Saturday, May 26, 2012

Early Birds - Eastern Meadowlarks and other February Migrants to Northern Illinois

The early bird gets the  ... uh... the snow cone.
Lapland Longspurs and Horned Lark graze for something to eat on a snowy frozen field near Cherry Valley, IL; 2/25/2012.
Yestreday I blogged about a yellow-bellied Sapsucker that I saw in early February, which would be uncommon for that species to already have arrived in our territory of Northern Illinois. So today I will mention all the migrants who I have observed during the month of February, which officially was still Winter in these parts. As you can see by the picture (Above), even in a light snowfall winter, Northern Illinois still had snow on the ground in late February. Winter residents such as Lapland Longspurs, Horned Larks, American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncoes were still present for another one or two months.
Because February and March are busy months for my High School Theatre work, I don't get out birding as much as I'd like to. So with that disclaimer, other than the 2/5/12 Sapsucker other "early birds" included: Red-winged Blackbirds arrived on 2/19 (I first heard and saw them in Starved Rock State Park), then were in the Rockford area a day later. Common Grackles and Brown-headed Cowbirds also joined the Red-wings at this early date.  On 2/20, I saw my first American Robins in Espenscheid Forest Preserve. Then a week later while I was cruising the farm fileds near Cherry Valley, looking for winter open field birds, such as the Longspurs and Horned Larks (Above), I heard an Eastern Meadowlark sing from a snow-covered cornfield. I scanned the fields and at first all I could spot was a small herd of White-tailed Deer (Below), until I spotted the bright yellow dot in the sunsetting light (also Below).
A small herd of wary White-tailed deer wondering why I was watching them, Cherry Valley, IL; 2/25/2012.

Can you spot the eastern Meadowlark?
An Eastern Meadowlark eyes its potential perch, Rock Cut State Park, 3/24/2012.
A month later I was following an Eastern Meadowlark as flew back and forth between a tree and the grassland prairie near Olsen Lake in Rock Cut State Park. I finally was able to capture one of its landings (Above). The photo (Below) remains one of my favorites of the year so far.
The Eastern Meadowlark about to touch down, Rock Cut State park; 2/25/2012.
It makes contact ...

Looking proud on its perch, RCSP; 2/25/2012.
Eventhough the pic (Above) is not the best in sharpness, I really like how the background greens and purples of the prairie and the distant trees help set off the bright yellows of the Meadowlark.

Other pics of early migrants below:
Brown-headed Cowbird, Starved Rock State park, IL; 2/19/2012.
Common Grackle, Rockford, IL; 2/19/2012.
Red-winged Blackbird, Starved Rock State Park; 2/19/2012.
Great Blue Heron, Rock Cut State Park,  3/29/2012.
The earliest Great Blue Heron I saw was from the car as I was returning to Rockford on I-39 from Starved Rock State park on 2/19. The pic (Above) was taken a month later.
I saw my first American Robin of the year, Espenscheid Forest Preserve; 2/20/2012.
Sun setting behind the vapor clouds of Byron Nuclear Plant, Cherry Valley, IL; 2/25/2012.
I can't help but include the sunset picture (Above), which I took soon after photographing the White-tailed Deeer and the Meadowlark (Top 3 pictures) from the country roads surroundng Cherry Valley, IL.

No comments: