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

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