Spring Migration 2005 in Sangamon County, Illinois

A Brief Summary

By H. David Bohlen

[Note: Any publication of the material or photographs in this summary should be cited with the following: Bohlen, H. David. 2005 in manuscript. “A Study of the Birds of Sangamon County, Illinois.” Illinois State Museum.] Thanks to Ken Bohlen and Beckie Dyer for field assistance.

Weather: The weather was characterized by periods of cool and periods where the temperature spiked. Even in March there were warm periods, but early to mid-April was the spoiler with six days hitting the 80's and especially April 17 - 20 all in the 80's. This produced some early arrivals but also pushed through a lot of migrants that usually stay for periods of time at this season. The latter third of April was more normal. May started out with cold night temperatures - until May 5. The rest of May was fairly normal. Most of the spring was dry with all three months below normal rainfall. This dried up most of the shorebird spots but the lakes were kept artificially high.

The only really windy days when gusts were over 40mph were March 30 and May 27.

Birds: A basic plumaged Red-throated Loon was present at Lake Springfield March 24 which is the earliest date for the county. Common Loons were present in normal numbers with 10 the high count. Only one Eared Grebe (March 4) was unusual and both Pied-billed and Horned Grebes were low in numbers and left early. There were 25 White Pelicans flying over Springfield (April 9). Double Crested Cormorants started moving in large numbers March 29 until May 5 with a high count of 600 (April 4). Heron numbers were poor with only one Little Blue (April 5), 3 Snowy Egrets (May 4, 9 & 10), Cattle Egrets from April 9 - 20, and no bitterns. The larger herons were in normal numbers, but Green Herons were scarce all spring until June!

Waterfowl was fairly normal for Sangamon County. No scoters or unusual species were seen except the lingering Mottled Duck seen (April 24 and May 24). High counts for selected ducks were: Green-winged Teal- 108 (March 19), Blue-winged Teal- 88 (April 22), Northern Shoveler- 160 (March 19), Canvasback- 60 (March 7), Redhead- 44 (March 15), Ring-necked Duck- 215 (March 7), Lesser Scaup- 4100 (March 19), Red-breasted Merganser- 125 (March 14), Ruddy Duck- 415 (March 8 & 20). Some waterfowl did straggle and includes: Snow Geese- 4 white and 2 blue on (May 24), a ♂♀ Gadwall and a ♂♀ Common Merganser until the end of May. The Canada Geese were having a very good hatch of young this spring.

Black VultureAlong with the 70-100 (on March 29) Turkey Vultures at Lake Springfield a Black Vulture appeared (April 30) only to be harassed by crows (photo).

No large hawk flights were seen and the Broad-winged flight was dismal with 5 the highest number (April 30). One immature Golden Eagle was seen east of Springfield (March 4). Turkeys continue to show growing numbers. Rails continue to decline with only a few Sora being seen. However a Virginia Rail walked into the Research and Collections Center at Springfield (April 29) and was later released into a marshy area. Unusual were 7 Sandhill Cranes east of Springfield (March 13).

Dunlin Ruddy Turnstone

Shorebirds produced no rarities. Golden Plover were particularly scarce and only one Upland Sandpiper was seen. No large shorebirds except Willet were seen. A Willet arrived (April 29) and 13 were seen (May 3). Most shorebirds arrived late but some early ones were Dunlin (April 21) and Ruddy Turnstone (May 5), see photos. No really good counts occurred except 30 Long-billed Dowitchers (May 3), 77 Lesser Yellowlegs (April 28), 210 Semipalmated Sandpipers (May 28), and 300 Pectoral Sandpipers (April 28). One of the best birds of the spring was a Red-necked Phalarope (May 22 - 24) see photo. A few shorebirds lingered into June. For interesting gulls there were only one adult Franklin’s Gull (April 23) and one adult Laughing Gull (May 9)- photo. Terns arrived late and were few in number except 63 Common Terns (May 24) and 24 Forster’s Terns (May 5).

Pat Ward pointed out a White-winged Dove (photo) on the west side of Springfield (May 17) that was long overdue. A few Eurasian Collared Doves were seen east of Springfield- but they remain scarce. The only unusual owl was a Long-eared chased from a cedar in a farmyard east of Springfield (March 20).

Goatsuckers remain difficult to find in Sangamon County especially the dwindling numbers of Whip-poor-will. Two were heard east of Springfield (May 7). Chimney Swifts arrived on schedule (April 12) and only a few were killed at Lake Springfield dam this year. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds weren’t seen until May 5 - like a lot of other species it went directly to its breeding areas. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were gone after (April 28).

Olive-sided Flycatchers were scarce and left early (May 26). All the Empids were scarce and somewhat late especially Least Flycatchers. Eastern Kingbird and Crested Flycatcher arrived on time and had high counts of 39 and 12 (May 7). The Western Kingbird at the golf course arrived May 7. Swallows were numerous over Lake Springfield on cool days and they arrived on schedule. Blue Jay numbers remain low but there was some diurnal migration observed. All of the early migrants were affected by the mid-April heat wave and as a result few Winter Wrens, Golden-crowned Kinglets etc. were seen. The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher occurred March 31 at Lake Springfield and later were observed in fairly good numbers.

Thrush numbers were good for Swainson’s especially from (May 9 - 18) with 60,May 15. The Gray-cheeked had 29 (May 9) but it and the Veery were much lower in numbers. The high count for Hermit Thrush was only 10 (April 25). Wood Thrush had low counts. Gray Catbirds arrived late but showed good numbers and Brown Thrashers were about normal numbers. The American Pipit arrived March 20 and left May 10. There were no Cedar Waxwings in the early migration (none in March or April) and it was not until (May 6) that some appeared - with the blooming of Tulip trees. No Loggerhead Shrikes were seen.

Blue-headed Vireo arrived early (April 12) and one stayed until May 29 at Lake Springfield. The other vireos arrived on schedule or a little late. High counts were 20 Warbling Vireos (May 7) and 29 Red-eyed Vireos (May 13). Yellow-throated Vireos seemed fewer than the last few years.

Apparently because of warm temperatures and continuously south winds some of the earlier warblers were scarce, particularly Blue-winged (arrival date April 15), Orange-crowned, Nashville, Yellow (mostly went directly to breeding areas), Black-throated Green, Black & White, Ovenbird, Kentucky, Hooded, and Yellow-breasted Chat. However some of the later warblers were also low in numbers such as Golden-winged, Magnolia, Blackburnian, American Redstart, Connecticut, and Canada. There were good numbers of Bay-breasted and Blackpolls. The two warblers with usually much higher numbers, Yellow-rumped and Tennessee, had mediocre numbers at best. Black-throated Blue and Prairie Warblers were missed this spring. Overall it was a frustrating spring for warblers with thick vegetation and late arrivals. Both tanagers seemed in normal numbers.

High counts for selected warblers:

If the warblers weren’t very good, the sparrows were terrible. Low numbers and total lack was the rule. Once Chipping and Field Sparrows finally arrived they were in good numbers. The American Tree Sparrow stayed until April 2. Very few LeConte’s were found, one Nelson’s Sparrow (May 17), and few Grasshopper Sparrows. No Henslow’s, Harris’, or Clay-colored Sparrows were noted.Two usually abundant sparrows were very low in numbers - Swamp and White-throated. White-crowned Sparrows passed through in a short period of time. Very few longspurs were found and dry, warm temperatures probably pushed them past central Illinois. Dickcissels and Indigo Buntings arrived late. Blue Grosbeaks continue to be much easier to find (first seen May 9).

Blackbirds dominated the landscape as usual. Brewer’s were recorded four times starting (March 7). A male Great-tailed Grackle, found by Ken Bohlen set up a territory north of Andrew April 1 and stayed until April 30. It called and displayed continually-(photos). Also northwest of Springfield a male Yellow-headed Blackbird was in a feed lot (May 1) found by B. Dyer,(photos). Although Baltimore Orioles were present in good numbers (19 on May 7), Orchard Orioles were more scarce this year. Pine Siskins stayed until (May 5).

Total Field Days = 91 Total Hours in the Field = 729