2017 Carlyle Lake Pelagic Wrap Up

My First “Pelagic” Trip

“I’m not talkin’ ’bout pleasure boatin’ or day sailin’. I’m talkin’ ’bout workin’ for a livin’. I’m talkin’ ’bout sharkin‘ (pelagic birdin’)!” – Quint, Jaws (1975).

There’s few occasions where I’ve birded sunup to sundown. In fact, the only one I can think of
was my first Christmas Bird Count last December, and now this trip. I had decided a month ago
to participate in the Illinois Ornithological Society’s Carlyle Lake Pelagic Trip. I’d never visited
Carlyle Lake before, having only driven past at night and at twilight. It has the third-highest
hotspot list of species on eBird for Illinois, probably due to its proximity as the closest large
reservoir to St. Louis and to the variety of habitats present. See Dan Kassebaum’s website for more details about and photos of Carlyle Lake birds.

Carlyle Lake

Carlyle Lake

I woke up around 4:30 AM, and wondered why my alarm was going off. As I drifted back to sleep,
I suddenly realized why – I had a birding expedition! I was supposed to be there at 6:30 AM, and it
was over an hour and a half away, not including the time it takes me to get my lunch packed, etc.
One slow van in front of me put me as the last of 16 birders to arrive at the McDonald’s in Carlyle,
our meeting place. I then carpooled onward with Craig Taylor and Kimberly Rohling, until our
entire group stopped near the entrance to Eldon Hazlet State Park.

Pulling off at the entrance area, warblers proved to be abundant, if fleeting. Thankfully, a half-
dozen Black-throated Green Warblers decided to take pity on the photographers in the group, and
showed themselves well as they bounced around the top of a planted Bald cypress tree.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green Warblers (Setophaga virens) are a favorite of mine, mostly because they’re easily recognized. Few other birds have such a bright yellow head combined with dark stripes
underneath. We moved on from these, picking up several more species along the way. I had my ​
first miss of the day with Blackburnian Warbler, when Colin saw one well enough to get a photo.
That would’ve been a lifer if I’d seen it.

We moved to a spot where someone spotted a would-be Le Conte’s Sparrow in the brush, and all
but myself and two birders went down to look for it. The three of us continued talking and
mentioned that we’d love to find a Nelson’s Sparrow. I spotted what I thought was the Le Conte’s
Sparrow in the bush and took a record photo (what I call photos where the bird isn’t easy to find
or particularly well-photographed). Curiosity got the better of me, and I went down to see what
was so fascinating. Keith McMullen mentioned that they’d found a Nelson’s Sparrow. I double-
checked my photo of the “Le Conte’s Sparrow”- it’s a lifer Nelson’s. With this Nelson’s Sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni), I’ve seen all but one of the regularly-occurring sparrow species in Illinois. (That one exception is the Clay-colored Sparrow.) I was very happy with this very unexpected
find!

I laid on my back on the ground to look at a male Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra), arrayed in
fine red, the only completely red bird in the US. Unlike male Scarlet Tanagers, male Summer
Tanagers stay red all year long. They are currently expainding their range northwards, being a
Southeastern species. Formerly, they were on the edge of their range in central Illinois. Now,
however, they are found even as far north as Chicagoland. I got good looks, and despite being
directly underneath the bird, it chose not to poop on me. I wish gulls were so kind.

I strongly appreciate Eastern Wood-Pewees (Contopus virens) for their willingness to grant an excellent photo opportunity. These were the only flycatchers of the day, besides Eastern Phoebes. Evidently, the rest of the flycatchers have moved on.

Eastern Wood-Pewee

Eastern Wood-Pewee

Another stop found me my second lifer of the day, a Philadelphia Vireo, the last of the commonly-occurring vireos for Illinois that I wanted to find. The second irritating miss of the day came when someone else found a Chestnut-sided Warbler and it got away before I could find it. Honestly, the whole day was someone finding a bird I could barely even see, and my glimpsing it just well enough for ID purposes before it flew away into the undergrowth. This was the case right up until the pelagic…

We spotted several more species, including ten species of warblers for me, a personal record for one morning. I was definitely the least-experienced birder on the trip, which is why I’ve elected myself to write it up. I believe the count was ~70 species seen by the group when we left Eldon Hazlet State Park, which is quite respectable for one morning! (I had 64 species.)

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) and American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) were present on Carlyle Lake that day. It’d been awhile since I’d seen so many American White Pelicans. There’s something so comical and yet so majestic about a flock of pelicans, and there’s certainly little else to match their size.

Pelicans and Cormorants

Pelicans and Cormorants

A Northern Parula (Setophaga americana) at Whitetail Access decided to demonstrate how to do the splits upside down and eat bugs off a leaf at the same time. Northern Parulas are a special bird for me – my first ever warbler was a dead Northern Parula at the base of the windows of a hospital in downtown Springfield. After that, I heard a few, but I didn’t see one in the wild until the one I saw at Eldon Hazlet State Park, and this one at Whitetail Access proved far more interesting to watch up close – well, about fifteen feet.

A Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius), a Wilson’s Snipe, and an Eastern Screech-Owl (heard only) proved to be three of the four best finds at Whitetail Access, almost entirely devoid of birds on its mudflats. Shorebird season is wrapping up. Red-shouldered Hawks were spotted on the way here, and several were seen throughout the day.

The next great bird we found was a Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris), the last breeding species of wren I hadn’t found in Illinois until now. (We’re going to ignore Bewick’s Wren in this discussion, despite the possibility that they reside in far western Illinois still.) The Marsh Wren is half a lifer for me. I heard one singing in Indiana in August, but I never saw it, and it’s hard for me to really count a bird as a lifer until I see it. So, this is lifer 2.5 for the day. This little wren is very unusual. It creeped through the brush until being flushed into a nearby bush, where it scolded us from a partially-concealed perch. This behavior is unusual for someone used to Carolina and House Wrens, but isn’t uncommon for this species.

I prefer to look for shorebirds over songbirds. Sure, shorebirds are hard to tell apart, but much of the time they let you sit and try to figure it out! This one below is a Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) at Patoka Access, where we stopped to find some shorebirds when Whitetail Access proved to be rather poor in that respect. My first Black-bellied Plover was spotted across the bay. A third lifer for the day!

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Alongside the Black-belled Plover, three American Golden-Plovers and several Sanderlings made for an interesting mix of shorebirds. I have never seen those three species together before. A few Cliff Swallows flew past, severely overdue to migrate south. They were quite early this year and have stayed equally late. I’m really not sure what they were doing there. Another good find I missed there was a Peregrine Falcon.

We boarded two rented pontoon boats to participate in the actual “pelagic” part of the trip. A pelagic in birding terms is a boat trip, usually out to the middle of an ocean or a big lake, after birds that only live on the open ocean (or large open inland water body, like Carlyle Lake, during migration). A Sabine’s Gull, one of those species that can only be found rarely on open bodies of water like this, had been seen the night before, but we all struck out on that one, the third big miss of the day. At least I saw Sabine’s Gull last year on Lake Springfield.

Captain Funk and Crew

Captain Funk and Crew

Throwing bread off the back of the boat to bring in any rare gulls, we only found three species – Ring-billed, Bonaparte’s, and two Herring Gulls. Still, as you can see, we had some of the best eyes in the state looking for it, in two boats. From left to right above, we had Tyler Funk, Keith Mcmullen, Craig Taylor, and Colin Dobson, all scanning for whatever we could find. Sitting on a boat for three hours or more, doing nothing but looking through what seems like an endless colony of Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis) is not for everybody. I enjoyed it, but the pelagic section was definitely much slower-paced than birding on the shoreline of Carlyle Lake. Pelagic trips are not for people who prefer instant results.

We did have the other boat to help spot birds. Occasionally the gulls would swarm us, and it was at this point that I’d wear my hat to keep the shower of gull crap from hitting me. Our pilot, Tyler Funk, spotted something in the water that the rest of us didn’t. In addition to steering the boat and looking for Sabine’s Gulls, he’d spotted this little guy on the water:

Red Phalarope

Red Phalarope

It was the fourth lifer for the day, (I’ll just say fifth by combining the “half-lifers” Northern Parula and Marsh Wren), a Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius). This was somewhat unexpected. Red Phalaropes, despite their small size, almost entirely live far out at sea, only flying up to the tundra in far northern Canada to breed. These are the rarest of the three phalaropes in Illinois (all three of which are the only phalaropes in the world, which means I’ve seen all of the phalaropes in the world). This Red Phalarope was incredibly tame, allowing for close approaches.

It got within about eight feet of the boat, and if there had been no waves and a better cameraman behind the camera I’m sure my pictures would be better. As it was, I’m still impressed with how well we saw this bird. It even called and did a little feeding as we watched, the black and white pattern helping to hide it surprisingly well in the waves once it flew further away. We caught up to it again, and took even more photos. This bird is rusty-red in the spring. It’s in fall plumage currently. I saw a similar looking bird once, the Red-necked Phalarope, which has a similar life cycle and can look quite similar. However, that bird has a dark, striped back and a thinner bill and body shape.

We let the Phalarope go back to its merry spinning (They spin in a circle to concentrate plankton in the water, and then eat the concentrated plankton.), while we paid attention to the nearby tern flocks. Forster’s Terns (Sterna forsteri) congregated in large numbers off to the east- I’ve never seen anything like it! We saw not a single other species in the flocks of hundreds of birds (the other boat did see a lone Black Tern some time before this, but we didn’t). We watched them fly off as we made our way back to the boat docks, to end the day.

With 89 species, I did pretty well. That may or may not be the greatest number of bird species I’ve seen in one day, though I’d have to double-check. Either way, I strongly enjoyed meeting all the birders and I couldn’t have asked for more lifers! There were three subjects of discussion that dinner – southern Arizona dream trips, birding stories, and horseshoes – that last, the famous Springfieldian “burger” with Texas toast, fries, and cheese sauce. We all split up around 8:00 PM, to get back to our usual lives. And thus concluded my first “pelagic” trip.

Thanks to Craig Taylor for driving me and Kim Rohling around all day, Tyler Funk for finding the best bird of the day in the Red Phalarope, for steering my boat, and for organizing the trip, and to Keith Mcmullen. It was wonderful to meet a few of my longtime readers, and even better to met those whose eBird checklists I’d read in the past with considerable envy. I’m already planning to return next year- we’ll have to see what happens then!

Text and photos by Jared Gorrell

IOS Shorebirding Weekend Recap

On August 19 and 20, more than fifty birders joined IOS for an excellent weekend of birding in central Illinois. The weather was perfect, the camaraderie even better, and birds were abundant.

Birders Gather for the Day by Tyler Funk

Birders Gather for the Day by Tyler Funk

Everyone gathered at the Holiday Inn Express in Pekin, home base for the weekend, on Saturday morning, to meet their field trip leaders – Colin Dobson, Josh Engel, Travis Mahan, and Andy Gilbert. Groups set out for Chauatauqua and Emiquon National Wildlife Refuges, both marquee shorebirding properties along the Illinois River.

Birders had the option of participating in mobile travelling groups or a “Big Sit” on the Chauatauqua crossdike. At the Big Sit, groups viewed the surrounding area from beneath the shade of a pop up canopy using Vortex Scopes provided by Eagle Optics.

The day got off to a quick start at the Chautauqua crossdike as hundreds of American White Pelicans loafed on the sandbars in all directions. Black Terns fluttered over the expanses of water. Bald Eagles and Turkey Vultures soared overhead and a Blue Grosbeak sang nearby. Several species of waterfowl were observed including Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, and both Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal.

Scoping by Tyler Funk

Scoping by Tyler Funk

But, it was the shorebirds that stole the show. A Hudsonian Godwit foraged on a sandbar to the north of the crossdike. Black-necked Stilts, Black-bellied Plovers, Wilson’s Phalaropes, and Buff-breasted Sandpipers were also observed by the many people scoping in all directions.

Over at Emiquon North Globe, a juvenile Red-necked Phalarope swam in tight circles in the shallow water as Sedge Wrens chattered in the background.

As temperatures soared by midday, groups gathered at the Illinois State Museum at Dickson Mounds for lunch and raffle items, as Josh Engel displayed shorebird specimen skins on surrounding tables.

Andy Gilbert Presenting by Tyler Funk

Andy Gilbert Presenting by Tyler Funk

After lunch, attendees were treated to a series of presentations in the museum auditorium. IOS Grant Recipient, Andy Gilbert, spoke of his aerial waterfowl research along the Illinois River. Jake Cvetas gave an update on the status of Illinois Young Birders. Finally, Adam Sell promoted next year’s IOS special trip to Panama with Red Hill Birding.

Birders were able to mix with other field trip leaders in the afternoon as groups continued to turn up great birds. At Emiquon Preserve, two Least Bitterns hunted in the open with several Common Gallinules swimming in and out of view. Two Osprey sat atop a man made nest platform and a Snowy Egret foraged in the shallows.

Back at Chautauqua, two Willets were observed, making the day’s shorebird tally twenty one species.

After a long day of birding, most participants retired to the hotel with some gathering in Peoria for dinner.

On Sunday, we did it all again. Just before wrapping things up about noon, Adam Sell found perhaps the highlight of the weekend, a Ruff, at Emiquon South Globe. Soon, after sending a number of text messages and making a few phone calls, many birders converged on the levee to see this rare visitor from Eurasia. The Ruff was the 23rd shorebird and 121st species on a very special weekend.

Ruff by Matthew Cvetas

Ruff by Matthew Cvetas

Spring Tune Up Field Trip Report

Keith McMullen by Barbara Williams

Keith McMullen by Barbara Williams

With much appreciation for our enthusiastic field trip leader and “Southern Specialty Steward,” Keith McMullen, seventeen participants enjoyed this year’s journey through southern Illinois. During the two days, we were fortunate to view 109 species of birds.

Saturday’s weather did not seem promising for singing birds, as it was drizzling or raining lightly most of the day, and a chilly breeze continued to complicate birding. Driving on Pleasant Hill Road, the group stopped for two Blue Grosbeaks and Keith found an early male Bobolink singing at the top of a fir tree. We continued to Pomona-Cave Creek, where we saw our first of two Worm-eating Warblers, plus Kentucky, Yellow-throated, Yellow, Pine, Tennessee and Cerulean Warblers; also Northern Parula, American Redstart, Lousiana Waterthrush, and a Summer Tanager. We stopped twice on Pomona-Back Way, and at each stop saw and or/heard at least three Cerulean Warblers, a positive sign for this species, plus Black-and-white Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and a second Worm-eating Warbler.

Lesser Yellowlegs by Alan Seelye-James

Lesser Yellowlegs by Alan Seelye-James

At Oakwood Bottoms, some group members saw as many as 8 Little Blue Herons. It’s undergoing restoration work now so it doesn’t look so great, but improvement will follow. On the road to LaRue-Pine Hills Campground, we added “Hooded Warbler” to our warbler tally, when Keith heard a singing male from the car window. Keith’s ability to “bird by car,” either seeing or hearing winged creatures, is unmatched!

At a fluddle in Jackson County, we stopped to watch Gadwalls, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, and saw the following shorebirds: Least, Pectoral, Solitary and Stilt Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitcher, both Yellowlegs, Dunlin, and, Dan Williams found an alternate-plumaged (gorgeous) Black-bellied Plover.

Keith made a stop at the beach at Crab Orchard NWR to look for terns-we saw a total of about 26 Forster’s Terns, each occupying a round orange buoy when not foraging-and we were treated to the sight of an adult Laughing Gull. There were probably several thousand Tree Swallows hunting low over the water, an incredible spectacle.

We enjoyed a great meal at 17th Street Barbeque in Marion, and then headed to Fern Clyffe State Park, where only a couple participants heard two Chucks calling briefly, and we didn’t hear any Whips, or see Barred or Screech Owls-although it had stopped raining, clouds and chilly temperatures probably deterred the usual night chorus.

Prairie Warbler by Alan Seelye-James

Prairie Warbler by Alan Seelye-James

Sunday brought much better birding conditions, with sunshine and temperatures climbing to the mid-seventies by the end of our trip at Heron Pond. We started at Fort Massac, though, and added Northern Waterthrush to our warbler tally, enjoyed seeing Prothonotary Warblers, and two male Scarlet Tanagers. It is always a beautiful, and easy, place to bird.

On Shawnee College Road, Keith checked a pond for Black-necked Stilts and found a more unusual bird: a White-faced Ibis! At a nearby stop, a protective Prairie Warbler flew out towards the group several times, a neat experience! We saw several Yellow-bellied Chats here as well. At Heron Pond, we ended the trip with a group photo and a Nashville Warbler. We had a great experience, thanks to a leader who runs trips simply out of his love of birds, and wanting participants to see as many birds as possible. Keith is a treasure! Thanks, Keith, for all of your time, energy, and passion!

by Vickie Sroczynski

Smith's Longspur Field Trip Report

I had the pleasure of leading an Illinois Ornithological Society field trip for Smith’s Longspurs in McLean County this morning (April 8, 2017). We did manage a flock of seven and another flock of 28 birds — even in flight good enough looks for multiple lifers in the group — always a great feeling.

There is either a psychotic Western Meadowlark here that covered an immense amount of ground never leaving us, or this location has two to three males on territory (I think at least two).

After the trip wrapped-up, I roamed randomly looking for more longspurs and fluddles in Woodford County. I found another group of 15-20 Smith’s and a late Lapland back at the spot on 1500E between 2100 N and 2000N. Pictures of both species from this location are below.

My fluddle surveys included Pectorals, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and a group of almost 90 American Golden-Plover at one location that also had a searingly bright Brewer’s Blackbird.

It’s been awhile since I went AWOL birding in central Illinois. I imagine we are just getting started…

Smith's Longspur (left); Lapland Longspur (right)

Smith’s Longspur (left); Lapland Longspur (right)

by Matt Fraker

Loonapaloonza 2017 Field Trip Report

Twenty-one observers gathered at the Gale Street Restaurant parking lot at 8am on April 1st to have coffee, muffins, and bagels before setting off to explore several of the nearly 200 lakes in Lake and McHenry Counties in search of loons and other waterbirds.

Field Trip Participants

Field Trip Participants

Several close-in observations of Common Loons were had at Diamond Lakes Mundelein Park District boat launch; while several loons were heard calling early, most of the day the loons were quiet (at all locations). The best observation, however, was the adult Bald Eagle perched in a tree across the lake.

We, then headed out to our first stop: Long Lake. The first large group of loons were 28 loons on this stretched out lake, and here we observed lingering Common Mergansers and a nice alternate-plumaged Horned Grebe.

On Pistakee Lake and Bay we observed at total of 52 loons and several nice groups of Ruddy Ducks. Three migrant Bonaparte’s Gulls were seen along with several arrival Tree Swallows. On this huge lake we saw our first pelicans (44) many of which were on an island in McHenry County.

At our traditional Sandbar Bar & Grille spot, we witnessed an amazing spectacle of kettling American White Pelicans with over 600 pelicans riding thermals overhead in multiple groups of 100-200 birds each. Loons were also quite common with 19 seen off the Sandbar.

Later, we observed more ducks including good numbers of Redhead, Canvasbacks, Ring-necked Ducks and Lesser Scaup.

Returning to the Gale Street Restaurant, 10 birders stayed to have a wonderful lunch at the Gale Street Restaurant. A total of 104 Common Loons were encountered on this trip, another successful Loonapaloonza!

Common Loon by Brandon Tate

Common Loon by Brandon Tate

by David Johnson

Chicago Lakefront Winter Field Trip Report

One day after the Gull Frolic on February 12th, a small group of birders joined gull expert, Amar Ayyash, and Gull Frolic speaker, Jean Iron, for a day of birding along the Lake Michigan lakeshore. The main target of this excursion was winter gulls and waterfowl. Much like the Gull Frolic finding masses of gulls was extremely difficult without the ice cover that would normally be found on a Chicago winter day along the lake. Birders assembled on this balmy winter day (topping out at 50 degrees) at the Calumet River Turning Basin Number 5 at 8:30 am. Almost immediately at 8:30 am the continuing second cycle California Gull was spotted and gave a brief flyby before disappearing down the river. With few gulls in the area overall, Amar eagerly chummed hoping to bring in something else good for the group to no avail. After the California Gull left us the only other gulls observed were Ring-billed and Herring gulls circling the basin, with a couple Common and Red-breasted Mergansers flying by.

Scoping for Gulls on Lake Michigan

Scoping for Gulls on Lake Michigan

The group then started a caravan for the BP warm water outlet in Whiting, IN. Along the way we made a brief stop on 126th where a Red-shouldered Hawk was spotted perched on a power line along the roadside. After everyone got a look at the hawk the caravan continued to Whiting where about 70 gulls were present near the BP outlet. Among the flock of primarily Herring Gulls we picked up 5 Great Black-backed Gulls and 18 Common Goldeneye out further in the lake. However, those were the only new birds for the day at this stop despite Amar’s effort to chum the beach. From Whiting, the group headed to Calumet Park which lacked in birds other than the couple hundred Canada Geese near shore in the water. After that brief stop the group headed to Jackson Park which netted a few more duck species: Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, and Bufflehead, in addition to other birds such as American Coot and American Crow. However, there were once again few gulls so this proved to be our last stop of the trip. Maybe not the most exciting winter birding day, but we definitely willed our way to a few good bird species on the day.

Thank you to all that attended the trip and Amar for leading the group down and up the lakeshore!

Species totals:

200 Canada Goose
14 Mallard
3 Redhead
1 Ring-necked Duck
21 Greater Scaup
3 Bufflehead
18 Common Goldeneye
2 Common Merganser
30 Red-breasted Merganser
1 Cooper’s Hawk
1 Red-shouldered Hawk
5 American Coot
40 Ring-billed Gull
60 Herring Gull
5 Great Black-backed Gull
11 American Crow
3 European Starling
1 Red-winged Blackbird
2 House Sparrow

Locations: BP Warm Water Outlet; Calumet Park, Chicago; Jackson Park, Chicago–Inner/Outer Harbors; Jackson Park, Chicago–north lakefront (56th St. to 62nd St.); Lake Calumet area–126th St Marsh/Hyde Lake Wetlands; Lake Calumet area–Calumet River Turning Basin Number 5

by Matt Igleski

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