Meadowlark editorial on Passenger Pigeon

Here’s the latest letter from the editor featured in the recently mailed Volume 23 No. 1 issue of Meadowlark. To read more, please join IOS. Another issue is coming soon and will feature an article on  the Gray Kingbird in Illinois.

Drawing of Passenger Pigeon left by Kevin Sierzega

Of Mourning Doves and Passenger Pigeons

By Sheryl DeVore 

You, no doubt, noticed the gorgeous front and back cover of this issue, created by Kevin Sierzega, whose work has graced Meadowlark before.

We asked Kevin to do this drawing to commemorate the demise of the Passenger Pigeon, whose numbers once seemed to be so abundant that humans thought this species would last forever.  Of course, we now know that extinction can happen to any species, no matter how numerous.

The 100th anniversary of the death of the last Passenger Pigeon occurred in 2014. The last of the species, Martha, died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo Sept. 1, 1914.

In 2014, much was done to call attention to this important milestone, including, of course, Joel Greenberg’s book, “A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction.”

We birders all know that at one time, Passenger Pigeons filled the Illinois skyline from horizon to horizon.

But now it’s 2015, the Passenger Pigeon is long gone, and we have a story in this issue about another species in the order Columbiformes, the Mourning Dove. The article, “Lead shot ingestion rate and effects in Mourning Doves,” by Stephanice C. Plautz, et. al, addresses the issue of how one of North America’s most numerous birds is being poisoned from spent lead shot. According to Plautz, more than 400 million individual Mourning Doves have been counted in the fall in the United States. “However, Mourning Dove populations may be declining,” she writes. Her story, which begins on page 2, explains why.

Can the Mourning Dove ever go the way of the Passenger Pigeon? It seems ludicrous. Certainly, we humans would never let something like what happened to the Passenger Pigeon in the 20th century occur in the 21st century. Right?

IOS June fieldtrip to Kankakee yields 90 species

iostripGeoffrey Williamson led a group of 19 IOS members on a field trip June 6 to  parts of Kankakee County and Iroquois County. In Kankakee County, they visited sod farms and agricultural fields in Momence Township, various habitats in Pembroke Township, and the river bottom woods of the Momence Wetlands. In Iroquois County they visited the Iroquois County Conservation Area and then birded the agricultural fields southwest of there.

Highlights included Northern Bobwhite, Upland Sandpiper (endangered in the state and getting rarer), Pileated Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpeckers  declining nationwide)  and Bell’s Vireo. Five of these vireos afforded close looks to everyone. Eight species of breeding warblers were found including Prothonotary, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated and Yellow-breasted Chat.

Nine species of sparrows were found including Lark, Grasshopper, Vesper and even a White-throated. Three Blue Grosbeaks included a cooperative singing male. Plus, 21 Dickcissels were counted — it seems to be a good summer for Dickcissels.

The keen observers also discovered nests of Eastern Bluebird, Yellow Warbler, American Redstart, and Summer Tanager.

Said Geoff, “It was a great group to bird with, the weather cooperated nicely, and we even got to wade in the Kankakee River, which had flooded over Stateline Road.”

Thanks, Geoff for leading this IOS field trip.

Below is the list of species, along with numbers seen for each.

Wood Duck – 1
Mallard – 5
Northern Bobwhite – 3
Wild Turkey – 2
Great Blue Heron – 7
Green Heron – 1
Turkey Vulture – 15
Cooper’s Hawk – 1
Bald Eagle – 1
Red-tailed Hawk – 4
Killdeer – 5
Upland Sandpiper – 1
Ring-billed Gull – 1
Rock Pigeon – 6
Eurasian Collared-Dove – 2
Mourning Dove – 18
Yellow-billed Cuckoo – 1
Yellow-billed/Black-billed Cuckoo – 1
Barred Owl – 1
Common Nighthawk – 1
Chimney Swift – 9
Ruby-throated Hummingbird – 4
Belted Kingfisher – 2
Red-headed Woodpecker – 5
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 2
Downy Woodpecker – 6
Northern Flicker – 2
Pileated Woodpecker – 1
American Kestrel – 2
Eastern Wood-Pewee – 12
Acadian Flycatcher – 1
Eastern Phoebe – 3
Great Crested Flycatcher – 8
Eastern Kingbird – 13
Bell’s Vireo – 5
Yellow-throated Vireo – 1
Warbling Vireo – 21
Red-eyed Vireo – 6
Blue Jay – 7
American Crow – 5
Horned Lark – 26
Northern Rough-winged Swallow – 5
Tree Swallow – 6
Barn Swallow – 13
Cliff Swallow – 147
Black-capped Chickadee – 5
Tufted Titmouse – 13
White-breasted Nuthatch – 1
House Wren – 18
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 9
Eastern Bluebird – 15
Wood Thrush – 3
American Robin – 72
Gray Catbird – 20
Brown Thrasher – 4
Northern Mockingbird – 2
European Starling – 139
Cedar Waxwing – 43
Prothonotary Warbler – 4
Common Yellowthroat – 18
American Redstart – 11
Northern Parula – 1
Yellow Warbler – 6
Chestnut-sided Warbler – 1
Yellow-throated Warbler – 1
Yellow-breasted Chat – 5
Eastern Towhee – 14
Chipping Sparrow – 17
Field Sparrow – 25
Vesper Sparrow – 7
Lark Sparrow – 1
Savannah Sparrow – 1
Grasshopper Sparrow – 10
Song Sparrow – 9
White-throated Sparrow – 1
sparrow sp. – 2 (probably two more Vespers)
Summer Tanager – 2
Northern Cardinal – 4
Rose-breasted Grosbeak – 2
Blue Grosbeak – 3
Indigo Bunting – 40
Dickcissel – 21
Red-winged Blackbird – 71
Western Meadowlark – 1
Eastern Meadowlark – 8
Common Grackle – 16
Brown-headed Cowbird – 22
Orchard Oriole – 5
Baltimore Oriole – 10
House Finch – 1
American Goldfinch – 18
House Sparrow – 53

Spring birding weeknd: Great birds, friends and scenery

The IOS Spring Birding Weekend (May 15 – 17) was a terrific weekend of birding on the Mississippi River in northwest Illinois. The event was planned and organized by Urs Geiser using the Chestnut Mountain Resort for accommodations.

For the field trips we split into groups and birded  Lost Mound Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi Palisades State Park, Spring Lake, Ayers Sand Prairie, Thompson Causeway and Lock & Dam 13. We birded the grounds of the Chestnut Mountain Resort and watched nighthawks from the back deck. We birded along roadsides and even checked for warblers in a pine stand at a trailer dump station. (It wouldn’t be a real birding trip without a dump or sewage pond would it?) Bugs? Not too many. Rain? A few showers. But mostly it was dry and birdy.

A preliminary tally puts us at 150 species of birds for the weekend including some real treats like Brewster’s Warbler, Cerulean Warblers, Kentucky Warbler, Yellow-throated Warblers, Blue Grosbeaks, Eastern Whip-poor-wills, a singing Winter Wren,  and at least three endangered species including Loggerhead Shrike, Yellow-headed Blackbird and Common Gallinule. We were serenaded on and off all day to migrant and nesting warblers as well as Baltimore and Orchard Orioles and other species. We relished every look at the magnificent American White Pelicans gliding overhead and Bald Eagles soaring or perched in trees.

We particularly want to thank Urs Geiser for all the work of planning and organizing the weekend, The stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge for escorting and leading our groups into the restricted portion of the Lost Mound Refuge, and Dan Williams, Matt Fraker, Bob Fisher and Urs Geiser for leading field trips.

Special thanks go to all the IOS members who attended and lent their sharp eyes and ears to the group effort as well as sharing their good humor and boundless curiosity and interest in all things natural history.

WE Need Your Help to Fund the 2015 Grant Requests!!

A total of 10 Grant Requests have been received.

Grant awards will be announced April 15th. Some funds have already been received but more contributions are needed so more of the grants can be funded. Any organization or individual may fund all or part of a Grant. Donations can be for any amount.

Continue reading WE Need Your Help to Fund the 2015 Grant Requests!!

IOS field notes compiler featured in

Meadowlark editor Sheryl DeVore wrote an article about Field Notes compiler David B. Johnson and his 25 years of leading looney trips in Lake and McHenry Counties for the Chicago Tribune and News-Sun. Take a peek. Dave needs to be praised over and over for all the wonderful work he has done on behalf

Continue reading IOS field notes compiler featured

IOS Spring Birding Weekend — May 15–17, 2015

Galena / Northwestern Illinois

Nesting warblers at Mississippi Palisades and other breeding birds with southern affinities at Lost Mound N.W.R. are just a few of the reasons to join us at this year’s spring birding weekend. Songbird migration should still be in full swing in the scenic hills of the driftless

Continue reading IOS Spring Birding Weekend — May 15–17, 2015

Rusty Blackbird Blitz, Year two

We’re gearing up for the second year of the Blitz. Nick Sly, IOS Coordinator for the Blitz, posted complete details here on the Illinois Birders Forum website. IOS is proud to be a sponsor of this important project here in Illinois. Mark your calendar and make your plans to get out there between March

Continue reading Rusty Blackbird Blitz, Year two

Cerulean Warbler gets help from major grant

A five-year project targeting conservation of the imperiled and iconic Cerulean Warbler and focusing on the states of Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, and West Virginia got a big boost following the granting of $8 million in funding from the Dept. of Agriculture’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

Read more about this exciting project that

Continue reading Cerulean Warbler gets help from major grant

Amar Ayyash: A Birder You Should Know

Amar Ayyash is the man behind the IOS Annual Gull Frolic, which he organized this year and persuaded Birding editor and author Ted Floyd to speak. As you likely know, Amar is “crazy” about gulls, and indeed very knowledgeable about this difficult-to-identify group of birds. In honor of the upcoming Gull Frolic, we

Continue reading Amar Ayyash: A Birder You Should Know

Jeff Sanders featured in Chicago Tribune article

For at least three days in December and early January over the past 50 years, Jeff Sanders has gone outside in the predawn cold to count birds in and around Chicago.

In 2015, Sanders will celebrate a half-century since he began helping with the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count, just a few miles

Continue reading Jeff Sanders featured in Chicago Tribune article