Eric Secker on 1/31 reported via IBET: Well good and bad news for the Elgin HARLEQUIN DUCK that has been hanging out below the Kimball St. dam in Elgin. The bad news is that he will be on leave from the birding scene for awhile after a close call today, but the good news is that he is alive and believed to be doing well.

Brendon Lake gave me a call this morning informing me that the Harlequin Duck was seriously caught on some fishing line and struggling. A couple other birders were also already on the scene and urgently looking for some way to rescue him, but the duck was still far out in the middle of the river stuck on some fishing line that appeared to be anchored to the river bottom. I had Brendon call the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors who I believe had already heard from someone else on the scene and had an individual with a canoe or kayak on the way but about an hour out from Elgin.

When my wife and I arrived, Elgin PD had a car on the sidewalk near the scene along with a handful of birders and onlookers. The bird was stuck, still able to swim and dive, but only within a small radius of where he was anchored down and fighting against the current and fishing wire. The Elgin Fire Department came out shortly after with a couple long grab hooks but those were too short - which we were anyway afraid might pull the bird under if they hooked the fishing line or might snap the line leaving the bird still entangled but no longer catchable. A second fire truck showed up a little while later and one of the firemen suited up in an insulated wet suit and was able to wade out to the bird while on a safety line for precautions.

I took the bird once onshore and put him in a covered shoebox I had brought along and snipped the fishing line off of his wing. We drove him down to Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn (DuPage Co.). He was alert and doing very well. I'm optimistic that he may have escaped more or less uninjured, but they will x-ray him to make sure his wing isn't broken and that there isn't any hidden fishing line still around him. I'm sure they will check his foot as well, but we let them know that he has been surviving well despite that condition. If all goes well and he gets a clean bill of health, they will plan to release him back where he was.

Thanks to Brendon and his mom, and the other birders who were on the scene and made calls. There are also many non-profits to be thankful for in our area, all of whom rely heavily on volunteers or donations to function. Thanks to Chicago Bird Collision Monitors for their prompt response and rushing out to the scene and to Willowbrook Wildlife Center for providing a vital service for birds in need of rehab. Also, thanks to the Bird Conservation Network volunteers and advocates who help promote awareness of the dangers of fishing lines and have worked with the forest preserve districts to install and monitor fishing line disposal canisters.

And of course a huge thanks to the Elgin Police Department and Elgin Fire Department for saving the day and being willing to come out for an unusual request.

I think Brendon may have some photos to share and post later. An eventful day to say the least and I never thought that I would ever beholding a Harlequin Duck in my hands. I will let everyone know what I hear from Willowbrook.

Walter Lutz on 1/31 reported via e-mail: Had a good morning seeing 3 species I haven't seen in years:

Nelson Lake - Long Eared Owl - has been at least 10 years.

Aurora West FP - Northern Shrike is still there

Hannaford Woods FP - Red-headed Woodpecker (thanks Marion)

Theresa LeCompte on 1/28 reported via e-mail: A pair of Great Horned Owls at Bliss Woods this afternoon.

Great Horned Owls

Great Horned Owls photo courtesy Theresa LeCompte

Tim Balassie on 1/28 reported via e-mail: FYI for those in the area, I encountered a Peregrine Falcon earlier today (1/28). The bird was located on the east side of the River south of Batavia's Wilson St., perched on a baseball field light stanchion. I'm assuming this is the same bird seen somewhat frequently in this area.

Debbie Wisser on 1/28 reported via eBird: Spotting a Hermit Thrush on Wednesday morning at Burnidge Forest Preserve.

John Heneghan on 1/28 reported via e-mail: Went to West Aurora FP today for the Shrike. Did not see it. Ran into Pete Moxon who had not seen it either. On the way home, I was getting onto West Rt56 off West Galena. In the AG field to the North of the Ramp were 3 turkeys.

Theresa LeCompte on 1/28 reported via e-mail: This Cooper's Hawk has been a frequent visitor in my Aurora back yard this winter.

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk photo courtesy Theresa LeCompte

Christine Wilkinson on 1/27 reported via e-mail: Just this morning, I sighted a bald eagle perched on a tree top along the Fox River on Rt. 31, just north of downtown St. Charles!

Lucy De Lap on 1/26 reported via e-mail: No Barrows this afternoon in Carpentersville but many Common Goldeneyes and 2 female/1 male Red Breasted Mergansers, just south of the Old Town bridge, viewed from the east side.

Marion Miller on 1/25 reported via e-mail: Rich and I checked out Hannaford FP on Sunday afternoon. Although species count was low, seeing a Red-headed Woodpecker is always a treat.

Red-headed Woodpecker photo courtesy Marion Miller

Brendon Lake on 1/25 reported via e-mail: Six or seven Common Redpolls returned to the back yard again today, and were seen in varying numbers throughout the afternoon. Also, ten Cedar Waxwings stayed for most of the day. Karen L. reported seven or eight Common Redpolls in her yard just across the county line in DeKalb County today as well. Maybe a little push for this species into Illinois?

Scott Brewer on 1/25 reported via eBird: Viewing a Hermit Thrush Sunday morning at Tyler Creek Forest Preserve. "Small-medium sized thrush. White eye ring, reddish rump. Low along creek bank, in small trees and brush, west of footbridge. Repositioned to look at it from footbridge, which was a greater distance but could make out spots on breast. Very surprised to see this bird."

Brendon Lake on 1/24 reported via e-mail: Keep your feeders full, and take some time to watch what comes when they are busy! This morning, my back yard feeders were visited by 7(!!) Common Redpolls (in Burlington)! No Pine Siskins with them, they came in the company of House Finches and American Goldfinches, and left after 10 minutes of feeding. There could be more in the area now.

Common Redpoll

Common Redpolls photo courtesy Brendon Lake

Vance Perricone on 1/24 reported via eBird: Spotting a Turkey Vulture in a ravine just east of Tekakwitha Forest Preserve.

Craig Taylor on 1/24 reported via IBET: Tim Kuesel and I...found the Aurora West N Shrike.

Park at end of W Indian Trail Rd, follow main path 200 yards, bird was on the right side, before you get to treeline.

Paul Richardson on 1/23 reported via e-mail: Good day for strolling along the river in downtown Elgin yesterday. Our 2nd year winter resident Harlequin duck must have finally got lonely and was hanging out with mallards along the shoreline on the sidewalk side of the river by the Hemmens building. I've never before seen him that close up - no need for scope or binocs. Also saw 2 Coots and a Goldeneye at the southern end of Walton island. And the eagles have finally returned to roosting in the trees North of the library on the west bank.

Al Stokie on 1/22 reported via IBET: Hello Bird People,

Decided to try for the Aurora West Shrike...Walked around looking for the Shrike for a while with Pete M & eventually there was the NORTHERN SHRIKE at the top of a tree along the pathway that runs from the small lot in a residential area. Saw it again closer to that lot being watched closely by a Blue Jay or 2.
Here's my full list:

Aurora West F.P. (8-9:15 a.m.)

Canada Geese (about 600 flying by)
CACKLING GOOSE (1 tiny one with some Canada's)
Red Tailed Hawk (1 nearby)
Mourning Dove (6)
Blue Jay (4)
Chickadee (4-5)
Cardinal (heard 1)
Tree Sparrow (6-8)
Goldfinch (1 or 2 flying by)
House Sparrow (heard 1 or 2)

Pete had a few more "heard only" species that I either could not hear or the sound didn't help me much. He also had 5 flying White Fronted Geese which I did not get on fast enough.

Eric Secker on 1/21 reported via IBET: [In looking for the Barrow's Goldeneye] I ran out of time before heading back to work but did check a lot of areas. Everything from Gail Borden Library in Elgin off Kimbell St. north to about South End park in West Dundee is frozen. South End park is at the south end of 1st St. if you go south from Rt. 72. One of the dead end side roads off that street, Maiden Ln. also ends at a small park worth checking. The Barrow's was seen that far south at least once last winter.

Between South End Park and the OTTO factory there were some but not a lot of Goldeneye. At the Otto factory I had 74 COMMON MERGS, a couple groups of 20 or so COMMON GOLDENEYE, 2 HOODED MERGS, 8 or 9 AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS, and one male GADWALL.

At one spot further north along the river that I had to walk a bit to get to, I had a massive group of over 400 COMMON GOLDENEYE, about 60 more COMMON MERGS, and a HOODED MERG. I could have picked out the Barrows but didn't have the scope and he could have easily been missed among the crowd. The entire flock was flushed and flew back south towards Carpentersville Dam when a canoer came paddling through.

I didn't get to check the area right below the dam or north towards Buffalo Park and Algonquin.

No eagles at all today. Earlier this week in addition to the Barrows I also saw the Red-shouldered Hawk that has been reported a few times. It was circling in the air over Rt. 31 by Spring Hill Mall.

All of these birds flush easily so please don't go running up to the shore. One birder flushed the Barrows earlier this week when he came out on the shore over by Carpentersville Dam and everyone else was at OTTO. OTTO is a safer spot not to flush then and actually a better viewing spot and lighting usually.

Carol and Bill Ludemann on 1/21 reported via e-mail: We have been seeing a Belted Kingfisher, female, along the Great Western Bike Trail about 1/2 to 3/4 miles east of Hanson Road at the bridge crossing Ferson Creek.

Kurt Frieders on 1/20 reported via e-mail: Yesterday we were blessed with the return of a Peregrine Falcon to our property (in Aurora township), for the second time in a week. We certainly hope we get to see more of this special bird. We also have had two separate visits from Bald Eagles in the past week. One time it was a pair, and the other time it was a single. All of the ones we saw were mature birds. We also have had a Snow Goose hanging out with the Canada Geese. Some Common Mergansers have been flying by regularly. Our feeders continue to be visited daily by our Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Tree Sparrows, Juncos, Goldfinches, House Finches, and Pine Siskins.

Peregrine Falson

Peregrine Falcon photo courtesy Kurt Frieders

There were numerous reports on 1/19 via both IBET and ebird: Of the Harlequin Duck at the Kimball Street bridge in Elgin and the Barrow's Goldeneye, almost all of them just north of the Otto Engineering building in Carpentersville.

Beth Pector on 1/19 reported via IBET: First I want to thank Brendon Lake for such a well-written, action-packed post from his Sunday outing. Even without photos, I could easily picture all the bird interactions.

Based on Brendon's shrike sighting, I decided to head out to West Aurora FP today to try to find the shrike. I haven't seen one since winter last year. WAFP was a new park for me. I was there 1:15 to 2:15. My Google Maps app took me to the west termination of Indian Trail Rd. on the west side of Aurora. It's a dead end with about 4 parking spots and a very small sign saying "closed at sunset." Other than a pair of dog-walkers, I was pretty much by myself. The straight-ahead trail is what I took first, and after about 5-10 min. slow walk I spotted a shrike in a tree probably 100-150 yards south of the trail. I tried to walk closer to the shrike tree after I got around a bend, but it had flown away by then & I didn't re-sight it.

Brendon Lake on 1/18 reported  via IBET: Hey everybody, I was at it again today with my mom. Was fortunate enough to make it out to see the Barrow's Goldeneye this morning. I saw it south of the Route 72 bridge, where Scott Cohrs had reported it from earlier. I viewed it from 10-10:30 this morning, and also saw the Belted Kingfisher seen by Al S. and others. Spent some time walking around Gunnar-Anderson in Geneva after that, where I saw a respectable 16 species, highlights being one American Coot, four Cedar Waxwings, three Pine Siskins (feeding along the creek in the ravine) and a Red-Tailed Hawk. Finally, I hoped that the third time was going to be the charm for me and attempted once again to find the Northern Shrike at Aurora West FP. This time I was finally successful, as I found it hunting along the trail in the stretch that is north of the model airplane field. There were other good birds here as well, such as nine more Pine Siskins and a Bald Eagle that put on a show with one of the two Red-Tailed Hawks seen. I saw two large raptors flying together, which turned out to be the Bald Eagle I had seen fly over earlier, and one Red-Tailed Hawk. The Bald Eagle was in pursuit of the Red-Tailed Hawk! It was an outstanding show of maneuverability, and the eagle really held its own! I had always seen the chase happen the other way around (Red-Tailed after the eagle) so this was an unexpected treat. Ultimately, it seemed the eagle was interested in what the Red-Tailed Hawk had with it, as the hawk finally released whatever it had (which dropped out of its talons in three pieces) and the eagle then dove after what was dropped, giving up the pursuit of the hawk. Fascinating to watch!

Joe Lill on 1/18 reported via IBET: It seems that Al's batch of birders was the first and last to see it today. A number of birders combed the area from Algonquin to south of the main St. bridge in West Dundee with no luck. The highlight for some of us was a Merlin on the east side of the river, looking from the Village Squire parking lot.

Al Stokie on 1/18 reported via IBET: Hello Bird People,

After a mix up as to when I was picking up Bob Erickson we arrived at the West Dundee parking lot along the Fox River just north of the Rt72 bridge over the river at about 7:45 a.m. This is not where John L saw the Barrow's yesterday which was farther north near the Main St. bridge but I always start where I have been successful previously which was near the Rt72 bridge area. Parked by the restaurant where last year's Barrow's was often seen but all we saw were 9 Common Goldeneye, 20 Mallards & 200 Canada Geese. Bob went south & up on the bridge over Rt72 he found a flock of about 40 Goldeneye about 100 yards south of the bridge. As I was arriving Bob yelled at me to go back for my scope as he may have seen the Barrow's but it was not close. Returned with my scope & soon we were looking at what was probably the same BARROW'S GOLDENEYE that was here last Winter. Called Mike Madsen & he said he'd call Andy Sigler. Within 5 min Mike M & Joan Norek arrived & soon after that Scott Cohrs as well. Maybe 5-8 min later Andy S also showed up. Everyone got great scope looks at the Barrow's looking south from on the Rt72 bridge. As we left a noisy female Kingfisher flew by & landed in a tree on the east side of the river. Two Common Mergansers also flew by.

Then everyone went their own ways but Bob & 1 went along Lincoln all the way to the F.P. lot by the dam just north of the Main St bridge. From there we hiked back almost to Main along the river. Here we saw:

Canada Geese (~50)
Mallard (~45)
Common Goldeneye (20-22)
Common Merganser (4)
Herring Gull (2 fly-bys)
Walking back we heard a Chickadee & a W.B. Nuthatch.

Returned the same way we came along Lincoln & near where the footbridge crosses the river half way between Rt72 & Main I spotted a hawk in a small tree right next to the road by the river.

Since I was the one to find this bird I figured it would be a Red Tail or a Cooper's as Bob usually finds the "good" birds. But my find was a good one as it turned out to be an adult RED SHOULDERED HAWK & a very good, close look it was. Called Andy who was still nearby but when we lead him back the hawk had left his tree. Andy continued the search & may have re-found it later.

Scott Cohrs on 1/18 reported via IBET: The Dundee Barrow's Goldeneye is still present. It is with a group of about 30 goldeneye south of Higgins/72. Best viewed from the bridge. Thanks to Bob Erickson for relocating.

John Heneghan on 1/17 reported via IBET: A Barrows Goldeneye was seen on the Fox River near the Otto Plant (North of the Main st bridge) by Tricia and myself. It was with a large group of Goldeneyes and flew to the South over the bridge .This is the same area one was found last year by Brenden Lake.

Chris Madsen on 1/16 reported: Yesterday Carla and I began the day at the quarry in Batavia. The birds seemed to appreciate the departure of the cloud cover at about 9 AM and became much more active. Beside the requisite Bald Eagle, Canada geese, white-breasted nuthatches, goldeneye, and handful of mergansers, we saw our first-of-the-year Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Brown Creepers, and White-throated Sparrows. Swimming with the goldeneye was what appeared to be a female with a white stripe on the head, similar to the markings of a wigeon. This bird was quite a distance away on the east side of the river. We got only bino views and photos that can be kindly described as "poor."

In the afternoon, we looked for "snow birds" on Seavey Road west of Bliss. Horned Larks were numerous, with a few Lapland Longspurs mixed in. We relocated south to Lasher Road where we saw the same two birds, plus a couple of the target bird, Snow Buntings. Also seen on Lasher, in the tree farm across from Sauer Forest(?) Preserve, was a Northern Shrike.

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow photo courtesy Chris Madsen

Horned Lark

Horned Lark photo courtesy Chris Madsen

Diane Hansen on 1/14 reported via e-mail: Yesterday I went to the Elgin dam to look for the Harlequin Duck.

As I first arrived I checked the dam to see if it was diving but it was not. I did find it a bit south and for the first time observed it standing on the ice on it's one good leg.

What I did observe at the dam was a lone goose right on the edge of the dam feeding. It stayed there the entire time I was there. I've never seen a goose do this before.

I also saw my first Pine Siskins this week in South Elgin.

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Duck photo courtesy Diane Hansen

Liz Safanda on 1/14 reported via e-mail: I have  about 40 pine siskins every day at small cage feeder right outside window,  and on the ground, feasting on  sunflower chips.  Vying with the goldfinches. Red tailed hawk swooped by very close to house. ( in-town geneva ).

Joy Symonds on 1/12 reported via e-mail: Saw a bald eagle at 3:20pm today flying high over the city of Elgin on Kimball and Route 31, along the Fox River.

Lisa Williams on 1/6 reported via e-mail: I was out photographing some snow scenes and heard an unfamiliar call. I spotted a yellow-bellied sapsucker hanging off the side of a pine tree in Golfview park. It flew to a nearby bush with juniper berries, then into the Aurora Country Club and finally out of sight. Seems a bit unusual to have one this far north this time of year.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker photo courtesy Lisa Williams

Jude Vickery on 1/5 reported via IBET: A very nice looking Ross's Goose was seen just south of the Mill Street bridge in Montgomery at about 12:40. It was still there when I left.

Brendon Lake on 1/2 reported via e-mail: I went around various areas of the county today. First off, the Harlequin Duck is still present at Walton Island. The bird is beginning to show male plumage characteristics and markings, making it a young male. Taking a look at photographs of it from 22 days ago the difference really is amazing! Doug S. had a productive day at Elburn Forest Preserve yesterday, so I went today, finding many of the same birds. Of note, many Pine Siskins still in the Alders, two local Red-Tailed Hawks screaming at and dive-bombing a third unidentified buteo, and not one but TWO Yellow-Rumped Warblers, which were at times foraging together. Finally, late afternoon at Sauer Prairie Kame had as many as four Northern Harriers hunting over the prairie, and five Red-Tailed Hawks all visible at the same time on various perches around the prairie.

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Duck photo courtesy Brendon Lake

John Janunas on 1/2 reported via e-mail: Got this Tundra Swan unexpectedly just after photographing an eagle today leaving the island by the old dam in Batavia.

Tundra Swan photo courtesy John Janunas

Chris Mussachio on 1/2 reported via e-mail: Had a couple of nice sightings this past weekend in Dundee. Belted Kingfisher speeding by and a Sharp-Shinned Hawk just checking out the area. Couple high flying Bald Eagles too. Great way to start the new year. Happy New Year to all.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher photo courtesy Chris Mussachio

Sharp-shinned Hawk photo courtesy Chris Mussachio

Doug Stotz on 1/1 reported via IBET: I went out to Kane Co. to bird this morning. At Elburn FP, I had 20 species. Highlights were ca 115 PINE SISKINS in the alders at the south end (I didn't manage to pull out any redpolls from among the siskins), 4 YELLOW-SHAFTED FLICKERS, a TUFTED TITMOUSE and a YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER. At Johnson's Mound, I saw a RED-HEADED WOODPECKER.

Don Lowe on 1/1 reported via IBET: The female Harlequin Duck continues in Elgin. This morning at 9:30 she was swimming under the Highland Avenue bridge dodging Mallards and ice chunks.

This page last updated Wednesday May 06, 2015.

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