Date: 10/29/17 1:01 pm
From: Jared Gorrell <jsgorrell...> [ILbirds] <ILbirds-noreply...>
Subject: IBET Late Post- 10/28 Birding Adventures In SW IL- WHCR, STFL, SEOW etc.
Hi all!


This is a bit late and quite long, but I've had few better birding days
than Saturday, 10/28/17. Kyle Wiktor and I met up at about 8:15 AM and
birded much of the southwestern Mississippi River Valley, from Kinkaid Lake
Spillway in Jackson County north to Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve in
Monroe County. I’ve not birded Randolph or Monroe Counties much before, so
nearly every bird was a county first. Birding yesterday seems to have been
pretty good throughout most of the state, especially with raptors, and we
were no exception.


Highlights-


One lifer Whooping Crane at a known spot- not going to say more than that.
It was a joy to see such an amazingly rare and large bird- it dwarfed the
Great Blue Herons around it. One concerning thing was our observation that
a duck blind was being built in the adjacent wetland to where the Whooping
Crane was standing. However, it’s on private property and the landowner is
well within his legal rights to hunt there. Hopefully the crane moves on
before that becomes a problem.


At Kinkaid Lake Spillway, two Bald Eagles and one migrant Northern Harrier,
as well as about eighty Greater White-fronted Geese, flew overhead, in a
good start to a great day.


Our first Cooper’s Hawk of the day flew past us while driving through
Chester, IL.


Three FOS American Pipits and a Vesper Sparrow in the fields near and on
Kaskaskia Island. Kaskaskia Island could be very productive for larks,
sparrows, longspurs etc. in the winter- there’s a lot of weedy fields and
good habitat. I suspect I’ll be asking local landowners if I can bird the
fields there a couple times this winter, although the roadside birding was
good enough on its own.


In a single large slough at Kaskaskia Island were three FOS Dunlin, a
Pectoral Sandpiper, a Least Sandpiper, a Wilson’s Snipe, a Lesser
Yellowlegs, and a late Semipalmated Sandpiper, as well as a couple
Killdeer- seven shorebird species!


Also on Kaskaskia Island in a dried-up slough was one Short-eared Owl, seen
at a quarter to noon- a bit odd for this usually crepuscular (dawn/dusk)
species.


The raptor movements at the hawkwatches up north seem to have trickled down
here. About 40-50 American Kestrels, 35-odd Red-tailed Hawks (including a
couple of unusually pale ones and a couple that wouldn’t be bad for subsp.
abieticola), and about 25-30 Red-shouldered Hawks were seen throughout the
day. Unfortunately, we saw no Merlin or Peregrine Falcons, but other than
those and Black Vulture (not sure how we missed those), we saw at least two
or more of all the expected or likely species of raptors.

Other numbers for raptors include 18 Northern Harriers throughout the day,
the majority near or on Kaskaskia Island and in the brushy areas behind
Kidd Lake Marsh Nature Preserve. A few were seen high up, migrating,
including one at Kinkaid Lake Spillway in Jackson County. Many Turkey
Vultures, a dozen-odd Bald Eagles, three Sharp-shinned Hawks and two
Cooper’s Hawks represented the rest of the raptors.

Several of the migrating raptors were at Fults Hill Prairie Nature
Preserve- this spot could be a good hawkwatch, although unfortunately it’s
an hour or more from any significant towns. There may be some “unofficial”
hawkwatching here done in the future- or it may be part of a Winter Raptor
Survey route, if I do that this winter.


Also seen throughout the day were hundreds of Eastern Bluebirds- in some
spots there were dozens, with about fifty on one set of wires near Ellis
Grove, IL being our largest flock. Equally in the hundreds were Horned
Larks and Savannah Sparrows, and approaching them in numbers were Swamp
Sparrows in nearly every habitat. White-crowned and Song Sparrows were
also infrequently encountered, and a few White-throated and one Lincoln’s
were seen also. The day was not great weather for passerines, with one
exception...


Large flocks of Gadwall and some Wood Ducks were pursued by Bald Eagles at
Kidd Lake Marsh Nature Preserve. There were clearly more birds, but due to
the thick lotus cover and lack of viewing areas at Kidd Lake Marsh we
couldn’t see them. A couple of Wilson’s Snipe and many Swamp Sparrows were
present here. By the way, if anyone on IBET knows the nearby landowners,
please put me in contact with them- they have a lot of great waterfowl
habitat I’d like to bird. We only scanned the edges because there were no
trespassing signs. While doing that, 79 Double-crested Cormorants flew
over.


A single FOS Ring-necked Duck was spotted among about twenty decoys at a
private hunting area (which we birded from the road) in southern Monroe
County. It was being watched closely by a Coyote behind it. About 35-40
Greater White-fronted Geese also flew overhead here, and we saw our second
Cooper’s Hawk a few minutes later.


The last and one of the best finds of the day was a lost male
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher where the train bridge crosses Lock and Dam Road
in Randolph County near the mouth of the Kaskaskia River- Kyle missed it,
unfortunately, as it flew off when I drove past, I only comprehended what I
saw once I’d driven past it. While searching for it unsuccessfully,
hundreds of American Robins flew past. This, at 5:30 PM, capped our day,
and we then went to a Halloween Party- dressed as birdwatchers. The
costumes were remarkably easy to find... we didn’t have to change clothes
at all!


As mentioned, this area's where I'd likely do a Winter Raptor Survey route
if I can. Thanks to those who sent me information on that!



Jared Gorrell (and Kyle Wiktor)

Jackson County (with adventures in Randolph, IL, Monroe, IL and Perry
County, MO also)

 
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