Illinois & Indiana: Spring 2020

Spring 2020: 1 Mar–31 May

James D. Hengeveld

Keith A. McMullen

Geoffrey A. Williamson

Recommended citation:

Hengeveld, J.D., K.A. McMullen, and G.A. Williamson. 2021. Spring 2020: Illinois & Indiana. <> North American Birds.

The weather was unremarkable, with March the warmest and wettest relative to means. Nonetheless, the migration overall seemed ahead of schedule. The two states set 14 different early arrival records, and many species had notably early arrivals. The most extraordinary avian event of the season was the passage of 8000+ passerines on 15 May witnessed by Stephanie Beilke and Caleb Putnam at the Observation Tower in Indiana Dunes State Park. The tally included 350 Eastern Kingbirds, 500 Cedar Waxwings, 175 Bobolinks, 30 Orchard Orioles, 900 Baltimore Orioles, more than 4,200 warblers, 70 Scarlet Tanagers, 75 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and 550 Indigo Buntings. Among the warblers were 12 Golden-winged, 202 Cape May, 250 Palm, and 350 Yellow-rumped, along with 3,200 that eluded identification to species. This flight broke several high count records. Rarities were plentiful, with the long list of unusual species including Cinnamon Teal, Eurasian Wigeon, White-winged Dove (an abundance of them!), Snowy Plover, Ruff, Neotropic Cormorant, Little Gull, Prairie Falcon, Vermilion Flycatcher, Common Raven, Townsend’s Solitaire, Lark Bunting, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Swainson’s Warbler, Kirtland’s Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, Western Tanager, Lazuli Bunting, and Painted Bunting.

Contributers (subregional editors in boldface): Annie Aguirre, Nichole Akre, Kyle Alkema, Bob Andrini, David K. Antieau, Paula Aschim, Ryan Askren, Scott Attebury, Mike Avara, David Ayer, Amar A. Ayyash, Daniel Baechle, Robert Bailey, Stephanie Beilke, Andy Belt, Jeff Bilsky, Cici Birnberg, Richard A. Biss, H. David Bohlen, Julie Bonnema (JBa), Kenneth J. Brock (Indiana), Beth Brown, Ethan Brown, Maury H. Brucker, Larry Caldwell, Joseph Caruso (JCo), John Cawood, Gordon L. Chastain, Michael Clay, Scott A. Cohrs, Jacob C. Cooper, Matthew M. Cvetas, Carl DauBach (CDh), Pen DauBach, Bob Decker, Travis DeNeal, Colin Dobson, Gary Dorman, Jacob Drucker, Cassidy Eaton, Kim Ehn, Emma England, Joshua I. Engel, Julie Erwin, Rick Fox, Steven M. Freed, Michael Fulton, Richard Garrett, Tim Garvey (TGy), Joe Gasick, Glenn Giacinto, Christopher Gilbert

Contributors (cont.)

Laura Gilbert, Bruce Glick, Tommy Goodwin, Katie Grigsby, Lindsay Grossman (LGm), Brendan J. Grube, Eric D. Gyllenhaal, Claire Halpin, Heath Harlan, Logan Harlan, C. Leroy Harrison, Scott Harp, Don Hartzler (DHr), Ted Hartzler, Roger S. Hayes, Andi Haynes, Michael Heaney, Gerald Heath, Jim Hengeveld, Susan Hengeveld, James R. Herkert, Lynea S. Hinchman, Jarod Hitchings (JHs), Frank R. Holmes, Dustin Holschuh, Edward M. Hopkins, Steven J. Huggins, Lori Hyde (LHe), Matthew Igleski, Tamima Itani, Jon Jenkins, Ryan Jones, Ryan Jorgensen (RJn), Dan Kaiser, Matt S. Kalwasinski, Dan M. Kassebaum, Amy Kearns, Noah Kearns, John C. Kendall, Nick Kiehl (NKi), Scott Kigar, Daniel Kozlak (DKo), Thomas B. Lally, Gary Langell, Fred Lieb, Steven L. Lima, Walt Lutz, Michael A. Madsen, Maureen Marsh, Lisa Maier, Jeffrey J. McCoy, Trey McCuen, Kelly J. McKay, Keith A. McMullen, Catherine Meyer, Eric Michael, Daniel Miller, Kyle Miller, Carol Minix (CMx), Stephen Mitten (SMn), Fran R. Morel, Vince Moxon, Steve Mulhall, Don D. Mullison, Keshava Mysore (KMy), Greg E. Neise, Becca Nelson, Joy O’Keefe, Randy J. Pals, Anne Parmley, Glenn Perricone, Sam Plew, Caleb Putnam, Aimee Reel-Hemphill, Mark Rhodes, Alyssa Rod, Diana Rod, Gene Rod, Kimberly Rohling, Jeremy Ross, Kirk Roth (KRh), Rhonda S. Rothrock, Ben Sanders, Olan Schrock, John Schwegman, Adam W. Sell, William Sharkey, Leland R. Shaum, Robert E. Shelby, Jim Shotsberger (JSr), Andrew P. Sigler, John Skene (JSe), Jeffrey R. R. Skrentny, Fritz Slabach, Trevor Slovick, Jeff A. Smith, Evan Speck, Eric Stockton (ESn), Alan F. Stokie, Douglas F. Stotz, Kristin Stratton, Zachary Sutton, Anna Szal, Heidi Tarasiuk, Craig A. Taylor, Aerin Tedesco, Amanda Tichacek (ATk), Jeff Timmons (JTm), Michael A. Topp, Jerry Trombley (JTy), Natasha Tucker, Tony Del Valle, Lisa Vanderbilt, Randy Vanderbilt, John Velasquez (JVz), Sean Verkamp, Jude Vickery, Mark Vukovich, Eric W. Walters, David Ward (DWd), Tony Ward, Ethan Wiist, Ian Wiist, Kyle Wiktor, Vern W. Wilkins, Barbara C. Williams, Daniel T. Williams, Matthew Williams, Christine L. Williamson, Geoffrey A. Williamson (Illinois), Matthew J. Winks, Lucas Wilson, Dan Wylie, Myron Yoder, Amanda Ziegler, Linda Zoetmulder.

Abbreviations: Cane Ridge (Cane Ridge WMA, Gibson Co, IN); Carlyle (Carlyle L., Clinton, Bond and Fayette Cos, IL); DSP Tower (Observation Tower at Dunes SP, Porter Co, IN); Dunes (Dunes SP, Porter Co, IN); Emiquon (Emiquon NWR and The Nature Conservancy’s Emiquon Preserve, Fulton Co, IL); FP (Forest Preserve); FWA (Fish and Wildlife Area); Goose Pond (Goose Pond FWA, Greene Co, IN); NF (National Forest); SF (State Forest).

Waterfowl through Cranes

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were reported from 16 Illinois and four Indiana counties, including Cook and Will Cos in the northern tier of Illinois. The high count was 30 in Lawrence Co, IL 29 Apr (JE). Large numbers of geese persisted into March, exemplified by 98,500 Snow Geese and 10,600 Greater White-fronted Geese in Peoria Co, IL 3 Mar (RF) and 65 Cackling Geese at Carlyle 8 Mar (RSH). A single Greater White-fronted Goose lingered at Cane Ridge through the end of the season. Exceptionally large swan counts included a record spring high count of 124 Mutes at Emiquon 23 May (KAM), 510 Trumpeters at Emiquon 1 Mar (MHB), and a record spring high count of 1061 Tundras at Spring L., Carroll Co, IL 10 Mar (CAT).

Drake Cinnamon Teal were found 9 Apr at Muscatatuck NWR, Jackson Co, IN (ph. GD et al.) and near Hartford City, Blackford Co, IN 12–22 Apr (ph. JVz, JSe, et al.), each representing first records for the respective counties. The male Eurasian Wigeon found at Wheeling Bottoms, Gibson Co, IN in late winter remained through at least 7 Mar (BD). Illinois’s largest spring tally of Lesser Scaup in 13 years involved 10,000 at Fulton, Whiteside Co 15 Mar (JAS). Single Harlequin Ducks were noted in Rock Island Co, IL 1–4 Mar (SMF), at Port of Indiana, Porter Co, IN 6–14 Mar (BJG et al.), and in Chicago 4–10 Apr (JC, m. ob.). Long-tailed Ducks were very scarce in Indiana, as only six were reported. Unusually tardy Long-tailed Ducks included two on Shipshewana L., LaGrange Co, IN 1 May (SP) and one in Chicago 2 May (SMn). The 300 Buffleheads logged at Monty’s Station, Gibson Co 7 Mar (AK) constituted Indiana’s second largest inland count. Strong numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers were observed, including 2675 in Chicago 4 Apr (JRRS) and 2600 at Gillson Park, Wilmette, Cook Co, IL (TI). The 6000 Ruddy Ducks at Sesser, Franklin Co, IL 12 Mar (CD) were notable.

A Ruffed Grouse was heard drumming in Hoosier NF, Lawrence Co, IN 17 Mar (NK fide AK), and singles were seen 3 Apr in Yellowwood SF, Brown Co, IN (MF) and in Hoosier NF, Crawford Co, IN (MR). This species is now quite rare in Indiana (and absent from Illinois).

An amazing and unprecedented event occurred early in the morning of 3 Apr just offshore of the DSP Tower, with 117 swimming Red-necked Grebes tallied (KW, BJG, KE). This total bested the previous high for both the Indiana L. Michigan lakefront (by 111 birds) and the entire state (by 96 birds). A Red-necked Grebe at Illinois Beach SP, Lake Co, IL 13 May (ph. KA) lingered two weeks past the typical Illinois departure date, and one at Chinook Mine, Vigo Co 17 May (KR) provided Indiana’s fourth latest record. Eared Grebes were plentiful in Illinois, with 18 noted, almost twice the average number. The region’s lone Western Grebe was at Baker’s L., Cook Co, IL 23 Apr (AFS).

The number of White-winged Doves visiting the region in spring has steadily increased over recent years. An all-time high of five individuals were noted in Illinois, and four visited Indiana. The earliest was present 14–18 Apr in Metropolis, Massac Co, IL (ph. JS). Others included one in Kendall Co, IL 7 May (ph. RJ, JV), a pair present in Stonington, Christian Co, IL 9–14 May (TS, m. ob.) with one continuing into the summer period, one in Mendota, LaSalle Co, IL 22 May (AR, ph. DR, GR), two at DSP Tower 24 May (BJG et al.), one at a Perry Co, IN feeder 25 May (LC), and one at a feeder in Greensburg, Decatur Co, IN 26 May (AB, LV, RV, et al.).

Black-billed Cuckoos were present in strong numbers in Illinois. The peak count was four at Ryerson Conservation Area, Lake Co, IL 25 May (BN), and counts of three came from six other Illinois sites. A Chuck-will’s-widow heard in the northern tier of Indiana near Middlebury 26–27 May (MY, AA) established a first record for Elkhart Co. Early arriving Eastern Whip-poor-wills included one in Union Co, IL 31 Mar (JO, MV) and Indiana’s second earliest ever in Clark Co 3 Apr (JCo).

A Chimney Swift in Peoria, Peoria Co, IL 27 Mar (DH) was early, as was one seen north of Evansville, Vanderburgh Co, IN 30 Mar (EW, IW). Indiana’s fourth highest spring count of Chimney Swifts, totaling 547 birds, was made at DSP Tower 2 May (KW et al.). A Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Pomona, Jackson Co 5 Apr (RSR) tied for Illinois’s record earliest.

King Rails were reported from five locations in Illinois and from six locations in four Indiana counties. Virginia Rails were unusually widespread in Indiana, with 235 reports from 22 counties, the highest count being 17 at Cowles Bog, Porter Co 18 May (LSH).


Black-necked Stilts continue to arrive early and in good numbers. Single birds found 16 Mar at Cane Ridge (ES) and at Goose Pond (AK) tied for Indiana’s second earliest record, and one noted at Horseshoe L. SP, Madison Co, IL 28 Mar (FRH) was also early. Among four reports from Illinois in excess of 30 birds was one of 57 at Emiquon 12 Apr (CD, TW). The species was observed in 15 central and 12 northern tier counties in Illinois. Early were eight American Avocets at Spunky Bottoms, Brown Co 12 Apr (CD, TW). Thirty-five American Avocets at L. Monroe, Monroe Co 14 Apr (DK et al.) established a new spring high count for Indiana. Illinois’s maximum counts of 2000 American Golden-Plovers, in both Christian Co 14 Apr (TS) and Sangamon Co 16 Apr (CD), were only 25% of the typical peak tally, and the species was reported in lower than normal numbers in Indiana. The logging of 400 Semipalmated Plovers in Dubois Co during 17 May (SV) made for Indiana’s second largest daily count, while 235 Semipalmated Plovers in eastern Crawford Co 14 May (SLL) provided Illinois’s largest spring total in 15 years. Eight Piping Plovers were reported from Illinois. Two Snowy Plovers were detected this season, both found by the same observer. The first was in Murrayville, Morgan Co, IL 4–7 May (ph. CD, m. ob.), and the second in Chestnut, Logan Co, IL 31 May (ph. CD, m. ob.).

Upland Sandpipers were reported in very low numbers in Indiana. Six Whimbrels at Meredosia, Morgan Co, IL 19 May (CD) were noteworthy for being far away from L. Michigan. Hudsonian Godwits were more plentiful than normal. A total of 26 from five different locations in Indiana represented that state’s largest spring flight. The 13 at Goose Pond 16 Apr (GL, CM) provided Indiana’s highest spring tally, and 20 at Carlyle 17 Apr (DMK) provided Illinois’s second highest. Eight at Minonk, Woodford Co, IL 14 May (DHr, TH) formed another notably big group. The record of a single in Montgomery Co 19 May (ESn) tied for Indiana’s second latest spring record. Marbled Godwits were also in good numbers. The four double-digit tallies in Illinois included 38 at the Heyworth WTP, McLean Co 17 Apr (PA, TGy, m. ob.) and 20 at Chain-o’-Lakes SP, Lake Co 6 May (SM).

A Red Knot was at Waukegan, Lake Co, IL 21 & 24 May (AWS). On the south side of Indianapolis, a Ruff was seen by many 15–16 May (ph. MC, KRh, m. ob.). A notably large group of 400 Dunlin was at Carlyle 26 Apr (DMK). A White-rumped Sandpiper in Bureau Co 19 Apr (MAM) was an early record for Illinois. The third largest spring congregation of Pectoral Sandpipers for Illinois, consisting of an estimated 10,000 birds, was noted at Carlyle 18 Apr (DMK). Two Semipalmated Sandpipers in Vermilion Co 17 Apr (RA) bested Illinois’s prior record arrival date by one day, and one in Madison Co 19 Apr (JTm) tied for Indiana’s fifth earliest. Unusual for the spring, 11 Western Sandpipers were reported in Indiana, the largest total consisting of five at Eagle Marsh, Allen Co 7–8 May (ph. JJM et al.). A large count of 171 Short-billed Dowitchers in Hammond, Lake Co (JBa, ph. KS, ph. MI), 14 May represented Indiana’s second largest count. Illinois’ largest group of Short-billed Dowitchers consisted of 180 birds at Chicago’s Washington Park 15 May (JCC, JD). A Long-billed Dowitcher 17 May at Reynolds Creek Gamebird Habitat Area, Porter Co (KW, DKo) was the latest for the Indiana L. Michigan lakefront by six days. Even later was a Long-billed in basic plumage on 20 May in eastern Gibson Co (ph. AK), Indiana’s third latest ever. Matching the record spring high count for Illinois was a tally of 6000 Lesser Yellowlegs at Carlyle 26 Apr (DMK). An early Wilson’s Phalarope was at Goose Pond 5 Apr (EMH).

Gulls through Ibises

Indiana’s first spring Little Gull since 2003, an adult, was at Wakarusa Wastewater Treatment Plant, Elkhart Co 20-21 Apr (KM, ph. LRS, ph. EM, m. ob.); another adult, or perhaps the same bird, was at the same site 1 May (ph. EM, ph. JCK, ph. JJM). Four Laughing Gulls were reported in Illinois, with two at Carlyle 27 May (ph. TG). A presumed Laughing x Ring-billed Gull at Chicago’s Calumet Park 13 Mar (ph. AAA) has returned to southwest L. Michigan each year since 2004. Indiana’s first April California Gull, an adult, was at the Elkhart Co landfill 10 Apr (EM). Also at the Elkhart Co landfill, an amazing record high count of 29 Lesser Black-backed Gulls was made 3 Apr (EM). Arriving a week earlier than Illinois’s prior record early date was a Caspian Tern at Rend L., Franklin Co 12 Mar (CD), and a Caspian Tern seen from DSP Tower 21 Mar (KW) tied for Indiana’s fifth earliest. A high spring total of Common Terns in Indiana (256) was highlighted by 53 at Geist Reservoir, Hamilton Co 9 May (NKi). Two Forster’s Terns at Rend L., Jefferson Co 12 Mar (CD) were the earliest ever by five days.

A fine count of 28 Red-throated Loons was made 13 Mar at Portage Lakefront Park, Porter Co, IN (MAT). It was the region’s best spring ever for Neotropic Cormorants with many sightings and with individuals present throughout the season. They were reported from seven different Indiana counties, with an immature on Geist Reservoir, Hamilton Co 26 Mar (NKi) the state’s earliest, and with the three at J.I. Case Wetlands, Vigo Co 2 Apr (SLL, ph. WS, RG, et al.) constituting Indiana’s largest count. Records from Illinois included single birds at Heron County Park, Vermilion Co 10 Apr (ph. RA), at Almond Marsh FP, Lake Co 26 Apr–14 May (SM, ph. †AWS), and in Zion, Lake Co 24 May+ (GG, SJH, m. ob.).

The total number of American White Pelicans reported in Indiana (over 16,000) was the largest ever recorded. American Bitterns were reported in low numbers in Indiana, though the three at Somerville Mine, Gibson Co 29 Mar (HH) supplied a respectable high count. By contrast, Least Bitterns appeared in Indiana in record numbers; three at Pigeon R. FWA, LaGrange Co 15 May (LRS) providing the peak tally.

Impressive numbers of Ibis were reported in the region this season. Previously, Illinois’s highest total of Plegadis ibis (Glossy, White-faced, and Glossy/White-faced or potential hybrids) occurring during a spring migration was 27; this year there were 140. More than 70 White-faced Ibis were noted in Indiana, with reports from 11 counties. Indiana’s record tally of 10 at Goose Pond 14 Apr (WS, LV, RV) was shattered four days later when 39 were logged at Goose Pond 18 Apr (VWW). Illinois had a count of 13 White-faced Ibis in Henderson Co 16 Apr (EWW) breaking the state’s spring record high, followed by 25 Glossy/White-faced at Kidd L. Marsh SNA, Monroe Co, IL 17 Apr (CDh, PD). Illinois’s spring record high count of White-faced Ibis was broken again with 16 in Bureau Co 18 Apr (SH, m. ob.). The first Glossy Ibis to arrive was one at Dolan wetlands, Monroe Co, IN 18 Apr (GL, m. ob.). Other sizeable groups included five Glossy/White-faced at Nygren Wetlands, Winnebago Co, IL 26 Apr (DTW), nine White-faced at Emiquon 22 May (MMC et al.), and six White-faced in Sangamon Co, IL 22 May (HDB), with scattered smaller groups and individuals throughout the region.

Prior to 1996, when 20 Plegadis were noted during spring in Illinois, ibises were unusual spring occurrences in the state. Indeed, over the entire 10-year period from 1986 to 1995, six total spring Plegadis were observed in Illinois. During the 10 years from 1997 to 2006, the average number per spring was less than six. From 2007 to 2019, the average per season rose to 16. This year’s 140 foretells a further increase in the seasonal average.

Vultures through Parrots

Black Vultures in the central and northern tiers, where they are rare, included two in Champaign, Champaign Co, IL 9 Apr (ph. ZS), one at Sedge Meadow FP, Lake Co, IL 16 May (RAB), and one in Zion, Lake Co, IL 16 May (ph. LZ). A very early Osprey appeared 5 Mar at Potato Cr. SP, St. Joseph Co, IN (BG).

An immature Northern Goshawk was seen from DSP Tower 3 Apr (BJG, KW, KE, KJB), providing the first Indiana record in 18 months; more remarkable, pending acceptance by the Indiana Bird Records Committee, was another at the same site 23 May (KW, †JCK, et al.) that provided Indiana’s latest spring record. A new Illinois high count of Bald Eagles during the spring period took place with 300 at Milan Bottoms, Rock Island Co 4 Mar (KJM). A record spring for Mississippi Kites in Indiana included 50+ birds in 14 counties, with high counts of seven in Pike Co 14 May (JR) and in Spencer Co 24 and 26 May (DA, EMH). Reports of Mississippi Kites came from six counties in Illinois’s central tier, but none in the northern tier where a few have been seen in past spring seasons. A dark morph Broad-winged Hawk at Carlyle 11 Apr (DMK) was an unusual find. Swainson’s Hawk sightings were more plentiful than typical, with single birds in Grafton, McHenry Co, IL 10 Apr (LM) and again 15 May (DTW), at Springbrook Prairie, DuPage Co, IL 12 Apr (MAH, GP), in Wheaton, DuPage Co, IL 28 Apr (VM), and in Berwyn, Cook Co, IL 22 May (ph. GEN). Two were at Burlington, Kane Co, IL 9 May (WL, JSr) where the species is seen regularly.

Quite interesting was a Northern Saw-whet Owl heard calling during nocturnal point surveys at Sand Ridge SF, Mason Co, IL 12 May (MW). The Prairie Falcon wintering in Coles Co, IL was last seen 1 Mar (JRH). The peak count of Monk Parakeets was 40 in southeast Chicago 7 Mar (TBL).

Flycatchers through Thrushes

One of the breeding pair of Western Kingbirds at Evansville Regional Airport, Vanderburgh Co, IN returned 3 May (LH). Single Western Kingbirds were seen at DSP Tower 18 May (JCK) and 23 May (KW, ph. JCK) and in Lexington, McLean Co, IL 30 May (MJW, m. ob.). They were also present at the usual locations in Madison, Mason, and St. Clair Cos, IL. The 350 Eastern Kingbirds tallied at DSP Tower 15 May (CP et al.) represented Indiana’s fourth largest count. A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was noted in Zion, Lake Co, IL 30–31 May (APS, m. ob.). A Yellow-bellied Flycatcher at Cowles Bog, Porter Co, IN 7 May (SK, CE) tied the earliest arrival date for the Indiana L. Michigan lakefront. An adult male Vermilion Flycatcher was found in LaPorte Co, IN 2 Apr (ph. BB), representing the state’s sixth overall and second spring record.

Loggerhead Shrikes were reported from five northern, two central, and eight southern tier counties in Illinois, while seven Indiana counties hosted a total of 19 Loggerhead Shrikes (14 adults, 5 young), including one in the northern tier at Cowles Bog, Porter Co 17 May (KW, DKo, et al.). A White-eyed Vireo found near L. Gibson, Gibson Co 26 Mar (ES) tied for Indiana’s third earliest spring bird. The 24 Apr arrival date for a Bell’s Vireo in Jefferson Co (MH) tied the second earliest for Illinois. An excellent flight of Blue-headed Vireos included peak counts of eight at Skokie Lagoons FP, Cook Co, IL 9 May (RJn) and at Fox Island Park, Allen Co, IN 20 May (DWd). A Warbling Vireo at Crab Orchard NWR, Williamson Co 3 Apr (AR-H) set a record early arrival date for Illinois. Also early were Warbling Vireos at L. Glendale, Pope Co, IL 9 Apr (AP) and in Carbondale, Jackson Co, IL 9 Apr. Twenty-two years ago these two birds would have been record-early for Illinois, but now they are tied only for 15th earliest.

Indicative of the northward expansion of Fish Crows were reports from 16 central tier counties (10 in Illinois and six in Indiana), sightings from three northern tier counties in Indiana, plus a well out of range northern tier observation in Berwyn, Cook Co, IL 10 May (†GEN). On 13 Mar 2019, the first Common Raven seen in Indiana in almost 70 years was at DSP Tower; on 16 Mar 2020, another was videotaped at DSP Tower (KW). On 19 Mar (ph. KW) and again on 22 Mar (ph. KW, BJG), two ravens were seen at the same site, and one or two were seen on three more occasions, the final sighting occurring 16 Apr (KW).

A Northern Rough-winged Swallow at East Fork L., Richland Co 3 Mar (CLH) was record early by 13 days. A male Purple Martin seen in Evansville, Vanderburgh Co 19 Mar (IW) was Indiana’s third earliest spring bird. Also early was a Barn Swallow at Prairie Ridge State Natural Area, Marion Co, IL 8 Mar (DMK). An exceptionally large concentration of 750 Barn Swallows was noted at the Lovgren/Hunter wetland, Bureau Co, IL 19 May (MAM). Indiana’s all-time earliest Cliff Swallow was logged at L. Lemon, Brown Co 18 Mar (JH, SH).

A Winter Wren at Plum Creek FP, Cook Co 30 May (DKA, FRM) provided Illinois’s second latest departure date. A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher photographed at L. Gibson, Gibson Co 20 Mar (IW) tied for Indiana’s second earliest, and the 178 tallied at DSP Tower 2 May (KW et al.) constituted Indiana’s second highest daily count. A Golden-crowned Kinglet in Chicago 27 May (EDG) was late to depart. Notable counts of kinglets included 97 Golden-crowned at LaBagh Woods FP, Cook Co, IL 4 Apr (CLW), 79 Ruby-crowned at Salt Creek Woods FP, Cook Co, IL 26 Apr (DFS), and 75 Ruby-crowned in Morgan Co, IL 17 Apr (CD).

Two Townsend’s Solitaires were observed: one at McCune Sand Prairie, Bureau Co, IL 1–21 Mar (MAM, m. ob.) and one in Pontiac, Livingston Co, IL 2–3 May (NA, m. ob.). Record-early for Indiana was a Veery in Indianapolis 4 Apr (GLC), and one at Dunes 6 Apr (RJP) was the earliest ever for the Indiana L. Michigan lakefront. A Wood Thrush in Ullin, Pulaski Co, IL 7 Apr (TM) was notably early.

Finches through Blackbirds

Winter finches did not linger into spring, with no redpolls and Purple Finches, and Pine Siskins becoming quite scarce. Smith’s Longspurs seemed less numerous in Illinois, with the state’s peak count just 95, observed in Clark Co 5 Apr (SLL), but the estimate of 500 near Wingate, Montgomery Co 11 Apr (DM) tied Indiana’s fourth largest count. Eight Smith’s Longspurs at DSP Tower 2 May (KW et al.) provided a notable record, and singletons at Iroquois County Conservation Area 9 May (AS) and in Vermilion Co, IL 8 May (RA) were tardy.

First seen on 9 Apr (OS), Indiana’s seventh Lark Bunting was positively identified 21 Apr (BG) and was subsequently seen and photographed by dozens of birders through 2 May (fide LRS). Two Chipping Sparrows in the Quad Cities vicinity, Rock Island Co, IL 12 Mar (KJM) were notably early. Very interesting were two separate sightings of Dark-eyed Juncos in the gray-headed group of subspecies Junco hyemalis caniceps/dorsalis. The evidence for one in Arlington Heights, Cook Co, IL 10 May (ph. FL) was insufficient to identify it beyond being in the J. h. caniceps/dorsalis subspecies group, while the other at Mississippi Palisades SP, Carroll, IL 22 May (ph. EB) was felt to represent caniceps. These forms are quite rare in the region. The Golden-crowned Sparrow found in Dubois Co, IN in Dec was last seen 8 Mar (SV). The seven Harris’s Sparrows observed in Illinois represented a strong movement. Two Nelson’s Sparrows at the Grant Street Wetland, Lake Co, IN 18 May (MSK) were noteworthy, as the species is generally quite rare in spring. No Nelson’s Sparrows were reported from Illinois, perhaps in part due to the COVID-related closure of lakefront locations in Chicago, where spring migrants, though rare, are often observed. A Lincoln’s Sparrow in Vigo Co, IN 7 Mar (SLL) was an early spring migrant, as was one at P.A. Nehring FP, DeKalb Co, IL 21 Mar (TDV), and the 51 Lincoln’s Sparrows at Northwestern University, Evanston, Cook Co 15 May (EWW) provided a noteworthy high count. Spotted Towhees were reported at Ryerson Conservation Area, Lake Co, IL 16 Apr (ph. CB, MM) and in Olney, Richland Co, IL 25–28 Apr (CLH, m. ob.).

A Yellow-headed Blackbird in Shawnee NF, Jackson Co, IL 27 Mar (DDM) was quite early. Of the nine Yellow-headed Blackbirds reported in Indiana, one in Elkhart Co 12 Apr (AA, ph. LG, NT, et al.) was the earliest, and another at Goose Pond 6 May (AK) was the farthest from L. Michigan, where the sightings tend to be bunched. The 30 Orchard Orioles logged at DSP Tower during an amazing migratory flight on 15 May (CP, SB, et al.) were notable. A very early Baltimore Oriole appeared in northern Monroe Co, IN 3 Apr (AH); a Baltimore Oriole in Williamson Co 6 Apr (KR) provided a new record arrival date for Illinois; and the arrival of another in Edwards Co, IL 10 Apr (RES) matched Illinois’s prior earliest date. Absolutely amazing were the estimated 900 Baltimore Orioles that passed by DSP Tower 15 May (CP, SB, et al.), part of a spectacular migratory flight witnessed that day. Large spring flocks of blackbirds included an estimated 200,000 Red-winged Blackbirds and 150,000 Common Grackles at Peabody-River King State FWA, St. Clair Co, IL 7 Mar (DMK).

Warblers through Grosbeaks

An Ovenbird noted in the Lusk Creek Wilderness, Pope Co 8 Apr (MV) was record-early for Illinois. A Worm-eating Warbler in Mountain Township, Saline Co 6 Apr (TD) tied for record-earliest in Illinois. A Northern Waterthrush photographed at Howell Wetlands Park, Vanderburgh Co 9 Mar (EW) knocked 19 days off the earliest arrival date for Indiana. The extraordinary 15 May flight at DSP Tower yielded 12 Golden-winged Warblers, and with the additional four tallied the same day at Dunes (CP et al.), the all-time high Indiana count was set at 16. Indiana’s second earliest Blue-winged Warbler was noted at Maxey Marsh Trail, Gibson Co 8 Apr (JR). A Black-and-white Warbler at Pine Hills/LaRue Ecological Area, Union Co 26 Mar (MV) was rather early. Indiana’s warbler of the year was its sixth Swainson’s Warbler, a singing bird found at Igleheart Park in Evansville, Vanderburgh Co 24 Apr (EW, m. ob.). Another Swainson’s Warbler was at Cypress Creek NWR, Union Co 9 May (ph. v.r. CG, TM), the seventh record for Illinois in the last 10 years. Indiana’s earliest spring and first March record of Nashville Warbler was provided by a bird at Lincoln SP, Spencer Co 29 Mar (DA), and the second highest daily tally of Nashville Warblers in Illinois was provided by a count of 75 in Chicago’s Washington Park 15 May (JCC et al.). A Connecticut Warbler at Thatcher Woods FP, Cook Co 4 May (RB) tied for Illinois’ second earliest., and one at Heritage Park, Lake Co 6 May (JBa) tied the earliest arrival date for the Indiana L. Michigan lakefront. Early Mourning Warblers included one in Ripley Co, IN 29 Apr (LW) and one at Crab Orchard NWR, Williamson Co, IL 30 Apr (DW). A Common Yellowthroat at Mermet L., Massac Co 14 Mar (ph. DMK) very likely overwintered, while a Common Yellowthroat in Gibson Co 27 Mar (EW, IW) provided Indiana’s second earliest spring record. Impressive high counts of Common Yellowthroats included 100 in Chicago’s Jackson Park 15 May (BS), 90 in Chicago’s Washington Park 15 May (JCC et al.), and 86 in Monroe Co, IL 9 May (KAM).

A Hooded Warbler in South Bend, St. Joseph Co 9 Apr (KMy) was Indiana’s third earliest. A singing Kirtland’s Warbler was found in Kosciusko Co 3 May (JCK), marking the third consecutive spring the species has been reported in Indiana. A Kirtland’s Warbler in Geneva, Kane Co, IL 18 May (BA, m. ob.) was the fourth for Illinois in the last six years. One of the most astonishing records of the season was of 202 Cape May Warblers tallied on the magical 15 May day at DSP Tower (CP et al.), besting the previous Indiana high count by 142. A Cerulean Warbler x Northern Parula at Fabyan FP, Kane Co, IL 23 May (SAC) was likely the same individual observed at this site for four consecutive springs. The 35 Blackburnian Warblers tallied at DSP Tower 15 May plus one additional bird in Dunes (CP et al.) yielded Indiana’s second highest daily total. Two Palm Warblers at Cane Ridge 22 Mar (GD) and one in the northern tier at Franke Park, Allen Co, IN 28 Mar (JJ) were early arrivals, as were singles in Chicago 29 Mar (CH), at Jon J. Duerr FP, Kane Co, IL 30 Mar (WL), and at Ryerson Conservation Area, Lake Co, IL 31 Mar (EE). An amazing 297 Palm Warblers were logged at DSP Tower 2 May (KW et al.). An excellent count of 16 Pine Warblers was made at L. Glendale, Pope Co, IL 21 Mar (AP). A record-early Prairie Warbler was seen in New Pekin, Washington Co, IN 26 Mar (GH); another was heard in Dearborn Co, IN 28 Mar (KG); and one in Pomona, Jackson Co 3 Apr (RSR) was the earliest on record for Illinois. Quite the find was a Townsend’s Warbler at Deer Grove FP, Cook Co, IL 16–26 Apr (HT, m. ob.); it was Illinois’s fourth in the last seven years. In southern Vanderburgh Co, IN a Black-throated Green Warbler seen 28 Mar (HH) was early, as was one seen in Champaign Co 1 Apr (AT). The tally of 40 Black-throated Green Warblers at Dunes 2 May (LGm) tied for highest for the Indiana L. Michigan lakefront. A record-early Wilson’s Warbler was noted in Chicago 13 Apr (JIE, AZ), while a Wilson’s Warbler at Kingsbury Fish and Wildlife Area, LaPorte Co 18 Apr (BJG) was Indiana’s second earliest all-time spring arrival.

An Indiana record high count of Scarlet Tanagers was set during the 15 May flight at DSP Tower with 70 tallied (CP et al.). An amazing six Western Tanagers were recorded, all males. These included one in Corunna, DeKalb Co, IN 30 Apr–7 May (ph. LHe et al.); one in Albion, Edwards Co, IL 7–12 May (SA, m. ob.); one in Hoopeston, Vermilion Co, IL 8–11 May (JTy, m. ob.); one in Yorkville, Kendall Co, IL 19–21 May (ph. DB, ph. RJ); one at Delt Church Park, LaGrange Co, IN 16 May (ph. FS); and one in Porter Co, IN 21 May (fide eBird). An astounding tally of 17 Blue Grosbeaks in Monroe Co 9 May (KAM) tied the second highest daily high count for Illinois. A big surprise was two Illinois occurrences of Lazuli Buntings. The bird found late in the winter period in Sherman, Sangamon Co remained until 1 Mar (JHs), while one at a residence in Marion Township, Ogle Co during 16 Mar–2 May (ph. BCW, ph. †DTW) was unfortunately off-limits to the birding community, as the homeowners were cautious about having many visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Early arrivals were the eight Indigo Buntings in Equality, Hardin Co, IL 5 Apr (MA). Quite a surprise was a male Painted Bunting in Chicago 2 May (JRRS). A count of 170 Dickcissels in Monroe Co, IL 9 May (KAM) was notable.

Exotics and Unestablished Introductions

European Goldfinches continue to have a significant presence in northeastern Illinois, where they were reported from Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, and Winnebago Cos. High counts included nine in Carol Stream, DuPage Co 13 Mar (CMx), eight at Illinois Beach SP, Lake Co 25 May (JB, ATk), and eight in Waukegan, Lake Co 7 Apr (JG).

Report processed by Randi Minetor, 24 June 2021.

Photos–Illinois & Indiana: Spring 2020

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