Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Eastern Meadowlark; Early April Migration to Northern Illinois

While biking to work or out for a ride, I pass along many open fields along the rural roads outside the Rockford city limits. During these rides, I usually hear the same three or four types of birds out in the meadows. These rides often reminded me of my youth. As a young boy, I remember three types of birds that inhabited the farm fields and cow pastures surrounding our rural home: Red-winged Blackbirds, Killdeers, and Meadowlarks, each having their own distinct song - each very different from each other. It's easy to spot the Red-winged Blackbirds and Killdeers as they are both very visible and active, but when I hear the sweet soft song of the Eastern Meadowlark, I look for them, but they are always low to the ground hidden in the grass and weeds of the fields they inhabit - especially if they have their back facing you, which blends in nicely with its grassy surroundings (Below).

Except for yellow lores and throat, this Eastern Meadowlark would be hard to see in the long grass, Rock Cut State Park; 4/17/2011.

After a couple of years of listening to them, I finally decided to actively look for one to get a photograph and came upon a great spot for Meadowlarks quite by accident.  Early this April, while looking for waterbirds in Rock Cut State Park, I decided to check out Olsen Lake, which is in part of the Park I don't often visit. While I was scanning the lake's surface for Scaups and Buffleheads, I heard it - an Eastern Meadowlark singing from behind me. Behind me is a good sized meadow that is set aside by the park as a training ground for dogs and their owners. This meadow is just south of the Olsen Lake Parking lot and there in the evening light I saw the Meadowlark singing away sitting atop a small bush in the distance. The light was too low for a good photograph, but I knew I would return the next morning to try to find it.
An Eastern Meadowlark, Rock Cut State Park; 4/17/2011.
The next morning, I got up very early and hustled to Olsen lake, and sure enough within minutes, I heard two meadowlarks - both in the field where I saw the one the evening before. I slowly stalked them until I could get a somewhat open view of it - still in the long grass (Above).
A good look at the black "bib" of an Eastern Meadowlark, Rock Cut State Park; 6/5/2011.

Eastern Meadowlarks are found yearround in the Southeastern quadrant of the U.S., but in summer they will spread north and inhabit the entire Eastern half of the U.S.  In winter they will migrate into Mexico. They have a striking bright yellow throat, breast, and belly broken up by a black bib (Above) and spotty streaking along its flanks. Its yellow lores is a nice contrast to its black eyeline and crown on an otherwise white head.


Chesney said...

I am jealous! I have been trying to get one of these forever! Did you know the Meadowlark is NE's state bird (except it is the western meadowlark...which looks about the same.

Anonymous said...

Lucky you !
I stay near peoria and yet to see one..
All I get to see are red winged black birds, starlings, woodpeckers, cardinals and very rarely
waxwings or deerkillers. do you suggest any good birding park nearby
I will be following you to get to know abt the diverse species our state offers..