Sunday, July 17, 2011

Willow Flycatchers - Illinois trip - Day Five

Saturday, June 18th

Today birded new locations in McHenry County - Moraine Hills State Park and dam, and Glacial Park Conservation Area.  As the names suggest the geology of the terrain is the results of the melting of the ice sheets at the conclusion of the last Ice Age.  Rolling hills, steep moraines and various wetlands formed from kettles.

Moraine Hills State Park and dam

Moraines Hills State Park

Boardwak at Lake Defiance

Started out the day at Moraine Hills State Park, arriving just as the gate was being opened for the day.  Hit the first picnic area near the gate.  Barn Swallows, American Robins and Gray Catbirds were active here.  Green Herons seen flying over head.  Moved onto the Pike Marsh Trail, venturing onto the floating boardwalk into the marsh.  Here were found singing Swamp and Song Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Yellowthroats.
Lake Defiance

Baby Tree Swallows
Next drove up to Lake Defiance.  Walked segments of the trails around the lake passing through marsh, forest and grasslands. While on another floating boardwalk in this marsh I was able to add  Lifer in a pair of Sedge Wrens. these wrens would pop-up briefly then quickly retreat back into the protection of the reeds. Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds everywhere here.  Another Lifer for me were Willow Flycatchers. Had good views of a couple of the flycatchers and was surprised to follow one that had flown into some brush to find it sitting on a nest.  So I left her alone.  Other nesters included eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows using the nest boxes provided for them.  My walk along the trails provided a count of thirty species. These included Mallards, a Double Crested Cormorant and a Great Egret. A pair of drifting Red-tailed Hawks were seen soaring over head.  Also found a male Ruby-throated Humminbird, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, eastern Kingbirds, American Crow, Brown-headed Cowbird, American Goldfinch, a House Wren, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Cedar Waxwings, Yellow Warblers, and a Savannah Sparrow.

Common Grackle at Lake Defiance

After three hours, headed over the McHenry Dam section of the park. The dam straddled the Fox River and it being a Saturday the park was busy with people picnicking and fishing. The trail leaving he parking lot and circling the Black Tern Marsh was much more peaceful. Here I had a conversation with a park employee and it seems that the marsh has not seen any black terns for a few years know and he had not heard or seen any yellow-headed blackbirds or common moorhens this season. As we were talking a pair of Sandhill Cranes made an appearance.  Other birds of the marsh included Great Blue Heron, Great Egrets, Mallards, Blue-winged Teal, Canada Geese and Red-winged Blackbirds.  Along the forested path was able to add another hummingbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Black-capped Chickadee, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, more Robins, a Cedar Waxwing, Yellow Wabler, an American Redstart, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinches, an Indigo Bunting and a Baltimore Oriole.

Glacial Park Conservation Area.

My final stop was the nearby Glacial Park Conservation Area. The park has grasslands, marsh and forested habitat. Parked by the Marsh Education Center and walked the Marsh Trail. Was able to locate a lone Bobolink and another lone Dickcissel in the grass, along with Red-tailed Hawks soaring overhead. In the marsh was able to add Canada Geese, Mallard and lone Blue-winged Teal. Added Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Barn Swallows. Searched for any yellow-headed blackbirds, but struck out once more. However I did at first heard and later located a Common Moorhen. A very common bird back home in Florida but not so much up in Northern Illinois. Strange that I had not noted any coots at all on this trip.

View of Glacial Park prairie

Education Center at Glacial Park

While walking the forested areas I was able to add another Willow Flycatcher that had flown almost to my feet.  Another uncommon bird here, but a yard bird back home was a Northern Mockingbird. Other birds to add included Tree Swallows, Common Grackles, Eastern Kingbirds, Common Yellowthroats, American Robins, Yellow Warblers, Song Sparrows, American Goldfinches and a lone Indigo Bunting.

Glacial Park
This concludes my family/birding trip to northern Illinois. Had a great time visiting with family and lots of good birding.  gained two lifers and had a count of 72 birds.  Wonder if I had been here a month earlier if I could have easily exceeded 100 species. Some good finds were the willow flycatcher and the sedge wren, but I would add finding the swans, blue grosbeak, warbling vireo etc.  Misses included both tanagers, rose-brested grosbeak, red-headed woodpecker, and any thrushes.

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