Date: 2/21/17 1:15 pm From: <emcarlson8...> [ILbirds] <ILbirds-noreply...> Subject: IBET A few Central Illinois birds from this weekend and this year
Hello fellow birders, it's been awhile since I've posted any updates so I'm just going to run through this weekend and then mention some of the better things I've found so far this year.
Saturday (2/18) afternoon began at Jubilee in Peoria County. I didn't have high expectations, just going to see what I found. I've covered most of the park by this point looking for Long-eared Owls without any success. There's not really any other unusual species that could be wintering there, so my only target besides the owl was a Red-shouldered Hawk nest. I found a large stick nest near where I first found the juvenile Red-shouldered Hawks last summer and heard a distant Red-shouldered Hawk https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3742/33039380465_7816b0d9a1_o.jpg calling while I was near the nest. There's no evidence yet that they are going to reuse the nest but it's something I can keep an eye on this spring.
After Jubilee I went out to the Foster Road pasture, near Elmwood. Even though it was still mid-afternoon I saw a couple Short-eared Owls https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3701/32883506332_c3ebb94660_o.jpg. One was sitting on the top of a tree and was looking up at the sky as much as it was looking at the ground. I'm wondering if that is normal for SE Owls or if there could have been some particular predator around there recently that he was nervous about. The dark morph Rough-legged Hawk that has been regular here was flying around. The waterfowl out here was much better than I'd ever seen before with a few hundred Snow and Greater White-fronted Geese, and several species of duck. Trumpeter Swans wintered in this area and at least one Tundra Swan had been seen recently, but I didn't see any swans on Saturday.
Sunday (2/19) afternoon I went down to Emiquon in Fulton County, hoping for Ross's Goose and Rough-legged Hawk and got neither. I got a couple goodies though...on the way down I got a Facebook notification from Joe Phipps who had a Red-necked Grebe https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/485/32657317150_f2e11ca54a_o.jpg on Thompson Lake. Thanks to his quick response I was able to get on the grebe as soon as I got out there. This bird was life #299. I don't have any obvious guesses for which will be #300, probably a shorebird. Let's say Red-necked Phalarope.
While driving on Rt. 78 I noticed a small streaky brown raptor nestled in the trees. It was tucked away too far to get a good look and the shoulder isn't nearly wide enough to pull over and look. But in the process of driving back and forth I decided it was definitely not a falcon, probably not an accipiter (besides appearing too small to be a Goshawk, too big to be a Sharpie, and too streaky to be a Cooper's), and too brown to be a Harlan's. The answer is probably obvious to a lot of you, but it still wasn't coming to me. So finally I stopped at one of the pull-overs along Thompson Lake where I thought I could find the bird if I scanned enough...and just then it swooped down at something and then flew straight past me. I could see it was definitely a buteo and definitely not a Red-tailed or Rough-legged and then...oh yeah, the third winter buteo totally looks like a small streaky brown hawk when it's a juvenile. At least I was able to get a good look at the Red-shouldered Hawk when it eventually landed on a sign.
I wanted to do some sort of year-long list this year to give me motivation to go out and bird. I didn't want to do a Peoria county list again, but I didn't want to NOT cover Peoria either. So what I'm doing this year is an individual site big year thing at five different sites. I chose Jubilee College State Park in Peoria County, Cooper Park in Tazewell, Emiquon NWR in Fulton, Evergreen Lake in McLean/Woodford, and Dixon Waterfowl Refuge in Putnam. Those sites are all within an hour from my house and contain most of the major habitat types in the area. I'm not setting any hard number targets for any area. I'd like to get at least 125 at each site, but at some I should beat that number easily.
I don't have anything really rare yet besides the Red-necked Grebe (why I waited until now to do a report this year), but some of the highlights so far from each site:
Jubilee. I already mentioned the two best here, Snow Goose and Red-shouldered Hawk. I've also had a few Golden-crowned Kinglets. They winter here most years but in small numbers around a big park.
Emiquon. Emiquon has been my best so far, as it will probably be all year. In addition to the Red-necked Grebe and Red-shouldered Hawk, I also have Great Horned Owl and Brown Creeper along Clark Rd. and the Snow Buntings that wintered in the visitor center area. White-crowned Sparrows wintered in the North Globe area, and I heard a couple singing on Sunday.
Cooper. I'm counting gulls at Eastport Marina for my Cooper Park list as long as they could be seen from the Cooper Park parking lot. I've gotten California, Thayer's and Lesser Black-backed, though I've missed the Glaucous and Iceland that others have seen here.
Dixon. I've only been up here once (planning on a second trip this weekend if the weather isn't too scary), but on January 2 I had a couple Wilson's Snipe and a lot of Swamp Sparrows for the date. My most significant "year bird" was a Red-shouldered Hawk.
Evergreen. I keep missing swans that others are seeing at Evergreen Lake, but I at least have all the geese except Ross's. I've done well with raptors here, with a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk, a Merlin https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/428/32657317000_b7fbca9f8e_o.jpg (that could possibly be a Prairie subspecies) and a Northern Red-tailed Hawk.