Amy Kearns, Nick Kiehl, Thomas B. Lally, Samuel Lau, Kate LeBreton, Joseph W. Lill, Steven L. Lima, James Lodato, John C. Longhenry, Dan Lory, Randall Loss, Tammy Loussaert, Clint & Dana Maddox, Lisa Maier, Walter J. Marcisz, Paul H. Mayer, Jeffrey J. McCoy, Kelly J. McKay, Keith A. McMullen, Bob Meier, Mark Messerle (MMs), Eric Michael, Joe Michel (JMi), Marion Miller, Jason Mullins, Don D. Mullison, Barrett Murphy (BMu), Bill Murphy (BMy), Ken Murphy, Jeffrey Nelson, Joel Neylon (JNy), Randy J. Pals, Sam Plew, Mark Rhodes, Austin Roach, Chandler Roberts, Rick Roche, Tina Rosier, Jeremy Ross, William C. Rowe, Jessica Runner (JRu), Tyler Runner (TRu), Ryan J. Sanderson, Beau J. Schaefer, Peter E. Scott, Jim Seaney, Mark S. Seiffert, Adam W. Sell, William Sharkey, Leland Shaum, Robert E. Shelby, Randy L. Shonkwiler, Carma Shurley, Andrew P. Sigler, Ryan & Dawn Slack, Trevor Slovick, Evan Speck, Vicky Sroczynski, April Sterling (ASg), Andy O. Stewart, Al Stokie, Martin Stoner, Carl A. Strang, Jeffrey O. Sundberg, Craig A. Taylor, Steve Tillman, Lisa Todd, Michael A. Topp, Florian Trebouet, Kevin Turner, Susan Ulrich, U. S. Department of Agriculture, Ise Varghese, Sean Verkamp, Joe Veverka (JVa), Jude Vickery, Britt Vickstrom, Mark Vuckovich, Terry Walsh (TWh), Eric W. Walters, David Ward, Tony Ward, Joseph Welklin, Ethan Wiist, Ian Wiist, Kyle Wiktor, Vern W. Wilkins, Dan T. Williams (Illinois), Ron Williams, Geoffrey A. Williamson, Aaron Yetter, Whitney Yoerger, Susan Zelek.
Carlyle (Carlyle Lake, Clinton, Bond and Fayette Cos, IL); FWA (Fish and Wildlife Area); Goose Pond (Goose Pond FWA., Greene, IN); Rend (Rend Lake, Franklin and Jefferson Cos, IL).
Waterfowl through Cranes
Three Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks at L. Gibson, Gibson Co 23 Jan (ph. EW, ph. IW) produced the region’s first winter record. Tremendous goose numbers included an estimated 2,000,000 Snow Geese in the Santa Fe Bottoms, Clinton Co, IL 25 Jan (DMK); 60,000 Greater White-fronted Geese at Universal Mine, Edgar Co, IL 15 Feb (JRu, TRu); and 18,475 Canada Geese in Logan Co, IL 18 Jan (KAM). At Middlefork Reservoir, Wayne Co, a Brant 7–9 Dec (JS, ph. RW) and 18 Dec (WHB, ph. WS, ph. RGt) provided Indiana’s fifth record away from L. Michigan. Other high goose numbers included 64 Ross’s Geese in Sangamon Co, IL 6 Feb (KJM) and 1250 Cackling Geese in Ogle Co, IL 21 Dec (NTG, SJH). Wintering swan numbers continue to increase. Noteworthy were maximum high counts of 650 Trumpeter Swans near Canton, Fulton Co, IL 19 Dec (CG) and 1100 Tundra Swans at Upper Mississippi R. NWR, Carroll Co, IL 1 Jan (CB, EB); the 470 Tundra Swans logged 6 Jan at Universal Mines, Vermillion and Vigo Cos (PES) established a new high count for Indiana.
On 28–29 Feb, a male Eurasian Wigeon was at Wheeling Bottoms, Gibson Co, IN (ph. IW, ph. EW, m. ob.). An aerial survey in Illinois produced an excellent count of 265,560 Mallards along the Lower Mississippi R. Valley 2 Dec (AY, INHS). Counts of 2500 Redhead at L. Calumet, Cook Co, IL 22 Jan (WJM) and 2400 Canvasbacks in the Santa Fe Bottoms, Clinton Co, IL 15 Feb (DMK) were impressive. At least five Harlequin Ducks were reported. One of the four in Illinois was at Waukegan, Lake Co 8–23 Dec (ph. AWS, m. ob.), and Indiana’s only individual was a female-plumaged bird at Port of Indiana, Porter Co 15 Feb+ (BH, m. ob.). The 18 Surf Scoters tallied at Portage Lakefront Park, Porter Co 18 Feb (EMH) constituted Indiana’s third largest winter count. Away from L. Michigan, the only counts of multiple Surf Scoters were of two at L. Springfield, Sangamon Co, IL 2 Dec (ph. HDB) and five at Geist Reservoir, Marion Co, IN 3 Dec (DG, MR). An impressive 40 White-winged Scoters were at Montrose 24 Feb (RDH) and birds away from L. Michigan included eight singles in seven different counties. The high count of Black Scoters was of five at Lake Forest, Lake Co, IL 22 Dec (JH) with only two singles reported away from L. Michigan. Long-tailed Ducks were reported in good numbers, with the high count away from L. Michigan consisting of four at L. Lemon, Monroe Co, IN 3 Jan (SE, JB et al.). Two other large tallies of diving ducks in Illinois included 13,530 Common Goldeneye along the Upper Mississippi R. Valley 2 Jan (AY, INHS), and 3500 Ruddy Ducks at Crab Orchard NWR, Williamson Co 6 Jan (JG, DDM, FT). Greater Prairie-Chicken numbers remained fairly constant, with 58 noted at Prairie Ridge State Natural Area, Jasper Co, IL 4 Dec (CLH, RES).
Of 10 Red-necked Grebes, two at Brookville Reservoir, Union Co, IN 7 Dec (RJS) were the only multiples. Three Eared Grebes were reported. The Port of Indiana, Porter Co, IN Western Grebe first reported 19 Nov lingered until at least 7 Dec (NK, RJS, AA, JJM et al.); a second Western Grebe was at L. Monroe, Monroe Co, IN 14–17 Dec (ph. SE, ph. JB, m. ob.); and a third was at Rend 21–22 Dec (DMK, KAM, CAT). An impressive 77 Eurasian Collared-Doves at Davis Junction, Ogle Co, IL 21 Dec (LGB) demonstrated their increasing presence in the region.
Among eight Virginia Rails reported, three at Illinois Beach SP, Lake Co, IL 3–4 Jan were unexpected (BJS, AOS, AWS). The shortstopping migration strategy of the eastern population of Whooping Cranes has been well documented, and in addition to a sizable proportion of the population wintering in west-central and southwestern IN, at least a dozen were reported in Illinois as well, with good evidence that many of them spent the winter there.
Shorebirds through Herons
Milder temperatures and lack of snow cover on mudflats allowed several shorebird species to linger this winter. A Dunlin at Starved Rock SP, LaSalle Co, IL 26 Dec (ph. BC) was noteworthy. At Portage Lakefront Park, Porter Co, IN, a Purple Sandpiper discovered in late-Nov lingered through 1 Dec (TWh et al.), and another was at Montrose 5 Dec (ph. MF). The latter was very likely at Rainbow Beach, Cook Co, IL 6 Dec (SJH, m. ob.) and at nearby Park 566 7–8 Dec (m. ob.). Six Least Sandpipers were seen at Thebes, Alexander Co, IL 28 Dec (KJM, ph. TS). Two early PectoraI Sandpipers appeared in southern Vanderburg Co, IN 23 Feb (ph. LH). Indiana’s second winter and first Jan record of Long-billed Dowitcher consisted of two birds at Somerville Mine, Gibson Co 4–5 Jan (LT et al.). An extremely hardy Spotted Sandpiper, likely an early spring migrant, was noted at Borah L., Richland Co, IL 14–18 Feb (CLH, RES). There were two tardy Greater Yellowlegs at Rock Cut SP, Winnebago Co, IL 1 Dec (JVa), and IN’s first Jan records of the species were of three birds at L. Gibson, Gibson Co on 1 Jan and two on 19 Jan (ph. ES); another was at Goose Pond 3 Feb (AK, WS).
On 2 Dec at Miller Beach, Lake Co, IN, a Pomarine Jaeger was logged during the L. Michigan lakewatch (JKC et al.). The three Black-legged Kittiwakes recorded during that lakewatch (JKC et al.) tied Indiana’s maximum winter count. An excellent count of 12,000 Bonaparte’s Gulls was made 22 Dec at Rend (KAM). A Laughing Gull at Carlyle 27 Dec–5 Jan was unexpected (DMK, KAM, MSS). Lingering Franklin’s Gulls included one at Carlyle 1 Dec (DMK) and one at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis 5 Dec (SJ, CR), and again 12 Dec (CR). A third-cycle California Gull was at L. Springfield, Sangamon Co, IL 25 Jan (ph. CD, HDB, TS), and an adult at Bendix Park, St. Joseph Co 15 Feb (ph. EM) provided a first winter record for Indiana. Indiana’s largest gull accumulation was at the Elkhart Co Landfill, where an impressive 2800 Herring Gulls were reported 4 Jan (LS et al.). Good numbers of Iceland Gulls appeared: in Illinois, representative high counts included 13 at Moline, Rock Island Co 16 Feb (JFe, GG, SJH) and 12 at North Point Marina, Lake Co 15 Feb (AAA, IOS); in IN, the highest numbers were at the Elkhart Co Landfill with seven on 13 Feb (EM) and at sites along the St. Joseph R., with the state season total of 50 well above average. Lesser Black-backed Gulls were also not in short supply and included excellent counts of 12 at the Elkhart Co Landfill 17 Jan (EM) and five in Madison Co, IL 9 Jan (WCR). A first-cycle Glaucous Gull lingered 28 Dec–1 Feb (NK, TR, m. ob.) at Morse Reservoir, Hamilton Co, IN, where a first-cycle bird spent several weeks last winter. A maximum of five Glaucous Gulls was found at the Elkhart Co Landfill 17 Jan (EM), and three were at L. Calumet, Cook Co, IL 22 Jan (DK, VS). For the first winter since 2003–2004, a putative Kelp x Herring (Chandeleur) Gull hybrid failed to be reported on the Indiana L. Michigan lakefront. Over this 16-year period, at least three different individuals (one of which was banded) were reported. An impressive 43 Great Black-backed Gulls were tallied along the Indiana L. Michigan lakefront (Lake, Porter, and LaPorte Cos) 20 Feb (KJB, JKC, RJP). A Forster’s Tern lingered at Rend 1–2 and 21–22 Dec (DMK, APS, CAT) and again 18 Jan (MHy).
Good numbers of Red-throated Loons were seen along the L. Michigan lakefront, with a high of 34 at Marquette Park, Lake Co, IN 2 Dec (JKC), as well as away from the lakefront, where at least eight birds were seen in six different counties. Noteworthy were single Pacific Loons at Rend 8 Dec (DMK) and at Lyerla L., Union Co, IL 14–15 Dec (APS, ph. KAM).
Wintering American White Pelicans have become regular and fairly common in Illinois with a high of 475 at Carlyle 1 Dec (EWW) and reports from 37 counties. Until relatively recently, they have been rare in Indiana, and the current winter total was close to the largest ever reported. Winter reports of Great Egret are also becoming more regular with four at Big Muddy Levee, Jackson Co, IL 4 Dec (DDM) and at Turtle Creek Reservoir, Sullivan Co, IN 20 Dec (SLL) and 12 Jan (DG). More unusual were reports from the northern tier, including a single along the Centennial Trail, DuPage Co, IL 20 Dec (RR) and two at Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve, Allen Co, IN 10 Jan (DW). A Green Heron at L. Charleston, Coles Co, IL 5 Dec (RB) was late to leave.
Vultures through Wrens
On 9 Feb, a Turkey Vulture seen in Munster, Lake Co (MSK) tied the earliest arrival date for the L. Michigan lakefront in Indiana. Two late Ospreys were reported from L. Renwick, Will Co, IL 12 Dec (PHM). At least 43 Golden Eagles were reported from a total of 27 different counties region-wide, the high count being four along Airhart Road, Carroll Co, IL 14 Jan (CB, EB). A Northern Goshawk at Long Branch Sand Prairie Nature Preserve, Mason Co, IL 1 Feb (JRH) was the only report for this species. An excellent count of 344 Bald Eagles was made 12 Jan along the Mississippi R., Rock Island Co, IL (KJM, TLt). At Bear Run Mine, Sullivan Co, an adult light-morph Ferruginous Hawk was present 1 Feb+ (VWW, m. ob.), furnishing Indiana’s 11th record.
In the far northeastern corner of IL, a Barn Owl at North Point Marina, Lake Co, IL 14 Feb was an excellent find (IV). Snowy Owls were reported from 17 counties, the majority from IL, where three at O’Hare Airport, Cook Co, 12–17 Dec (USDA) and three along Meridian Road, Lee Co, 8 Jan (SG, JCL) furnished the high counts. Short-eared Owls were reported in good numbers, 35 at Bear Run Mine, Sullivan Co, IN on 18 Dec (VWW) the peak count. Eight Northern Saw-whet Owls tallied 22 Dec at Big River State Forest, Henderson Co, IL were noteworthy (KJM).
A high count of six Merlins was made 7–13 Dec at St. Adalbert Cemetery, Cook Co, IL (DK, TBL). Indiana’s sixth record of Gyrfalcon was provided by a stunning juvenile gray-morph at Kankakee FWA, Starke Co 1 Jan (ph. BH); another immature, possibly the same individual as the IN bird, was longer staying in LaSalle Co, IL 26 Jan–1 Feb (ph. KM, ph., ph. †TI, ph. †LM, m. ob.). For the eighth consecutive year, a single Prairie Falcon frequented the agricultural fields and its “Magic Stump” in Coles Co, IL 3 Dec+ (WS, TDF, m. ob.).
Records of Eastern Phoebes spanned all three months and were numerous and widespread, the total of 41 (in 23 counties) in IN representing its second largest ever winter total. Records in the northern tier included singles in Carroll Co, IL 19 Dec (KJM, †BV), at Crabtree Nature Center, Cook Co, IL 8–16 Dec (BJu, CF), in Chicago 15 Dec (GAW), and in St. Joseph Co, IN 26 Dec (KW) and 2 Jan (MS). On 14 Dec, a female Vermilion Flycatcher was seen in Gibson Co (DC, R&DS), providing Indiana’s fifth (and second Dec) record.
Loggerhead Shrike numbers were low: a total of six birds were seen in five Indiana counties but, disturbingly, only three were reported in Illinois, one in each of three counties. It was a good season for Northern Shrikes as 75+ birds in 52 different counties were reported. Singletons at Rend 21 Dec and 5–8 Jan (CAT, APS, NTG, SJH, m. ob.) and at the Lynnville-Squaw Creek Mine complex, Warrick Co, IN 5–31 Jan (BF, ES EW, IW et al.) provided the southernmost reports.
Unusual for the winter period, seven Fish Crows were noted at Horseshoe L. Conservation Area, Alexander Co, IL 28 Dec (KJM, TS). Three late Tree Swallows were at Rend 21 Dec (DMK), while an early Tree Swallow appeared in the falling snow at L. Lemon, Brown, IN 25 Feb (J&SH). A very late (possibly overwintering) Northern Rough-winged Swallow was in Noblesville, Hamilton Co, IN 5 and 9 Jan (ph. JW).
It was a very down season for Red-breasted Nuthatches: the peak count was only five, at Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center, Cook Co, IL 15 Dec (CS), and the total reported in Indiana (18) was the lowest winter total since 2002–03. An excellent tally of 19 Brown Creepers was made at Sanganois Conservation Area, Mason Co, IL 21 Dec (CD, TW). Several wren species that normally head south for the winter lingered, including three House Wrens in Alexander Co, IL 28 Dec (KJM), two in Jackson Co, IL 31 Dec (KJM, MV), and a singleton at Orland Grassland, Cook Co, IL 17 Dec (HD). There were five reports of wintering Sedge Wrens in IL and reports of Marsh Wrens from four IL locations.
Thrushes through Dickcissel
A Townsend’s Solitaire at Silver Springs SP, Kendall Co, IL 19 Jan–4 Feb (JN, JWL, †ASA, †DTW, m. ob.) was possibly the same bird that was reported in the fall. Indiana’s third Dec record of Swainson’s Thrush was provided by a bird in Indianapolis 10 Dec (BJ). Also unusual was a Wood Thrush that was photographed 12 Dec in a Chicago backyard (RL). Perhaps as the result of the mild season, 22 Gray Catbirds were reported, including six in Cook Co, IL and three in northern tier Indiana counties. The Gray Catbird (9) and Brown Thrasher (20) totals in Indiana established the second highest and highest ever winter totals, respectively. Cedar Waxwings were rather scarce across the region, though a maximum count of 550 at Lost Mound Unit of Upper Mississippi NWR, Carroll Co, IL 15 Feb (GG, SJH) was noteworthy.
An incredible 250 House Finches were counted 15 Dec at Silver Springs SP, Kendall Co, IL (JV). Winter finches, in general though, were quite scarce. The peak count for Purple Finch was of eight at Andalusia Slough, Rock Island Co, IL 26 Dec (BFE, JMi, KJM, BV). For Common Redpoll, the high count was five in Evanston, Cook Co, IL 29 Dec (EBd, JBd), and only a single bird was reported in Indiana. The only crossbills reported were one to two White-winged Crossbills in South Bend, St. Joseph Co 10–19 Dec (BHn), which provided Indiana’s first records in nearly four years. Pine Siskins were quite scarce as well, reported in only 37 (out of 194) counties, the total number in Indiana less than 5% of the average over the past 20 years. An excellent count of 3000 Lapland Longspurs was made at Carlyle 15 Feb (DMK). Snow Buntings were in fair numbers in the northern tier, 320 at Ashton, Lee Co, IL 31 Jan (MM) providing the highest count.
Chipping Sparrows were widespread in the region with near record numbers (100+) in Indiana and the third best winter total in Illinois, with double digit counts (12 and 10, respectively) at Lock and Dam 21, Adams Co, IL 14 Dec (JM) and at Oak Hill Cemetery, Boone Co, IN 5 Feb (CH). A surprise find at a Libertyville, Lake Co, IL backyard 1 Jan was a Clay-colored Sparrow (†JOS). American Tree Sparrow reports were lower than normal throughout the region, perhaps as the result of the mild season, though there was a hefty count of 1002 near Durand, Winnebago Co, IL 14 Dec (BG, RG). At Patoka L., Dubois Co, Indiana’s second Golden-crowned Sparrow was logged 25 Dec+ (ph. SV, m. ob.). Three Harris’s Sparrows were reported, all from Illinois, and three of the four Vesper Sparrow reports also came from Illinois. LeConte’s Sparrow reports were concentrated in the southern tier of Illinois with two in Indiana; noteworthy was a bird at Rainbow Beach, Cook Co, IL 12 Jan (JD, DL, m. ob.). Twelve Lincoln’s Sparrows were reported, the four near Patoka L., Dubois Co, 27 Dec (GD) furnishing the highest winter count ever for Indiana. Yet another rarity near Patoka L. (this one in Crawford Co, IN) was a female Spotted Towhee found 20 Dec (ph. J&SH, m. ob.), remaining through at least 17 Jan (DG); a second Spotted Towhee was found in Mason Co, IL 23 Dec (CD).
Single male Yellow-headed Blackbirds were seen at Pyramid SP, Perry Co, IL 27 Dec (†KJM, ST), in LaSalle Co, IL 1 Jan (†JEH), north of Evansville, Vanderburg Co, IN 14 Feb (JL, ph. BM), and in Putnam Co, IN 22 Feb (C&DM). An excellent tally of 12 Western Meadowlarks was made at Carlyle 23 Dec (DMK); in Indiana, where they are more unusual, singles were at Goose Pond 19–22 Feb (WS et al.) and in central Greene Co 21 Feb (AK). A hatch-year male Baltimore Oriole regularly attended a northern Monroe Co, IN feeder 16 Dec–21 Feb (AH, ph. J&SH) and, at a western LaPorte Co, IN feeder, an adult male photographed 13 Jan (LB) provided the first winter record for the Indiana L. Michigan lakefront. Three days later, this same adult appeared at feeders a half mile away. Brewer’s Blackbirds were more prevalent in the southern tier, particularly in Illinois, where the 70 at Oakwood Bottoms, Jackson Co 1 Jan (KJM) furnished the highest count.
Several warbler species were noted in the region, perhaps attempting to overwinter. An Ovenbird was in Libertyville, Lake Co, IL 4 Jan (EE), and a Northern Waterthrush was at Kinnikinnick Creek Conservation Area, Boone Co, IL 23 Dec (ph. †JNy). It was a good season for lingering Orange-crowned Warblers as 24 individuals were reported. In Wheaton, DuPage Co, IL, a Nashville Warbler was seen 4 Dec (SL). Twelve Common Yellowthroats were reported, including two northern tier birds at Jackson Park, Cook Co, IL 21 Dec (†RLS, CAS), and singles near Kankakee, Kankakee Co, IL 27–28 Dec (ph. SZ), at L. George, Lake Co, IN 27 Dec (ph. MSK), and at Pigeon R. FWA, LaGrange Co, IN 31 Jan–1 Feb (SP). A Cape May Warbler was in Indianapolis, IN 10 Dec (WY), and another attended a feeder south of Terre Haute, Vigo Co, IN from mid-Dec to approximately 23 Feb (ph. DG). Single Palm Warblers were at the Cikana State Fish Hatchery, Morgan Co, IN 6 Dec (JJ), at Goose Pond 24 Dec (G&AB, AR) and 23 Feb (KL), and in Kankakee Co, IL 12 Feb (JBH). Northern tier Pine Warblers, where they are more unusual, were found at Chicago Botanic Garden, Cook Co, IL 12 Dec (AS) and at Miller Woods, Lake Co, IN 27 Jan (MAT).
A Summer Tanager was an incredible find at Chicago’s Lincoln Park 20 Feb (ph. BMu). This represented Illinois’s fifth winter record, the other four records all from Dec. Single young male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were seen at feeders in Indiana in Warren Co 5–6 Dec (SU), south of Bloomington, Monroe Co 8–15 Dec (ph. JB), and in southern Jefferson Co 9 Feb (ph. KT). Illinois’s 10th Lazuli Bunting graced a backyard bird feeder in Sheridan, Sangamon Co 24 Feb+ (ph. JHi, ph. CD, TS). Six Indigo Buntings were reported, singles in Fishers, Marion Co, IN 27 Dec (ph. BMy, ASg) and at Willowhaven Nature Center, Kankakee Co, IL 10 Jan (JBH) the most northerly sightings. Dickcissels included one at a feeder in Pike Co, IN 17 Dec (JR), one in Kankakee Co, IL 23 Dec (MMs), and one in Champaign Co, IL 16 Jan (ph. TAB).
Report processed by José R. Ramírez-Garofalo, 18 July 2021