Goldeneye – No Question

I have seen numerous Common Goldeneye over the years but never a Barrow’s Goldeneye. During my first year of birding one of my three life chases was for a female Barrow’s Goldeneye. She was hanging with a group of female Common Goldeneye on the Illinois River at Peoria. I easily found the Goldeneyes and spent an hour in the freezing weather but never could turn one of the Common’s into a Barrow.

Barrow’s Goldeneye at Silverthorne Sewage Ponds. 12/3/16

There had been discussion on the Illinois listserv if one was a Barrow’s or not with the prevailing wisdom the bill was yellow enough for a Barrow’s. I have since seen this argument numerous times as people try to turn a Common into a Barrow’s. Especially in Illinois where a Barrow’s does occasionally turn up in a flock of Common.

Well let me say after spending a couple of minutes at the Silverthorne Sewage Ponds there isn’t an argument on Goldeneye differences. 

Colorado County Birding states the Silverthorne Sewage Ponds are a reliable spot to see Barrow’s Goldeneye in the winter. Since it is only two miles off I-70 I thought I’d stop and see for myself if there is a case for arguing about the species.

It was cold, windy, and snowing in the mountains when I stopped. Luckily the ponds are right on the main drag since I wanted to keep moving and get back down to lower altitude.

Immediately upon exiting the car I saw a group of Barrow’s and immediately recognized them. Not even close to the markings on a Common Goldeneye. I know I was close but the difference was easily apparent. The crescent on the male Barrow’s looks nothing like the round spot on the Common. And the all yellow bill of female didn’t hint at the Common’s mostly black bill.

A zoomed shot of Barrow’s Goldeneye showing the large crescent of the male and all yellow bill of the female. 12/3/16
A few weeks later and I’m on the Connecticut coast looking at a distant raft of Common Goldeneye. Even at this distance there is no doubt they are Common. 12/26/16


Other species at the Siverthorne Sewage ponds included American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, and Gadwall . You can’t tell from the photo but the weather was deteriorating quickly. 12/3/16
The only non-waterfowl species at Silverthorne was a Black-billed Magpie, a species I would see at every stop. 12/3/16
I made one more stop on the day at the Gypsum Ponds where a flock of Black-billed Magpies flew over heading to the hills for the evening. 12/3/16

Then off to Grand Junction to start the real trip.

Gadwall Pair – Weekend Highlight

Even though the weather was great over the past weekend I spent time catching up for work. That kept me from getting out except for a few hours Saturday afternoon. I met up with Mike at the local retaining ponds for about an hour and later walked the local park. Both were quiet. There were a FOS Gadwall pair which was the only thing new/different. So by default I’ll give them the honor of Weekend Highlight.

And yes, I need to get out more.

dscn6742 Gadwall Pair
The female of the Gadwall pair swims slowly away. It appears the waterfowl is going to slowly trickle into the area this fall. Greenwood Retaining Ponds 11/5/16
Mourning Doves have been congregating in trees instead of power lines the last few weeks. Though their numbers are down from the 250 I saw in early October. Greenwood Retaining Ponds 11/5/16
When I see different species like this European Starling and Mourning Dove sitting close together I wonder what they are talking about? Greenwood Retaining Ponds 11/5/16
There’s usually a Northern Mockingbird around this area but it must have been a good year since I have been seeing up to 5 at a time. Greenwood Retaining Ponds 11/5/16

In other news the local shorebird area has almost dried up. With no rain in the forecast I would say it is done for the year.

But the bigger story here is it looks like the owner might have run a tile into the field which doesn’t bode well for next year.

Not much water left at the shorebird site. Though it lasted longer than last year. But what’s that dirt to the right? Semi-rural Marion County 11/5/16
Looks like some drainage has been run from the field to the road. Semi-rural Marion County 11/5/16
And then under the road to the drain. I don’t remember either the drain or the black top on the road where the tile would be run. I’ll check later this year and see that once it dries out completely if the tile is extended to the middle of the field. Semi-rural Marion County 11/5/16

Right on Time

I know I said in the last post I would continue last week’s story, but I thought I’d report on yesterday’s birds first.

Living here three years I have learned there is basically a two week window to see COMMON LOONS, HORNED GREBES, and BONAPARTE’S GULLS in Johnson County. So I thought I had better take advantage of a day off Friday to check the local water. I wasn’t disappointed.

The shorebird spot was still devoid of shorebirds. Maybe tomorrow.

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But there was a Blue-winged Teal showing nicely by the road. Rural Johnson County 3/25/16

I then headed to Driftwood SWA to check on loons and grebes. NOTHING but a distant PIED-BILLED GREBE. Once again no waterfowl. Or no fisherman for that fact.

But for the second year in a row at Driftwood I had an early BARN SWALLOW mixed in with the TREE SWALLOWS.

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An early season Barn Swallow with one of the hundred+ Tree Swallows. Driftwood SWA 3/25/16
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Looking a little colder here. And it was cold, only in the 30’s. Driftwood SWA 3/25/16

I wasn’t surprised but both the Barn Swallow and the count on the Tree Swallows – 110 – were flagged by eBird. The Barn Swallow was 3 days earlier than the one I wrote about last year.  And the number of Tree Swallows wasn’t unusual for this time of year.

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The Tree Swallows kept coming in off the lake to preen in this tree. Driftwood SWA 3/25/16
If you look close you can see 10 or more Tree Swallows feeding over the lake. Driftwood SWA 3/25/16

But no loons was troublesome since I’m not sure I’ll have an opportunity to check for them in the next 2 weeks and Driftwood is the only location I have seen them in Johnson County.

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A Field Sparrow calling right at noon. Telling me to eat lunch? Driftwood SWA 3/25/16
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And a Brown Thrasher replying. (Not really) Driftwood SWA 3/25/16

On to Atterbury FWA to check for other waterfowl. Stopping at Honker Haven (you have to love the names the DNR has assigned to the small ponds) for waterfowl, I immediately see a COMMON LOON on the water.

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This Common Loon is still showing beautifully even in the bad lighting. Atterbury FWA 3/25/16
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And on the down low. Atterbury FWA 3/25/16

As stated above, a county first for me outside of Driftwood. It didn’t move around or dive which wasn’t unusual since this isn’t a very deep pond. In summer it doesn’t take long for it to develop into shorebird habitat. I also saw a GADWALL which I was missing off the county list.

GADW (2)
Finally a Gadwall for my 2016 county list.Would have hated to miss it. Atterbury FWA 3/25/16

My last stop was Lowe’s Pond in Franklin for a possible HORNED GREBE.

Walking down to the water and looking around the brush one pops up about 20 feet from me. What luck!

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A Horned Grebe that actually stayed for a few minutes and didn’t dive away. Lowe’s Pond – Franklin – 3/25/16

And it didn’t get spooked for a minute actually giving some good photos. But it finally noticed me and took off to the far end to be with the LESSER SCAUP, BUFFLEHEAD, and RING-NECKED DUCKS.

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Now swimming away. Lowe’s Pond – Franklin – 3/25/16

So all in all a good day. Missed the Bonaparte’s but I have only seen  them once in the county.

Thanks DNR

Back on November 7 I stopped at Honker Haven, one of the smallish ponds at Atterbury FWA. I really hadn’t expected to see much for a couple of reasons.

First, it has as an observing deck that used to allow you to see the waterfowl that gather in the NW part of the pond.  But the small trees growing up along the edge of the pond had all but blocked the view to the NW part of the pond.

A view of the observing deck and the south end of the pond. Atterbury FWA

Secondly this time of year there are warning signs not to enter since this is a “Waterfowl Resting Area, Restricted Use, Authorized Personnel Only”. And since you can’t go to the edge of the water to look NW you still won’t see any waterfowl on the usually empty southern part.

Waterfowl Resting
You can’t access the pond to view waterfowl this time of year. Atterbury FWA

So imagine my surprise when I get to the top of the deck and the trees blocking the view to the NW are gone! I usually don’t like trees being cut down but these were small trees that should never have been allowed to grow. This is a pretty big deal for basically waterless Johnson County. One more place to view a lake where waterfowl congregate.

You can still see some of the trees in the foreground that used to block the view to the NW. Atterbury FWA
And the waterfowl to the NW. The distance isn’t so great that you can’t ID most everything with a scope. Atterbury FWA

So with the trees down I could actually scope the waterfowl and came up with GADWALL, RING-NECKED DUCKS, GREEN-WINGED TEALS, and of course MALLARDS on the water.

Pushing my camera to its max, a photo of a distant Mallard and Gadwall. Atterbury FWA 11/7/15

One other thing I have noticed is that the slight elevation is good for raptors.  The small elevation is just enough to almost see over the tops of the trees in the basically flat surrounding land. I usually try to be there around noon when the thermals are rising and have seen most of the expected species flying over at one time or another. And sometimes really close when they come gliding over the tops of the trees and catch you off guard.

A photo of a Turkey Vulture to show how close raptors some time come in to the top of the observing platform. Atterbury FWA 11/7/15
A good photo to show how a raptor can catch you off guard. This Red-tailed Hawk came sailing in right over the tree tops and I never saw it coming. Just sailing away. Atterbury FWA 11/7/15

Thanks DNR!