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Re: IBET 131 species in one day in July – i s that a Big Day, or what? (Very long...)

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  • B.G. Sloan
    I m thinking it s a VERY big day for the summer doldrums!!   Bernie Sloan ________________________________ From: Joan N To:
    Message 1 of 3 , Jul 22, 2013
      I'm thinking it's a VERY big day for the summer doldrums!!
      Bernie Sloan

      From: Joan N <NorekJ@...>
      To: jmountjo@...; ILbirds@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Monday, July 22, 2013 10:14 PM
      Subject: Re: IBET 131 species in one day in July – is that a Big Day, or what? (Very long...)


      "IBET 131 species in one day in July – is that a Big Day, or what?"

      Unquestionably an awesome Big Day!

      (Jealous? - yes.)

      Joan Norek
      Chicago (where the birds are not -- in July -- and the traffic driving back from where some of them are is just rotten in July)
      Hope is the thing with feathers - that perches in the soul - and sings the tune without the words - and never stops at all. Emily Dickinson

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Jim Mountjoy <mailto:jmountjo%40knox.edu>
      To: IBET <mailto:ILbirds%40yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Mon, Jul 22, 2013 1:26 am
      Subject: IBET 131 species in one day in July – is that a Big Day, or what? (Very long...)

      On Saturday, inspired by Colin Dobson�s recent big day as well as by my
      urge to return to a form of birding I haven�t practiced much lately, I
      decided to set out on� perhaps a Big Day? Certainly my primary goal for
      the day was to try to see as many species as possible, while other goals
      like adding to my year list, or new county ticks, were secondary.

      I woke up somewhat before my alarm (set for 12:30 AM) and walked the dog,
      grabbed a bit of food and soft drinks and headed out just after 1:30. My
      first stop was only one and a half blocks away. Since I hadn�t heard a
      screech-owl while walking Fergus, I tried one more spot, and right away our
      local Eastern Screech was calling. Species one and really on the road�

      The Monmouth sewage lagoon was a bit of an experiment. Although the moon
      came out from behind the clouds it still wasn�t bright enough to identify a
      Ruddy Duck (or anything else), although vociferous Killdeers were species

      Down Hwy. 67 to Beardstown. The marsh here is well known, but I wasn�t
      sure what it would provide this night. Marsh Wrens were singing though as
      I pulled up, and soon I had added Sora, Common Gallinule and a few more
      �mundane� birds. A second stop at the south end of the marsh provided one
      of the best surprises of the day, when a King Rail called in the dark!
      Year bird, county bird and a great addition to the day list � it is nice
      when your goals coincide.

      Dawn waits for no birder, so I had to scurry over to the Buckhorn unit of
      Siloam Springs State Park in Brown County. Here, at the end of 400 N, a
      dirt road in from 375 E, I had stumbled across a Chuck-wills-widow back on
      May 11. Had it stuck around? The first bird I heard when I stopped the
      car was an Eastern Whip-poor-will, but the Chuck was also calling so I had
      both of them within seconds. The sky was starting to lighten up and
      diurnal birds were starting to call, and the next bird to be heard was a
      Yellow-billed Cuckoo � one of several heard this morning, but I agree with
      several observers who have commented on their general scarcity this year,
      so was pleased to have it on the list early.

      As I headed south along the winding blacktop I heard various songbirds join
      the chorus � from Eastern Wood-Pewee and Field Sparrow to Wood Thrush and
      both tanagers. But the nocturnals hadn�t quite finished yet � a couple of
      Barred Owls were hooting, and a second Chuck-will�s-widow was heard from
      the curve at the west end of the section that would be considered �350 N� I
      think. (Back in the spring I thought I had heard 3 Chucks in this area � 2
      near the locations where I had them on Saturday and perhaps another along
      400 N, although I don�t think anybody else subsequently claimed more than
      one. It can be hard to localize these calls in the darkness, but after
      Saturday I am sticking with �at least two�.) By sunrise I was up to 32
      species including Northern Bobwhite and Yellow-breasted Chat.

      Eventually I made my way in the west entrance of Siloam Springs and started
      adding �serious� forest birds like Ovenbird and Kentucky Warbler. I didn�t
      dawdle too long in making my way to the park maintenance area though. I
      had missed Mr. Bewick in May as I was in too much of a hurry to get to
      Quincy for the Swainson�s Warbler, so I wanted to give him my full
      attention this morning. It didn�t actually take too long � I soon spotted
      a small bird that looked promising flit across the maintenance area, and
      then heard the distinctive song several times as it moved around the south
      edge of the clearing to near my position at the gate.

      Other Siloam specialties were calling, such as Pileated Woodpecker and
      Acadian Flycatcher, and down near the Old Siloam picnic area I added
      Louisiana Waterthrush, Northern Parula and Yellow-throated Warbler, among
      others. I headed north out of the park with my list in the mid 60s and
      headed back cross country towards the Illinois River. Along the way birds
      such as Cooper�s Hawk, Blue Grosbeak, Sedge Wren and Willow Flycatcher made
      their presence known without any planning on my part.

      Arriving in the Illinois River valley there was clearly a lot of water in
      the �Big Lake� area, but I have never figured out how to bird this area
      effectively on my solo visits. I think I had probably made it into the
      Merwin Preserve area before encountering a large flock of visible
      shorebirds. This flock included hundreds (at least) of common shorebirds
      such as Lesser Yellowlegs and Pectoral Sandpipers, but also many Stilt
      Sandpipers, a few Short-billed Dowitchers, Greater Yellowlegs and more. A
      Black Tern flying over this area was another bonus. At the Spunky Bottoms
      overlook another smaller flock of shorebirds was closer to the parking lot,
      and I could pick out Semipalmated Sandpiper among the Leasts here.

      As I crossed the bridge to Meredosia and Morgan County a Rock Pigeon and a
      Eurasian Collared-Dove both flew by � at least I wasn�t going to have to
      work for the introduced species! Lake Meredosia was not very thrilling,
      but the Pied-billed Grebe here was my only one for the day, and Red-headed
      Woodpecker was species #100 before my 11:00 deadline, so I felt I was
      making progress.

      I shouldn�t have been surprised that the �Four Corners� area had dried out
      quite thoroughly, and maybe the stop should have bee omitted, but I did add
      Henslow�s Sparrow on the north side of the Cass County line, as well as
      Bell�s Vireo and Northern Mockingbird on Toe Head Road, so no whining

      I then started the long slog north toward Emiquon. A revisit of the
      Beardstown Marsh added Wood Duck (finally), and Grasshopper Sparrow
      (nearby) and House Finch (in town) were also dug out, but it was now noon
      and species were coming slowly. In Schuyler County I had my first
      Red-tailed Hawk of the day, and found Prothonotary Warbler with a quick
      detour. Arriving at Anderson Lake State Park, I was dragging, and American
      White Pelicans are marvelous to look at, but had to be considered an
      entirely expected addition. At this point I hit a wall � I just had to
      close my eyes. I parked in the camping area, and when I woke up perhaps
      just 15 minutes later I was hot and sweaty but also surprisingly
      rejuvenated. Onward!

      Colin Dobson reported a wonderful variety of waterfowl and shorebirds from
      the frequently flooded fields on the north side of Hwy. 136 back on the 8th.
      Today, the fields were dried out and there were no birds to speak of.
      Well, I thought, this is going to be a bit more work than I had hoped� Oh
      well, no time for whining (much), on to Havana. It is very nice when a
      rarity is actually dependable, and the Western Kingbirds south of Havana
      have certainly been that. As soon as I stopped I heard the kingbird call,
      got out and spotted it on a wire, then watched it drop down to the nest and
      apparently feed a large nestling. Very nice. Also, a Vesper Sparrow
      singing on the wire there was an overdue addition.

      Finally, after 2 PM, I make it to Emiquon proper. The potential seems
      great, but initial results are slow. After checking the Wilder Tract,
      taking glimpses at Thompson Lake, and driving down County Road 9, all I
      have added is cormorant and kingfisher � I need to pick up the pace.
      Viewing from Prairie Road helps with that. I spot a Snowy Egret, a number
      of Caspian Terns, a *Sterna* tern (perhaps a Forster�s, although the
      primaries are dark) and a couple of Franklin�s Gulls. As I reach the
      �Wetland Observatory� I realize that decision time is at hand. I have
      reached 118 species, one better than my personal July best, but I think
      there are more possibilities left. I phone my wife to tell her that this
      has really turned into a Big Day, and that I won�t be home for dinner.
      American Coot and Mute Swan are �easy� additions here, but it is
      approaching 4 PM and the remaining hours are precious. I decide to zip up
      the highway to Banner Marsh for one more �nailed down� bird � Osprey at the
      nest with a large chick, but then decide not to head north to home turf but
      to try to eke out more birds along the river. This means driving south to
      Havana again to cross the river, and north to Chautauqua. At the north end
      of the North Pool the mudflat has many hundreds of shorebirds, but a couple
      of Spotted Sandpipers and a few Semipalmated Plovers are the only new
      species I detect.

      It is now evening as I retrace my path to Emiquon. Revisiting an area
      seems a risky strategy, but it feels like this area still has more untapped
      potential than the new areas I could visit, so I give it a shot. And it
      pretty much works. The Black-crowned Night-Heron that I couldn�t find at
      the Wilder Tract is visible now. The Black-necked Stilts that were hiding
      are spotted on the south side of County 9 � how did I miss them? A return
      to Prairie Road reveals mostly the same birds � except now the Marbled
      Godwit is visible stalking along the water�s edge! And back at the Wetland
      Observatory a Least Bittern flies up from the cattails before I take more
      than a couple of steps away from my car!

      At this point I had reached 127 species, and was pretty happy with that
      result. I figured that if I could at least find a Common Nighthawk back in
      Galesburg I would reach 128 and tie the �pre-2013� record for a July Big
      Day, so I headed toward home. The nighthawk came calling for me at 7:48 as
      I drove through Lewistown, no special searches needed. However, the sun
      hadn�t set yet, and the Double T Fish and Wildlife Area is only a couple of
      miles off my route home. I didn�t expect much luck with Upland Sandpipers,
      but maybe there would be a Bobolink still awake, or something else? What I
      actually found was a male Ring-necked Pheasant that waddled across the
      road, and then a small group of Blue-winged Teal alongside some Mallards.
      Ahhh, 130 is a much nicer number than anything in the 120�s!

      By now there was only one reasonable possibility left, Great Horned Owl,
      but I wasn�t going to make any special detours for that bird. It seemed
      like it would be too much work at that point, and I know Great Horneds have
      let me down in the past when I have searched for them at the end of a long
      day. So, just head back to Galesburg. However, I did think to myself as I
      approached the Spoon River in southern Knox County � �this seems like the
      sort of habitat a Great Horned might like��. And there, ear tufts and all,
      was a Great Horned perched on a sign right beside the highway.

      In the end I found 131 species, which is one more than what Colin Dobson
      reported back on July 8. So did I beat Colin? I doubt it. Colin�s full
      list that he posted certainly had 130 species, but I noticed when perusing
      it before my day that it did NOT include Common Yellowthroat � and I don�t
      believe that Colin would have missed a yellowthroat! So, more likely this
      is a �tie�, but since Colin didn�t start until 5 AM he certainly beat me in
      �species per hour�!

      Of course, there are always the birds that got away. My biggest misses
      were Brown Thrasher, Green Heron, Lark Sparrow and Bald Eagle. I am sure
      many other species were present along the route, based on other observer�s
      reports on the same or other recent days, including Snow Goose and other
      waterfowl, Sanderling, Baird�s Sandpiper, Wilson�s Phalarope, American
      Redstart, etc. You probably can�t get everything in one run, but a
      properly scouted Big Day in central Illinois might reach 140 or more
      species? It may seem like the �summer doldrums� in July, but there are
      still birds out there!

      Jim Mountjoy

      Galesburg IL

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