Keith McMullen escorted our group of 15 to the many spectacular birding sights in Southern Illinois the last weekend of June. We found 15 breeding warbler species with highlights being Cerulean, Prothonotary, Worm-eating, Prairie, Kentucky and Hooded, but missed Blue-winged and Black and White. Other notable species we tallied included Scarlet and Summer tanagers, many Blue Grosbeaks, great looks at Least Terns, Mississippi Kites, Black-Necked Stilts, Bald Eagles and numerous herons and egrets. Of course, one of the highlights was the pair of nesting SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHERS that everyone enjoyed with close views. We did find the nest, too!
Our evening visits to Ferne Clyffe State Park. were very rewarding, especially on Friday evening when Nathan Goldberg and Lucas Haberkorn were successful in obtaining excellent photos of the 7+ CHUCK-WILL'S-WIDOWS that were zipping about over our heads! We also had good looks at a BARRED OWL. On Saturday evening, the bird was doing what Keith described as the wak, wak, wak call on the wing! Keith, and probably the rest of us, had never seen a BARRED OWL call on the wing. Pretty neat stuff!
Sunday morning at Mermet Lake was fairly slow until the Birding Gods suddenly dropped a NORTHERN HARRIER, YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON and an OSPREY upon us all at the same time! Keith was very excited about the Harrier as they generally don't summer that far south in Southern Illinois.The group was awed by a beautiful - unfortunately road-killed - COPPERHEAD and we encountered an EASTERN FENCE LIZARD, Illinois' only lizard species. On Sunday, our walk to Heron Pond was highlighted with Yellow-throated and Prothonotary warblers, 2 close-up views of swimming COTTONMOUTHS in the swamp and by a singing BROWN CREEPER! This is only the 2nd summer record for BROWN CREEPER for Keith and he was like a kid in a candy store after that find.
The final tally for this weekend's trip was 115 species! We had great looks at a lot of good birds and the company was excellent. Once again we extend our sincere thanks to Keith for so generously donating his time and of course his birding expertise. Keith entered all of the species seen by location (22 checklists) into eBird, which I urge you to peruse.
We look forward to visiting Southern Illinois again soon.
- post contributed by Sigrid Schmidt (with a lot of help from Keith McMullen!)