April 2010

Despite the windy conditions, I took an extended lunch hour to check Rock Cut SP today. I was particularly interested in Henslow's Sparrows, as well as what migrant arrivals might be in the sheltered creek bottom below the dam.

There were at least 6 calling Henslow's Sparrows in the old hay field that is south of Hart Road across from the entrance to the Equestrian campground. I could hear at least 3 birds right from the road. The others were further in along the equestrian trail that runs to the south.

Lots of Yellow Warblers ( I counted 17) were calling from the scrubby vegetation all along Hart Road and along the main park road that goes toward the dam from the north entrance. Below the dam were Baltimore Orioles, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Warbling Vireos, a Louisiana Waterthrush (calling along the limestone outcrop along the creek) and Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers, plus a Northern Parula. With the exception of 2 male Baltimore Orioles near the dam parking lot, all of the mentioned birds were below the dam in the creek bottoms, out of the wind.

Larry Balch and I decided to drive down to Lee County today to see what might be around the Green River SWA. On the way, we decided to stop off in Lowell Park, which is on the west bank of the Rock River in Dixon. We were greeted by a Yellow-throated Warbler which was calling from the trees above the nature center at the park.

In the forest, on the way down the hill toward the river, we found a nice flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers (I estimate 15) with 1 calling Black and White Warbler and some gnatcatchers. There were a lot of White-throated Sparrows at the bottom of the hill, along with as many as 3 Northern Parula. This was the first morning when it seemed as if passerines were moving in numbers.

At Green River, we stopped at parking lot #9 on Maytown Road and were immediately deafened by Soras and a few Virginia Rails. A Marsh Wren sounded off from the dead cattails next to us at the bench by the water. Ring-necked Ducks were there, plus a shy Lesser Scaup. A Red-headed Woodpecker was in a dead snag just east of there. Our first Chimney Swift flew overhead.

A pair of adult Bald Eagles were courting in flight over the main marsh along the HQ road. White-crowned Sparrows were singing around the office with many White-throated and Field Sparrows. The main marsh had a lot of GW and BW Teal, a pair of Gadwall and a pair of Shovelers.

On Atkinson Road, we heard 2 Common Moorhens (and saw 1), plus heard a King Rail and numerous Soras and Virginia Rails. We estimated 20 Soras total at the SWA, plus 8 Virginias heard.

We checked some fluddles along Road 400N, between Roads 100E and 200E. These are west of Green River. We counted 27 Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Greater Yellowlegs, 1 Solitary Sandpiper, and 1 Pectoral Sandpiper. While we were there, some longspurs flew over, and a particularly large flock settled (unfortunately) on the other side of a hill to the south. The big excited occurred when 2 calling Smith's Longspurs flew over us after a few Laplands had passed by.

On the way back to Rockford along IL 2, we found a Common Loon in the Rock River north of Byron. There was also a Pied-billed Grebe in the river. Finally, we found the Cattle Egret, which is the subject of a separate entry.

Around 3:15 p.m. today, on the way back from a birding trip to Green River Conservation Area (Lee Co.-more in the next post), Larry Balch and I found a single Cattle Egret in a pasture with some Holsteins which is located on the east side of Meridian Road, north of IL 2 and south of the Montague Road intersection. The pasture is on the south side of the large wooded valley on Meridian, so about 1 mile or so south of the Montague intersection.

The rain stopped just as we started to walk at Franklin Creek. The birds were sparse, with only five species of warblers seen, but our group of eleven participants had a fine time. The wildflowers at Franklin Creek are impressive right now with masses of trilliums, anemones, wild geraniums and shooting stars.

The NCIOS field trip to Franklin Creek will be held rain or shine this Saturday, April 24th. We will meet at Severson Dells, in the main parking lot at 8:00 a.m. We may be out until 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon and there is no good place for lunch so you may want to bring snacks and drinks with you. We plan on walking some trails and we may stop off at Nachusa Grasslands, Lowden Miller or Castle Rock along the way.

This morning there was a Lark Sparrow in our driveway when I walked out to get the paper. Steve Gent reported another on IBET from Colored Sands FP. I see the start of a comment pending posting on this list that there was another seen at Sugar River Alder FP, which is just N of Colored Sands FP. I found yet another west of Rochelle in a corn field east of the intermodal ponds on IL 38. The sandy soils in the Colored Sands/Sugar River Alder area make those the best places to find this species in Winnebago County (I believe that they nest at the sand prairie on the north side of Sugar River Alder) , and they can also be found along Yale Bridge Road because of the sandy soils there. The Christmas tree farms usually have them each summer. The conifers like the same sandy soils.

If your feeders aren't already out, it's time! We had our first Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the feeder about 5:45 p.m. this evening.

After the Crane Count this morning, Barbara and I headed to Pecatonica to have breakfast with Jack and Joyce Armstrong. We were pleasantly surprised to find Steve and Jean Gent in the restaurant, too. All of us had been counting cranes, so we had a chance to discuss our sightings and, particularly, some shorebirds on Telegraph Road.

About 1 mile east of Pecatonica is an old shallow oxbow that floods in spring and during high water. This morning, we counted nearly 24 Pectoral Sandpipers (there could have been more out of sight behind the rise) and a small (10?) group of Lesser Yellowlegs. Jack said that there were 2 small shorebirds which he said looked like Least Sandpipers when he and Joyce stopped there.

Our count highlights were 12 Sandhill Cranes, 18 flyover DC Cormorants, 1 American Bittern (seen flying and landing near us in the pre-dawn light), 1 Virgina Rail (calling), 6 Soras (all calling), 2 Barred Owls and 1 Pileated Woodpecker. We were counting at a restored wetland on private property.

Note the singular. On my crane count there wasn't much of interest other than a couple of winnowing snipe and an unusual number of Brown Thrashers. Afterwards, I stopped by Sugar River FP, where I walked for 45 minutes. I was wondering if Lark Sparrows were there yet. Nope. Neither were there any Yellow-rumped Warblers, which I could hardly believe. In fact, the only two birds of interest were a gnatcatcher and a Yellow-throated Warbler singing near outhouses 5 & 6.

About a mile after leaving the FP, I had a Broad-winged Hawk gliding north. Continuing on to Moody Road, I could not find any shorebirds or Brewer's Blackbirds. However, I saw two flocks of Lapland Longspurs flying around in the strong north wind-about 50 in one flock, 200 in the other.

A stop at Nygren about 9:15 yielded 2 cranes, over 75 pelicans, and a lone Pied-billed Grebe. I guess I arrived home last night after 18 days away, to find a migration in which the waterfowl have left and not much else has yet arrived.

I drove up to the Moody Road area late this afternoon to see if there were any shorebirds in the fluddles. I found a few. In one fluddle on Moody, I saw 1 Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Solitary Sandpiper, 9 Pectoral Sandpipers, and 1 Wilson's Snipe. In an adjoining puddle were 5 Brewer's Blackbirds.

I counted 28 White Pelicans and 8 Sandhill Cranes on the east side of Meridian Road between IL 75 and the bridge over the Pecatonica River. They were back in a flooded oxbow, but you could see the tops of the heads of many of the pelicans.

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