This was one of the weirdest birding days of my life. We seemed to get almost every target but missed many very common birds (for example, White-breasted Nuthatch). Perhaps the funniest was that we got Yellow-crowned Night-Heron but missed Black-crowned, lol.
We started the day off at Spring Lake. As soon as we got there, we played the Common Gallinule call. They instantly responded! Also at Spring Lake, we heard an amazing 4 Virginia Rails!
Next, we headed to Lost Mound, where upon arrival, we were treated to 4 Eastern Whip-Poor-Wills calling as well as a few peenting woodcocks. We walked down the road a bit and heard our first flycatcher of the day, Alder. We also heard Lark Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, and a few Field Sparrows. We decided to drive a little more throughout the park to look for Northern Mockingbird, Western Meadowlark, and Blue Grosbeak. We stopped at a spot that looked promising. Immediately, we heard Common Nighthawks calling overhead. After a little listening, we heard a Western Meadowlark calling in the distance as well. But no mockingbird or grosbeak. 🙁
We then proceded to Mississippi Palisades SP. As soon as we got out of the car, we were swarmed by millions of bugs. The entire time they would get in your eyes, ears, and mouth, making birding very difficult. Despite the bugs, we did manage to find our main targets, Cerulean & Kentucky Warbler and Louisana Waterthrush.
Feeling defeated from the Palisades, we worked our way back to Spring Lake where we managed to find a Least Bitern, a lifer for a few in the group!
After Spring Lake, we took the long drive over to Dixon Waterfowl Refuge. Although birding seemed slow, we actually had the second highest list of the day, with a total of 44 species. The best birds seen here were the easy to spot Yellow-headed Blackbirds.
We got word that the King Rail at Montrose was still being seen as well as the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at LaBagh, so we wanted to get to that area ASAP. But first, we needed to hit Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie for certain grassland species. At our first stop in Midewin, Explosives Road Prairie, we were thankful to find Nothern Mockingbirds here (as it would have been a disappointing miss because we didn’t get them at Lost Mound). We also found a few Dickcissels and some Bobolinks which were new for the day. On the way out, Ben S. spotted a bird sitting on the fence. We took a look at it and it turned out to be a Blue Grosbeak, a species we were only expecting to find at Lost Mound but missed them there, so we were very happy to get them here! Then we headed to Hoff Road, where all we wanted was a Bell’s Vireo. After walking down a trail for about 5 minutes we heard one.
Immediately after hearing the Bell’s Vireo, we ran back to our car and got to Montrose ASAP. Upon arrival, we spotted a large crowd of people (that’s how you find good birds at Montrose, just look for a crowd of people with binoculars lol). That something turned out to be the King Rail. It was a friendly bird, walking within feet of people sometimes. Other then the King Rail, Montrose was pretty slow; however, we did pick up a few migrants for the day.
Next, we went to LaBagh Woods, to look for the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. A couple birders showed it to us, definitely the rarest bird of the day!
Our next stop was Waukegan Beach where we found Common Tern, Ruddy Turnstone, and Piping Plover almost immediately! We walked down the beach picking up Semipalmated Sandpiper and Sanderling.
After Waukegan, we stopped at Illinois Beach SP – south for Brewer’s Blackbird. After the long walk down the beach, we finally reached where the Dead River meets Lake Michigan and where the Brewer’s Blackbirds are found. We didn’t even have to look for them, the Brewer’s Blackbirds flew right in front of us, giving great looks, a nice way to end the day!
Total species seen: 131!
Rallidae slam (excluding Yellow and Black)
Near flycatcher slam (missed Least, Olive-sided, and Yellow-bellied)
Near cardinal slam (missed Summer Tanager although I am almost certain I had one)
May Icteridae slam (excluding Rusty)