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Birding the Illinois River

Field Trip: March 7, 2009

Photo Gallery:

Many thanks to John Mullen of the Peoria Park District and Maury Brucker of the Peoria Audubon Society for organizing and leading the Birding along the Illinois River field trip.  We filled two 15-passenger Peoria Park District vans for a day of birding.  Several stops along the Illinois River south of Peoria were visited by the lucky group.  Dennis, humble webmaster for Peoria Audubon Society took a few photos that highlighted the event.

The weather turned out to be solid overcast with the potential for rain.  At least the rain waited until later afternoon, but much of the day still developed a haze which had a negative impact on viewing.  The has was especially problematic for much of the distant viewing. 

Although the the weather, and dark lighting was not good for photography, a little persistence still allowed Dennis to capture a few photos to serve as mementos for the event. 

Mute Swan, Redhead Ducks & a Ring-necked Duck at Spring Lake

According to Maury and John, Mute Swans are a non-native species that were brought to the USA from northern and central Eurasia.  Although the birds were introduced to grace the ponds of parks and estates.  Escaped individuals have established breeding populations in several areas.  Because of their aggressive behavior they threaten many of the native waterfowl.  In addition, from their size in comparison to the ducks in the background, one can imagine a more significant consumption of food. 


Mallards at Spring Lake

When we first arrived at the wetland areas of Spring Lake, the vans provided a slight height advantage in comparison with a car and served as a "moving duck blind."  In this area, we were able to slowly drive with frequent stops that allowed for duck viewing.  At this distance, and in the open, the ducks would have spooked and flew away if we got out of the van and approached on foot. 

Mallard and Redhead Ducks Taking Flight at Spring Lake

Although two ring-necked ducks in the foreground stayed, the other ducks were apparently more skittish from the presence of our van. 

Green-winged Teal with Mallards at Spring Lake

In the above photo, a Green-winged Teal is swimming along with the Mallards.  Note that this duck is significantly smaller than the larger Mallards. 

Ring-necked Ducks

We briefly had better viewing conditions as the haze lifted, allowing us to have more clear images of the ring-necked ducks. 

Deer Running Toward the River Levee

The avid birders got excited as our moving "duck blind" spooked a small herd of 4-5 of deer.  In the above image two of the deer are hightailing it toward the Illinois River levee. 

Northern Harrier (a.k.a. Marsh Hawk)

In the above series of images, a Northern Harrier did a "fly-by" as it was hunting in the grasses.  Note the characteristic white rump.  This species used to be known as a Marsh Hawk.

Canvasback Ducks with Ring-necked Duck

With a little persistence, later in the day we viewed a few Canvasback ducks.  Note that the image quality is degraded due to an increased haziness with the distant viewing.

Bufflehead Ducks with Ring-necked and Redhead Ducks

Later in the afternoon, we were able to see a few Bufflehead ducks.  Note the single male bufflehead, followed by two female buffleheads. 

Northern Shoveler (Male)

Several times during the day, we were able to see a few Northern Shovelers.  The above image was the most clear.  Note the heavy elongated spoon-shaped bill.  According to Maury, the bill has comblike projections along its edges, which filter out food from the water. 


The Mallard is one of the most familiar ducks that is found throughout North America and all across Eurasia.  With more direct sunshine, the head of the males becomes almost iridescent green.  The above images shows two males and one female. 

Flock of American White Pelicans over Emiquon

At Emiquon, about 2 miles from the Dickson Mounds Museum in Havana, we were able to watch a flock of American White Pelicans as they migrated north. 

American White Pelicans over Emiquon (Closeup)

In the closeup image, you can see the long bill with the extensible pouch.  Although these birds appear ungainly on land, in the air, they are superb flyers. 

Normal View of American White Pelican Flock over Emiquon

One of the cool facts, is that the White Pelican does not dive for fish.  Instead, they dip their head under water to scoop up fish.  These birds have even been known to work together by moving in circles to concentrate fish, then dip their heads simultaneously.

Peoria Audubon Society 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 Mike Miller the Peoria Park District to volunteer as a drivers.  Feel free to send any comments or feedback to Dennis, humble webmaster for Peoria Audubon.   


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Photos courtesy of Dennis Endicott.  All rights reserved.