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Bald eagle spotted at Independence Grove

A bald eagle was sighted Lake County Forest Preserve’s Independence Grove Libertyville Jan. 1. |  AP file

A bald eagle was sighted at Lake County Forest Preserve’s Independence Grove in Libertyville Jan. 1. | AP file

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On Jan., 1, 79 feeder counts were turned in, which is either a record or is in second place, accroding to Joel Greenberg, who runs the annual Christmas count on New Year’s Day. This year, they had almost 30 Lake County News-Sun feeder lists turned in. The newspaper has been publishing a feeder count list for decades. Groups of field observers also go out and count birds.

The results:

Canada goose 35

Mallard 5

Coopers hawk 3

Sharp-shinned hawk 1

Red-tailed hawk 7

American kestrel 1

Mourning dove 299

Great Horned owl 1

Red-headed woodpecker 3

Red-bellied woodpecker 53

Downy woodpecker 100

Hairy woodpecker 21

Flicker 5

Blue jay 65

Crow 17

Bl-capped chickadee 273

Red-breasted nuthatch 51

White-breasted nuthatch 66

Brown wreeper 3

Carolina wren 1

American tree sparrow 1

Fox sparrow 5

Song sparrow 3

Dark-eyed junco 387

White-throated sparrow 8

Northern cardinal 246

Red-winged blackbird 1

House finch 191

Common redpoll 3

Pine siskin 24

American goldfinch 177

House sparrow 859

Updated: March 10, 2013 6:32AM

The annual Christmas bird count in Lake County went, well with a bald eagle sighted at Lake County Forest Preserve’s Independence Grove in Libertyville and a tiny (size of a robin) northern saw-whet owl seen at Bowen Park in Waukegan on Jan. 1.

The count is a combination of feeder counts done by people at home and field observers who go out into the field.

I have missed the last two years walking the route along the Des Plaines River from Route 176 to Route 137 near Independence Grove with Joel Greenberg and Tom Wallace, but hopefully I’ll get back in the saddle in 2014.

Greenberg has been running the count since forever and he is an author on wildlife subjects with his latest book on the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon due out Jan. 7.

He also blogs about his birding trips at

With him this year was Patrick Palmer, a Libertyville High School student. Last year, Nick Minor, another Libertyville High School student, went with him, but this year he went with another observation group.

They started out seeing a red fox trotting along the river with a rabbit in its mouth.

The Lake County Forest Preserve recently sent out a picture and a short note about how the red fox is floundering and barely hanging on in this area. They are attacked by coyotes, but Greenberg also explained that coyotes have forced them to live even closer to humans and being that close to domestic dogs the survival rate for their pups is about 10 percent because of disease transferred by the family dogs.

Another point was when they went close the river to check out the ducks, they usually only see mallards and black ducks, they came across a beautiful adult male Pintail.

“Patrick was excited because it was a new bird for him. It was a lifer for him and it was the only one in the count,” he said, explaining its now his life list of birds spotted.

They also flushed up a big great horned owl. “Just to see this big owl flying through the trees silently was pretty neat,” he said.

Greenberg said the feeder counts are important because the field observers can’t see as many birds as a bunch of people counting at their feeders.

One woman reported three red-headed woodpeckers at her feeder and since that was unusual he went to check it out and he did see one, so they counted. “Some birds can be hard to identify unless you are an experienced birder,” said Greenberg, and that woman had been right.

“The feeder reports enable us to get tallies that more accurately reflect the bird populations that we couldn’t possibly get otherwise,” he said.

One example is the red-winged black bird. There was only one sighted this year by a field observer. “Twenty years ago, we had thousands. There was a roost near Illinois Beach State Park near Zion where thousands could be seen, but too many feeding areas have been developed and the roost was abandoned for more rural areas.

Other neat finds were a Carolina wren, spotted at a feeder and a field observer and a fox sparrow, also seen by a feeder and a field observer.

Out at Independence Grove ,again the water was open because of some warm days before the count and they saw trumpeter swans. Over on Third Lake, trumpeter swans and tundra swans were seen in the open water.

There were also some mute swans, a very aggressive swan that is an invasive species. If we could just develop feral cats that had a taste for mute swans, it would be all good.

We talked about the new study that says feral and house cats kill an estimated 2.4 billion birds and 12 billion mammals every year in the United States. Some say the estimate is too high. “OK, so they only kill a BILLION birds,” he said, obviously showing what side of the fence he was on.

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