For the past couple of weeks, I have been highlighting those birds which spend the entire year in our parts of Northern Illinois. Before that, I featured those birds who just spend the winter here. Now its time to concentrate on those birds who are passing through from their winter grounds somewhere south of here to their summer digs - somewhere north or west of here.
The first sign of migrants already started appearing in late February. Eastern Bluebirds, American Robins, and Hermit Thrushes seemed to be in that first group. Some of the first two species could very well have been here all winter, but definetely the numbers increased everyday until they were both quite common by the first couple of weeks of March, and of course, will stay all summer. The latter of the three, The Hermit Thrush (Below), is historically an early arriver, on its way to Northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, Canada, the Northeast States and the mountain states of the Rockies and the Appalachians.
|The Hermit Thrush is one of the first migrants to appear travelling through Northern Illinois|
The next wave of migrants seemed to happen by mid-March. Waterbirds such as American Coots, Northern Shovelers, Common Loons, Sandhill Cranes, and Great Blue Herons were appearing on the lakes at Rock Cut State Park and the marshes of Nygren Wetlands Preserve, both near Rockford, and both excellent birding spots in our area. Of this group, the Coots and Herons will stay all summer, but the Northern Shovelers (Below) and Common Loons (Bottom) are passing through to more northern territories, and the Sandhill Cranes are on the very edge of the southernmost summer range. They don't often spend the summer in Northern Illinois (however, they are frequently seen at the Nygren Wetlands Preserve); however, they will spend the summers just north of here in Wisconsin.
|A Northern Shoveler, Nygren Wetlands Preserve, Rockton, IL; 4/10/11.|
|A pair of Northern Shovelers coming in for a landing at the Nygren Wetlands Preserve, Rockton, IL; 4/10/11.|
|This pic of a pair of Northern Shovelers shows their uniquely shaped bill and profile; Phoenix, AZ; 12/26/09.|
Another water bird travelling through the area are the Common Loons. I remember being surprised to see one in the lake at Bauman Park a year ago, especially in a park that is very busy - knowing Loons like solitude and tend to stray away from people. This early spring of 2011, has been Loon heaven at Rock Cut State Park. I have seen as many as 12 loons on the same day on Pierce Lake (March 26). It's always a treat to hear them yodeling their haunting calls. They have been at Rock Cut State Park for the past three weeks. Even last weekend when boats were allowed on the lake, I still counted no less than 5 Loons.
|A Common Loon on Pierce Lake, Rock Cut State Park, Rockford, IL; 3/31/11.|
Tomorrow I will feature the Sandhill Crane.