Central Illinois Lakes Field Trip – Saturday and Sunday, November 7-8, 2015

One of the many exciting times for fall birding is around the end of October through much of November.  This is a time when rarity potential is high among 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 offering a series of simultaneous field trips on the weekend of November 7–8 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.

2014 was the first year that we attempted this group of field trips, and some nice rarities were found, including Black and White-winged Scoters, Red-throated Loon, Snowy Owl, and Red Crossbill.  We have expanded to five locations this year and are extending the duration to a weekend-long event.

The goal for this trip is to gather together in small groups to cover the large lakes of central Illinois 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 five different options:

Saturday (all day) and Sunday (partial day):

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

Saturday Only (all day):

  • Chautauqua/Emiquon Area  (Leader – Keith McMullen)

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.  Saturday offerings will be all-day events, while the Sunday options will be shortened versions ending at the trip leader’s discretion.  Each trip will involve a significant amount of time scoping open water 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:

This series of trips is being offered exclusively to IOS members at no charge.  Please contact Travis Mahan at calidris_1004@yahoo.com to register for the trips and for general questions.  Because each lake group has a participation limit, please indicate your preferences by day in numerical order (“1” being most desired; “5” being last choice).  Trips will be filled on a first come, first served basis.  Meeting locations and times will be provided upon registration.

Travis Mahan’s contact info to register:

E-mail:  calidris_1004@yahoo.com

Phone:  217.454.3408

2015 Carlyle Pelagic Field Trip Report

On Saturday, September 19th, Keith McMullen led a mass of birders around the great Carlyle Lake for a trip on land and water.  At least 118 total species were tallied throughout the day, including some nice rarities.  Morning land birding produced a nice assortment of songbirds with representation by 18 species of warblers.  Two Mute Swans and a Laughing Gull were nice additions to the day list at Eldon Hazlet State Park.

A total of 18 species of shorebirds were encountered, many of which were observed at close range on the mudflats at the north end of the lake.  Among the large group at Parking Lot # 3 (Fayette County) was a Hudsonian Godwit, a Ruddy Turnstone, two Western Sandpipers, and a Buff-breasted Sandpiper.

The late afternoon boat trip scored huge numbers of Black Terns with many passing near the boats.  A couple Franklin’s Gulls were also spotted among the large groups of Ring-billed Gulls accepting bread hand outs at the backs of the boats.  The floating caravan enjoyed another Laughing Gull encounter as well.

The trip was, as always, a great success, despite no Sabine’s Gulls or jaegers.  Thank you Keith for leading and coordinating such an event!  And a special thanks go to our boat captains!

Photo by Joe Weaver

The group treks along the levee at Parking Lot # 3 in Fayette County for some great shorebirding! Photo by Joe Weaver.


















  1. Canada Goose
  2. Mute Swan
  3. Wood Duck
  4. American Wigeon
  5. Mallard
  6. Blue-winged Teal
  7. Northern Shoveler
  8. Ring-necked Pheasant
  9. Wild Turkey
  10. Pied-billed Grebe
  11. American White Pelican
  12. Double-crested Cormorant
  13. Great Blue Heron
  14. Great Egret
  15. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
  16. Turkey Vulture
  17. Osprey
  18. Bald Eagle
  19. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  20. Cooper’s Hawk
  21. Red-shouldered Hawk
  22. Broad-winged Hawk
  23. Red-tailed Hawk
  24. American Kestrel
  25. American Coot
  26. Semipalmated Plover
  27. Killdeer
  28. Spotted Sandpiper
  29. Solitary Sandpiper
  30. Greater Yellowlegs
  31. Lesser Yellowlegs
  32. Hudsonian Godwit
  33. Ruddy Turnstone
  34. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  35. Western Sandpiper
  36. Least Sandpiper
  37. Pectoral Sandpiper
  38. Stilt Sandpiper
  39. Buff-breasted Sandpiper
  40. Short-billed Dowitcher
  41. Long-billed Dowitcher
  42. Wilson’s Snipe
  43. Wilson’s Phalarope
  44. Bonaparte’s Gull
  45. Laughing Gull
  46. Franklin’s Gull
  47. Ring-billed Gull
  48. Herring Gull
  49. Caspian Tern
  50. Black Tern
  51. Common Tern
  52. Forster’s Tern
  53. Rock Pigeon
  54. Eurasian Collared-Dove
  55. Mourning Dove
  56. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  57. Chimney Swift
  58. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  59. Belted Kingfisher
  60. Red-headed Woodpecker
  61. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  62. Downy Woodpecker
  63. Hairy Woodpecker
  64. Northern Flicker
  65. Eastern Wood-Pewee
  66. Eastern Phoebe
  67. Eastern Kingbird
  68. White-eyed Vireo
  69. Yellow-throated Vireo
  70. Red-eyed Vireo
  71. Blue Jay
  72. American Crow
  73. Horned Lark
  74. Tree Swallow
  75. Barn Swallow
  76. Carolina Chickadee
  77. Tufted Titmouse
  78. White-breasted Nuthatch
  79. Carolina Wren
  80. House Wren
  81. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  82. Eastern Bluebird
  83. Swainson’s Thrush
  84. American Robin
  85. Gray Catbird
  86. European Starling
  87. Cedar Waxwing
  88. Golden-winged Warbler
  89. Tennessee Warbler
  90. Nashville Warbler
  91. Northern Parula
  92. Yellow Warbler
  93. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  94. Magnolia Warbler
  95. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  96. Black-throated Green Warbler
  97. Yellow-throated Warbler
  98. Bay-breasted Warbler
  99. Black-and-white Warbler
  100. American Redstart
  101. Ovenbird
  102. Northern Waterthrush
  103. Common Yellowthroat
  104. Wilson’s Warbler
  105. Canada Warbler
  106. Summer Tanager
  107. Eastern Towhee
  108. Chipping Sparrow
  109. Field Sparrow
  110. Northern Cardinal
  111. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  112. Indigo Bunting
  113. Red-winged Blackbird
  114. Eastern Meadowlark
  115. Common Grackle
  116. Brown-headed Cowbird
  117. American Goldfinch
  118. House Sparrow

Heidecke Lake Watch and Goose Lake sparrow search – Saturday, October 3, 2015

We will begin the morning walking the crossdike at Heidecke Lake.  From this vantage point we will be able to scope both the north and south portions of this large cooling pond.  We will hope to find any jaeger species, Sabine’s Gull, Franklin’s Gull, and any migrating ducks and grebes.  Shorebirds will also occasionally drop in on the crossdike.  We will be walking a fair distance, though it is an easy walk on a flat gravel road.  

After the lake watch, we will head to Goose Lake Prairie.  We will explore a few of the marshy areas specifically targeting Ammodramus sparrow species (Nelson’s and Le Conte’s).   Many other passerine species (especially sparrows) are possible, as well as waterfowl and late shorebirds.  We will probably wrap up the trip sometime around lunch. 

Please meet at the bank fishing access parking lot for Heidecke Lake.  This is found at the end of Collins Road, past the Dresden Lock.   We will begin at 7:30 and plan to end around 12 – 12:30.  Be prepared to walk, and waterproof boots may be a good idea at Goose Lake.  Please contact the leader, Scott Cohrs, at Scott.Cohrs@experian.com or 847-651-9891 to sign up and with any questions. Free to IOS members.

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

Continue reading Meadowlark editorial on Passenger Pigeon

IOS June fieldtrip to Kankakee yields 90 species

Geoffrey 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

Continue reading IOS June field trip to Kankakee yields 90 species

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

Continue reading Spring birding weeknd: Great birds, friends and scenery

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

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