shovelers, two pairs of Wood Ducks, a raft of Coots, several TVs, and a distant immature Bald Eagle.

At least 6 Tree Swallows and a pair of Double-crested Cormorants were at the Rockford airport quarry late this afternoon. Also at the pond was a flock of Ring-necked, Greater and Lesser Scaup. You could scope the flock from the road east of the scale house. The Tree Swallows and cormorants were the first arrivals for me. 2 adult Bald Eagles were in the dead tree at the far SE corner of the quarry property. Turkey Vultures (up to 5) were circling around the river junction of the Rock and Kishwaukee Rivers.

There were 3 Yellow-rumped Warblers in the parking lot at Klehm at 4:00 p.m. There was at least one Yellow-rumped there all winter, but the other two didn't seem to be around in January or early February.

An Eastern Phoebe has been hanging around our house since Tuesday, and today it was calling pretty persistently all day. A Red-breasted Nuthatch is still in the pines behind Page Park school.

Barbara and I drove up to Nygren Wetlands, west of Rockton, in the early evening tonight to see if we could find any Short-eared Owls hunting over the marsh at dusk. We did not see any SE Owls, but we had a lot of puddle ducks at the intersection of Moody and Blodgett Roads. We believe that many of them came in to Nygren at dusk to roost for the night.

There were about 120 Wood Ducks in the flooded corn field at Moody/Blodgett. Most Wood Ducks I have ever seen in one place! Also there were many N. Shovelers, a few Am. Wigeon, a Redhead, 29 WF Geese, and all of those Wood Ducks. There were 68 Sandhill Cranes standing in a flock at the east end of Moody Road, plus another 10 at Nygren. One pair at Nygren, apart from the others, was picking up and carrying vegetation, so nest building seems to be under way there.

If anyone goes to Nygren and sees SE Owls, please post that information. Thank you.

Back in mid-February, Eric Walters discovered approximately 15(?) Eurasian Tree Sparrows across Maytown Road from the Green River SWA in Lee County, south of Dixon. They were on the ground at a feeder under a Willow tree in the yard of a house that has a large complex of pheasant pens (I believe that it is a hunt club). Several searches for them in late February and early March were unsuccessful.

Barbara and I stopped by there this afternoon on the way back from Starved Rock and found 12 ETS there, first in the brushy area on the north side of the road across from the house. They flew across the road, into the Willow, and then down to the lawn to feed.

Green River SWA also had 12 species of ducks in its marshes, most being in the main pond on the entrance road near the office. Rusty Blackbirds were mixed into virtually every flock of blackbirds.

A Common Loon was in Lake Louisa, on the north side of Byron along IL 2, around 5:15 p.m. today.

I spent 3 hours wandering around various spots in northern Winnebago County today. Only managed 53 species of birds. The most birdy place was the wetland reclamation area on the Winters farm at Shrland. Lots of waterfowl there, including 35 GW Teal, 4 BW Teal, 6 American Black Ducks, N. Pintail, Am. Wigeon, Gadwall, Ring-necked Ducks, L. Scaup and Redhead. There were 2 N. Harriers over the marsh, and a pair of Sandhill Cranes was flying and calling. A male Pileated Woodpecker was calling and flying along the Pec River just downstream from the bridge. Best to park on the east side of the road. A scope is necessary.

The Moody/Blodgett Road area had 87 Sandhill Cranes, plus 24 Wood Ducks and 15 N. Shovelers. Lots of gulls (mostly Ring-billed but a few Herrings) at the east end of Moody.

Flocks of blackbirds were close to the road in many places. Most of them had at least a few Rusty Blackbirds with them. 200+ Lapland Longspurs were on Fritz Road east of Durand.

Nygren Wetland was pretty quiet at 12:30 p.m. The ice is completely off of Pierce Lake at Rock Cut SP. Not many ducks there, though-2 Buffleheads and 3 Ruddy Ducks, plus a lot of gulls.

No swans of any kind were sighted.

Reported from Dwight Alton:

Whoopers are back at Nygrens west of Rockton. Also saw (at a distance)what looked like 2 male Greater Scaup at Nygrens. Not that good with waterfowl Ident but they had white sides and black head and neck.

Barbara and I just received a call (2:00 p.m. on Sunday) that there are 3 more Trumpeter Swans (2 adults and a cygnet) on a farm pond along Montague Road just west of Severson Dells Forest Preserve in SW Winnebago County. One swan (not sure if an adult or the cygnet) has a yellow neck band, which is from the Wisconsin project.

Larry Balch, Barbara and I spent 4 hours in northwest Winnebago County this morning. Highlights included: 7 Trumpeter Swans at the Howard Farm on IL 70 between Rockford and Durand (1 had a yellow neck band with black letters, which, I believe, is from the Wisconsin project); over 600 White-fronted Geese and 1 Ross's Goose at the same place (only 75 or so were hanging out with the swans when we first arrived, but a Bald Eagle flew over in the distant south and put hundreds of waterfowl and Sandhill Cranes into the air-many of the White-fronts came toward us and landed with the swans-the Ross's Goose and about half of the White-fronts went further east). Howard Farm also had 17 Hooded Mergansers in a farm pond behind the white barn at the red gate.

More White-fronted Geese (73) and several Cackling Geese were in a flooded field at the very east end of Moody Road, which is east of the Moody/Blodgett road intersection, west of Rockton; that area including Nygren Wetlands, also had 5 Black Ducks along Meridian Road north of IL 75, 35 Hooded Mergansers, Common Mergansers (21) and Red-breasted Merganser (1) (all 3 species of mergs at Nygren Wetlands), and a smattering of puddle ducks (Am. Wigeon, N. Pintail, N. Shoveler, Wood Ducks) here and there.

A Red-shouldered Hawk was calling and flying just west of the bridge over the Sugar River on Winslow Road.

Thursday afternoon, after the clouds broke up and the rain stopped, my wife and I were driving down Spring Creek Road in Rockford, where the speed limit is 45 mph. I pointed out a Turkey Vulture to her that was crossing over headed directly north. A few blocks later, as we approached Alpine, headed west, I spotted another vulture up ahead, just north of the road. Almost immediately, I noted and remarked to her in surprise that it was flying like a Black Vulture--flap, glide, flap, glide. The bird was circling back toward the road, and I desperately wanted to get a better look at it. So, while negotiating the slight curve through the intersection, and trying not to get run over in the moderate traffic, I managed to slide open the moonroof (no birder should be without one!) just before the bird passed directly over the opening in the roof, perhaps 100-150 feet above us. In the split second it was visible, I clearly saw the white in the primaries of both wings. Unfortunately, the fast-moving traffic and a lack of side streets prevented us from turning around to try to find the bird again.

I'm not sure when this species returns to southern Illinois, but Cornell Lab says it returns to Missouri in late February and early March. Some raptors were clearly moving that afternoon, as within 5-10 minutes we also saw a Red-tailed Hawk and a Red-shouldered Hawk moving over that urban neighborhood, and just before dusk, we and Steve Gent saw a group of 6 Northern Harriers sitting together on the ground at Nygren Wetland Preserve.

Checked Pierce Lake today to see if there was any open water at the east end of the lake where the creek enters. There is a small area of open water that does not yet extend as far west as the Lion's Club fishing pier.

There were some ducks in the open water: 21 Hooded Mergansers were the highlight, plus a pair of Ring-necked Ducks, 6 Lesser Scaup, and 2 Black Ducks plus a few Mallards.

A flock of 96 White-fronted Geese came in from the southwest, circled out to the northeast over Olson Lake, and then headed off to the northwest. Must not have been enough open water for them.

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