Friday, October 30, 2015

Oct 31: Autumn 2015 Conclusion

Hello birding friends,

Seems like this fall has gone by quickly so far! I do hope these migration reports have been as helpful as they were in the past! This is the final migration report of autumn 2015, and I have decided that - this being a trial season for me continuing the reports - I will indeed continue to write these next spring, with the "precursor" sent out in early March and consistent reports posted throughout April and May.

This report will be divided into three sections:
1) Forecast for tomorrow
2) Analysis for what has happened thus far this fall
3) Prediction for the rest of the fall/winter

Tonight, a huge rain system is moving into the state - which will sadly be dampening the conditions for Halloween. This means that little to no migration will be occurring tonight and rain pretty much all day tomorrow throughout the state will be limiting any birding opportunities, including hawk watching also. For anyone interested, the rain system can be viewed on the current national composite radar (

Now, here is an analysis for exactly what has happened so far this far, from July all the way until now, in bullet-point list format:

Please note: I am sure I am missing some interesting birds and some of the details might be a day or two off, but I did the best I could!

  • Multiple Scissor-tailed Flycatcher sightings in the central and southern parts of the state in July
  • Magnificent Frigatebird seen by Josh Engel heading north over Fullerton on the lakefront in Chicago on July 8
  • Long-tailed Jaeger on Horseshoe Lake in mid-July
  • Piping Plover in Livingston on July 18
  • Violet-green Swallow at Montrose Point on July 22
  • Red Phalarope at Lake Mavaiseterre on July 27
  • Neotropic Cormorant seen at Emiquon in mid August
  • Red-necked Phalarope shows up at Maple Park on August 16
  • Royal Tern at Waukegan Beach on August 19
  • 46 Hudsonian Godwits at Goofy Ridge on August 23
  • Swallow-tailed Kite seen in Effingham, then up to Champaign, starting August 23
  • Steve Huggins records 6000+ Common Nighthawks migrating on September 2
  • Harris' Sparrows start arriving September 30 (this may not have been first arrival, though)
  • First of the Pine Siskins are reported to be migrating in 1000+ numbers at the IBSP Hawk Watch
  • White-rumped Sandpiper "invasion" starts around October 3, this anomaly was caused by strange easterly winds prevailing this autumn
  • Mottled Duck at Hazlet State Park on October 4
  • Bullock's Oriole is photographed in River Forest, a suburb of Chicago, on October 14
  • First Northern Saw-whet Owl of the Saw Whet Surveys is recorded at IBSP on Oct 15
  • Spotted Towhee at Greene Valley Forest Preserve on October 17
  • Little Gull & Red-necked Grebes found at Lake Shelbyville on October 18
  • First Snowy Owl of the season is reported in LaSalle County on October 21, very early
  • Red Crossbill seen in Centennial Park in Springfield, first possible migrant (i.e. not a Sand Ridge SF bird)
  • Pacific Loon seen on Lake Springfield on October 26
It has certainly been an interesting fall! One of the most interesting parts for me was seeing all of the reports of White-rumped Sandpipers across the state because of the predominating easterly (!) winds blowing them off of their usual migratory trajectories. 


This coming week, southwesterly wind flow will predominate over the state - meaning that nocturnal migration will be limited; however, this is conducive for typical late-season vagrants from the southwest. Cave Swallow, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and Franklin's Gull come to mind. Keep your eyes open!

Waterfowl: November is THE month for waterfowl migration! Starting anytime now and going through the entire month, I encourage birders all across the state to get out there and look for rarer species such as the Scoters and anything else that could be lurking in your local lake. Throughout the winter, whenever water is not frozen over, get out and admire those diving ducks - especially on Lake Michigan - while you can!

Falcons/Hawks: November is still a great month for raptors, but I would suggest that you try to go and watch these in the first or second weeks of the months because they will be slightly more productive (based on annual averages) and probably less cold.

Shorebirds: These species should continue to diminish in presence here in the state. Get out and go see any of the remaining White-rumped Sandpipers while you still can - as I said, it is quite a treat to have so many this fall!

Gulls: These have already started arriving and I would highly suggest scouting out North Point Marina, Lake County Fairgrounds, and any other renowned sites (especially near Lake Michigan) for our more uncommon colder-month gull species starting to appear around now!

Snowy Owls: With the recent high numbers of sightings in Wisconsin as well as a smattering from Illinois, I have reasons to believe that this winter could be another "echo" Snowy irruption, so be on the lookout for these beauties whenever you are in grassland, agricultural, or other open habitats from now until late February or so. These typically come into the state in greater numbers starting the third week of November, and even more so starting the first week of December. These owls usually are found throughout the winter here in Illinois and some have been known to stay as late as April in extreme cases!

Red-breasted Nuthatch: Always a few of these are seen every winter, but this season is not expected to be a great one to see these cuties.

Bohemian Waxwing: There is a chance a few individuals of this species could end up in Illinois this winter, given a predicted overall southward an eastward movement from the Boreal Forest.

Please visit the Winter Finch Forecast for more details:

Based on the winter finch forecast and other sources, here are my predictions on a 10-point scale of how likely an irruption (many individuals of the species) of the particular species into Illinois is this winter. 10/10 is obviously most likely with 0/10 being no chance at all.

Pine Grosbeak: 1/10
Purple Finch: 10/10
Red Crossbill: 6/10
White-winged Crossbill: 4/10
Common Redpoll: 9/10
Hoary Redpoll: 1/10
Pine Siskin: 10/10
Evening Grosbeak: 2/10

Until next March, folks, I will be posting sporadically about any Illinois birding I do (I am going out into my backyard to make sure there are no rogue Saw-whet Owls right after I post this - I kid you not!). Always feel free to reply to this email or contact me at 

Happy birding!

Henry (Oak Park, Cook County)

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