Illinois & Indiana: Spring 2021

Spring 2021: 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 2021: Illinois & Indiana. <> North American Birds.

It was a warmer than average spring with March being the warmest relative to means (+3.5°-3.6°C). Rainfall was fairly normal with March the wettest relative to averages. An interesting general trend was that numbers of migrant (but not resident) birds reported were significantly higher in 2020 than in 2021 (fide Kenneth J. Brock), perhaps as the result of higher, pandemic-influenced birding activity in 2020. Rarities included Brant, Cinnamon Teal, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Common Crane, Ruff, Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Tricolored Heron, Northern “Red-shafted” Flicker, Common Raven, Townsend’s Solitaire, Hoary Redpoll, Bullock’s Oriole, Great-tailed Grackle, Kirtland’s Warbler, Western Tanager, and Painted Bunting.

Subregional editors: Kenneth J. Brock (Indiana).

Abbreviations: Carlyle (Carlyle L., Clinton, Bond and Fayette Cos, IL); DSP Tower (Observation Tower at Indiana 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); Kankakee Sands (The Nature Conservancy Kankakee Sands, Newton Co, IN); Montrose (Montrose Point in Chicago’s Lincoln Park); SNA (State Natural Area).

Waterfowl through Cranes                                                                                                   

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks inundated the region, reported from 14 IL and five IN counties. Peak counts were 37 at Grand Tower, Jackson Co, IL 1 May (Ryan Jones, Jude Vickery) and an IN record-tying 20 north of Mt. Vernon, Posey Co 10 May (Win Ahrens, Jane Fender). The northernmost was a single 10 May at Fawn River State Fish Hatchery, Steuben Co, IN (ph. Karen Brown, Benjamin Miller). Snow Goose flocks into the tens of thousands persisted through the middle of March, with 16,000 at Emiquon 13 Mar (Sean Lyon, David E. Willard). Lingering Ross’s Geese included individuals at Chicago’s Lincoln Park 23 May+ (Matt Igleski, m. ob.) and in Waukegan, Lake Co, IL 31 May (Adam Sell, m. ob.). At the Gene Stratton-Porter historical site, Noble Co, IN, a Brant was seen for one day on 25 Mar (Julie Long). A new IL spring high count of 145 Mute Swans occurred in Fulton Co 12 May (Mike Avara, Colin Dobson). Four Cinnamon Teals, all males, were noted: 29–30 Mar in Clay City, Clay Co, IL (C. Leroy Harrison, m. ob.); 13–24 Apr at the Rome City Wetlands (Aaron Hochstetler, Leland Shaum et al.) that provided a first record for Noble Co, IN; 18 Apr–24 May at Stickney Run Conservation Area, McHenry Co, IL (Jerry Hampton, m. ob.); and 8 May at Big L., Brown Co, IL (Colin Dobson). Hybrid Blue-winged x Cinnamon Teal were noted 3 Apr at Carlyle (Jacob Drucker, Lila Fried) and at Amboy Marsh, Lee Co, IL 9–16 Apr (James E. Hampson, m. ob.), and a hybrid Blue-winged Teal x Northern Shoveler was at Celery Bog Nature Area, Tippecanoe Co, IN 3–15 Mar (ph. Doug Wade, m. ob.). An estimated 10,000 Canvasbacks at Carlyle 6–7 Mar (Dan M. Kassebaum) formed a notably large group, as did the 8,000 Ring-necked Ducks and 12,000 Lesser Scaup at Carlyle 13 Mar (Dan M. Kassebaum). The 638 Greater Scaup reported in IN represented the lowest state total in three years. Late Surf Scoters included individuals at Long L., Lake Co, IL 8 May (Richard Biss), at the El Paso Sewage Plant, Woodford Co, IL 17–19 May (Pete Fenner, m. ob.), and at L. Bloomington, McLean Co, IL 23 May (m. ob.).

Six Red-necked Grebes were reported in the region, four in IL and two in IN. Only two Eared Grebes were reported, one in Chicago’s Belmont Harbor 30 Mar–15 Apr (Matt Sparapani, m. ob.) and the other at Emiquon 1 May (Andy Gilbert). 

Now occurring regularly, though in small numbers, six singleton White-winged Doves were found: in Stonington, Christian Co, IL 7–9 Mar (Trevor Slovick, Jared Gorrell, Jim Herkert) and 11 Apr (Tom Colin); in Bloomington, Monroe Co, IN 12–16 Apr (ph. Nathaniel Sharp, m. ob.); at DSP Tower 27 Apr (Lynea Hinchman et al.); in Granger, St. Joseph Co, IN 5 May (ph. David Crotser); in Effingham, Effingham Co, IL 21 May (ph. Kodi Avery); and in Hancock Co, IN 22 May (Richard Garrett). Black-billed Cuckoos were unusually common as twice the average number were reported in IN, the high count consisting of 21 on an Elkhart Co farm 16 May (David Schwartz) that established a new one-day maximum for IN. Similarly, a record spring total of 589 Yellow-billed Cuckoos in IN included a high one-day count of eight in Martell Forest, Tippecanoe Co 25 May (John Skene).

A Ruby-throated Hummingbird in Saline Co 4 Apr (Travis DeNeal) was record-early by one day for IL. A spectacular find was IL’s third Broad-billed Hummingbird, present at LaBagh Woods FP in Chicago 2–14 May (Nathan Goldberg, m. ob.).

King Rails were reported from just four locations, all in IL. A Virginia Rail heard at Wightman L., Marshall Co, IL 3 Mar (Dustin Holschuh) was either exceptionally early or perhaps more likely a wintering bird, while one heard at McKee Marsh, DuPage, IL 7 Mar (Henry Meade) was probably the individual noted there during winter. Single Yellow Rails in IN included one seen at the Lye Creek Prairie Burn, Montgomery Co 9 Apr (Bill Sharkey), one heard near the Beverly Shores Great Marsh overlook, Porter Co 22–23 Apr (Alice Cooper, Chris Bear, Lynea Hinchman), and another seen at Summit L., Henry Co 7 May (Wayne Wauligman). The 8,083 Sandhill Cranes that were recorded from DSP Tower 9 Mar (Kyle Wiktor) constituted the third highest count for the IN L. Michigan lakefront, while the 8,740 passing Brunner FP, Kane Co 12 Mar (Eric E. Secker) provided IL’s second highest spring count. On 10 Mar, the Common Crane seen in Jasper Co, IN during the winter was re-found west of DeMotte (John K. Cassady, Kenneth J. Brock), providing a first record for Newton Co. It was seen the following day in southern Lake Co (Kevin Cornell, Heather Press), where it remained until 13 Mar (ph. Jeff Timmons, ph. Graham & Suzy Deese, Jim & Susan Hengeveld, et al.). 


Two Black-necked Stilts in each of two units of Goose Pond 22 Mar (Michael Brown, Vern Wilkins) and 24 Mar (Jeremiah Oden), four at Emiquon 26 Mar (ph. Emily Hodapp), and five at Kaskaskia Island, Randolph Co, IL 27 Mar (Kimberly Henshaw) were very early. The four at the 129th St. Marsh in Lake Co 23 May (Matt S. Kalwasinski et al.) provided the first record in four years for the IN L. Michigan lakefront. An American Avocet at Emiquon 4 Apr (ph. Peter Kondrashov) was record-early for IL by one week. The 12 American Golden-Plovers in Jackson Co 3 Mar (Jim Tudor) tied the earliest arrival date for IL, while two found near Owensville, Gibson Co 12 Mar (Evan Speck) represented IN’s third earliest record. Another early report 13 Mar on the northern side of IN consisted of a flock of 35 in southern Lake Co (Graham & Suzy Deese). A Semipalmated Plover 8 Apr (Zach Skubiszewski) and two 9 Apr (Keith A. McMullen), all in Jackson Co, provided IL’s second and third earliest records, respectively, and one in Posey Co 9 Apr (Evan Speck, Jared Emmack) tied IN’s fifth earliest record. The 355 Semipalmated Plovers logged at Goose Pond 19 May (Amy Kearns) constituted IN’s fourth largest count. An amazing 74 Whimbrels (the exact count made using photographs) passing Montrose 28 May (Kevin Lin) provided an all-time high count for IL. Another exceptional group of Whimbrels, numbering 17, was in Channahon, Will Co, IL 31 May (Steven J. Huggins, Ryan Jones, m. ob.); this group tied for IL’s six largest. Eight other Whimbrels were reported, seven of those in IL. The region hosted 10 Hudsonian Godwits in a total of nine counties, the two at Goose Pond 26 May (Bence Kokay, Bill Sharkey, Richard Garrett, Mark Welter et al.) the only multiples, and one at Santa Fe Bottoms, Clinton Co 10 Apr (Dan M. Kassebaum) record-early for IL. Marbled Godwits in the region involved 24 individuals, multiples including three at Carlyle 24 Apr (Dan M. Kassebaum), four at L. Monroe, Monroe Co, IN 27 Apr (Nancy Lightfoot, m. ob.), two at Channahon, Will Co, IL 27 Apr (Jim Lukancic, m. ob.), and seven at Big Marsh in southeast Chicago 4 May (Ben Zerante, m. ob.).

Two Ruddy Turnstones at Illinois Beach SP, Lake Co 24 Apr (Steve Mulhall, Andrew Stewart, Gustavo Ustariz) provided the second earliest arrival date for IL. The only Red Knot report was of a single bird in Waukegan, Lake Co, IL 13 May (Gustavo Ustariz). Three Ruffs included a male at Oatsville Bottoms, Pike Co, IN 7–8 Apr (Jeremy Ross, ph. Ethan & Ian Wiist, Bill Sharkey), one in Oswego, Kendall Co, IL 26–30 Apr (Scott Johnson, m. ob.), and the third at Salt Creek Marsh FP, DuPage Co, IL 27–30 Apr (Tony Comerci, m. ob.). Two Stilt Sandpipers in Jackson Co, IL 9 Apr (Christopher Gilbert) were early arrivals, as was a Least Sandpiper in Metropolis, Massac Co, IL 15 Mar (Linda Craiger). A White-rumped Sandpiper at the Kaskaskia River State FWA, Moultrie Co 23 Apr (Colin Dobson) tied the second earliest IL arrival date. Another very early arrival was a Pectoral Sandpiper in Massac Co, IL 5 Mar (Keith A. McMullen), and a Semipalmated Sandpiper found at L. Shelbyville, Moultrie Co 9 Apr (Colin Dobson) bested the prior record IL arrival date by eight days. Providing IL’s largest spring tally in 10 years were six Western Sandpipers at L. Shelbyville, Moultrie Co 28 Apr (ph. Colin Dobson). Five other single Western Sandpipers were reported, four of those from IL. 

At Goose Pond, an early Long-billed Dowitcher in basic plumage was seen 23–24 Mar (Bill Sharkey, m. ob.), and a molting bird at 129th Street Marsh, Lake Co 5 Apr (ph. Matt Kalwasinski) was the earliest ever for the IN L. Michigan lakefront. Quite early was a Spotted Sandpiper at Voyageur Landing FP, Kane Co, IL 20 Mar (ph. Walt Lutz). A notably large group of 3,400 Lesser Yellowlegs was reported at Carlyle 24 Apr (Dan M. Kassebaum). Tying the fifth highest spring count of Willets for IL was a tally of 84 at Lock & Dam #22, Pike Co 8 May (ph. Steve Zehner), with a photograph nicely capturing the number of birds. Tying IL’s all-time spring high count of Greater Yellowlegs was the observation of 1,200 at Carlyle 24 Apr (Dan M. Kassebaum). A tally of 36 Wilson’s Phalaropes in Gorham, Jackson Co 4 May (Colin Dobson) provided IL’s fourth largest spring count, and the 50+ birds reported in IN nearly doubled the average spring total.  Red-necked Phalaropes were also reported in well above average numbers, highlighted by an IN state-record 22 at Eagle Creek Park, Indianapolis 17 May (Ryan J. Sanderson), and a tally of four in Champaign, Champaign Co, IL 19 May (ph. Aerin Tedesco, m. ob.) among 18 birds noted in IL.

Gulls through Ibises                                                                                                                 

Little Gulls have been detected in the region with some regularity in recent years, with six or seven noted this season. On 11 Mar, an adult was discovered in a flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls at the north end of Brookville L., Union Co, IN (David Russell). In the southwestern corner of IN, another adult was photographed 13 Mar in southern Gibson Co (Matt Seaton), eight miles south of L. Gibson. Presumably this same bird was seen in the Cane Ridge area on the south side of L. Gibson 19–20 Mar (Lisa Bowman, Evan Speck, ph. Heath Harlan et al.), and on the north side of L. Gibson 21 Mar (Chuck Mills). Approximately 18 miles to the east in the Wheeling Bottoms, Gibson Co, IN, an adult Little Gull (perhaps the same as the L. Gibson bird) and a first-cycle Little Gull were found 20 Mar (ph. Colin Dobson, m. ob.), both of which (and perhaps a second adult) remained in the area through 23 Mar (Bill Sharkey, Richard Garrett, ph. Gary Langell, Cathy Meyer). In IL, one was in Lake Township, Clinton Co 20 Mar (ph. Dan Kassebaum); another was present on L. Springfield, Sangamon Co 31 Mar–1 Apr (Colin Dobson, ph. Jim Mordacq, ph. Dennis Oehmke, m. ob.); and a third was at Upper Mississippi River NWR, Carroll Co 4 Apr (Eric Secker). The Laughing Gull found by Steve Huggins in Chicago’s Lincoln Park in late Feb was still present 1 Mar (Tamima Itani, Scott Latimer, m. ob.); six or seven others were reported in the region. A presumed Laughing x Ring-billed Gull hybrid was at Chicago’s Calumet Park 13 Mar (ph. Michael McNamee). On 16 May at the 129th Street Marsh, Lake Co, IN, Matt Kalwasinski also photographed a presumed Laughing x Ring-billed Gull hybrid, perhaps the same bird that was seen at Calumet Park. A hybrid of this type has been reported in the general area of these sightings since 2004. An early Franklin’s Gull was at L. Gibson 19–20 Mar (Evan Speck et al.), and the IN L. Michigan lakefront’s first Franklin’s Gull since 2014 was recorded from DSP Tower 28 May (ph. Kyle Wiktor, Katey Powell). The only California Gull report was that of an immature bird at L. Shelbyville, Moultrie Co, IL 10 Apr (Colin Dobson). An impressive 18 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, IN’s third largest daily total, were found at Prairie View Landfill, St. Joseph Co 18 Apr (Kyle Miller). At DSP Tower 28 May, the three second-cycle Lesser Black-backed Gulls (ph. Kyle Wiktor, Katey Powell) tied the IN lakefront’s second highest total for spring. Late-departing Glaucous Gulls including an individual in Waukegan, Lake Co, IL 15 May (Miles Marshall) and one at Montrose 10 May (Josh Engel et al.). 

Caspian Terns were again early to arrive. On 21 Mar, two were noted in Orland Park, Cook Co, IL (David Carlson), and another was at Paul Douglas FP, Cook Co, IL (Stanley Stec). During the decades ending in 2000, 2010, and 2020, the average arrival date for IL has advanced from 5 Apr to 29 Mar to 23 Mar, respectively. A Black Tern at Springbrook Prairie FP, DuPage Co, IL 27 Apr (Joan Campbell) was an early arrival. IN’s second earliest ever Forster’s Tern arrived at Cane Ridge, Gibson Co 16 Mar (Evan Speck) and remained in the area through 20 Mar (Bill Sharkey et al.).

An all-time spring high count for Red-throated Loons for IL occurred at North Point Marina in Winthrop Harbor, Lake Co 28 Mar with 14 reported (Steve Mulhall). It was also a record spring on the IN L. Michigan lakefront for Red-throated Loons with a total of 244 reported, the high daily count consisting of 74 from DSP Tower 3 Apr (Brendan Grube). A basic-plumaged Pacific Loon was reported on L. Gibson, Gibson Co, IN 21 Mar (Chuck Mills), and another in near alternate plumage was on Patoka L., Dubois Co, IN 8–10 May (ph. Sean Verkamp, ph. Tabitha Olsen, m. ob.).

One Anhinga was present at Oakwood Bottoms, Jackson Co, IL 4–17 Apr (Jacob C. Cooper, Zach Skubiszewski, ph. Craig A. Taylor, m. ob.) while another was noted in Mokena, Will Co 30 Apr (†Eric E. Secker). Neotropic Cormorants continue to increase in number in the region, reported in 12 counties this season, the majority in IL. One at Horseshoe L. SP, Madison Co, IL was present 10 Mar+ (Frank R. Holmes, m. ob.), with the number there increasing to four on 29 May (David Becher, Vicky Sroczynski). Two others seen 30 May flying several miles north of there (Frank R. Holmes) might have involved some of the Horseshoe Lake SP birds. An immature was at Turtle  Creek Reservoir, Sullivan Co, IN 21–22 Mar (ph. Colin Dobson et al.) with the same bird likely there 19 May (Michael Brown); one was at L. Springfield, Sangamon Co, IL 31 Mar (Colin Dobson); one was at Carlyle 18 Apr–22 May (Dan M. Kassebaum) with three present 11 May (Colin Dobson); one was at L. Shelbyville, Moultrie Co, IL 23 Apr (Colin Dobson); an adult was on L. Lemon, Brown Co 27 Apr–13 May (Jim & Susan Hengeveld, m. ob.); singles were at L. Springfield, Sangamon Co, IL 29 Apr (H. David Bohlen), at East Cape Girardeau, Alexander Co, IL 1 May (Jim Mountjoy), at Grand Tower, Jackson Co, IL 4 May (Colin Dobson), at L. Charleston, Coles Co, IL 6 May (Ron Bradley); an adult 8–12 May (Paul W. Sweet, Wes Donnell) and an immature 8–9 May were in Russell, Lake Co, IL (Peter Weber, m. ob.); an adult was at L. Gibson, Gibson Co 8–13 May (ph. Evan Speck et al.); and one was at Chicago’s L. Calumet 29 May (Steven J. Huggins, Geoffrey A. Williamson). 

More than double the number of American White Pelicans were reported in IN (>10,000), the highest count being 500 at Goose Pond 5 Apr (Logan Lakins). On 19 May, a Brown Pelican was photographed at a small lake in Greenfield, Hancock Co, IN (Lizan Karsko Brand). Two Great Egrets at Horseshoe L. SP, Madison Co, IL 1 Mar (Frank R. Holmes) were quite early to arrive, and the Snowy Egret at that location 31 Mar (Frank R. Holmes) provided IL’s first March record in 10 years. At Goose Pond, a Tricolored Heron was seen 19–21 May (ph. Amy Kearns, m. ob.). Overall, Cattle Egret numbers were low in IL; the peak count was 12 in Murphysboro, Jackson Co, IL 21 May (Mark Vukovich). Numbers of Black-crowned Night-Herons at the colony in Chicago’s Jackson Park were strong, with 400 estimated there 23 May (Matthew Igleski) providing the largest count in eight years. By contrast, the total of Black-crowned Night-Herons reported in IN, less than half of the average, was the lowest since 2008. 

At least 46 White-faced Ibis plus seven Glossy/White-faced Ibis were noted in IL, furnishing the second highest seasonal total for this group, bested only by the 140 observed last spring. The peak count was of 32 at Horseshoe L. SP, Madison Co, IL 23 Apr (Michael Ward, Mike Avara). Observations came from nine IL counties. Three White-faced Ibis were seen in IN, most notably being a singleton and a presumed hybrid Glossy x White-faced Ibis at Kankakee Sands 24–25 Apr (Sarah Knight, Katey Powell et al.).

Vultures through Corvids

A record spring high count of Turkey Vultures in IL was made at L. Galena, Jo Daviess Co, IL 24 Mar, with 280 reported near a known roost site (ph. Owen Woodhouse). IL’s second earliest Osprey on record was in Bloomington, McLean Co 2 Mar (Wayne Hochstetler), continuing a pattern in which IL’s average Osprey arrival date shifted from 25 Mar during 2001–2010 to 13 Mar during 2011–2020. A notably large tally of 55 Mississippi Kites was made in Thebes, Alexander Co, IL 31 May (Keith A. McMullen).  Unusually high numbers of Swainson’s Hawk observations included a light-morph adult photographed at Pine Creek Gamebird Habitat Area, Benton Co 4 Apr (Matthew Dolkart) that furnished IN’s second earliest record; one at Fox Ridge SP, Coles Co, IL 12 Apr (Ron Bradley); one in Ogle Co, IL 20 Apr (ph. Jason Newton); one in Sycamore, DeKalb Co, IL 21 Apr (ph. Ken Reinert); one east of New City, Sangamon Co, IL 24 Apr (H. David Bohlen); an immature photographed at Willow Slough FWA, Newton Co, IN 7 May (Shari McCollough, Brad Bumgardner et al.); plus one or two birds near the regular summering site in Burlington, Kane Co, IL. Late-departing Rough-legged Hawks included individuals at L. Calumet, Chicago 10 May (Stephanie Beilke); at Illinois Beach SP, Lake Co, IL 8 May (Jim Solum); and at Glacial Park, McHenry Co, IL 7 May (Lisa Maier).

Four Snowy Owls were still present near Ashton, Lee Co, IL 8 Mar (Jennifer Doctor); the latest Snowy Owl this season was one in DeKalb Co, IL 26 Mar (Ken Reinert). A late Long-eared Owl was at Montrose 2–3 May (ph. Kevin Lin, m. ob.). An IN record 55 Red-bellied Woodpeckers were tallied at DSP Tower 2 May (Kyle Wiktor). A fine total of 43 Red-headed Woodpeckers was logged at DSP Tower the same day (Kyle Wiktor). Quite interesting was a Red-shafted Flicker in a Chicago backyard 12 May (ph. Pamela Karlson); this form is very rarely recorded in the region. A lone Monk Parakeet noted in Oswego, Kendall Co, IL 5 May (Scott Johnson) was well away from the Cook Co and DuPage Co, IL stronghold for the species.

The 14 Olive-sided Flycatchers reported in IN was the lowest spring total since 2013. A calling Eastern Wood-Pewee in Carmel, Hamilton Co 7 Apr (Bill Sharkey) provided IN’s second earliest spring record. In an excellent spring for Willow Flycatchers in IN, the peak count was of 15 at Beverly Shores, Porter Co 21 May (Kristin Stratton). A single Western Kingbird returned 1 May to the breeding site at the Evansville Regional Airport, Vanderburgh Co, IN (Heath Harlan, Ethan Wiist, Ian Wiist). Eight were tallied there 9 May (Tina & Eric Rosier, Ian Wiist, Ethan Wiist), providing IN’s record-high single day count. Additional single Western Kingbirds were seen in IN near Mt. Vernon, Posey Co 11 May (ph. Evan Speck) and 23 May (Heath Harlan); near L. Gibson, Gibson Co 24 May (ph. Ethan Wiist, ph. Ian Wiist, ph. Adair Bock); and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway 30 May (William Buskirk). In addition to the IL sites in Havana, Mason Co; in East St. Louis, St. Clair Co; and in Granite City, Madison Co where Western Kingbirds are regular, two were seen in O’Fallon, St. Clair Co, IL 19 May (Christopher Holden), and one was located near Meredosia, Morgan Co IL 1 May (Bill Atwood). The only Scissor-tailed Flycatcher reported was an individual in Grand Tower, Jackson Co, IL 22 May (Susan Zelek).

Loggerhead Shrikes were noted in six northern, one central, and 17 southern tier counties, two thirds of those in IL. A Red-eyed Vireo at Cave-in-Rock, Hardin Co, IL 6 Apr (Trevor Slovick) tied the record-early arrival date for IL, while another in Pomona, Jackson Co, IL 9 Apr (Rhonda Rothrock) tied for third earliest. A calling Fish Crow flew past DSP Tower 14 Apr (Kyle Wiktor), one observed in nearby Chesterton, Porter Co, IN 30 Apr was also calling (Brendan Grube), and one in Ft. Wayne 25 Apr (Mark Derloshon) provided a second record for Allen Co, IN. For the third consecutive year, a Common Raven was seen from DSP Tower, this year on both 7 Mar (Kyle Wiktor, Kristofer Komenda, Mike Sipich) and 27 Mar (Kyle Wiktor).

Nuthatches through Finches                                                                                                                          

Despite relatively low numbers during the winter, good numbers of Red-breasted Nuthatches passed through the region with nearly 500 reported in IN (contrasting sharply with the total of seven reported in the spring of 2020) and a high count of 17 at Illinois Beach SP, Lake Co, IL 8 May (Adam Sell et al.). A Winter Wren at Chicago’s Lake Shore East Park 29 May (Matthew Cvetas) was quite late, as was a singing bird at Indiana Dunes SP, Porter Co, IN the following day (Brendan Grube). Sedge Wrens were reported in good numbers in IN, the peak count 16 in St. Joseph Co 14 May (James Fuehrmeyer). Late Golden-crowned Kinglets included individuals in Chicago 19 May (Nina Reiniger) and at Montrose 16 May (Henry Griffin, m. ob.). A Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Montrose 31 May (Albert Legzdins) was also late.

A Townsend’s Solitaire at Gremel Wildlife Sanctuary, Lee Co, IL 14 May (Brendon Lake, ph. Eric Walters, ph. Craig Taylor) was a rare find. An exceptional count of 2,315 migrating American Robins was made at Ft. Sheridan FP, Lake Co, IL 22 Mar (Adam Sell). 

Eurasian Tree Sparrows are being seen more widely through IL. Sightings came from six southern, 25 central, and 18 northern tier counties. Farthest from the areas where this species is regularly seen were the following: an individual well to the southeast in White Co, IL 6 May (Jim Hanna); an individual at Montrose that was seen 6 Mar (Mark Luscombe) and perhaps the same bird observed there 30 Apr (ph. Neil Brown); another at Gillson Park, Wilmette, Cook Co, IL 2 May (Stefanie Altneu); and three at Waukegan, Lake Co, IL 24 Apr (ph. Adam Sell et al.).

Following the fall/winter invasion, Evening Grosbeaks were present in good numbers this spring, with good counts well into May. The largest groups were those persisting from winter at feeders. Peak counts included 75 in southern Monroe Co, IN 4 Mar (Amy Kearns) with 23 still present there 8 May (Scott Evans, Joe Bailey), and 44 in Harrisburg, Saline Co 1 May (Cathy DeNeal) with one lingering until at least 30 May (Cathy DeNeal). Late Purple Finches included one at Montrose 29 May (ph. Matthew Dolkart) and another in Champaign Co, IL 28 May (ph. Michael Ward). Common Redpolls were present in good numbers during early-mid March, with 78 in Kosciusko Co, IN 19 Mar (Kyle Miller) and 56 in Plano, Kendall Co, IL 7 Mar (Wesley Sadler). The last sighting involved an individual in Freeport, Stephenson Co, IL 26 Apr (Clay Schroll). One Hoary Redpoll was with the group of Common Redpolls in Plano, Kendall Co, IL 7 May (ph. Ryan Jones, Jude Vickery, m. ob.). Red Crossbill sightings included seven at Lowden-Miller SF, Ogle Co, IL 23 Mar (Ted Hartzler), 28 in the Lusk Creek Wilderness, Pope Co, IL 21 Apr with 10 persisting there 11 May (Mark Vukovich), 10 at Pigeon River FWA, LaGrange Co, IN 24 Apr (John Helmuth) with 5 there 15 May (Timothy Shrock et al.), and six at Sand Ridge SF, Mason Co 24 May (Sean Burns, Grant Witynski). The only White-winged Crossbill reports were of single birds in McHenry Co, IL 9 Mar (ph. Michael Iwanicki), in Valparaiso, Porter, IN 1 Apr (Chris Etheridge), and in Wabash Co, IL 8 Apr (Robert Shelby), plus a group of 10 in Pigeon River FWA, LaGrange, IN 15 May (Fred Yoder). Pine Siskins were plentiful through the season. Peak counts included 931 at DSP Tower 16 May (Jacob Drucker), the fourth highest spring count for IN, and 160 at the Skokie Lagoons, Cook Co, IL 15 May (Jeff Wade). 

Longspurs through Grosbeaks                                                                                                

Good numbers of Lapland Longspurs lingered late, with 80 in McHenry Co, IL 11 May (Samuel Randall), and 34 in Winnebago Co, IL 3 May (Dan Williams). The Smith’s Longspur migration was both feeble and late in IN, with only about 20% of the normal total reported. The season’s first reports did not come until 3 Apr, the largest count was of 51 birds in Newton Co 29 Apr (Don Gorney), and a late individual was at Reynolds Creek Gamebird Habitat Area, Porter Co 17 May (John C. Kendall), providing IN’s second latest spring record. Two late Snow Buntings were at Montrose 9 Apr (Adam Engelhardt, Lydia Gusaas).

An incredible 14 Lark Sparrows were logged at Kankakee Sands 8 May (Jeff McCoy, ph. Ryan Sanderson), IN’s second highest daily count. In the middle of the Indiana University campus, three Clay-colored Sparrows 13 May (Scott Evans, Joe Bailey) represented the highest count for southern IN. A late American Tree Sparrow was noted in LaGrange Co, IN 13 May (Jacob Hochstetler). Five singleton Harris’s Sparrows were reported: in Carlyle, Clinton Co, IL 29 Mar–1 May (Roger Hayes); in LaGrange Co, IN 31 Mar–3 Apr (ph. Andrew Chupp, Marcus Chupp, Neal Miller, Leland Shaum); in Jasper, Dubois Co, IN 28–29 Apr (ph. Kathy McClain, ph. Sean Verkamp); at Gillson Park, Wilmette, Cook Co, IL 2 May (Josh Engel et al.); and in west Beverly Shores, Porter Co 16–17 May (ph. Libby Keyes, ph. Stuart Tower et al.) that provided the first record for the IN L. Michigan lakefront in four years. In IL, single LeConte’s Sparrows were at Illinois Beach SP, Lake Co 2 May (ph. Nicole Dicop-Hineline), in Fulton Co 9 May (Rick Fox), and at Middle Fork River FP, Champaign Co 16 May (Aerin Tedesco). Sightings of Nelson’s Sparrows included two at Prairie Ridge SNA, Jasper Co, IL 17 May (Robert Shelby), and single birds at Chicago’s Jackson Park 19 May (Jacob Drucker), at Montrose 19–20 May (Matthew Cvetas, Fran Morel, m. ob.), and at Chicago’s Rainbow Beach 20 May (Lila Fried) and 30 May (Jing-Yi Lu, Lu Wei). A nice count of 26 Henslow’s Sparrows was made at Goose Lake Prairie SNA, Grundy Co, IL 27 Apr (Matt Misewicz). IN’s high count was of 13 at the Lynnville-Squaw Creek Mine Complex, Warrick Co 25 Apr (Heath Harlan). Spotted Towhees were noted at Carlyle 23 Mar (Mark Seiffert) and in East Peoria, Tazewell Co, IL 25–29 Mar (Bert Foquet, m. ob.), and the female that wintered in Monroe Co, IN was last reported 9 May (Mark Derloshon). 

An exceptional count of 23 Yellow-breasted Chats occurred at Bellrose Waterfowl Refuge, Pulaski Co, IL 9 May (Katy Banning, Kimberly Rohling).

Early Yellow-headed Blackbirds included a singing male at Camp Adventure, Kosciusko Co 22 Mar (Nick Yarde), another adult male at Goose Pond 23–24 Mar (Bill Sharkey, m. ob.), and one in Bloomington, McLean Co, IL 25 Mar (ph. James Weissler). Goose Lake Natural Area, McHenry Co, IL was the hotspot for Yellow-headed Blackbirds, with 28 there 16 May (Jeff Aufmann, Lisa Maier, Amanda Parrish). In IN, where Yellow-headed Blackbirds are more uncommon, five additional sightings featured a young male at Kankakee Sands 21–25 Apr (ph. Henrey Deese, ph. Suzy Deese, et al.), two adult males at Cowles Bog, Porter Co 23 Apr (ph. Matt Igleski, Dan Barriball), a young male at Tern Bar Slough 27 Apr (Gary Dorman) and 12 May (Bob Meier), and a young male at Indiana Dunes SP 13 May (ph. Peter Scott). A Bullock’s Oriole lingered two days at a feeder in Murrayville, Morgan Co 24–25 Apr (Pat Ward, m. ob.), providing IL’s fifth record. An amazing 635 Baltimore Orioles were logged at DSP Tower 15 May (Kyle Wiktor), establishing a new single day count for IN. The 5,000 Brown-headed Cowbirds in Elkhart, Logan Co, IL 12 Mar (David Willard, Sean Lyon) matched the largest IL spring assemblage in the last 20 years. A Rusty Blackbird at Miller Meadow FP, Cook Co, IL 27 May (John Elliott) tied for IL’s all-time latest. Notably, 10 Brewer’s Blackbirds were at Reynold’s Creek Gamebird Habitat Area, Porter Co, IN 6 Apr (Kyle Wiktor). A Great-tailed Grackle was quite the surprise in Hodgkins, Cook Co, IL 18–23 Apr (Eddie Kasper, m. ob.).

A Prothonotary Warbler at Oakwood Bottoms, Jackson Co 4 Apr (Jacob C. Cooper et al.) tied for second earliest ever for IL. An exceptional count of 20 Orange-crowned Warblers in Oak Park, Cook Co, IL 28 Apr (Henry Griffin) was IL’s third highest spring tally ever for the species. A Mourning Warbler at Turtlehead Lake FP, Cook Co 29 Apr (Gary Clinkman) tied for the second earliest spring arrival in IL history. At Ft Massac SP, Massac Co, IL, a Kentucky Warbler 13 Apr (Keith A. McMullen) was early. A Hooded Warbler in Pomona, Jackson Co 4 Apr (Rhonda Rothrock) was early, as were individuals at Illinois Beach SP, Lake Co, IL 7 Apr (Andrew O. Stewart, m. ob.), at Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery 7 Apr (Woody Goss), and at Chicago’s Jackson Park 10 Apr (Lu Wei). IN’s third earliest American Redstart appeared in Hendricks Co 8 Apr (Kristina Lakins). On 17 May, Kyle Wiktor picked up the song of a Kirtland’s Warbler 400 yards south of DSP Tower where he was doing a daily watch. Many birders were subsequently able to see and hear the bird. A second Kirtland’s Warbler was found at Cowles Bog, Porter Co, IN 21 May (Kim Ehn, Cookie Ferguson). A presumed Cerulean Warbler x Northern Parula noted at Glacial Park, McHenry Co, IL 1 May (ph. Jeff Aufmann, ph. v.r. Lisa Maier) marked the fifth straight spring that such a hybrid was located in IL, though in the preceding four years the observations occurred 40 miles to the south of this one (at Fabyan FP, Kane Co). Northern Parulas were unusually numerous in IN, the maximum daily count of 49 at Harmonie SP, Posey Co 25 Apr (John Meredig) that furnished IN’s second highest count. In Warrick Co, IN, an early Yellow Warbler was found 11 Apr (Lisa & Randy Vanderbilt). A Chestnut-sided Warbler at Illinois Beach SP, Lake Co 10 Apr (Dawn Fronk) was record-early for IL by a full week. Two early records of male Black-throated Blue Warblers in IN included one in Vigo Co 9 Apr (John Whitaker) that was IN’s second earliest ever, and another that was seen and heard at Burns Hollow, Clark Co the following day (Jerry Lewis). An excellent tally of seven Black-throated Blue Warblers was made in Chicago’s Jackson Park 16 May (Paul R. Clyne). On 22 Mar from DSP Tower, a Palm Warbler (Kyle Wiktor) was the fourth earliest for the IN L. Michigan lakefront. In IL, early Palm Warblers included individuals in Limestone, Kankakee Co 22 Mar (Mark Messerle), at Douglas-Hart Nature Center, Coles Co 25 Mar (Ron Bradley), two at Mermet L, Massac Co 26 Mar (Keith A. McMullen), and one in Niles, Cook Co 29 Mar (Irene Weinman). The Yellow-throated Warbler that wintered at a LaGrange Co, IN feeder was still present 1 Apr (Sam Plew). Two Yellow-throated Warblers at Ft Massac SP, Massac Co, IL 26 Mar (Keith A. McMullen) were early. A count of 15 Prairie Warblers in Carterville, Williamson Co, IL 8 May (Kimberly Rohling) was noteworthy. A Black-throated Green Warbler at Heron Pond, Johnson Co 31 Mar (Dan Wylie) was the earliest to arrive in IL in nine years. An early Canada Warbler was at Montrose 27 Apr (ph. Simon Tolzmann, m. ob.).

Single Western Tanagers at Homer Lake State Conservation Area, Champaign Co, IL 28 Apr (ph. Aerin Tedesco, m. ob.) and in Kouts, Porter Co, IN 9–11 May (Debbie Modrak

Gruszka) were nice finds. At L. Salinda, Washington Co, a male Blue Grosbeak 12 Apr (Win Ahrens, Jane Fender) was IN’s third earliest on record. Indigo Buntings at Heron Pond, Johnson Co, IL 8 Apr (Jenny Flexman), L. Monroe, Monroe Co, IN 8–9 Apr (Nancy Lightfoot), and in Pomona, Jackson Co, IL 9 Apr (Keith A. McMullen) were early. A Painted Bunting in Chicago’s Winnemac Park 24 May (Daniel Crespo, Haley Henning, ph. Terry Walsh, m. ob.) was a rare occurrence enjoyed by many. Another Painted Bunting returned 30 May to the East St. Louis, St. Clair Co location where the species has nested since 2000 (ph. Keith A. McMullen, Frank Holmes, Dan M. Kassebaum). A Dickcissel in Metropolis, Massac Co, IL 13 Apr (Anne Parmley) provided the third earliest record for IL.

Exotics and Unestablished Introductions

European Goldfinches were reported broadly through Lake Co, IL, with most sightings at Waukegan and Illinois Beach SP; the peak count was 16 at Illinois Beach SP 26 May (Eric Walters). Away from there, sightings occurred in Woodstock, McHenry Co, IL 20 Mar (Luke Miller) and in Evanston, Cook Co, IL 27 Mar (Peter Walton). The species appears to be establishing a viable population near L. Michigan in Lake Co, IL.

Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 13 Jan 2022.

Photos–Illinois & Indiana: Spring 2021

A brilliant male Broad-billed Hummingbird was discovered 2 May by Nathan Goldberg at Chicago’s LaBagh Woods Forest Preserve, Cook Co, Illinois. This unbelievable rarity, Illinois’s third, lingered through 12 May, thrilling hundreds of birders during its stay. 2 May 2021. Photo © Nathan Goldberg.

First found in Jasper Co, IN in late January, this Common Crane wandered between Newton Co and Lake Co, IN from 10 March through 13 March. 13 Mar 2021 Photo © Nathan Goldberg.

This Brown Pelican appeared on a suburban pond in Greenfield, Hancock Co on 19 May. It was there for only one day, providing Indiana’s 24th record. Photo © Lizan Karsko Brand.

Indiana’s 26th Tricolored Heron was photographed at Goose Pond FWA, Greene Co, by Amy Kearns on 19 May and remained two more days, during which it was seen and photographed by many. 20 May 2021. Photo © Steve Bell.

Quite unexpected, was this gorgeous male Bullock’s Oriole visiting a jelly feeder at the home of Pat Ward in rural Morgan Co, Illinois 24–25 April, providing Illinois with its fifth record. 25 Apr 2021. Photo © Colin Dobson.

One of two found in Indiana this spring, this male Kirtland’s Warbler was initially heard by Kyle Wiktor from the observation tower in Indiana Dunes SP, Porter Co on 17 May. It was present for just one day but was seen by some two dozen birders. Photo © John Kendall.

A pleasant surprise was this Western Tanager that visited a grape jelly feeder at a private residence in southern Porter Co, IN from 9–11 May. 10 May 2020. Photo © Debbie Modrak Gruszka.