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Illinois Audubon Society: Spring Gathering & Field Trips

Southern Illinois: May 1-3, 2009

Photo Gallery    Page 1    Page 2

Several members of the Peoria Audubon Society traveled to Southern Illinois the first week of May 2009 to join the Spring Gathering of the Illinois Audubon Society (IAS).  From Friday through Sunday, during the daytime, members of the Shawnee Audubon Society organized several local field trips.  The Spring Gathering itself was held at the San Damiano Retreat, near Golconda, IL on a bluff that overlooked the Ohio River. 

Despite the wet rainy weather, everyone still had a great time in the field visiting a number of beautiful places in the surrounding Shawnee National Forest.  A number of the daytime field trips were to tracts of wildlife habitat that was purchased through the land acquisition fund of the Illinois Audubon Society.  This included: the War Bluff Sanctuary, Lusk Creek, and Faulkner Tract.  In addition to the birding hikes, everyone was provided the opportunity to go birding by canoe in the Cache River, State Natural Area.   

Dennis, webmaster for Peoria Audubon Society, took a few photos showcasing the field trips. 

Birding by Canoe in the Cache River State Natural Area

With thunderstorms looming in the distance, the birders enthusiasm in the Cache River was not dampened.  Within 10 minutes of leaving the dock, one of the first birds spotted was an anhinga, perched in a nearby bald cypress tree. 

The naturalists on the trip indicated that when bald cypress trees are growing in water, "knees" or extensions of the root systems protrude from the water and are believed to help provide oxygen for the trees. 

209 Knees on Bald Cypress at Cache River

Many of the larger older trees have a great number of "knees."

Prothonotary Warbler Nestbox at Cache River

A large number of the trees had special nestboxes, that were fabricated from a carton.  The boxes were designed and specifically located for the Prothonotary Warbler.  

Cache River: Prothonotary Warbler Nestbox

Cache River: Prothonotary Warbler

During the time of the field trip, many of prothonotary warblers were busily setting up their territories for nesting.  During the trip, due to significantly heavier than normal rainfall, the Cache River delta was 3-5 feet higher than normal for the season.  Most of the nest boxes were 3-5 feet above the water level. 

State Champion Bald Cypress (1000+ years old)

As we canoed around the largest bald cypress in Illinois, our tour guides indicated that most of the large trunk diameter was presently below water level.  With the higher than normal water, the circumference of the above tree was 40-50 feet. 

Dr. Jeff Hoover: "Field Lecture" on Warbler Biology

We had the good fortune of running into Dr. Jeff Hoover of the Illinois Natural History Survey, who was conducting warbler research.  Jeff indicated that he and his graduate students had setup and were monitoring about 1500 of the carton-type nest boxes in 20 locations in the watershed. 

By experimentally improving the nesting success for some pairs of the warblers, but not others, Jeff indicated that warblers will decide on whether or not to return to sites within the Cache River watershed based on their reproductive performance.  In Jeff's work, through extensive banding, the breeding habits of individual warblers are studied.   

Warblers that are successful in producing two broods of offspring in a breeding season will return to the same approximate location at an 80% rate.  If the individuals are successful with only one brood, the return rate is 50%.  And if the individuals fail at producing offspring during one season, the return rate is only 25%.  In other words, the birds will come back to a good location, but not come back to a bad one. 

This was only one of the tidbits of knowledge that Jeff's team has determined through the past 15 years, where they have banded > 8,000 Prothonotary Warbler nestlings in the Cache River watershed.  The information garnered from these type of studies are used to formulate conservation policy. 

Click for More information on warbler biology from Dr. Hoover

Tufted Titmouse in Pileated Woodpecker Cavity

A tufted titmouse made good use of a nesting cavity from a Pileated Woodpecker. 

After leaving the Cache River, our tour guide drove past a location where bald eagles have been nesting for a few years. 

Bald Eagle Nest in Southern Illinois

In the above image, a bald eagle was sitting in its nest, which was greater than 1/4 mile distant. 

The Spring Gathering of birders from across the state (and beyond), was held at the San Damiano Retreat, located on the bluffs overlooking the Ohio River. 

The speaker at the Saturday night banquet was Jody Shimp, IDNR District 5 Natural Heritage Regional Administrator.  Jody provided a moving presentation on "Fighting Naturalists - Saving Southern Illinois' Natural Areas."  The emphasis was on the importance of a partnership between Illinois Audubon and the IDNR to preserve and protect critical habitat. 

Tom Clay of IAS Accepting Partnership Recognition from Jody Shimp

After the presentation, Jody recognized Tom Clay, Executive Director of Illinois Audubon, for their continued partnership.  The framed collection of photos represent the various properties now preserved and protected in southern Illinois. 

Following Saturday night's banquet and presentation, a number of drawings were held. 

John Wallace Conducting Drawing

After the banquet, John Wallace, President of the Shawnee Audubon Society, officiated a number of drawings, including a silent auction.

Banquet Table Centerpiece & Raffle Prize

In a novel way of bringing awareness to how invasive species are becoming problematic in Illinois, one of the Shawnee Audubon members created the centerpieces, using invasive species.  The basket and products were made from invasive species.  In the center bottle was "Autumn Olive Shrub."  The shrub is characterized as

"Shrub is a refreshing colonial drink made of cider vinegar and fruit.  Mix one part syrup to four parts water over ice and enjoy a beverage our forefathers used on a hot summer's day.  Autumn olive berries are rich in lycopene and make a tart and tasty drink." 

"After banquet" crowd waiting to find out who won the drawing items. 

John Wallace excitedly announcing another winner

The various drawings and silent auction of items were a big hit with the group. 

Peoria Audubon Society wishes to thank the Illinois Audubon Society for its continued action at protecting and preserving critical wildlife habitat throughout Illinois. 

More Field Trip Photos on Page 2

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