2000 Fermilab Bird Report

For more information see the " Birds of Fermilab" web pages.

Sandhill Crane (Photo by Tom Bentley)
The winter of 1999/2000 started out very mild, resulting in a species count of 50 for the 1999 Christmas Bird Count. This tally was second only to the 1998 count of 55. (That count was also characterized by unusually mild weather.) The most unusual species recorded on the count was a flock of Sandhill Cranes (only the 2nd time this species has been recorded) and record high counts were obtained for Northern Cardinal and American Goldfinch. Also of interest were the number of overwintering Fox Sparrows. This winter was also remarkable for the flock of Brewer's Blackbirds which stayed around the buffalo feeders from late January until early March.

Spring added a new species for the site list with the discovery of a Thayer's Gull on Lake Law on March 12. The Spring Bird Count was again very successful with a total of 102 species being found (1 short of 1999's record year). The most unusual birds on the count were a summer plumaged Horned Grebe in the ponds along Eola Rd and a Snow Goose which appeared to be associating with Canada Geese by Swenson Rd.

Henslow's Sparrow (Photo by Merilee Janusz)
Probably the most exciting event of the year was an unexpected influx of Henslow's Sparrows. Perhaps 10 pairs established breeding territories in the european grasslands along Eola Rd. These "state endangered" birds are very selective in their choice of breeding habitat and had not been reliably reported on site since 1978. Though the Fermilab birds seemed to be part of a more widespread invasion throughout Dupage and Kane counties, their presence can nevertheless be considered a vindication of our land management plan for this area. The Upland Sandpipers for which this management plan was designed, were also back again this year and there was even some indication that there may have been two pairs.

The other extremely unusual record for the summer was an Acadian Flycatcher which spent the entire summer in a small willow thicket south of Lake Law. This bird is normally summer a resident of deep woodlands of the south east and is quite rare this far north. So its occurrence on site was unusual for its choice of habitat as well as for its overall rarity.

The burning of the scrub between Lake Law and A.E.Sea also appears to have been successful, in that the Bell's Vireos returned to the area again this year and this time established territories in both the unburnt area as well as the area burnt in the spring of 1999.

Fall migration was marked by unusually large numbers of Merlins and Le Conte's Sparrows in the area between Lake Law and A.E.Sea, and an American Avocet which remained on site throughout most of October. However, the most unusual find was a female Black Scoter and a female Surf Scoter together on Lake Law on November 13. This was the second site record for both of these ducks which are typically found on coastal waters and are extremely rare inland.