Central Illinois Lakes - Saturday, November 8, 2014

One of the many exciting times for fall birding is around the end of October through much of November.  This is a time when the possibilities for rarities are high among the migrant waterfowl, loons, grebes, and gulls, to name a few groups.  In flight years, winter finches are also on the move during this time.  IOS is holding a field trip on Saturday, November 8 in central Illinois where there are several large reservoirs that often attract these rare migrants.  All three scoter species, Pacific and Red-throated Loons, Red-necked and Western Grebes, Black-legged Kittiwake, Little Gull, and jaegers are among the long list of unusual species that could be encountered on this trip.

The goal for this trip is to gather together in small groups to cover these lakes in hopes that we come across something exciting.  To cover as much ground as possible and to ensure small, mobile group sizes, we are offering four different options:

  • Clinton Lake  (Leader – Matt Fraker)
  • Lake Decatur  (Leader – Travis Mahan)
  • Lake Shelbyville/Lake Charleston  (Leader – Tyler Funk)
  • Lake Springfield/Sangchris Lake  (Leader – Craig Taylor)

Each lake group will be limited to 10 participants.  The groups will maintain contact throughout the day, which will enable participants to travel to one of the nearby locations for a desired rarity, if encountered.  This trip will be a day-long event involving a significant amount of time scoping the lakes from various points.  Many of the waterbirds will likely be viewed at a fair distance, so bring your spotting scopes.  Land-birding will also be a component of the trips.  Participants should be prepared for variable and often poor weather conditions.  Extra layers of clothing, water and snacks would be good additions to your optics.

Registration Details:

Please contact Travis Mahan to register for the trip or for general questions.  Because each lake group has a participation limit, please indicate your preferences in numerical order (“1” being most desired).  Meeting locations and times will be provided upon registration.

E-mail:  calidris_1004@yahoo.com

Phone:  217.454.3408

Winter finch forecast: What will we see this year in Illinois?

Red Crossbill female. Photo by Ron Bradley.

Red Crossbill female. Photo by Ron Bradley.


This winter’s theme is a “mixed bag” of finch movements. For example, some species such as Purple Finch will go south while White-winged Crossbills will likely stay in the boreal forest in widely separated areas where spruces are laden with cones. Sure would have been nice to have another great White-winged Crossbill irruption this winter.

To read Ron Pittaway’s Winter Finch forecast, click here. Let us know what you see this winter season by posting on our Facebook page.  And send photos to sdbailey@illinois.edu. They may get printed in a future issue of Meadowlark.

How to have a GR-EIGHT Owling Day

Snowy Owl in Illinois

Snowy Owl at Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area in Grundy County. 5 January 2012. Photo by Jim Tezak.


By Jeff Smith

The winter of 2011/2012 saw a record, major irruption of Snowy Owls into Illinois. Double-digit numbers were observed along Chicago’s lakefront and well inland, even extending to the far reaches of southern Illinois. These owls garnered much attention from the media, birders, and anyone with a camera. Not to be overlooked though, were the good numbers of Northern Saw-whet Owls reported on some of the northern Illinois Christmas Bird Counts. Short-eared Owls were also plentiful in the larger grassland preserves. Of the winter visitors, only Long-eared Owls were difficult to find on a regular basis. However, when I located a Barn Owl in northern Illinois on its winter roost, I began to think of attempting an eight owl big day.

Eight owl species either breed or are mostly regular, winter residents within Illinois. The Illinois record for number of owl species found in a single day had been seven since 1994 when Alan Welby located that many in northern Illinois. This number was duplicated in central Illinois by Bob Chapel in 1995 and in southern Illinois by Dan Kassebaum in 2004. Barn Owl was missed in the central and northern regions, and Snowy Owl was missed in the southern region. I’m sure the thought of an eight owl day has crossed the minds of others several times in the past. I first heard of the possibility of having an Eight Owl Big Day when a Burrowing Owl was found at Pyramid State Park during the winter of 2006/2007. This year was the first time I’d have a reasonable chance to successfully attempt to record eight owls in a single day. Considering the extensive experience that all of our team members have had in locating and calling in owls, as well as the unique experience of having many of the uncommon to rare owls present and waiting for us to find them this winter, I felt our chances were very good for locating all of the owls that we would be searching for.

To find out if the eight owl big day was achieved, read Meadowlark: A Journal of Illinois Birds, Volume 21 No. 3, which was mailed to members in early October 2014.

Click here to join IOS and receive four annual issues of Meadowlark.

IOS Spontaneous Shorebirding Field Trip Results - August 23, 2014

Despite the predicted insane heat and humidity, the weather was actually much better than expected for the Illinois Ornithological Society’s spontaneous shorebirding field trip on Saturday, August 23rd.  Beginning around the 7:00 AM meeting time, our group of 10 (eventually) made our way out across the cross-dike at Chautauqua to find AMERICAN AVOCETS and WILSON’S and RED-NECKED PHALAROPES out in the shallows of the north pool.  A lone LITTLE BLUE HERON was found in the wetland vegetation next to the parking area.  Some BAIRD’S SANDPIPERS were also in good showing from the cross-dike among many other common shorebirds.  The more than 100 BLACK TERNS roosting on the flats and feeding over the water was a neat sight in the foggy morning light.  A group of the HUDSONIAN GODWITS were visible from the cross-dike but only as a group of large distant shorebirds.  Being perhaps a mile or more away in haze, yeah, we decided to save those for later.  Continue reading IOS Spontaneous Shorebirding Field Trip Results – August 23, 2014

Rusty Blackbird Blitz

The International Rusty Blackbird Working Group (IRBWG) has been studying this species for a number of years, trying to determine why Rustys have declined 85-95% since the mid 1900’s, according to the best available estimates! Quoting from their website, “The Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus) is a widespread North American species that has shown chronic long-term and acute short-term population declines, based both on breeding season and wintering ground surveys.”


Continue reading Rusty Blackbird Blitz