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

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