Birding

We love to travel to find new birds and participate in a lot of bird counts. We also created a Guide to Birding Field Guides and host a collection of over 200 birding links from all over the globe.

Conservation

While our main focus continues to be birds, we promote other areas of conservation as well. Conserving land not only benefits wildlife, but is hugely beneficial to people as well.

Year of the Young Birder

2013 is officially The Year of the Young Birder! We plan on spending the whole year promoting young birder clubs and sharing ideas on how to help student naturalists become lifelong conservationists.

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Minnesota | New York

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Illinois Spring Bird Count – 2013

May 15, 2013
Article in: Birding

Every year members of the Birdfreak Team participate in the Illinois Spring Bird Count, a citizen science project geared at counting birds across the state. County by county, birders try and find as many birds as possible during migration.

This year we found out that some less-covered counties are counting on Sunday instead of the usual Saturday to try and attract more birders for both days. We hope to participate both days next year.

Some of the highlights from our day of counting:

Preening Green Heron
Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

Osprey at Nest
Osprey at Nest

Red-breasted Nuthatch (more of a winter bird)
Red-breasted Nuthatch

Northern Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush

One of many many Yellow Warblers
Yellow Warbler

Tree Swallows (we had lots!)
Tree Swallows

I would have taken more photos but after being caught in a heavy downpour I decided to put the camera away.

Barn Swallow
Barn Swallow

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2011 Great Backyard Bird Count – Illinois

February 24, 2011
Article in: Bird Conservation

The 2011 Great Backyard Bird Count is over and here are the results we recorded from northern Illinois (Rockford).

Dad and Arizona looking for birds in the front yard
Arizona and Pops Looking For Birds

Friday we had 5 species, Saturday 14, Sunday 3, and Monday just 2. Most counting hours were spent on Saturday when we had more time to look and also the best weather. Sunday and Monday were awful in terms of weather (and birds!).

Highlights were 56 Cedar Waxwings on Sunday and a Blue Jay who alerted me to a gorgeous Red-tailed Hawk in our yard.

Cedar Waxwings digiscoped through the picture window during downpour
Cedar Waxwings

Crows were recorded daily but no other species was recorded more than two days. Nothing rare but we were happy to have a Tufted Titmouse which have been hard to find in the neighborhood.

If you didn’t count this year make sure to next year! It can be fun and is super easy. We end up just observing periodically when we have time.

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The 2011 Great Backyard Bird Count

February 15, 2011
Article in: Bird Conservation

February 18th through the 21st is the 14th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)! This really is the easiest count of the year and a good time to become a Citizen Scientist!

The GBBC is a four day event that captures a “snapshot” of where the birds are across North America. By counting for fifteen minutes (or more) and tallying species by highest number of individuals seen at one time, anyone can become a Citizen Scientist. Any level of birder can participate!

Common Redpolls and Pine Siskin
Common Redpolls & Pine Siskin

This year Dakota and Jennie are counting in from their second-story picture window. Overlooking a farm field, a tree line and some brushy area they have been seeing American Robins, Northern Cardinals and a couple Northern Mockingbirds. American Crows, Canada Geese and European Starlings are also usually present and of course, the ever present House Sparrows.

The Illinois portion of the Birdfreak team will be focusing on their winter birds as well in the Callaway Nature Preserve and we will be sure to post the results next week. Both areas have received a lot of snow, especially the northern Illinois folk, so it will be interesting to see who shows up this year.

I wonder how many House Sparrows are still under these bushes?
Drifted Snow on Bushes

Good Birding and stay warm and safe!

American Robin
American Robin

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3rd Rock Cut Christmas Bird Count Recap

December 27, 2010
Article in: Bird Conservation

I started the Rock Cut Christmas Bird Count three seasons ago. This year we had large preserved lands CLOSED due to hunting so we were limited. However, the main location of Rock Cut State Park was open and well-covered.

Here are the highlights!

We counted 1,072 birds of 32 species. Of these there were 47 American Robins and 94 Cedar Waxwings that were feasting on berries. We did not have hardly any open water so waterfowl was disappointing.

Raptors were also fairly low but we did get 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks and 3 Bald Eagles. We did have one owl species, 2 Great-horned Owls.

Our teams found 7 Eastern Bluebirds, 1 lone Song Sparrow, and 24 Horned Larks. Brown Creepers (2) and Red-breasted Nuthatches (1) were decidedly low.

Unfortunately, our species totals and numbers has gone down each year.
Year 1 – 47 species, 11,952 birds
Year 2 – 44 species, 3,637 birds
Year 3 – 32 species, 1,072 birds

Note: Our first year we counted a LOT of Canada Geese which inflated the numbers.

Hopefully next year the weather will be warmer, I’ll be able to scout more ahead of time, and we’ll have more areas open for counting!

Sorry no photos. Too cold and not enough hands to find birds, record them, and photograph them.

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2010 Rockford Christmas Bird Count Recap

December 22, 2010
Article in: Bird Conservation

Although we don’t have the final numbers for the whole count (yet) here is a recap of what we saw on the 2010 Rockford Christmas Bird Count.

We started the day in single-digit temperatures and really didn’t advance into double digits. My feet were practically frozen from the start but after a battery of American Tree Sparrows and a hovering Rough-legged Hawk, I started to warm up a little.

We had the pleasure of birding with Illinois State Representative Dave Winters on property he owns and is personally restoring to pre-1950s conditions (of which he has aerial photos of). After our first big trek, Mr. Winters invited us in his house for coffee and hot cocoa. That was just what we needed to warm up fully and continue our pursuit of birds.

We continued on more of Winters’ property and headed through an open area plus two large patches of coniferous trees. Here we found our only Red-breasted Nuthatch and four Eastern Bluebirds. I also flushed a Barred Owl, our only owl of the day.

Next, we headed to the house of a fellow bird club member to look for a Spotted Towhee that had been coming to their feeding station. It had been seen for awhile but not since two days prior. We struck out! But we did see a ton of birds, warmed up a second time, and had spectacular looks of a male Purple Finch.

Warmed up again, we decided to hit the trails of Sugar River Forest Preserve. The woods were beautiful but rather quiet. We picked up a Brown Creeper but not much else.

Sugar River
Sugar River on Rockford CBC

After that we made it to the Kepotah Hunting Club where a group of elderly gentlemen welcomed us graciously and we watched their bird feeders for awhile. A lot more birds, but nothing new to the list.

Our group finished with 34 species and a fun day.

It was too cold for photography . . . the only pictures I took were with my iPhone.

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Christmas Bird Count Season is Upon Us!

December 15, 2010
Article in: Bird Conservation

We are preparing for two upcoming Christmas Bird Counts this weekend: Saturday, December 18th [Rockford] and Sunday, December 19th [Rock Cut State Park]. The weather looks to be cold but not as bad as past counts.

If you haven’t signed up for a count, head on over to Audubon and sign up to one in your area!

Here’s a wonderful map of the majority of count circles in Illinois and date/contact information.

Ermine
Ermine (Mustela erminea)

When we are out counting we always try to keep an eye for other cool creatures besides birds.

The Birdfreak Volvo during a count in 2009
Snow Covering the Volvo

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Big Sit! 2010 – Deer Run Forest Preserve [Illinois]

October 12, 2010
Article in: Bird Conservation

The Illinois half of the Birdfreak Team participated in the Big Sit! 2010 at Deer Run Forest Preserve in Winnebago County in northern Illinois. This was the first year we did the Big Sit! at Deer Run. All the past years have been in Rock Cut State Park (also in Winnebago County) with last year’s event in Missouri.

Deer Run Forest Preserve HDR

For the first year of counting at Deer Run we were unsure how well the numbers would be. The weather was absolutely beautiful with a high of 85 (last year at this time it was in the 30s) and we counted from around 6am to 1pm before the heat and sun got too bad.

Our seats which we were hardly in
Big Sit! 2010

The morning started before day-break with a calling Barred Owl and a “peent-ing” American Woodcock. By the time the sun rose enough to light the foraging sparrows in the brush we had added Great Horned Owl and 11 other species. Unfortunately, we missed out on identifying a flyover flock of ducks and with no other ducks seen, added them as “duck sp.”. (See full list of birds at the bottom of this post.)

The location proved its worth in sparrows although we had one big miss in that department: White-throated Sparrow!!

Skulking White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow

Perhaps the best find was when my dad spotted a fast-moving raptor that turned out to be a Northern Harrier. We had no other raptor species and added Turkey Vulture at the end of our count.

We had a pretty long lull between sightings from around 10am to nearly noon. But thankfully Stacia joined our group and provided great conversation.

Then a bit later we were joined by Tim’s wife Michelle and their 10 month old son, William. We weren’t seeing birds so I grabbed some milkweed pods which was a big hit for little William.

Me and William examining milkweed pods
Me and William

Me and William

Overall we did amazingly well and had a great time. The biggest “misses” were the aforementioned White-throated Sparrow plus Red-tailed Hawk and Mallard.

The List 45 species

  1. Barred Owl
  2. American Woodcock
  3. Killdeer
  4. Song Sparrow
  5. Mourning Dove
  6. Canada Goose
  7. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  8. duck sp.
  9. American Crow
  10. American Robin
  11. White-breasted Nuthatch
  12. Black-capped Chickadee
  13. Great Horned Owl
  14. Red-winged Blackbird
  15. American Goldfinch
  16. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  17. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  18. Downy Woodpecker
  19. House Wren
  20. Lark Sparrow
  21. Dark-eyed Junco
  22. Northern Flicker
  23. Chipping Sparrow
  24. Eastern Bluebird
  25. Vesper Sparrow
  26. Field Sparrow
  27. Blue Jay
  28. Rock Pigeon
  29. Common Grackle
  30. Northern Harrier
  31. Lincoln’s Sparrow
  32. Tufted Titmouse
  33. Brown Creeper
  34. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  35. White-crowned Sparrow
  36. Gray Catbird
  37. Cedar Waxwing
  38. European Starling
  39. Brown-headed Cowbird
  40. Northern Cardinal
  41. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  42. House Finch
  43. Eastern Phoebe
  44. Palm Warbler
  45. Turkey Vulture

Part of a large group of Red-winged Blackbirds that we searched in vain but could not find Rusty or Brewer’s mixed in.
Red-winged Blackbirds

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The 16th Annual Big Sit! Where Will the Birdfreaks Be Sitting?

October 7, 2010
Article in: Bird Conservation

The Big Sit! is a nationwide birding event held every year. It is brought to us by Bird Watcher’s Digest and sponsored by our favorite optics company, Swarovski Optik.

The Big Sit! is a simple event in which birders stay in one spot (a pre-determined 17-foot diameter circle) and observe all the bird species they can from 12:00am midnight to the following midnight.

The Big Sit! this year is Sunday, October 10th and since the Birdfreak Team is split in to states we will be participating in drastically different locations (and not for a full 24 hours).

In Illinois, Eddie is leading the charge at Deer Run Forest Preserve, a place diverse in habitat types and usually loaded with birds. The minimum goal is 30 species and a visit this week showed great potential. Much of it depends on flyovers, but we have a great view of the sky and have improved our spec-spotting skills from the Rock Cut State Park hawk watch.

In Ohio, Dakota and Jennie will be joining the Ohio Young Birders at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Northwest Ohio on their Big Sit Fundraiser for Conservation. We hope to beat the the 2007 count of 58 species by using an arsenal of sharp-eyed young birders. The weather looks good (always a plus!): near 70 degrees by afternoon and sunny.

Past Big Sits

Register your own circle, read the rules, and find all kinds of info about the Big Sit! at Bird Watcher’s Digest.

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