Jackson County, IL, Aug 2015
by Henry Detwiler

Six mornings of surveying the birds of Jackson County

103 species seen  Click here for bird checklist
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Eastern BluebirdI visited my parents in Carbondale, IL, during August 2015. The temperatures were below normal and the rain-free mornings made for excellent birding weather. I birded Jackson County every morning from 18-23 August, and was happily surprised by the numbers and variety of singing and calling breeders, migrant shorebirds, and early southbound warblers. Over the course of the week I spotted 103 species--not bad for mid August.

 

Summer TanagerMy first outing was to Murphysboro State Park. As the sun rose over the lake, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Towhee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, and Eastern Wood Pewee all called from the woods. These birds would be my constant companions ("the regulars") for the rest of the week. I was fortunate to spot a Pine Warbler and hear a Wood Thrush--two birds I would not record again for the remainder of my trip. I followed the loop road around the lake, adding Pileated and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Summer Tanager, and Eastern Bluebird. My final bird at this park was a Solitary Sandpiper along the lake's shoreline.

 

The next day I started at Giant City State Park, where a loud chipping led me to my only Louisiana Waterthrush for the trip. Red-shouldered Hawks called from several spots. I was surprised when an Eastern Screech-Owl responded to my whistled imitation of its call.

As I was working in our yard that afternoon (within the Carbondale city limits) I was surprised by how many birds were in the area. I heard or saw Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Blue Jay, House Wren, Carolina Wren, Gray Catbird, and Northern Cardinal.

 

Yellow-billed CuckooGreen HeronThursday morning found me at Oakwood Bottoms, perhaps the single best birding location in Jackson County. Two hours of hunting the swamps, marshes, and forests yielded a list of 45 species, even in the middle of August. Included in the species count were 15 Yellow-billed Cuckoos and 16 Red-shouldered Hawks, more than I've ever had at one spot. Even though they never sang, I had a fair sampling of warblers: Yellow-breasted Chat, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, American Redstart, Black-and-White, and Prothonotary.

 

 

Black-necked StiltFriday morning I started out at Pomona and Cave Creek. Not so many birds here as in the spring, but I still got the "regulars", and added Yellow-throated Vireo. Farther west, along the Big Muddy Levee and in the Mississippi River bottomlands, flooded fields and pools of standing water were numerous. An immature Yellow-crowned Night Heron was at the Big Muddy Wetlands along Muntz Road.

 

Red-headed WoodpeckerThe floodplains of the Big Muddy and Mississippi Rivers are one of the best spots in Southern Illinois to see Red-headed Woodpeckers, and they were numerous this morning. Close to Neunert I found several good shorebirding ponds with Black-necked Stilts, numerous Least Sandpipers, two Semipalmated Sandpipers, Pectoral Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitchers, and a rare Sanderling. Swallow flocks included a couple of Bank Swallows mixed in with the others.

 

Fish CrowEvergreen Park and Carbondale Reservoir are prime birding areas on the southern edge of the city. On Saturday morning an early push of southbound migrants had brought down several Yellow-throated Warblers and a single Palm Warbler. Other good birds inlcuded a calling Great-crested Flycatcher, two Fish Crows, Warbling and Red-eyed Vireos, and a Baltimore Oriole. Heading north to an area of reclaimed strip-mining land in Jackson County I got my first Horned Larks, Western Meadowlarks, and Dickcissals. Later, back at the Mississippi River bottomlands it was good to find two adult and two immature Bald Eagles feeding in a fallow field. I finally found a flock of Common Grackles at the Middle Mississippi River NWR. My last bird of the morning was a Mississippi Kite flying overhead.

 

My final morning of birding in Jackson County took me to a couple of local parks and the Carbondale Wastewater Treatment Plant. The treatment plant had a couple of Mallards, Killdeer, and a Green Heron mixed in with the omnipresent Canada Geese. At the northern edge of the ponds another Yellow-throated Warbler was feeding with a Great-crested Flycatcher, an Eastern Phoebe, Field Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, and Western Bluebirds. A family of five Raccoons was fun to watch.

Eastern Amberwing

 

It was a great vacation, both with my folks and the birds!

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