I stopped by the Arb to check up on status of potential rare Illinois breeding species and had a nice experience.
Adult seen being followed by 2 loud fledglings, begging for food. I love this species, so have kept notes on their breeding cycle for a couple decades now. Currently, I have this as the 18th confirmed breeding record for this species in Illinois, although 9 other records of pairs were very likely breeding attempts, thus most likely 27 breeding records.
Of the 18, 7 were actual nests found and 11 were of adult(s) with fledgling(s). Including the summering pair reports as likely breeders, there have been 21 breeding attempts in the last 33 years for Illinois. However, they've now been annually recorded 1-2 times every year since 2011. Perhaps they've been slowly expanding their range. More likely is that birders are getting better skilled along with spending the time reporting their findings. It seems like Lyons Woods F.P. (Lake Co.), Morton Arboretum (DuPage Co.) and Big River S.P. (Henderson Co.) are the best breeding sites for this species.
2 adults seen, but wasn't sure if I actually had a young bird (very active species in the dark spruce forest with some bright light streaking down doesn't help with the ID process). As well, the adults stop feeding the young once they leave the nest (unlike nearly all other passerines), so it makes it harder to confirm breeding since the fledglings don't follow the adults around.
Regardless, its likely they nested here. There's only been 6 breeding records of this species in Illinois (Lyons Woods once, the other 5 here at the Arb). Thus, just the presence of a pair of adults that no doubt at least attempted to breed is excellent news.
Not as rare statewide as a breeder as the above two, but the most surprising bird at the Arb (appears to be only the 2nd ever summer record for it). It was at Spruce Hill, feeding on the Spruce trunks. Photos showed it was an adult, but it makes me wonder if this species also nested herein. Great bird at this site nonetheless.