2017 IOS Gull Frolic Field Trip Report

Scoping Lake Michigan

Scoping Lake Michigan

IOS hosted the 16th annual Gull Frolic on Saturday, February 11th, at the Winthrop Harbor Yacht Club in the northeast corner of the state. As temperatures soared toward 50F degrees and without any ice for the gulls to rest on, despite our best efforts to chum them in, it quickly became apparent that gulls would be hard to come by on this day. Still, scoping Lake Michigan early in the morning, birders were treated to good views of a flyby Great Black-backed Gull, a handful of Long-tailed Ducks and about a dozen White-winged Scoters.

Jean Iron

Jean Iron

Back inside the yacht club, attendees listened intently as Jean Iron passionately told of her shorebird surveys on the vast mudflats and coastal marshes of James Bay. Jean’s presentation focused on her shorebird research and James Bay’s specialty birds, including rufa Red Knots and Akimiski Island Marbled Godwits that were surprisingly found to winter in the Baja California, Mexico. Wow!

In addition to Jean’s presentation, several exhibitors had interactive tables at the event. Attendees could examine specimens of shorebirds and gulls with the Field Museum’s Doug Stotz or learn about Josh Engel’s new tour company, featuring trips to South Africa or northern Minnesota.

Of course, the food was not to be missed. Volunteers, Janice Sweet and Karen Lund, served up pizza and salad and the specialty of the Gull Frolic, seagull stew.

During lunch, IOS President, Matthew Cvetas, recognized long time IOS members, Denis Bohm and Geoff Williamson, with custom framed artwork by young birders, Nandu Dubey and Luke Haberkorn. Denis received a striking Yellow-headed Blackbird by Nandu and Geoff, a painting of Rufous Hummingbirds by Luke.

Gulling typically picks up after lunch and this year was no exception. Despite there being only about 100 gulls present, birders were still able to spot 2 Thayer’s Gulls and a Iceland (Kumlien’s) Gull in the feeding flock at close range. Many were able to obtain great photos of these white-wingers.

IOS would like to thank Amar Ayyash, Jean Iron, all our exhibitors, and volunteers for helping us put on another successful Frolic.

Join us next year for the premier gull watching event in the United States.

IOS Field Trip Report by Tyler Funk

Scoping for Snowy Owl

Scoping for Snowy Owl

On January 7th, six hardened IOS members (Ted Wolff, David and Dale Kalina, Susan Zelek, Linda Foster and Tyler Funk) set out for a field trip this past weekend in search of Prairie Falcons and waterfowl. Leaving the house at 6:15am, my vehicle thermometer read -2° F. However, the sky was mostly clear and the air felt fresh as we set out to begin the day. Our first target was the Prairie Falcons. These birds have proven difficult to find this winter due to the extensive fall plowing that took place in the area. Finding a corn stubble field suitable for food and cover is not easy this season. Rough-legged Hawk, Merlin, Short-eared Owls and Northern Harrier are all relatively easy finds here most winters and they too are tough to locate this season. Another target in the area was a Snowy Owl which was found on January 6th about a mile east of what we call “Falconville”. We began driving a grid which allowed us to systematically check the area. This paid off with an early morning look at a Snowy Owl, but once again, the Prairie Falcon was a scratch. The group then made a sparrow walk through Larry Closson Habitat Area (aka Hickory Ridge) which yielded some nice sparrows for the day list.

Trumpeter Swans

Trumpeter Swans

After a drive to Universal Mines, the thawed out group spent the next few hours attempting to estimate waterfowl numbers that blanketed the quarry. The waterfowl numbers here is always a highlight and the numbers of Trumpeter Swans is quite impressive. It certainly rivals any other spot in the state for sure. The group returned to the Prairie Falcon area, where we met up with Travis Mahan, Colin Dobson, Ron Bradley, Corey Lange and Tony Ward. The added eyes were welcome, but the Prairie Falcon remained absent. Those that remained to dark were rewarded with a nice sunset view of the Snowy Owl.

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

Thank you to all who attended. It was a fun outing!

Species totals:

5000 Greater White-fronted Goose
4000 Snow Goose
20 Cackling Goose
20670 Canada Goose
827 Trumpeter Swan
20 Gadwall
5 American Wigeon
2 American Black Duck
26 Mallard
1 Green-winged Teal
1 Canvasback
3 Redhead
35 Ring-necked Duck
5 Common Goldeneye
10 Hooded Merganser
1 Ruddy Duck
1 Ring-necked Pheasant
2 Northern Harrier
2 Bald Eagle
1 Red-shouldered Hawk
10 Red-tailed Hawk
2 Rough-legged Hawk
3 American Coot
2 Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
32 Mourning Dove
2 Great Horned Owl
1 Snowy Owl
1 Belted Kingfisher
1 Red-headed Woodpecker
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
3 Downy Woodpecker
3 Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)
5 American Kestrel
16 Blue Jay
27 American Crow
134 Horned Lark
2 Carolina Chickadee
1 Tufted Titmouse
2 White-breasted Nuthatch
2 Carolina Wren
1 Northern Mockingbird
65 European Starling
31 Lapland Longspur
90 American Tree Sparrow
48 Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)
3 Savannah Sparrow
10 Song Sparrow
4 Swamp Sparrow
9 Northern Cardinal
1 Eastern Meadowlark
1 American Goldfinch
74 House Sparrow

Central Illinois Lakes Field Trip Report

On November 5th, 2016, IOS conducted an inland reservoir field trip. This concept was originally conceived by former field trip chair, Travis Mahan, and has proven to be an excellent way to survey Illinois Reservoirs. This weekend has historically been an excellent time to find some of the less likely loons, grebes, scoters and gulls. The reservoirs which have been selected for this trip are in close enough proximity to allow groups to move to other reservoirs when rarities are located.

Lake Shelbyville reported by Tyler Funk

Sunrise over Lake Shelbyville

Sunrise over Lake Shelbyville


A cool morning greeted the birding crew at Lake Shelbyville with virtually no wind. The sunrise was magnificent, reflecting off the glassy lake surface and the scope views were quite good of the birds we encountered. The group circled much of the lake throughout the day with not a lot of activity. Due to the warm, almost late summer-like weather, very few diving ducks, or even dabblers, have arrived in this area. Decent numbers of Bonaparte’s and Ring-billed Gulls were seen feeding over most portions of lake. Variety was not the spice of life throughout the day. Afternoon came and so did our first couple of nice birds. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and Red-throated Loon, seen from the Lake Shelbyville–Findlay Bridge East Access point (as it is listed in ebird). However, the R-T Loon identification gave the group some trouble, due to its plumage, even resulting in a paid boat trip to try and get pictures (not with positive results…).

Scoping from Rebel Point

Scoping from Rebel Point

Most of the Lake Shelbyville group met on Friday evening at the Prairie Falcon roosting spot and were rewarded with nice looks of the Prairie Falcons. A bonus was added by Ron Bradley who reported a White-winged Scoter at Larry Closson State Habitat Area (aka. Hickory Ridge).

White-winged Scoter by Ron Bradley

White-winged Scoter by Ron Bradley

The Shelbyville Group (Ted Wolff, Phil Doncheck, Arlene McFadden, Ron Bradley, Jon and Carolyn Grainger, Travis Mahan and Tyler Funk) finished Saturday with 55 species. Birds of the weekend included:

  • Lesser Black-backed Gull
  • Franklin’s Gull
  • Red-throated Loon
  • Black Scoter (Seen by Travis Mahan at Findlay point)
  • Long-billed Dowitcher
  • Prairie Falcon
  • White-winged Scoter

Clinton Lake reported by Matt Fraker

Black Scoter by Matt Fraker

Black Scoter by Matt Fraker


Birds of interest which were seen on Friday evening included:

  • Osprey
  • 3 Black Scoter
  • Rusty Blackbirds

Lake Springfield plus other areas reported:

Notable birds included:

  • 2 Blue-winged Teal
  • 3 Black Scoter
  • 6 Red-throated Loon
  • 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull
  • 1 Great Horned Owl
  • 4 Barn Swallow
  • 2 Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • 4 Snow Bunting
  • 2 Pine Siskin