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Birding the Illinois River

Field Trip: March 8, 2008

Photo Gallery:

Many thanks to John Mullen of the Peoria Park District and Maury Brucker of the Peoria Audubon Society who organized and lead a Birding along the Illinois River field trip.  Several stops along the Illinois River south of Peoria were visited by the lucky group. Following are a few photos that highlighted the event.

The weather turned out great for a birding tour.  Although the temperature started out the morning at 7 °F, with no clouds the direct sunshine warmed it up to about 35 °F.  And, the good lighting helped with taking a few photos.  For once, much of the time, the sun was shining on the birds instead of being in the birders eyes. 

As we were driving up to Chautauqua, we passed a massive "flotilla" of Snow Geese.  Despite having to look at them through the brush and trees, the group was impressed by the immense size of the flock.

Several Thousand Snow Geese at Chautauqua

Maury estimated the massive flock of snow geese at 10,000 to 15,000.  In the above image, many of them have taken flight.  The photo would be better if not shot through the trees, but everyone was still in awe at a most impressive sight. 

Common Mergansers at Spring Lake

During the trip, there were numerous mergansers at Spring Lake.  Although most of the mergansers were the Common Merganser, we also saw a few Red-breasted Mergansers and couple of Hooded Mergansers. 

Great Blue Heron at Spring Lake

While parked at a rest area at Spring Lake we were able to view several Great Blue Herons in the morning sun.   

Bald Eagle at Spring Lake

At one of our first Spring Lake rest stop, a pair of Bald Eagles basked in the morning sunlight for the group to view.

Mallards and Northern Pintail Ducks at Flooded Fields West of Spring Lake

From the vans, we could see numerous ducks in the wetland.  The group could get a good look at the ducks from the high height of the vans.  The male Mallards were almost iridescent in the morning lighting. 

Mallards Shimmering in the Direct Morning Sun at Flooded Fields West of Spring Lake

Mallards taking flight on a crisp cloudless morning at Spring Lake

Canada Goose in Flight at Spring Lake

Very slowly driving along in the vans as a "duck blind", a few Canada geese took flight at the right time for a photo. 



On the left is an Eurasian Tree Sparrow that was in a shrub at Spring Lake.  With the sun in the background, the image quality may be poor.  These introduced sparrows were in the shrubs behind  Larry's Restaurant, a "family-bar" at Spring Lake.   

But according to Maury, these birds, which were introduced in St. Louis in 1870 only exist in a few small colonies from St. Louis toward the northeast through Central Illinois. 





Welcome to Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge

Maury and the birders viewing at Chautauqua

Ducks at Emiquon

Northern Pintails and a Mallard at Emiquon

The ducks and pintails in the above photos were at the Nature Conservancy’s Emiquon Preserve, just north of County Highway 9.

Greater White-fronted Geese at Emiquon on the Ice

Canada Geese and White-fronted Geese at Duck Island

In the afternoon, as we were passing Duck Island, we slowed down to look at the large expanse of geese on one of the dikes.  It is interesting to note that the geese on the left are looking north for danger, whereas the geese on the right are looking to the south.  These guys were too skittish for us to get out of the vans, so we just watched from our seats. 

White-fronted Geese, Mallards, & Northern Shoveler

Mallards at Duck Island

Male and Female Northern Shovelers at Duck Island

The pair of northern shovelers were still in the water after the skittish geese flew away.  Considering the extended cold period, the birds seemed very happy to get off the ice and have some open water for a change. 

Maury compiled the following list of species during the field trip. 

  Bird Species List: March 8, 2008
  Double-crested Cormorant Wild Turkey
  Great Blue Heron American Coot
  Turkey Vulture Killdeer
  Great White-fronted Goose Ring-billed Gull
  Snow Goose Rock Pigeon
  Canada Goose Mourning Dove
  Mute Swan Belted Kingfisher
  Tundra Swan Red-bellied Woodpecker
  Wood Duck Downy Woodpecker
  Gadwall Eastern Phoebe
  American Widgeon Blue Jay
  Mallard American Crow
  Northern Shoveler Horned Lark
  Northern Pintail Tufted Titmouse
  Green-winged Teal White-breasted Nuthatch
  Canvasback Golden-crowned Kinglet
  Redhead Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  Ring-necked Duck Eastern Bluebird
  Lesser Scaup Robin
  Bufflehead European Starling
  Common Goldeneye American Tree Sparrow
  Hooded Merganser Dark-eyed Junco
  Common Merganser Northern Cardinal
  Red-breasted Merganser Red-winged Blackbird
  Ruddy Duck Eastern Meadowlark
  Bald Eagle Common Grackle
  Northern Harrier Brown-headed Cowbird
  Red-shouldered Hawk House Sparrow
  Pied-billed Grebe American Goldfinch
  Red-tailed Hawk Eurasian Tree Sparrow
  American Kestrel Black-capped Chickadee

Peoria Audubon wishes to thank the Peoria Park District for the use of two, very full, 15-passenger vans.  And, even more thanks goes to John Mullen and Maury Brucker for organizing and leading the field trip.  Additional thanks goes to Dale Goodner of the Peoria Park District to volunteer as a drivers.  Feel free to send any comments or feedback to Dennis, humble webmaster for Peoria Audubon.   

More field trips, and other activities, are posted at the Calendar of Events.  Unless otherwise noted, all Peoria Audubon field trips are open to the public. 


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