This year’s count period was considerably milder than last. Five counts reported highs of at least 50 degrees, with Cypress Creek and Western Mercer County both reaching 56. Only five counts failed to reach the freezing mark, with Hennepin the coldest at 27 degrees. Twenty-seven counts had above-freezing lows. It was quite windy across the state, with 24 counts reporting wind gusts of at least 15 mph. Elsah reported gusts of 20, while Springfield reached 36. Despite the warmer weather, only 161 species were recorded, the same count as 2013. One species, the Wilson’s Warbler at Kankakee County, was only reported during count week. Carlyle led the way with 103 species for the day, while Meredosia’s three count-week birds pushed them to 103.
Sixty-two counts reported again this year, with a total of 1111 observers contributing 3248 hours over 20,196 miles. A total of 230 feeder hours were reported by 205 observers, while 222 nocturnal hours were logged. As always, Fermilab led the way with 106 observers (down four from last year). Only two counts reached 20 feeder observers, Quincy with 21 and Waukegan with 64. The highlight of the count season has to be the Sage Thrasher discovered on the Hennepin count.
Ducks through Herons
Waterfowl numbers rebounded from last year’s poor showing, with 26,450 Greater White-fronted Geese at Chautauqua, 216,844 Snow Geese at Carlyle (and another 186,613 at Chautauqua), and 137 Ross’s Geese across the state. The 204 Tundra Swans were reported on seven counts, including 88 at Chautauqua, while only 146 Mute Swans were recorded, on 18 counts. A total of 288 Trumpeter Swans, on the other hand, was a new record high; 207 of those were at Union County. Notable ducks included four Blue-winged Teal at Morris-Wilmington, a lone Harlequin Duck at Barrington, a Surf Scoter at Evanston, and two Black Scoters at Springfield. Five counts reported a total of 18 Long-tailed Ducks, only one of them along Lake Michigan!
Ring-necked Pheasants were particularly hard to find this year, with 110 on 26 counts, but Newton reported 63 Greater Prairie-Chickens this year – a nice improvement over the last couple of years. Northern Bobwhites also showed some improvement, with 124 on 16 counts. Three counts had solo Red-throated Loons while seven counts reported a total of 10 Common Loons. Ten counts reported a total of 80 Horned Grebes, with 33 at Rend Lake (along with 60 Pied-billed Grebes). A total of 137 American White Pelicans were recorded, on eight counts. Four counts reported Great Egrets, with two at Marquette Park, but in defiance of the conditions. Only two counts recorded Black-crowned Night-Herons, both near Chicago: Chicago Urban with 11 and Fermilab with one.
Raptors through Woodpeckers
Bald Eagle numbers returned to normal, with 1304 on 59 counts. (That means only 3 counts failed to find them – quite a change from a few years ago!) Bald Bluff reported the only Northern Goshawk. Collinsville reported one “Harlan’s” Red-tailed Hawk. Union County, Western Mercer County, and Mississippi River N.W.R. reported Golden Eagles, and Rockford had a count-week Golden. All 62 counts reported American Kestrel, 19 counts reported Merlin, and 12 reported Peregrine Falcon.
Only eight counts reported Sandhill Cranes, but the 932 at Evanston pushed the state total to 1026! Only three counts reported Wilson’s Snipe, and Cypress Creek reported the only American Woodcock. Four counts reported Thayer’s Gulls and two reported Iceland Gulls. Eight counts reported Lesser Black-backed Gulls, six reported Glaucous Gulls, and five reported Great Black-backed Gulls.
Eurasian Collared-Dove was reported on 36 counts this year, but the Ringed Turtle-Doves in Joliet were down to two individuals tallied. Three counts recorded a total of 45 Monk Parakeets. Carlyle Lake reported a Barn Owl, and three counts reported a total of six Snowy Owls this year. Nine counts reported Long-eared, 13 counts reported Short-eared, and 11 counts reported 18 Northern Saw-whets.
Flycatchers through Finches
Nine counts reported Eastern Phoebes this year, with Calumet City having the northernmost. Only four counts cumulatively reported five Loggerhead Shrikes this year, and only eight counts reported Northern Shrikes. Red-breasted Nuthatches were down, with 28 counts reporting a total of 85 birds. Two counts reported solo House Wrens, and Newton had a Sedge Wren. Bird Haven Sanctuary had the only Gray Catbird. A Sage Thrasher was discovered on the Hennepin count. Five counts reported a total of nine American Pipits. Fermilab had an Orange-crowned Warbler and a Common Yellowthroat, while Kankakee Valley had a count-week Wilson’s Warbler. Four counts reported Vesper Sparrows and two had Le Conte’s. Two counts reported Lincoln’s Sparrow as well, and two counts reported “Oregon” Dark-eyed Juncos. Lapland Longspurs were only reported on 26 counts, while nine counts had Snow Buntings. Two counts reported Western Meadowlarks, and four reported a total of seven Brewer’s Blackbirds. Finches were down overall, with five Red Crossbill showing up at Chautauqua and two White-winged Crossbills at Eastern Mercer County. Only eight counts reported Common Redpolls. Pine Siskins were present in better numbers, with 48 counts reporting 1538. Eurasian Tree Sparrows continue to spread, reported from 22 counts this year.