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Awesome Shorebird Migration

August 18, 2007

Much appreciation to John Mullen of the Peoria Park District and Maury Brucker of the Peoria Audubon Society for organizing and leading this field trip south of Peoria.  Not only did we visit several of the local area's premier birding sites, but John had arranged a Peoria Park District van to drive us around.   John also arranged to have snacks, box lunches and beverages during the trip.  What made this even more remarkable, John and Maury arranged for cool comfortable weather in August.  With thunderstorms skirting around the area, temperatures started out in the upper 60s and stayed in the 70s. 

One of the first places we visited was the Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge.  The vegetation was lush near the shore, but the mud flats further out was where all the shorebirds were.  Several people brought spotting scopes to share with all the people in the party.

Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge

Great Egrets at Chautauqua

Maury Brucker explaining fall migration patterns

Tour guide Maury Brucker describing the long migration pattern of shorebirds.  After nesting near the arctic circle in Summer, many of the shorebirds are world record holders for distance migrations.  Some migrate to near the tip of South America.  Maury said that the spring migration is a rush to get to the northern breeding grounds.  But in mid-August, the shorebirds and their young are making a more leisurely trip south.  It takes a lot of stops in wetlands to refuel to cover the long distance.

Tour Guide John Mullen focusing on shorebird for the group

Tree swallows at Chautauqua

Hundreds of tree swallows were flocked for migration.  A few of them were resting briefly n a small tree at Chautauqua

Viewing shorebirds at Emiquon

John arranged to visit a location at Emiquon that was still off limits to the public.  John explained that the water was slowly being let back in the Emiquon restoration.  We had a great location for viewing some of the shorebirds up close. 

Solitary sandpiper at Emiquon

Sora at Emiquon

Sharp eyes from one of the birders spotted a sora rail.  These birds are quite elusive.  With a little patience, we spotted another.

Two sora at Emiquon

White pelicans at Duck Island

At Duck Island we found a flock of perhaps 200-300 white pelicans.  And, there were perhaps a hundred tree swallows flying across the water.  The swallows were a continuous swarm of aerial acrobatics a few feet from the water. 

Pectoral sandpipers in mud flats at Duck Island

The group kept commenting on how sticky the mud was in the mudflats at Duck Island.  It seemed that every time the shorebirds moved, they had to flap their wings to help pull themselves from the sticky muck. 

White pelicans and ring-billed gull at Duck Island

White pelican feeding and tree swallow flying by

Deer at Dickson Mounds Museum parking lot

John organized a "picnic" at the Dickson Mounds museum in Lewiston with box lunches and beverages.  But with a brief shower just after noon, the timing worked out anyway as we then ate inside the museum.  The deer came out just as we arrived at the Dickson Mounds parking lot.  And, with good timing, the shower diminished at the same time.

All in all, the Peoria Audubon Society wishes to express their gratitude to the Peoria Park District for co-sponsoring this field trip.  And of course, our warm gratitude goes to the two excellent tour guides: John & Maury!


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