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MSWRD Wetland Field Trip

Metropolitan Sanitary Water Reclamation District

Photo Gallery:

Field Trip: Saturday April 23, 2011                  Next Page 1 2

Thad Edmonds of the The Peoria Audubon Society, received special permission to visit the Prairie Plan facility of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MSWRD) of Chicago.  This 14,000 acre facility, with its wetlands and lakes, is closed to the public. 

Located a few miles west of Canton, Illinois, the formerly strip mined land was originally purchased by the Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District 50+ years ago for use as a location to deposit sludge from Chicago. The intent was to use barges or trucks to transport liquid sludge down the Illinois River, pump it to the facility, then deposit it onto farm fields for use as fertilizer. Allegedly, in the early pilot stages, it was determined that the logistics were too expensive and the sludge process was never put into full action.

Over the ensuing years, the facility remains closed to the general public (unless special permission is obtained from the Chicago headquarters).

Dennis Endicott of the Peoria Audubon Society took the photos to share with the group. 

Bald Eagle on Nest  (larger high res image: 1800x1038)

Although we first saw the eagle nest in the morning (perhaps 3/4 mile away in image below), later in the afternoon, we had a closer look (perhaps 1/4 mile) from the opposite direction.  The images above and below  are highly cropped from a long telephoto lens. 

Distant view of Eagle on Nest

After watching for a few minutes through out spotting scopes we saw what appeared to be a young eaglet being attended to by its parent.  The buzz generated considerable discussion if there could have been two eaglets in the nest.  Because of the distance, we couldn't tell.  But everyone was excited to report on the small eaglet. 

Getting out the spotting scopes to look at the distant eagle nest

Henry Sinclair adjusts the focus for a sharper look

The past few days, including the previous night, resulting in several inches of rain.  Fortunately, the sun came out during the birding trip.  There was some speculation that all the previous rain had resulted in many of the birds "hunkering down" to gather food for completing their migration.  The birds don't like to fly in the rain either as it would weight their wings down. 

Lesser Scaup (Male & Female)

We saw several Lesser Scaup in a few of the lakes. 

Northern Bobwhite (female)

Thad's sharp eyes noticed the well camouflaged Bobwhite in the field of stubble.  First one we had seen here in a while. 

Northern Shovelers (male & female) in one of the lakes

Thad said that it appeared that Northern Shovelers may be gaining in population. We found several groups of this duck species.  Most of the field guide range maps indicate that this duck species is presently migrating toward the northwest. 

White-tailed Deer

As we drove around, we frequently came across deer.  The above deer were well concealed within a grove of brush and trees.  Using our vehicle as a movable photo blind sometimes worked well to reduce spooking and running.  The three deer in the above photo felt somewhat safer in their enclosed environment, than making a run for it through a greater openness.   

Blue-winged Teal (male on right)

In the highly cropped above image of blue-winged teal, the plants on the back are leftover corn residue.  From all the recent rains, the ducks were taking advantage of the slightly flooded field. 


 Mute Swan on Nest

We found a few examples of Mute Swans nesting at the MSWRD.  

American Coot

Several locations had small flocks of American Coots.  Coots used to be known as "Marsh Hens" or "Mud Hens" due to the way their heads bob when they walk or swim.  Also, they swim like a duck, but do not have webbed feet.  Instead, their three toes have lobes on the sides of each segment to provide a means of paddling in the water.  Although somewhat skittish, we were occasionally able to get close to a lone coot for taking a photo. 

Savannah Sparrow

Despite the strong winds in one of the more open areas, we were able to find a few small sparrows, such as the Savannah Sparrow above.  

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Photos courtesy of Dennis Endicott - All rights reserved

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