Category: Botanical List

Top Ten Birds, Herps, Plants, Trips, and Photos of 2017

I did several top tens as separate blogposts last year. This year I’m going to restrict it to one somewhat longer post.  Let’s get into it, and start off with birds!  (Caution, Snakes at end)


Top Ten Lifer Birds of 2017

I do have three honorable mentions, a lost Cinnamon Teal (Illinois),  two American Dippers (Colorado), and one Hurricane Irma-blown Sooty Tern (Kentucky).


#10 Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)-  I saw these both in Illinois and in Colorado this year.  The Illinois one was on an extremely fun trip, and I’m hoping to get a couple more this winter.

Whooping Crane #2

#9 Whooping Crane (Grus americana), southern IL -Easily the rarest worldwide of the birds I saw this year (with 600 or so in the wild), the Whooper is North America’s tallest bird.


#8 Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia), CO- It’s a Burrowing Owl.  Need I say more?


#7 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus), IL, KS- Not only is it a bird with an insanely long tail, I saw several over the course of the year.

#6 Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) (no photo), IL – Sure, I didn’t get photos, but I set a county record when they flew over my apartment in Jackson County.  What better way to see  new birds?

#5 Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus), IL (photo by Colin Dobson, computer destroyed quality) -A Eurasian gull that often wanders to the Northeast, this was my first mega rarity of the year, and a fun one to find.  Unfortunately I have no photo, so I borrowed this one.


#4 Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) central IL- The second of the two Eurasian wanderers, this one is a little more in doubt (though I’m 99% sure it’s wild).  If accepted, it will be the state’s first or second official record (though there’s plenty of unofficial records).


#3 Red-necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis), western KY- This bird is the rarest- it’s supposed to migrate from Siberia to Australia twice yearly, and how it ended up in a flooded cornfield in western Kentucky no one knows. It did- on Eclipse Day- and I chased it at 7:00 AM.  It is probably the best bird I’ve seen this year, easily a first state record (of any kind) for Kentucky, but it isn’t my favorite, because there’s two birds just a little higher on the scale…


#2 Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus), KY/TN/IL- I’ve spent so much time looking for these, that in November I drove 7 hours round-trip to see a few in far southwestern Kentucky/far northwestern Tennessee.  This one posed ten feet from my car.  And then, driving back home in December- a Loggerhead Shrike flies across the highway in southern Illinois.  Shrikes are unusual, rare, and charismatic birds with the tendency to impale other, smaller animals on thorns.


#1 Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) MO/IL – My 300th US bird of the year (debatably- I’m not sure when I first saw Broad-winged Hawks) and my 100th or 101st lifer of the year (again, Broad-winged Hawk- I probably saw them in September 2015, but I can’t say for sure.)  The timing- just after finals- couldn’t have been better!  I then went on to find one in IL.

Top Ten Lifer Plants


#10 Carolina Anemone (Anemone caroliniana), central IL- It’s pretty.


#9  Slender Ladies’ Tresses (Spiranthes lacera), southern IL- It’s an orchid.


#8  Britton’s Skullcap (Scutellaria brittonii ), CO –  Other than two following plants, this was the most interesting plant I found in Colorado.  It looked like something someone might grow in a garden, instead of on a talus slope in the Rocky Mountains.


#7 Silvery Bladderpod (Lesquerella ludoviciana),central IL-  It only grows on one sand dune in Illinois, which I checked a couple of times until I found it in bloom.


#6 Cherrybark Oak (Quercus pagoda)(IL state champion tree), southern IL- This is the biggest tree I’ve seen this year.  It’s absolutely massive, which you can see with my hat as a comparison.


#5 Ozark Milkvetch (Astragalus distortus),central IL – Another rare plant in Illinois, this one I had the distinction of discovering exactly where it grew by using a website.  It’s at Revis Hill Prairie Nature Preserve, one of my favorite spots to visit.  That’s honestly why I put it so high on the list.


#4  Spring Coral-root Orchid (Corallorhiza wisteriana), Missouri Ozarks- This is an orchid that steals nutrients from fungi. It was a somewhat unexpected find in the Ozarks.


#3 Spotted Coral-root Orchid (Corallorhiza maculata), CO- Even more unexpected was this orchid in Colorado, which also steals nutrients from fungi and is much prettier than its cousin.


#2 Orange-fringed Orchid (Platanthera cillaris), northern IL – The most beautiful and rare plant I’ve found in Illinois this year, the Orange-fringed Orchid grows in a spot guarded by giant mosquitoes and hidden from the world.  In that spot, there are thousands.  It was fascinating, and I got to see it with the Fenelon, one of my close friends.  That’s not easy to top… is it?


#1 Calypso (Calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis), CO  Evidently it is.  I got to see this with my family.  One of the most unexpected finds of the year, this unusual, somewhat rare orchid is widely praised in nearly every guide to orchids. Much of this praise is for the rarer Eastern form, but the Western form, while less rare, is still the best plant of 2017 for me.

Top Ten Best Trips of 2017

#10 Meredosia National Wildlife Refuge/Four Corners, May 31… I almost put the trip with the Illinois Golden Eagle in southwestern central Illinois on as #10, but this trip, also with V.S., had a lot of unexpected species.  I went for Red-necked Phalaropes, an oceanic vagrant, and ended up finding a state-threatened Black-billed Cuckoo.  It got me over 200 species-wise for the year.

#9 Southern IL/Riverlands, November 11- On this trip I saw my first Red-throated Loon and had a blast birding all day with Chris Smaga and Kyle Wiktor.  I’ve been to Riverlands three times between November 11 and December 15.  The last trip got me the Snowy Owl, but the first trip was probably the most fun, even if the first half of that trip was an unsuccessful Greater Prairie-Chicken search.

#8 Snake Road, September 15- This is the trip where I found the Mud Snake.

#7 Southern IL, August 17-20- When I first moved down to Southern Illinois, I got to see so many unusual plants, animals, and natural areas in that first weekend, culminating in my trip to see the Red-necked Stint and the eclipse.  It’s unforgettable- and it was really hot!

#6  Three Weekend Days in Emiquon, April 10, 16, and 23- One of these was with the Lincoln Land  Environmental Club, one was with Mom, and one was by myself.  I saw a lot of unusual species on all three days, and it was interesting to see all the changes week-to-week.

#5  Lake Carlyle Pelagic Trip, September 30- I met many birders and got to see four lifer birds, as well as the most bird species I’ve ever seen in one day (88?).

#4  Kankakee Trip  with the Fenelon, August 1- Orange-fringed Orchids!  Thousand-acre prairies! Philosophical discussions in the car!  It was perfect.

#3Snake Road, October 13-14-  I saw 80 snakes over these two days.  That’s pretty awesome.  I also got to meet a LOT of herpers.

#2 Ozarks Trip, May 17-19- The Lincoln Land Environmental Club trip- that was so much fun.  We had skinks, a nesting Eastern Phoebe, and a Luna Moth on our front porch.  The ticks were a little annoying, but everything else- weather, sightings, lodging, people- couldn’t be topped… well, I guess it could, by #1…

#1 Colorado, June 5- 14- Family vacation in Colorado.  Snow-capped mountains, family, orchids, all kinds of animals (including 30 lifer birds)- I had so much fun here. I’ve had a great year.

Top 10 Photos (Unranked)

Honorable Mention- the Yellow-billed Cuckoo is an elusive bird and I finally got one good photo:


Inspiration Point, IL:


Western Wood-Pewee, CO:


Meredosia Hill Prairie Nature Preserve, IL:


Orange-fringed Orchid and Royal Fern, IL:


Black-necked Stilt, IL:


Black-tailed Prairie Dog, CO:


Rocky Mountains, CO:


Compass Plant, IL:



————————————CAUTION, SNAKES BELOW THIS LINE!!!——————————————




Black Rat Snake, IL:


Cottonmouth, IL:


Top Ten Lifer Herps of 2017


#10 Broad-banded Watersnake (Nerodia fasciata), southeastern Missouri- This was an unexpected find on a fun trip to Mingo National Wildlife Refuge (that’s not an exact location).  Since Broad-banded Watersnakes are almost certainly extirpated from Illinois, Missouri is the closest I’m going to get to seeing one locally.


#9 Bird-voiced Treefrog (Hyla avivoca), Snake Road, Illinois-  A State-Threatened species of treefrog in Illinois, the Bird-voiced has been a species I’ve wanted to find for a long time.


#8 Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum), southern Illinois-  Another amphibian I’ve wanted to see for a long time, this salamander was even on its nest.  Bonus points to you if you find the Smallmouth Salamander (Ambystoma texanum) hiding in the photo.


#7 Eastern Collared Lizard (Crotaphytus collaris), Missouri – My only rare lizard of the year, this was one of the highlights of one of my Missouri trips. Overcollected for the pet trade, Eastern Collared Lizards are uncommon to find.


#6 Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos), Missouri Ozarks-  This was in a parking lot, about ten minutes after we got to the location where we found it.


#5 Speckled Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula holbrooki), Missouri Ozarks- About fifteen minutes after finding the Eastern Hognose, this slithered across our path about three feet from my foot. Some people would freak out- I did, but exclusively from joy.


#4 Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi), central Illinois- This is a snake I’ve always wanted to see, and I found it at a special spot to me, which I cannot state because collectors.  It was also up a tree, which I did not expect and which proved a photographic obstacle.


#3 Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus), Snake Road, Illinois- My long-standing nemesis snake decided to randomly crawl out in front of me one fine October day. 58 snakes later, that was still the best snake of the day.


#2 Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), southern Illinois- I’ve managed to see three of these this year in Illinois.  The photographed one was the best of the three.


#1 Mud Snake (Farancia abacura), Snake Road, Illinois- It was a slow day at Snake Road, on September 15, the day after a nice rain… Suddenly, I spot a snake crossing the road at the first marshy spot on the north end.  I figured it was a Cottonmouth… but the red was a giveaway.  This is a snake that people at Snake Road who’ve been looking for 20 years haven’t found. (Don’t judge that sentence’s verbiage too harshly.)

My Discontented List: 8 Goals for 2018, plus Goals Completed for 2017

1 . Beat the year record of 246 species for Jackson County (BIG ONE)- Canceled officially.

2.  SEE a Cerulean Warbler

3.  Find Yellow Ladies’ Slipper Orchids in bloom, any of the three species in IL.

4.  Find three of the following snakes:  Eastern Massasauga, Milk Snake, Kirtland’s Snake, Worm Snake, Fox Snake, Smooth Green Snake, Shawnee Kingsnake, Queen Snake, Flathead Snake, Coachwhip, Pygmy Rattlesnake, Plains Garter Snake, and/or Smooth Earth Snake

5.  Find five of the following birds:  Harlequin Duck, Brant, Eared Grebe,  Swallow-tailed Kite, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Barn Owl,  Yellow-crowned Night Heron, American Bittern,  Ferruginous Hawk,  Greater Prairie-chicken, Piping Plover, Snowy Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Whimbrel, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Chuck- Will’s-Widow,  Northern Shrike, Mountain Bluebird, Smith’s Longspur, Alder Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher (IL only),  Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Cerulean Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler,  Canada Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Clay-colored Sparrow, White-winged Crossbill, Monk Parakeet, and/or Evening Grosbeak.

6.  Visit Montrose Point- THIS WILL HAPPEN!!!

7.  Buy a complete set of Mohlenbrock’s  “Vascular Flora of Illinois” and find fifty species of plants new to me in Illinois.

8. Find three of the following amphibians:  Illinois Chorus Frog, Northern Crawfish Frog, Eastern Narrowmouth Toad,  Wood Frog, Eastern Spadefoot Toad,  Eastern Tiger Salamander, Ringed Salamander,  Mole Salamander, Blue-spotted Salamander, Four-toed Salamander, Lesser Siren, Common Mudpuppy, and/or Dusky Salamander.

Goals completed for 2017:

  1. (Find Yellow Lady’s Slipper Orchids! ) NOPE.  

2. (See five of the following birds):  YEP!  Bolded birds were seen, struck-through birds are birds on my list that were not seen.  Long-tailed Duck, Golden Eagle, Mississippi Kite(either) [Least] Bittern,  Tundra Swan, Red-throated Loon,  Western Grebe, Black Scoter, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Greater Prairie-chicken,  Dunlin, WhimbrelWillet, Wilson’s Snipe, Piping Plover, Snowy Plover, Upland SandpiperBuff-breasted Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Barn Owl,  Long-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Snowy Owl, Nelson’s Sparrow, Snow Bunting, Lapland Longspur, (both) Cuckoos,  (any) [Virginia] Rail,  Northern or Loggerhead ShrikeMarsh Wren, Orchard Oriole, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Cerulean WarblerKentucky Warbler, Canada WarblerYellow-throated Warbler, Bell’s Vireo, Pine Siskin, (any)[Red] Crossbill, and/or Evening Grosbeak.

3. (Find two of the following reptiles:) YEP! Ornate Box Turtle, Blanding’s Turtle, Spotted Turtle, Slender Glass LizardBullsnake, Rough Green Snake, Smooth Green Snake, Western and/or Eastern Hognose SnakeMilksnake, Fox Snake, Lined Snake, Smooth Earth Snake, Coachwhip, and/or Plains Garter Snake.

4. (Find three of the following amphibians:)  YEP! Tiger Salamander, Marbled Salamander, Slimy Salamander, Silvery Salamander, Cave Salamander, Longtail Salamander, Two-lined Salamander, Spadefoot Toad, Eastern Red-backed Salamander, Narrowmouth Toad, Green Treefrog, Bird-voiced Tree Frog, Wood Frog, and/or Illinois Chorus Frog.

5. (Find a venomous snake in Illinois, of any kind.)  YEP!  Copperhead, Cottonmouth AND Timber Rattlesnake, all within about a mile or two of each other, actually.

6. (Find a Kirtland’s Snake) NOPE.

7. (Visit four new (to me) state parks and/or nature preserves) YEP!

8. (Revisit Fults Hill Prairie and find a Scorpion, [four herp species excised due to specific location] Splendid Tiger Beetle or just something that’s rare that lives there.) YEP… the beetle.

9.  (Visit Montrose Point) NOPE.

10. (Visit the Ozarks) YEP!

11. (Visit Snake Road) YEP!!!

12. (See a live, wild skunk, bear, or badger) NOPE.

13. (Find a Snowy Egret in IL) YEP!!!

14. (Find at least three of the following plants:)  YEP! Bird’s Eye Primrose, Poke Milkweed, Wild Agave, Bunchflower, (any) Turtlehead,  Kalm’s Lobelia, Obe-Wan Conobea, Lance-leaved Violet, Powdery Thalia, (either) Boltonia, Cancer Root, (any) Orobanche, Prairie Trout-Lily, (either) Ginseng, French’s Shooting Star, Showy Orchis,  Indian Pink, Snow TrilliumBird’s Foot Violet, Turk’s Cap Lily, (any) Twayblade, Pitcher’s Leather Flower, (either) Camassia,  French Grass, Violet Wood Sorrel, Missouri Coneflower, Royal Catchfly, (any) Spiranthes, (any native in Illinois) Rhododendron, Filmy Fern, Matalea, Heart-leaved Plaintain, Pink Corydalis, (any) SabatiaOzark MilkvetchBlue Hearts, Lobed Spleenwort, Walking Fern, Fameflower, (any in Illinois) clubmosses, Green Trillium, American Chestnut, Water Tupelo.

15. (Find at least one of any Platanthera orchid species)  YEP!

16. (Find at least one Coralroot Orchid) YEP!!

17. (Have fun!) YEP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Completing My Year Goals… ish

For those of you who don’t want to dive into the malformed archives of this blog, I posted a list of goals for 2017 that I wanted to find or visit.   Here’s what they are:

My goals for this upcoming year (January 1, 2017- January 1, 2018)

This is basically a Scrabble hunt for what I want to see.  I want to complete at least nine of these, as a sort of challenge to myself.  I don’t know that all of these are complete-able, but I think they are.

Crossed-out means that they were seen before January 1.  Bold means they were seen after January 1.

1. Find Yellow Lady’s Slipper Orchids!  Bloom would be nice, but isn’t necessary.

2.  See five of the following birds: Rough-legged Hawk,  Long-tailed Duck, Golden Eagle, Mississippi Kite, (either) Bittern,   American Wigeon, Trumpeter Swan (in IL), Tundra Swan, Red-throated Loon,  Western Grebe, Black Scoter, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Greater Prairie-chicken,  Dunlin, Whimbrel, Willet, Wilson’s Snipe, Piping Plover, Snowy Plover, Upland Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Barn Owl,  Long-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Snowy Owl, Eastern Screech Owl, Nelson’s Sparrow, Snow Bunting, Lapland Longspur, (either) Cuckoo,  (any) Rail,  Northern or Loggerhead Shrike, Marsh Wren, Orchard Oriole, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Canada Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Bell’s Vireo, Pine Siskin, (any) Crossbill,  Purple Finch, and/or Evening Grosbeak.

How I’m going to do this:  Hope and pray for good birds at Montrose.  Just keep my eyes open everywhere else.  Some of these could be at Sand Ridge State Forest during the winter.

3.  Find two of the following reptiles: Ornate Box Turtle, Blanding’s Turtle, Spotted Turtle, Slender Glass Lizard, Bullsnake, Rough Green Snake, Smooth Green Snake, Western and/or Eastern Hognose Snake, Milksnake, Fox Snake, Lined Snake, Smooth Earth Snake, Coachwhip, and/or Plains Garter Snake.

How I’m going to do this:  Most of the turtles are northern, so check wetlands in Chicago area (revisit Volo if possible).  Most of the snakes are more or less within two hour’s drive of here, and many can be found in Mason County if I look hard enough.  Lined Snakes are theoretically in Sangamon County, so finding where they are will involve lots of research.

4.  Find three of the following amphibians:  Tiger Salamander, Marbled Salamander, Slimy Salamander, Silvery Salamander, Cave Salamander, Longtail Salamander, Two-lined Salamander, Spadefoot Toad, Eastern Red-backed Salamander,  Narrowmouth Toad, Green Treefrog, Bird-voiced Tree Frog, Wood Frog, and/or Illinois Chorus Frog.

How I’m going to do this:  Visiting Southern Illinois will make things easier.  I plan to hunt in March/April up in Mason County for the Illinois Chorus Frog, when they’re breeding in the sand ponds of the Illinois River Valley

5.  Find a venomous snake in Illinois, of any kind (albeit from a safe distance).  The best would be Massasauga, but that’s highly unlikely.  Most likely, this will be either a Cottonmouth or a Copperhead along Snake Road, maybe even a Timber Rattlesnake (again, from a safe distance of several yards, and hopefully downhill of me, as it’s harder for a venomous snake to strike uphill)

6.  Find a Kirtland’s Snake

How I’m going to do this:  Possible nocturnal hunts, and visits early in the morning after rain.  This is a very rare snake, and while they are supposed to live around here, I have no idea where to find them.

7.  Visit four new (to me) state parks and/or nature preserves (Meredosia NWR, Middle Fork Nature Preserve, Kickapoo State Park, Doris Westfall Nature Preserve, Howard’s Hill Seep Natural Area, Spring Lake, )

8. Revisit Fults Hill Prairie and find a Scorpion, Narrowmouth Toad, Great Plains Rat Snake, Flat-headed Snake, Coachwhip, Splendid Tiger Beetle or just something that’s rare that lives there.

9. Visit Montrose Point, the birding capital of Illinois.

10.  Visit the Ozarks at least once, especially Johnson’s Shut Ins and some of the larger glades where I see videos of snakes being found under most flipped rocks!

11. Visit Snake Road (should help with a lot of these)

12.  See a live, wild skunk, bear, or badger  (from a good distance away)

13.  Find a Snowy Egret in IL.

14.  Find at least three of the following plants:  Bird’s Eye Primrose, Poke Milkweed, Wild Agave, Bunchflower, (either) Turtlehead,  Kalm’s Lobelia, Obe-Wan Conobea, Lance-leaved Violet, Powdery Thalia, (either) Boltonia, Cancer Root, (any) Orobanche, Prairie Trout-Lily, (either) Ginseng, French’s Shooting Star, Showy Orchis,  Indian Pink, Snow Trillium, Bird’s Foot Violet, Turk’s Cap Lily, (any) Twayblade, Pitcher’s Leather Flower, (either) Camassia,  French Grass, Violet Wood Sorrel, Missouri Coneflower, Royal Catchfly, (any) Spiranthes, (any native in Illinois) Rhododendron, Filmy Fern, Matalea, Heart-leaved Plaintain, Pink Corydalis, (any) Sabatia, Ozark Milkvetch, Blue Hearts, Lobed Spleenwort, Walking Fern, Fameflower, (any in Illinois) clubmosses, Green Trillium, American Chestnut, Water Tupelo.

How I’m going to do this:  This list is weighted towards Southern Illinois and Mason County for a reason.  Mostly, I just have to keep my eyes open.

15.  Find at least one of any Platanthera orchid species (Fringed Orchids), preferably in flower.

16.  Find at least one Coralroot Orchid

17. Have fun!

So… let’s see how I’ve done so far, with 1/4  of the year remaining.  Green means completed, yellow means incomplete, and red means not completed at all.

1. Nope.  Complete miss on any Ladies’ Slippers this year, though I’ve about doubled my list of orchids seen in the wild.  Honestly, I’m pretty content with this up until late April next year.


2. OH YEAH. Long-tailed Duck, Golden Eagle, Mississippi Kite, Least Bittern, Dunlin, Wilson’s Snipe, Willet, Upland Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper,  Snow Bunting (pictured), Lapland Longspur, both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos,  Virginia Rail,  Orchard Oriole, Yellow-throated Warbler, Bell’s Vireo, and Pine Siskin have been seen by me up to now in Illinois.   The Marsh Wren and Western Grebe were seen out of state, with Western Sandpiper being added August 27 as the latest bird for this list.


3. Barely, but yes.  Bullsnake (photo) and Eastern Hognose Snake have both been seen, though only  Bullsnake in Illinois. I will probably get one more for this year unless I actually end up on a herping trip, however.   I need to reevaluate how to find snakes and get better at locating them.

4. No I have yet to see all three amphibians, but only one amphibian species is needed. The only salamanders I’ve seen on this list is a lone Eastern Red-backed in February,  many Slimy Salamanders in August, and none of the frogs have been added.  However, most of these are Southern Illinois species I might be able to get down there sometime soon, perhaps with help.


5. Yes, for venomous snakes I saw a Copperhead (above), surprisingly not a Cottonmouth.

 6. No on the Kirtland’s Snake, but I have at least one location to check now, so that’s something.


7. Yes I saw a ton of new preserves, and I don’t have time to list them all here. (Photo of Meredosia Hill Prairie).  I’m not even sure if I should bother to count out of state ones or not.

8. Sort of?  Probably not really, but I have revisited Fults Hill Prairie.  I didn’t get any of the listed rarities (and I probably won’t), but seeing my parents there is a rare sight, so…

9. Nope.  I didn’t get to Montrose, because it’s four (now six or seven) hours away, and I was super busy in mid-May, the best time to visit.  This is one of my biggest goals for next year.


10.  Yes, I visited the Ozark glades.  And those videos lied, but it was still amazing.


11.  Yes, I did see Snake Road, and I had my expectations too high.  However, it was still fun.

12.  I  have yet to see a live Skunk or Bear.  However, I did remember after writing this that I once saw a Badger in northern Illinois, crossing a road.


13.  Yep, I’ve seen twenty or thirty Snowy Egrets in Illinois by now!


14.  This ambitious list will require far more research to complete.  Still, the answer is yes, as I have seen Bird’s Foot Violet,  Showy Orchis (out of flower in Kentucky), Camassia scilloides,   Violet Wood Sorrel, Ozark Milkvetch (in photo above), Spiranthes gracilis, Walking Fern (in Kentucky), and Fameflower (in Missouri).  The Camassia were all technically in replanted  or probably replanted areas, so that leaves  four genuine Illinoisans- three of which I observed at Revis Hill Prairie Nature Preserve for the first time!


15.  Yes, one species, the best one, the Orange-fringed Orchid, Platanthera cilaris.


16.  Also yes, but neither in Illinois.  Two species of Coral-root orchids, the Spring (wisteriana) in Missouri and the Spotted (maculata, photographed) in Colorado, definitely make this list longer!

17.  For the most part, when I don’t plan too much or expect too much, yes, I do have fun!


Honorable mentions  so far this year go to the Calypso bulbosa, a plant I never expected to find this year, and the Red-necked Stint, a bird I never expected to find this year.





Favorite Pictures of 2016 + Lifers of 2016!

Happy New  Year!

Swamp at Beaver Dam State Park

Water Willow (Justicia americana) at Lake Springfield

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) takes off at Center Park, Lake Springfield

Pere Marquette State Park

Sunbeams in Sand Ridge State Forest

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) in Michigan
Rapids of Sangamon River at Carpenter Park
Graham’s Crayfish Snake (Regina grahmii) at Lake Springfield
Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) at Emiquon Preserve

 Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) at Lake Springfield

Total Lifer Birds of 2016- 108 lifer birds

9 Birds of Prey: Northern Harrier, Rough-legged Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Barred Owl, Short-eared Owl, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Screech Owl

25 Waterfowl: Greater White-fronted Goose, Ross’ Goose, American Black Duck, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, White-winged Scoter, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe

2 Herons: Little Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron

17 Sandpipers: American Golden-Plover, Semipalmated Plover, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, American Woodcock, Stilt Sandpiper, Wilson’s Pharalope, Marbled Godwit

8 Gulls and Terns: Bonaparte’s Gull, Franklin’s Gull, Sabine’s Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Caspian Tern, Common Tern, Forster’s Tern, Black Tern,

47 Songbirds: Eurasian Collared-Dove, Common Nighthawk, Whippoorwill, Red-headed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Willow Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Sedge Wren, Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, Wood Thrush, Yellow Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Pine Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Orange-crowned Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Carolina Chickadee, American Tree Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Henslow’s Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak, Dickcissel, Bobolink, Summer Tanager, Eurasian Tree Sparrow. Purple Finch


 9 Lifer Reptiles: Spiny Softshell, Smooth Softshell, Common Map Turtle, Eastern Box Turtle, Six-lined Racerunner, Blue Racer, Chicago Garter Snake, Prairie Kingsnake, Graham’s Crayfish Snake

5 Lifer Amphibians: Fowler’s Toad, Western Chorus Frog, Spring Peeper, Smallmouth Salamander, Spotted Salamander

3 Lifer Mammals: Beaver, River Otter, White-footed Mouse

9 Lifer Fish:  Logperch. White Sucker, Redear Sunfish, Orangespotted Sunfish, Green Sunfish, White Crappie, White Bass, Yellow Bass, Yellow Bullhead.

Total Lifer Animals: 134!

70 Selected Lifer Plants (Orchids in bold, non-natives struck through):  White Cedar, Wood Betony, Green Dragon, Cream Violet, Hoary Puccoon, Fringed Puccoon, Pale Beardtongue, Small-flowered Skullcap, Tennessee Milk Vetch. Prairie Ragwort, Western Wallflower, Ebony Spleenwort, Goat’s Rue, Field Horsetail, Marsh Fern, False Indigo-Bush, Purple Rocket, Gray’s Sedge, Smooth Ruellia,  Silvery Bladderpod,  Prairie Sunflower,  Short Green Milkweed, Thimbleweed, Leadplant, Pale-spike Lobelia, Western Marbleseed, Hoary Vervain, Royal Fern. Round-leaved Sundew, Grass Pink, Yellow-fringed Orchid, Pink Ladyslipper, Spoonleaf Sundew, Rose Pogonia,  Bog Yellow-eyed Grass, Horned Bladderwort, Swamp Rose, Lowbush Blueberry, Kalm’s St. John’s Wort, Wild Lupine, New Jersey Tea, Hairy Puccoon, Prairie Phlox, Tall Thimbleweed, Skunk Cabbage, Michigan Lily, Eurasian Helleborine, Safflower, Allegheny Monkey Flower, Spotted Beebalm, Hemp, Halbard-leaved Rose Mallow,  Clammy Weed, Boxelder, Virgin’s Bower, Eelgrass, Water Forget-me-Not, Swamp Rose Mallow, Hog Peanut, Rough Blazing Star, Field Goldenrod, Bronze Fern, Great Plains Lady’s Tresses, Bradley’s Spleenwort, Shortleaf Pine, Cliff Onion, Cutleaf Grape Fern, Rose Verbena, Giant Cane, American Mistletoe

27 Protected Species seen (State or Federal Threatened or Endangered):  Northern Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Osprey, Little Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron,  Forster’s Tern, Common Tern, Black Tern, Smooth Softshell, White Cedar, Tennessee Milk Vetch (also State-endangered), Silvery Bladderpod, Regal Fritillary,  Grass Pink, Yellow-fringed Orchid, Rose Poginia, Pink Ladyslipper, Leatherleaf, Round-leaved Sundew, Spoonleaf Sundew, Tamarack,  Buckbean, Eastern Hemlock, Kalm’s St. John’s Wort, Smooth Softshell, Bradley’ Spleenwort, Shortleaf Pine,

26 New Nature Preserves visited- Carpenter Park, Manito Prairie. Sand Ridge, Henry Allan Gleason. Chautauqua NWR, Emiquon, Emiquon NWR, Matanzas Prairie, Scrub Oak-Sand Prairie, Revis Hill Prairie, German Cemetery Prairie, Pinhook Bog. Cowles Bog,  Loda Cemetary Prairie,  White Pines Forest, Castle Rock, Nachusa, Rogue River, Calamus Lake, Spitler Woods, Bois de Sangamon, Piney Creek Ravine, Fults Hill Prairie, Horseshoe Lake, Cypress Creek NWR

Y’know, some people have really hated 2016, but for all the reasons above, I’ve kinda enjoyed it.