Re: IBET 131 species in one day in July – i s that a Big Day, or what? (Very long...)
- I'm thinking it's a VERY big day for the summer doldrums!!
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.)
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
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
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
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!
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