A visit with Illinois River waterfowl
Current tally of 149,630 tops previous years.
I had a chance to bird the Illinois River in Marshall County last week as part of reconnaissance for a new documentary that I’m working on. I’ve always been curious about the concentrations of ducks and geese in central Illinois but never had the opportunity to see them firsthand. The outing didn’t disappoint, as Pete Fenner and I tallied more than 200 Northern Shovelers along with a mix of Northern Pintails, American Wigeons, Green-winged Teals, and Gadwall.
There’s a mystique to a river that once teemed with life in the 19th century, harboring a freshwater mussel industry and umpteen hunting cabins and cottages for city folks. The Mississippi River once flowed through the Illinois River Valley in ancient times, which helps to explain why the Illinois has steep-sided bluffs lining its bottomlands.
Dale Bowman’s Sun-Times column from the 21st shared data from the latest aerial waterfowl survey, conducted by the Illinois Natural History Survey along the Illinois River Valley. The cold snaps from early October brought many birds south and the seasonal tally now stands at 149,630 ducks, which appears to be an above average count. The big issue for birders and waterfowl hunters is the lack of water. There aren’t a whole lot of places for ducks to go other than the big river systems and sloughs.
There’s some worry about Mallards, of all species.
Here’s the update from Joshua Osborn, via Bowman’s column:
There is growing concern that mallards breeding in the Great Lakes states aren’t doing so well. The Forbes Biological Station is part of ongoing work with other states and Canadian provinces in the Great Lakes region examining the movement, migration chronology, natal origins, and genetic make-up of mallards breeding in this region. Hen mallards are being captured in urban and rural environments, marked with [solar panel] transmitters, and myriad data are collected to gain a better understanding of the potential issues facing these birds. Spring/summer 2022 was the second year of this study, and we expect at least one more year of data collection. There is ongoing work throughout the MS flyway to determine if and how duck migrations, especially mallards, have changed over time.
So watch out for Mallards with transmitters and reach out via email: email@example.com or by phone 217-332-3825(DUCK) if you see one.
Can a video game about birdwatching lead young folks into the field to actually watch birds?
The Illinois Audubon Society has partnered with the Illinois Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the Wetlands Initiative and the Sun Foundation to create a new addition to the mobile game app, Find the Birds, a virtual journey set against the backdrop of fall migration in the Illinois River Flyway. The game includes dynamic, animated ecosystems, intriguing varieties of birds to find and conservation activities such as removing invasive species or restoring habitat.
Take a virtual journey down the river and go bird watching. Find the Birds is free and can be downloaded here or from the app store on a mobile device. Give it a try or share it with young folks you know—fun stuff!
Find the Birds was created by teenager Adam Dhalla, an American Birding Association Young Birder of the Year. The mobile game now has thousands of players in 47 countries on six continents, transporting players to go bird watching in various locations including Arizona, British Columbia, Japan, and now the Illinois River Valley. The game has been nominated for several awards including Best Educational Game at the Games for Change Festival.
Watch a short promo video here and meet the game’s creator Adam Dhalla. The video was produced as part of The Sun Foundation’s Clean Water Champions series. Also included in that series is a video focusing on Illinois Audubon Society's Chillicothe Bottoms Wildlife Sanctuary.
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