Illinois & Indiana: Winter 2020–2021

Winter 2020–2021: 1 Dec–28 Feb

James D. Hengeveld

Keith A. McMullen

Geoffrey A. Williamson

Recommended citation:

Hengeveld, J.D., K.A. McMullen, and G.A. Williamson. 2021. Winter 2020–2021: IL & IN. <> North American Birds.

December and January temperatures were above average, likely resulting in the high (and in some cases, record) numbers of semi-hardy species. However, a polar vortex blasted the Midwest on 5 February and enveloped the region through 21 February, resulting in an average regional temperature that was approximately 4.0 °C lower than normal for February.

Rarities included Brant, Eurasian Wigeon, Mottled Duck, Western Grebe, Anna’s Hummingbird, Common Crane, Gyrfalcon, Say’s Phoebe, Great Kiskadee, Mountain Bluebird, Townsend’s Solitaire, Pine Grosbeak, Hoary Redpoll, Golden-crowned Sparrow, and Western Tanager. 

Abbreviations: FP (Forest Preserve); Gibson (L. Gibson, Gibson Co, IN); Goose Lake (Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area, Grundy Co, IL); Goose Pond (Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area, Greene Co, IN); Miller (Miller Beach, Lake Co, IN).

Waterfowl through Owls

A Brant that had been in Manitowoc, Wisconsin headed south in late Dec, and on 2 Jan it passed Winthrop Harbor (Eric Johnson, m. ob.) and Waukegan (Joshua I. Engel et al.) in Lake Co, IL and then continued past Wilmette, Cook Co, IL (Vlad Nevirkovets) before taking residence at Montrose Point in Chicago’s Lincoln Park 3–24 Jan (Terry Walsh, m. ob.). The same Brant was found adjacent to US-52 southeast of Lafayette, Tippecanoe Co, IN on 11 Feb (Edward M. Hopkins, m. ob.) and was seen by many through 13 Feb. Unfortunately, it was killed by a car 14 Feb. Large numbers of Trumpeter Swans again moved north through IL at season’s end, with 1000 at Melvin Price Dam, Madison Co, IL 20 Feb (William C. Rowe, Joshua P. Uffman) providing a winter record high count. The 405 at Spring L., Tazewell Co, IL 7 Feb (Ryan Jones, Jude Vickery) and the 300 tallied in Fountain Co 15 Jan (Alan W. Bruner) that tied the fourth highest count for IN, were also notable. Blue-winged Teal were widespread throughout the region with reports of seven individuals during Dec, three in early Jan, and at least 14 early returning birds in late Feb. The Eurasian Wigeon at the Des Plaines Conservation Area, Will Co, IL from the end of the fall season was last seen 1 Dec (m. ob.). IN’s second record of Mottled Duck was of a very well documented bird in western Hancock Co 19 Dec (Richard Garrett, ph. Don Gorney, ph. Michelle Holycross, ph. Ryan J. Sanderson). Strong numbers of Redhead were reported from IL with 3400 at L. Calumet, Cook Co 14 Dec (Walter J. Marcisz), 3000 at Carlyle L., Clinton Co 27 Feb (Dan M. Kassebaum), 2000 at Rainbow Beach in Chicago 26 Dec (Al Nichols), and 1370 at Gillson Park, Wilmette, Cook Co 11 Dec (Joshua I. Engel, Nathan Goldberg, Fran R. Morel). A notable aggregation of 2900 Greater Scaup was observed at Rainbow Beach in Chicago 31 Dec (Glenn Giacinto, Nathan Goldberg, Steven J. Huggins). Single Harlequin Ducks were at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk, Porter Co, IN 1 Dec (Don Gorney), and at Miller from 19 Dec (Dan Miller, m. ob.) through 25 Jan (Michael A. Topp), with two at the latter site on 22 Dec (Joe Bevins). An additional single was seen at the Port of Indiana, Porter Co, IN on 8 Jan (Kristin Stratton). Throughout the season, Surf Scoters were widespread in IN away from the L. Michigan lakefront with 17 reported in six counties, and the eight at Geist Reservoir, Marion Co 12–14 Dec (Don Gorney, ph. Jenny Young, ph. Judith Birkel) the peak count. Seventeen White-winged Scoters in 10 counties were also reported in IN away from L. Michigan, the three on L. Lemon, Monroe Co 26 Jan (Gary Langell) the high. It was an excellent season for Black Scoters away from the L. Michigan lakefront, with 10 birds reported in IN. The highest count was of five at Geist Reservoir, Marion Co on 2 Dec (Nick Kiehl), this total tying IN’s inland winter record for the species. Away from the L. Michigan lakefront, there were 16 Long-tailed Ducks in IN that were scattered across nine counties. By far the highest count of Long-tailed Ducks was the 57 tallied during a 1 Dec lakewatch at Miller Beach, Lake, IN (John K. Cassady et al.). A fine total of 4000 Red-breasted Mergansers was noted on L. Michigan off Grant Park in Chicago 2 Jan (Glenn Giacinto, Nathan Goldberg, Steven J. Huggins).

Of 14 Red-necked Grebes reported, 12 were in IN, the only multiples being two on 4 Jan at Gibson (Charles E. Mills) and two on 13 Jan at Patoka L., Dubois Co, IN (Kathy McClain). Two Eared Grebes were reported, both in IN. A Western Grebe on L. Michigan off Chicago 31 Dec (Isoo O’Brien et al.) was a nice find as was one at Port of Indiana, Porter Co, IN 4 Jan (Brendan J. Grube) that was periodically observed there through 23 Feb (Don Gorney).

IN’s second Anna’s Hummingbird and the first that was available for general viewing, appeared at a feeder in Highland, Lake Co on 31 Oct (Janis Rubino). The homeowners diligently maintained a heated feeder and hundreds of birders viewed the hummingbird from early Nov (Michael A. Topp, m. ob.) through 3 Feb (Diane Hansen), after which the polar vortex struck and the bird was not seen again. Four different Rufous Hummingbirds were observed in IL. Two Rufous Hummingbirds first seen visiting feeders by homeowners in late Nov became known to the birding community in Dec: one at Lisle, DuPage Co was present 1–8 Dec (ph. Ryan Jones, ph. Matt Misewicz, m. ob.), and the other in East Alton, Madison Co was observed 6 Dec (Jessie Goodwin, ph. Tommy Goodwin) and 8 Dec (Frank R. Holmes), last reported by the homeowner 16 Dec. One in rural Will Co was documented 1 Dec (ph. Matt Misewicz), the full date range of its presence unknown. The fourth was in Carterville, Williamson Co that was banded by Cathie Hutcheson 28 Nov with a cast of birders present (ph. Keith McMullen, m. ob.) and seen until 20 Dec (ph. Travis DeNeal, m. ob.). 

Counts of multiple Virginia Rails included two at Dixon Waterfowl Refuge, Putnam Co, IL 4 Dec (Dustin Holschuh) and an incredible five 18 Feb at Camp Adventure, Kosciusko Co (Nick Yarde) that tied the high winter count for IN; an additional single in the northern tier was at Blackwell FP, DuPage Co, IL 5 and 19 Dec (Kyle Wiktor) and 26 Feb (Glenn Perricone). A single Sora was found at Buckskin Bottoms, Gibson Co, IN 27 Dec and again 23 Jan (Charles E. Mills). On 29 Jan, IN’s second Common Crane was discovered in rural Jasper Co (Troy Hanselman fide Kristin Stratton) and continued in the area for two more days (Brendan J. Grube, Matt S. Kalwasinski, William Sharkey, m. ob.).

Warmer than average temperatures in the first two months of the season likely resulted in higher numbers of lingering shorebirds. With only three later Dec records for IN, a Sanderling at Miller 4 Dec (Michael A. Topp) was notable. Lingering Dunlin included two at Clinton L., DeWitt Co, IL 10 Dec (Evan Smith), eight at Goose Lake 18 Dec (Matt Misewicz), one in Gallatin Co, IL 10 Jan (Colin Dobson, Tony Ward), and one to three at Miller from late Dec through Jan, with the peak of three present 23 Jan (ph. Jeff Packer, ph. Sean Verkamp, Tabitha Olsen, Bruce Glick). Another Dunlin was at Gibson 25 Jan (Charles E. Mills) and two were at Seidner Dune and Swale in northern Lake Co, IN 29 Jan (Michael A. Topp). Unusual were reports of Purple Sandpiper from five different locations involving at least seven individuals. One was at Waukegan, Lake Co, IL 6–7 Dec (Gioseppe Cesolini, m. ob.), two were there 11 Dec (ph. Daniel T. Williams, m. ob.), and again just one 18–19 Dec (Annette McClellan, m. ob.). At least five Purple Sandpipers were found in IN, including one at Michigan City Harbor 2 Dec (Jason Jablonski) and 19 Dec (Kenneth J. Brock, John K. Cassady, Bill Sharkey, Kevin Cornell), two at Miller 22 Dec (ph. Bill Sharkey) and two unusual inland records of singles at Patoka L. 15–18 Dec (John S. Castrale, m. ob.) that provided a first record for Orange Co, and at Gibson 17 Dec (Charles E. Mills). It was an above average season for Least Sandpipers, with eight near Gibson 19 Dec (ph. Evan Speck), 17–20 at Kaskaskia Island, Randolph Co, IL 9–10 Jan (Trey McCuen, Michael Heaney), and a very late record of two birds in the snow near Oakland City, Gibson Co 9 Feb (Jeremy Ross, ph. Evan Speck). IN’s second earliest Pectoral Sandpiper ever was sliding on the ice at Stillwater Marsh, Monroe Co 21 Feb (ph. Joe Bailey, Scott Evans, m. ob.), and a second early bird was in the Ohio R. bottoms, Vanderburgh Co, IN 23 Feb (ph. Evan Speck). Providing IN’s second and third Dec records for Long-billed Dowitcher were three birds southwest of Gibson 4 Dec (ph. Evan Speck), and two birds east of Gibson 19 Dec (ph. Evan Speck). A Lesser Yellowlegs near Gibson 19 Dec (Evan Speck) was late while another at Central IL Public Service L., Jasper Co, IL 24 Feb (C. Leroy Harrison) was early to arrive. Late Greater Yellowlegs included 2 at Gibson 8 Dec (Charles E. Mills), one at Two Rivers NWR, Calhoun Co, IL 10 Dec (Brent Schindewolf), and singles at Goose Pond (Amy Kearns) and south of Goose Pond (Don Gorney) on 16 Dec. Early arriving Greater Yellowlegs appeared east of Goose Pond 24 Feb (Aaron Douglass) and at Goose Pond 27 Feb (David Rupp).

A southbound Black-legged Kittiwake at Gillson Park, Wilmette, Cook Co, IL 11 Dec (Joshua I. Engel, Fran R. Morel, Alan F. Stokie) was noteworthy but expected. Single first-cycle Black-legged Kittiwakes were seen at Miller 28 Dec (Don Gorney, Aidan Rominger) and 1 Jan (David Zickuhr), at Powerton L., Tazewell Co, IL 24 Jan–13 Feb (ph. Steven J. Huggins, Scott Judd, m. ob.), at Waukegan, Lake Co, IL 3 and 11–13 Feb (Michal Furmanek, m. ob.), and at the Portage Public Marina, Porter Co 21 Feb (ph. Kristofer Komenda, ph. Mike Sipich, et al.) through 25 Feb (ph. John Blackburn, ph. David Gruver). A phenomenal record of four adults and one juvenile Sabine’s Gull was logged 8 Dec at Gibson (Charles E. Mills), representing IN’s first Dec record since 1954, IN’s largest tally away from L. Michigan, and IN’s first one-day total of multiple adults. Unexpected in winter were Laughing Gulls at Moraine Hills SP, McHenry Co, IL 21 Feb (Casey Warnecke, m. ob.) and in Chicago’s Lincoln Park 26 Feb+ (Steven J. Huggins, m. ob.). A Franklin’s Gull at Gages L., Lake Co, IL 1 Jan (†Peter S. Weber, Stephen Hurst) was also a nice find. Three different California Gulls (one first-cycle, one second-cycle, one adult) were seen at various dates on L. Springfield, Sangamon Co, IL (Colin Dobson, m. ob.). Another first-cycle California Gull was in Madison Co, IL from late Nov through 21 Feb (William C. Rowe, Tom Parmeter, Frank R. Holmes, Dan M. Kassebaum). At L. Lemon, Monroe Co, a first-cycle kumlieni Iceland Gull was seen 8–9 Feb (ph. Susan E. Hengeveld, James D. Hengeveld, m. ob.), providing only the second record of the subspecies in the southern half of IN. The peak count for Iceland Gull was 11 (seven thayeri and four kumlieni) at the Arsenal Road location in Will Co, IL 9 Jan (Glenn Giacinto, Steven J. Huggins). Significant counts of Lesser Black-backed Gull included nine at the Arsenal Road location in Will Co, IL 9 Jan (Glenn Giacinto, Steven J. Huggins), eight in Moline, Rock Island Co, IL 27 Jan (Steven M. Freed), and eight on L. Springfield, Sangamon Co, IL 10 Feb (Colin Dobson). High counts of Glaucous Gulls included four at the Elkhart Co Landfill 21 Jan (John K. Cassady, Lynn Vernon et al.) and at the Arsenal Road location in Will Co, IL 20 Feb (Glenn Giacinto, Steven J. Huggins), and three in Winthrop Harbor, Lake Co, IL 2 Feb (Andrew O. Stewart) and 23 Feb (Adam W. Sell).

Unusually late were two Forster’s Terns at Rend L., Jefferson Co, IL 11 Dec (Keith A. McMullen) that were joined by two more 18–19 Dec (Keith A. McMullen). 

Wintering Red-throated Loons were in good supply with high counts of 11 in Winthrop Harbor, Lake Co, IL 11 Jan (Andrew O. Stewart) and nine at IL Beach SP, Lake Co, IL 6 Jan (Andrew O. Stewart). Nice Dec tallies of 18 Common Loons occurred at Waukegan, Lake Co, IL 7 Dec (Peter S. Weber) and of 32 at L. Monroe, Monroe Co, IN 13 Dec (Nathan & Angie Damm).

Two Neotropic Cormorants were noted at Lake of Egypt, Williamson Co, IL 28 Feb (Colin Dobson). Seven Great Egrets at Crab Orchard NWR, Williamson Co, IL 20 Dec (Chelsea DeVivo, Kimberly Rohling) provided a significant winter high count, as did the six at Horseshoe L. SP, Madison Co, IL 3–24 Jan (Frank R. Holmes). Unusual was an American Bittern on 2 Jan at The Nature Conservancy’s Kankakee Sands, Newton Co, IN (ph. Christel McIntosh). For the third straight winter, Green Herons were reported from IL, with two this year: one in Woodford Co 5 Dec (ph. Theresa Buley), and the other at Saganashkee Slough, Cook Co 5 Dec (ph. Julie Rand et al.). Another Green Heron was at the Great Miami Oxbow, Dearborn Co, IN 24 Dec (Rafid Kakel).

Golden Eagles had a good winter, with reports from 35 counties involving more than 50 individuals. Only two Northern Goshawks were reported, both from IL: in Bureau Co 16 Dec (Michael A. Madsen) and in Henderson Co 27 Dec (Kelly J. McKay et al.). 

In East Chicago, Lake Co, IN, a recently fledged Barn Owl (evidenced by a photo showing a significant amount of down) was very unusual for the first week of Dec (fide Amy Kearns). Thirteen Snowy Owls were reported in IN while IL reports came from 10 northern tier and seven central tier counties. The largest roost of Long-eared Owls was one of 15 birds at Lost Mound NWR, Jo Daviess Co, IL 18 Dec (Daniel T. Williams). In this irruptive year for Northern Saw-whet Owls, Sand Ridge State Forest, Mason Co, IL held five Northern Saw-whet Owls 10 Dec (Matthew Williams), and eight Northern Saw-whet Owls were recorded in Big R. State Forest, Henderson Co, IL 27 Dec (Kelly J. McKay et al.). 

Three Merlins were seen at St. Adalbert Cemetery, Niles, Cook Co, IL 4 Jan (Thomas B. Lally), at Freeport Cemetery, Stephenson Co, IL 9 Jan (Eric E. Secker), at the Dugger unit of Greene-Sullivan State Forest, Sullivan Co, IN 16 Jan (Vern Wilkins), and at Goose Pond 20 Jan, 20 Feb, and 26 Feb (David Rupp). An impressive Gyrfalcon habituated to Waukegan, Lake Co, IL 13 Jan–6 Feb (ph. Gustavo Ustariz, m. ob.), where it was seen regularly catching Red-breasted Mergansers. The wintering Prairie Falcon of Coles Co, IL was observed through 13 Feb (m. ob.). Possibly a different individual was seen in western Douglas Co, IL 11 Jan (ph. Steven L. Lima).

Flycatchers through Thrushes

On 17 Jan, IN’s fifth winter Say’s Phoebe was found at Somerville Mine, Gibson Co (ph. Lisa Todd). The find was not made known until 20 Jan, and on the following day and over the subsequent two and a half weeks, it was seen by many (ph. Evan Speck et al.), the final sighting occurring 7 Feb (Matt Seaton). An amazing find was a state first Great Kiskadee in Channahon, Will Co, IL 2–13 Dec (ph. John C. Weisgerber, m. ob.). This noisy bird was seen by scores of eager viewers. Just 14 Loggerhead Shrikes were reported, eight in IL, and six in IN. Northern Shrikes in the southern tier included singles in southwestern Pike Co, IN 29 Jan (Kathy McClain), near Carlisle, Sullivan Co, IN 6 Feb (Jared Emmack), and at Somerville Mine, Gibson Co, IN 10 Jan–14 Feb (Vicky Whitaker, m. ob.). Quite a surprise were single White-eyed Vireos in Normal, McLean Co, IL 8 Dec (ph. Bill Davison) that provided IL’s eighth winter record, and one attending a suet feeder in Terre Haute, Vigo Co 13 Feb (Lora Cottom) that provided IN’s first Feb and ninth winter record. On the southwest side of South Bend 26 Dec, an American Crow roost estimated at 20,000+ (Kyle Wiktor) furnished IN’s largest total in 11 years.

Tree Swallows arrived early with more than 40 birds reported in IN during Feb, singles on 13 Feb in Hendricks Co (Susan Heald) and Posey Co (Matt Harms), and another in Vanderburgh Co the following day (John Ellis), the earliest. A Tree Swallow at Crab Orchard NWR, Williamson Co, IL 27 Feb (Christopher Gilbert), marked the fifth straight year the species has returned to IL during Feb (the average arrival date in IL is 3 Mar). In contrast to the total of 19 last season, an impressive 719 Red-breasted Nuthatches were reported in IN, the high daily count consisting of 40 at Sugar Ridge Fish and Wildlife Area, Warrick Co 13 Jan (Evan Speck). Seven House Wrens were reported during Dec (five in IL), two Jan singles included one in Floyd Co, IN 6 Jan (Joseph Caruso) and another at Goose Lake 29 Jan (Kyle Wiktor); one Feb bird was near Hovey L., Posey Co, IN on the sixth (Evan Speck). Just five days shy of IN’s latest ever Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, IN’s second latest was found 22 Dec at Turtle Creek Reservoir, Sullivan Co (Steven L. Lima). 

A Mountain Bluebird north of DeWitt, DeWitt Co, IL 28–31 Dec (Rhetta Jack, ph. Colin Dobson, m. ob.) was initially found during a CBC. Another excellent find was a Townsend’s Solitaire at Hampshire FP, Kane Co, IL 4 Dec (ph. Brendon Lake). An IN record 204 Hermit Thrushes were logged, more than doubling the previous seasonal maximum (89); the high count was of five at Patoka R. NWR, Pike Co 26 Dec (ph. Evan Speck). Gray Catbirds made a good showing this winter, with 27 different individuals reported. Among the 24 Brown Thrashers logged in the central tier of the region were a surprising five at Wolf Creek SP, Shelby Co, IL (Colin Dobson). Northern tier sightings of Brown Thrashers included individuals on a Marshall Co, IN farm throughout the season (Neal Miller); at Spencer Conservation Area, Boone Co, IL 16 Dec (Joel Neylon); in Gary, Lake Co, IN 26 Dec (Julie Bonnema, Nathan Goldberg, Matthew Igleski); in Libertyville, Lake Co, IL 29 Dec (Barbi Fotland) and 2 Jan (Geddy Paronto); in LaGrange Co, IN 23 Jan (Jaylen Otto); and in Roscoe, Winnebago Co, IL 24 Feb (Lisa Zeimetz).

Eurasian Tree Sparrow are becoming more widespread in IL. Reports this winter came from 18 northern tier counties. The easternmost sightings were of individuals at the Little Red Schoolhouse in the Palos area of Cook Co, IL that arrived there in late Oct and stayed to 7 Jan (m. ob.), one in Gurnee, Lake Co, IL 28 Dec (ph. Stephen Hurst), and one at Montrose Point in Chicago’s Lincoln Park 27 Feb+ (ph. Katy Krigbaum, m. ob.). The 24 central tier counties from which reports were made also represents an increased range. 

American Pipits were unusually numerous this season. Among 13 records in the northern tier of the region, high counts of seven individuals were reported on an Elkhart Co, IN farm 3 Dec (David Schwartz) and at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Lake Co, IL 1 Jan (Jeff Bilsky, Amanda Tichacek). In the central tier, six were at Big L., Brown Co, IL 15 Dec (Colin Dobson, Tony Ward), and 20 were at Heron County Park, Vermilion Co, IL 3 Jan (Rob Kanter).

Finches through Dickcissel

In this phenomenal season of winter finch irruptions, IN experienced its best ever irruption of Evening Grosbeaks, with a high of 175 at a feeder in Hoosier National Forest in southern Monroe Co 17 Jan (Ryan J. Sanderson), an all-time maximum away from L. Michigan. Despite the large incursion of Evening Grosbeaks that began in fall, winter sightings came from just a little more than a dozen locations in IL, with the largest numbers in the very southeast portion of the state. The peak tallies involved birds coming to feeders at two residences in Saline Co, IL, one topping out at 52 birds 24 Jan (Cathy DeNeal) and the other with 35 birds 22 Jan (Jacob C. Cooper). At the Ogden Dunes pinery, Porter Co, a female or immature male Pine Grosbeak was found 8–9 Dec (Aidan Rominger, ph. Don Gorney, Edward M. Hopkins) and represented IN’s first record in four years. Common Redpolls were numerous and widespread across the region. Triple-digit tallies included 150 in South Bend, St. Joseph Co, IN 13 Dec (Thomas Anderson) and 101 in South Bend 27 Dec (ph. Eric Michael) that furnished IN’s largest counts since the winter of 2012–13; 200 at Goose Lake 6 Jan (Matt Misewicz); and 164 at Mundsinger Woods, Kendall Co, IL 19 Jan (Stephen Hurst). The southernmost Common Redpoll was a bird at a feeder in Saline Co, IL 6 and 12 Dec (Cathy DeNeal). There were nine reports of Hoary Redpoll; accepted records include one at the Chicago Botanic Gardens, Cook Co, IL that arrived in fall remaining to 6 Jan (Isoo O’Brien, m. ob.) and another in Chicago’s Jackson Park 8 Dec (ph. Randy L. Shonkwiler). The other seven records are pending with the IL Ornithological and IN Bird Records Committees.

Red Crossbills had an excellent season, with reports from 23 counties, 19 of those in IL. Double-digit tallies included 50 in the Shawnee National Forest, Hardin Co, IL 2 Jan (Joy O’Keefe, Mark Vukovich); 40 in northeast LaGrange Co, IN 18 Jan (Richard Garrett); 30 at Sand Ridge State Forest, Mason Co 11 Dec (Jared Gorrell) and at Pigeon R. Fish and Wildlife Area, LaGrange, IN 23 Jan (Lisa & Randy Vanderbilt, Eric & Tina Rosier); 22 at Big R. State Forest, Henderson Co, IL 27 Dec (Kelly J. McKay et al.); 14 in Carterville, Williamson Co (Dan Wylie); and 12 in Hudson, McLean Co 5 Dec (Wayne Hochstetler, Benjamin Murphy). White-winged Crossbills were in abundance as well, being noted in 29 counties (20 in IL), 20 in the northern, seven in the central, and two in the southern tier. Double-digit counts of this species, all in IL, included 20 in Henderson Co 27 Dec (Kelly J. McKay et al.); 16 in rural Will Co 1 Dec (Matt Misewicz); 15 in Morris, Grundy Co 16 Jan (Matt Misewicz); 12 at Belvidere Cemetery, Boone Co 15 Dec (Joel Neylon); 11 at Afton FP, DeKalb Co 1 Dec (Ken Reinert), 10 at the Morton Arboretum, DuPage Co 26 Dec (Bob Andrini); 10 in Hampton, Rock Island Co 26 Dec (Steven Freed); and 10 at McDonald Woods FP, Lake Co 17 Jan (Ted Wolff). Only 29 White-winged Crossbills were reported in IN, but it was the highest seasonal total since the winter of 2012–2013; single birds in the Evansville area, Vanderburgh Co, 6 Dec (ph. anon.) and 28 Dec (Jill Jankowski) were the farthest south in the region. 

Though not considered officially established, European Goldfinch numbers in Lake Co, IL are going through the roof, with reports coming from 19 locations within that county. Jeff Bilsky and Amanda Tichecek documented 95 in a single photo taken in Waukegan, Lake Co, IL 1 Jan. Sixty were noted in Grayslake, Lake Co, IL 18 Jan (Jim S. Solum); 20 were in Zion, Lake Co, IL 12 Jan (William McClellan); and 17 were counted in Gurnee, Lake Co, IL 5 Dec (Adam W. Sell). Pine Siskins were numerous and widespread throughout the region, though the highest counts came from IL: 305 were at a residence in Saline Co 16 Jan (Eric W. Walters), 200 were at a second Saline Co residence 31 Dec (Cathy DeNeal), 100 were at a residence in Rockford, Winnebago Co, IL 3 Dec (Daniel T. Williams), and 100 were in Marion, Williamson Co, IL 1 Jan (Tina Pryor). 

A Grasshopper Sparrow at North Point Marina in Winthrop Harbor, Lake Co, IL 13–22 Dec (Alyssa Rod, Diana Rod, Gene Rod, m. ob.) provided IL’s third Dec record (there are also two Jan records). A flock of 27 Chipping Sparrows in Floyd Co 14 Jan (Joseph Caruso) established a new winter high count for IN. South of Howe, LaGrange Co, a Clay-colored Sparrow attended a feeder 7–23 Jan (ph. Sam Plew, m. ob.), providing IN’s eighth winter record. The season’s rarest sparrow was a Golden-crowned Sparrow in Rockford, Winnebago Co, IL that continued from fall until 13 Dec (Barbara C. Williams, Daniel T. Williams, m. ob.). Four first-cycle Harris’s Sparrows were found in IN: north of Lagrange, LaGrange Co 30 Dec–13 Feb (Sarah Petersheim, ph. Sam Plew, ph. Bruce Glick, m. ob.), another in LaGrange Co 1 Feb+ (Glen Lehman), in Kosciusko Co. 6 Feb (Jeffrey J. McCoy), and in Michigantown, Clinton Co 12–21 Feb (Linda Motes et al.); three were also reported in IL. A good number of Vesper Sparrows were observed, with seven singletons: Lawrenceville, Lawrence Co, IL 17 Dec (Colin Dobson; Bailey Wetland, Richland Co, IL 20 Dec–31 Jan (C. Leroy Harrison); Lost Mound NWR, Jo Daviess Co, IL 5 Jan (ph. Scott Latimer); Kendall Co, IL 17–31 Jan (ph. Ryan Jones, Jude Vickery, m. ob.); Hickory Knolls Natural Area, Kane Co, IL 19 Jan (Jon J. Duerr); Harrodsburg, Monroe Co, IN 19–26 Feb (ph. Susan E. Hengeveld, James D. Hengeveld et al.); and LaGrange Co, IN 27 Feb (Jacob Hochstetler). Fewer than normal LeConte’s Sparrows were noted, with just three reported, all in Illlinois. Savannah Sparrows have become more prevalent in the northern tier in recent years. This season, double-digit tallies were made at seven different northern tier locations in IL. The top counts were of 18 both in Grayslake, Lake Co 1 Jan (Jim S. Solum) and at the Wheeler Road sod farms, Kane Co 2 Jan (Charles Shields). In the southern tier, 60 noted in Mounds, Pulaski Co, IL 28 Dec (Kimberly Rohling) provided the high count. Eleven Lincoln’s Sparrows were reported, all from IL, including a wintering bird at Montrose Point in Chicago’s Lincoln Park that was last seen 23 Jan (m. ob.). 

Initially found on 18 Dec in eastern Monroe Co, IN (S. Bryce Robeson), at which time it was thought to be a hybrid, a female Spotted Towhee was subsequently correctly identified and seen through the end of the season (ph. S. Bryce Robeson, m. ob.). A third record for the IN L. Michigan lakefront, a male Spotted Towhee in Beverly Shores, Porter Co 26 Dec (ph. Brendan J. Grube et al.) remained through early Feb when the polar vortex descended on the area. Among eight Spotted Towhees in IL were two at Carlyle L., Clinton Co 26 Dec that remained throughout the winter season (Dan M. Kassebaum, m. ob.). 

An adult male Yellow-headed Blackbird was seen in southwestern Greene Co, IN 26 Jan (Don Gorney), and a young male or female was seen at a feeder in Vanderburgh Co, IN 15 Feb (Angela Ziliak Titus). Four Baltimore Orioles were reported—one at the Rock Run Rookery Preserve, Will Co, IL 4 Dec (ph. Michael Nagrocki), plus the following that were at feeders: one in Coal Valley, Rock Island Co, IL 8–20 Dec (ph. Sarah Gende), one in Clinton, Vermillion Co, IN 14 Dec (Peter E. Scott) that continued from the fall, and another in Spencer Co, IN 15 Dec (fide David Ayer).

An incredible 14 warbler species were reported in the region. Lingering Ovenbirds included one in Chicago 5 Dec (ph. Patricia Durkin); one in Huntington, Huntington Co, IN 17 Dec (Betty Wallace) that supplied IN’s eighth Dec record; and one at Busey Woods in Champaign Co, IL 19 Dec (Zachary Sutton). IN’s third Dec Northern Waterthrush was at the Howell Wetland, Vanderburgh Co 8 Dec (Ethan Wiist), and another spotted in Chicago 19 Dec (ph. Carl Giometti) was also late to depart. A hardy Tennessee Warbler took up residence at a backyard feeder in Glenview, Cook Co, IL 13 Dec–24 Jan (ph. Chris Cipolla), providing the fourth IL winter record and the third in the last five years. The seven Orange-crowned Warblers reported were well above the average for IN; three were reported in IL. At McCloud Nature Park, Hendricks Co, a Nashville Warbler 18 Dec (Michael Burdsall) was IN’s fourth for Dec; one at Chicago’s North Pond attempted to winter but couldn’t stay past 29 Dec (ph. Russ Smith, m. ob.). Another Nashville that showed up at a feeder in Evansville, Vanderburgh Co on about 24 Jan was found dead 11 Feb (ph. anon.), having succumbed to the freezing rain and low temperatures associated with the polar vortex. A Kentucky Warbler in Waukegan, Lake Co, IL 13 Dec (ph. Peter S. Weber) was an amazing find, providing IL’s first winter record. Of 10 Common Yellowthroats reported, eight were in IN, quadrupling the average number of reports; two from IL included one documented at Skokie Lagoons, Cook Co 26 Dec (ph. Jeff Bilsky), and another at Mermet L., Massac Co 30 Dec (†Vicki Lang, Rhonda S. Rothrock). Cape May Warblers attended feeders north of Goshen, Elkhart Co, IN on 18 Dec (ph. Brent Mann, Gail Shetler) and in Pana, Christian Co, IL 18–26 Jan (ph. Brian Lockwood). A Yellow Warbler photographed in South Bend, St. Joseph Co 7 Dec provided the third Dec record for IN (Chandler Sonafrank). Amazingly, 13 Palm Warblers were reported, 11 of those in IN, with two each on 10 Dec (David Rupp) and 16 Dec (Bill Holladay, Kate LeBreton, Mike Gruszczynski) at Goose Pond; on 16 Dec in Dubois Co (Sean Verkamp); and near Gibson 2 Jan (ph. Evan Speck); two in IL included one at L. Springfield, Sangamon Co, IL 4 Dec (H. David Bohlen), and another in Carbondale, Jackson Co, IL 8 Dec (Jacob C. Cooper) that was also seen 22 Dec (Laurel Toussaint). In the northern tier, a Pine Warbler was at the Chicago Botanic Gardens in Glencoe, Cook Co, IL 26 Dec (Aaron Gyllenhall) and 31 Dec (Al Nichols), another was present the entire season frequenting a suet feeder in Orland Park, Cook Co, IL (ph. Linda Stwora), and one visited suet feeders near LaGrange, LaGrange Co, IN 29 Dec–4 Feb (Sam Plew, ph. John K. Cassady, et al.). Nearly double the average number of Yellow-rumped Warblers were reported in IN, with a peak count of 41 on 19 Dec (Wayne Wauligman) at the Great Miami Oxbow, Dearborn Co. Single Yellow-throated Warblers were seen in IN on 5 Dec in Dubois Co (Sean Verkamp, Tabitha Olsen) and from 29 Dec–4 Feb (ph. Sam Plew et al.) at the same suet feeders in LaGrange Co attended by the Pine Warbler.

A first-cycle male Summer Tanager that arrived at feeders in Goshen, LaGrange Co, IN in late Nov continued through 19 Dec (ph. Annie Aguirre, ph. Elaine Harley, et al.), while one came to a suet feeder in Deer Park, Lake Co, IL 25 Dec (ph. Susan Gorr). A Scarlet Tanager frequented a feeding station in Montgomery, Kendall Co, IL 9–12 Dec (ph. Liz Copeland). A cooperative Western Tanager was seen by many in Channahon, Will Co, IL 12–17 Dec (Niklas Klauss, Alex Mortensen, m. ob.) before moving to Minooka, Grundy Co 19–20 Dec (Cindy Niederer Stasell, m. ob.). On 27 Dec, a female-plumaged Rose-breasted Grosbeak was seen east of Oakland City, Gibson Co, IN (Steven Gilstrap). Seven Indigo Buntings in the region included one from late Nov in St. Joseph, Champaign Co, IL that was noted on 2 and 19 Dec (ph. Michael P. Ward et al.); one in Grafton, Jersey Co, IL 12 Dec (Nick Wells); one in Thebes, Alexander Co, IL 28 Dec (Kelly J. McKay, Mark Vukovich); two at Carlyle L., Clinton Co, IL 29 Dec–18 Jan (ph. Dan M. Kassebaum, ph. Trevor Slovick, m. ob.); one south of Bloomington, Monroe Co, IN 3 Jan (Joe Bailey); and one south of New Albany, Floyd Co, IN 11 Feb (Joseph Caruso). Dickcissels appeared at feeders in Tippecanoe Co, IN 5–6 Dec (Kevin Arvin, Mark Arvin, Edward M. Hopkins); in Champaign, Champaign Co, IL 21 Dec (ph. Ian Brooks); several miles to the south in Tolono, Champaign Co, IL 6 Jan–8 Feb (ph. Jennifer Anderson-Cruz, m. ob.); and at a feeder in Kempton, Ford Co, IL 4 Jan (ph. Scott Saffer).

Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 31 Mar 2022.

Photos–Illinois & Indiana: Winter 2020–2021

Just south of the Indianapolis Regional Airport, Hancock Co, Indiana, this Mottled Duck, only the second for Indiana, was found 19 Dec 2020 on a pond with several hundred Mallards and about a dozen American Black Ducks. It was present for one day only. Photo © Michelle Holycross.

Continuing from the fall, Indiana’s second Anna’s Hummingbird, and the first that was available for viewing by the birding populace, survived nicely through Dec and Jan with the help of a heated bird feeder. Twenty plus inches of snow and persistent sub-zero temperatures associated with the polar vortex in early Feb likely led to the bird’s demise as it was not reported after 3 Feb 2021. 11 Dec 2020. Photo © Michael Topp.

With 21+ years separating the appearance of Indiana’s first Common Crane (Oct–Nov 1999) and the current year’s bird, the 29-31 Jan 2021 stop-over of this Common Crane near Wheatfield, Jasper Co, generated much excitement. 29 Jan 2021. Photo © Kristin Stratton.

Proving somewhat elusive at first, this Say’s Phoebe obliged by remaining at Somerville Mine, Gibson Co, Indiana for approximately three weeks (17 Jan–7 Feb 2021). The bird provided Indiana its 16th record, five of which are from the winter period. 30 Jan 2021. Photo © Joe Bailey.

Illinois’ first Great Kiskadee thrilled many observers during its stay, from 2–13 Dec 2020. The bird frequented an area that was minutes away from the late fall Eurasian Wigeon that departed five days prior. 5 Dec 2020. Photo © Matt Micewicz.

Even in years such as this one with multiple winter finch irruptions, Pine Grosbeaks are not expected in the Illinois and Indiana region. Indiana’s last record of a Pine Grosbeak was on 22 Nov 2016 and it came from the pinery at Ogden Dunes, where this bird was seen 8–9 Dec 2020. 9 Dec 2020. Photo © John Kendall.

Dan and Barbara Williams’ yard was graced by a Golden-crowned Sparrow that first appeared in Nov and stayed through 13 Dec 2020 delighting many patient birders. 10 Dec 2020. Photo © John Longhenry.

Providing the third rare species in the Channahon vicinity was this gorgeous Western Tanager that was seen by many 12–17 Dec 2020 before relocating to Minooka in Grundy County, Illinois 19–20 Dec 2020. 13 Dec 2020. Photo © David Gruver.