Observations on Local Species Loss Over 30 Years

Recently I presented H. David Bohlen’s A Study of the Birds of Sangamon County, Illinois 1970–2010.  In it he reviews his 40 year survey of birds of the Springfield, IL area.  If you haven’t read it please go back and read the sections I recommend.

In it he notes species that have disappeared over the last 40 years. By looking at data from my local area I can draw some of the same conclusions.

I reached out to Ken Brock and he was kind enough to supply me with 5300 sightings from Atterbury FWA  for the last 40 years. The list included Boyd Gill’s list of species seen at Atterbury FWA in the 1980’s. For those of you that don’t know Ken, check out this link.

Following is an excerpt from page xxx from Bohlen’s CONCLUSION noting disappearing species during his 40 year study in Sangamon County.

“It is greatly lamented that the following interesting and unique species seemingly disappeared or were extirpated as breeders as well as migrants (in many cases). Most had low populations even at the beginning of the study. They include the following species:

Pied-billed Grebe
Least Bittern
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
King Rail
Virginia Rail
Sora
Common Moorhen
Upland Sandpiper
Black-billed Cuckoo
Whip-poor-will
Brown Creeper
Bewick’s Wren
Loggerhead Shrike
Cerulean Warbler
Western Meadowlark

Many of the above species need marsh habitat or have other special requirements (Species Status Change List, Appendix D). Some populations could recover because there are still migrants in Illinois, though most are rare. There seemed to be no plans for recovery at least in this County.”

P1040687
Loggerhead Shrike is one of declining species in both Illinois and Indiana. As far as I know the only reliable spot to see one in Northern Illinois was Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Photo taken there 5/30/2009

In Appendix D he notes the 111 species in decline but I thought I’d just compare the 15 species noted above to the Atterbury list from the 1980’s to my observations from the last three years of birding Atterbury pretty intensively.

Atterbury FWA
1980’s
2013-2015
Pied-billed Grebe
seen but no summer records
seen but no summer records
Least Bittern
9 records
no sightings
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
2 records
no sightings
King Rail
10 records
no sightings
Virginia Rail
17 records
no sightings
Sora
seen but no summer records
seen but no summer records
Common Moorhen
10 records
no sightings
Upland Sandpiper
40 records
no sightings
Black-billed Cuckoo
16 records
2 in 3 years
Whip-poor-will
6 records
no sightings
Brown Creeper
5 records
3 records
Bewick’s Wren
no sightings
no sightings
Loggerhead Shrike
3 records – early 80’s
no sightings
Cerulean Warbler
18 records
9 records
Western Meadowlark
no sightings
no sightings – but doesn’t come this far east

By observing the table you can see the same loss as Bohlen observed in Sangamon County. Of the 13 species sighted in the 1980’s I have only seen 5 of those species.

Bohlen also notes and describes losing some key habitat in Sangamon County.  I can note similar loss in Johnson County/Atterbury.

My guess is that the marsh at Atterbury was once vibrant.  It is now mainly thick vegetation and is basically overgrown and dead.

I’m told Atterbury used to contain many areas of grasslands.  Those grasslands are now farmed. Here is the only link I found to explain why they are now farmed.

The loss of those two habitats – marsh and grasslands – would account for the loss of most of the species noted above.

Can the lost species come back?  Bohlen thinks not in Sangamon County and I would agree in this part of Indiana.  But that’s a discussion for another post.

So next, what local species are on the various wildlife federations endangered lists?

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