Today was Rockford, Illinois’ Christmas Bird Count. We started the day at around 7, hiking through tall grass and rousing up a Ring-necked Pheasant. The weather was in the 30s to start and remained cloudy all day with a bitter wind. We saw a load of American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. We heard a Pileated Woodpecker laughing in the woods but did not see him. We spotted a Sharp-shinned Hawk and about a hundred Canada Geese (no Cacklers).
A few of the mighty Pecatonica River which feeds into the Sugar River, two of the four great rivers we have in Winnebago County.
Next, we made a quick pitstop and spotted a young Cooper’s Hawk. The cool thing was that the Cooper was chasing a squirrel round and round the base of a tree. He kept this up for awhile before flying off a ways.
Cooper’s Hawk after tiring from a squirrel chase.
Our next stop brought us to a pine forest on one of our local congressman’s conservation easement. The area was overflowing with Juncos, Northern Cardinals, and Mourning Doves. We split up and combed the pine trees where I surprised a Great Horned Owl. Owls fly in silence but their take-off is sometimes noisy. This owl made a huge crack as he sprung from his perch. We spotted two Red-tailed Hawks, some Blue Jays, and the like.
What I love about CBCs are they take you to places you normally wouldn’t go. We dropped in on a hunting club (Pheasants) to check out their well-stocked feeders. They were swarming with Black-capped Chickadees, American Goldfinches, White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmice, and a Brown Creeper. It was hard to count the birds because they zipped in and out so fast.
We had a quick lunch and stopped at a “campground” that actually is just a junky place where people park their RVs for the winter and then hangout in the summer. The owners of this RV Resort (not much of resort if you ask me) have demolished tons of trees to make room for more lots. The funny thing is that these lots are on sandy soil that will most likely erode in a few years. Steal of a deal at $20,000.
We ended the main part of the count at an excellent forest preserve called Sugar River. We combed more forest and discovered at least two Barred Owls. Some feeders in the preserve were exploding with much of the same as we saw earlier, but also had a Red-breasted Nuthatch. The rest of the preserve was eerily quiet. Maybe it was the cloudy weather or the time of day.
On some of the roads we covered we saw several more Red-tailed Hawks and two Bald Eagles, one of which was a juv. All in all, we tallied almost 40 species. I’ll post a grand total of all of the Rockford count circles when that is available. We hiked some 10 miles, my legs are sore, but it was a great day as all CBCs are. My next count is a week away! I can’t wait!