Saturday, January 10, 2009

Eagle Pair Roosting at Baker Hollow, Banner Mine Site

On Fri Jan 9 2009, Scott and I were bird watching at Baker Hollow, the creek that runs down the bluff into the proposed Banner Mine Site, and the adjoining fields. We parked at the top of the hill on the west side of Route 24 and crossed the highway to get a look at the site from that vantage. We stayed on the shoulder of Route 24, making sure we did not trespass onto the proposed mining site.

A pair of eagles were roosting in one of the trees along the portion of Baker Hollow creek that runs into the proposed mining site. The eagles flew together from that tree to a large tree in the dense brush along the smaller creek north of Baker Hollow, close to the highway. As I walked along the highway toward them, one of the eagles flew across the road to the bluff on the other side. 
The other stayed in the tree. I was able to get a photo of the eagle flying across the highway and a photo of the eagle in the tree before the second eagle flew to the bluff. 
This roosting pair of American Bald Eagles are using the proposed mining site.

I continued walking down the road, hoping the eagles would fly over and looking for other birds, especially Norther Harriers. I didn't find any harriers, but I flushed two Red-tailed hawks as I walked towards Baker Hollow from the top of the hill.
They flew from a large tree close to the highway along the creek. One landed in a tree farther from the highway along the creek, the other disappeared.

As I was photographing the hawk in the tree, I realized that a pick up truck had pulled over on the wrong side of the highway, and a man with an open cell phone (taking photos? texting?) was walking my way. I watched him as he came towards me, waiting for him to speak. He asked who I was with. I told him I wasn't "with" anyone; I was taking photos of hawks. I pointed to the hawk in the tree along Baker Hollow. He told me I couldn't go on that land. I told him I wasn't going to, that I was just taking photos of birds. He said that they had trouble with some people taking pictures of flowers. I again told him I was just taking pictures of hawks. He warned me again not to go on the land, and I again told him I was not going to do that. He turned to go, still using his phone, and I asked him who he was. He said he leased the land for hunting. He said something else about not going on the land, I again told him I wouldn't, and he left. 

Meanwhile, Scott, who had been waiting at the top of the hill in the car, had driven the car down the hill, parked parked it, and crossed the highway. He was present for most of the conversation, although I didn't realize it at the time. We both watched as this man drove past us and pulled into Prairie Lane in front of the new gate across the road. He stayed there for a minute or so, then backed into the driveway across the highway, pulled back out and drove up the hill towards us.

Scott and I continued walking past Baker Hollow before returning to the car. He drove past us several more times in the meantime. We drove down to Duck Island and on the way there and back he passed us two more times.

I'm sure he is leasing the land for hunting, as he said, and didn't want trespassers. However, that won't keep me from going back to look for birds from the highway.


Check out the white line behind the trees. That is snow on top of the flooded field. Only the fields on the bluff side are dry. The rest of the proposed Banner mine site is under ice and snow from the flooded Illinois River.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Public Hearing Jan 23 Changes to Illinois List of Threatened and Endangered Species

As outrageous as it is, the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board is proposing to delist the American Bald Eagle from the list of Threatened Species in Illinois! Will they never stop developing the little land that is left for birds in this state? I'm outraged.

In addition to delisting Bald Eagles, they plan to delist Henslow's Sparrow, and Sandhill Cranes.

And, get this, they are going to change Mississippi Kites from Endangered to Threatened, because:

"This species appears to be increasing and expanding its range slightly within the state. The population appears to be too secure to be considered Endangered."

Are you kidding me? This is totally insane.

It is our IDNR being run by people who only consider developing our resources, not protecting them. Illinois has very few natural areas left, which these species need. These proposed changes will make it easier for developers to come in with their huge Caterpillar machines and destroy the trees, like they are doing at Copperas Landing to put in a pumping station for the Canton pipeline going in along Banner Dike Road.

What can we do as citizens, you ask?

Well we can do a lot, I have found. We just need to get involved as citizens and make our voices heard. The time frame for this is very short. They count on us not knowing about it in time to make a difference.

This time we do know about it in time. Let's make a difference.

Please come to this hearing prepared to give comments, up to 5 minutes, regarding why the status of these birds should not be changed.

Then follow up with detailed written comments. If you cannot attend the hearing, please send comments to the board regarding why these birds need to be protected.

We missed the boat on this part of the process for issuing the mining permit in Banner. Let's not miss this opportunity to be heard by the Endangered Species Protection Board.

The Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board will hold a public hearing at 12:00 p.m. on Friday, January 23, 2009 at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources headquarters building (Lakeview Conference Room C), One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, Illinois to take public comments on proposed changes to the Illinois List of Threatened and Endangered Species.

This hearing will be accessible to handicapped individuals in compliance with all pertinent state and federal laws, upon notification of anticipated attendance. Handicapped persons planning to attend and needing special accommodations should contact the Endangered Species Protection Board at 217/785-8687 (TTY 217/782-9175) prior to the hearing to inform of their anticipated attendance.


Ammodramus henslowii (Henslow’s Sparrow)Proposed Action: remove from threatened. The number of locations in the Natural Heritage Database for Henslow’s sparrows continues to increase. The recently completed recovery outline for this species recommends consideration for removal from the state list when, within the last five years, there are records in the Natural Heritage Database from 40 or more Illinois counties, and 10 or more populations numbering 20 or more breeding pairs within protected habitats. The county threshold has been met (46 counties between 2002-2006) and the protected populations criteria has also been met.

Grus Canadensis (Sandhill Crane) – Proposed Action: remove from threatened. The population within the state continues to increase and is also establishing occurrences outside of northeastern Illinois. Recent analyses of data from the Northeastern Illinois Wetland Bird Survey indicate a significantly increasing population in the northeastern portion of the state.

Haliaeetus leucocephalus (Bald Eagle)Proposed Action: remove from threatened. This species appears to be doing very well in the state, the number of records in the Natural Heritage Database continues to go up as does the number of counties from which the species is known to occur in Illinois. Winter surveys are showing good numbers of immatures, indicating a healthy age structure.

Ictinia mississippiensis (Mississippi Kite)Proposed Action: change status from endangered to threatened. This species appears to be increasing and expanding its range slightly within the state. The population appears to be too secure to be considered Endangered.

PUBLIC HEARING January 23, 2009

Changes to Illinois List of Threatened and Endangered Species

1. Call to Order (Hearing Officer, Secretary, Chris Phillips)
2. Introduction of Board members and staff
3. Opening Statement (Director, Anne Mankowski)
4. Public Comments (chaired by Hearing Officer, Secretary, Chris Phillips)


A) Registration Form

1) Everyone should fill-out and return form to the front of the room (before hearing starts).
2) Indicate if you wish to comment.

B) Oral Comments:

1) We will call on you, using your registration form (in the order turned in).
2) Come to the front of the room to speak.
3) Give your name and affiliation, if any.
4) Limit comments to 5 minutes each.
5) We will only accept comments on the topic of the changes that the Board has proposed to the Illinois List of Threatened and Endangered Species; if you wish to discus any other matters, we will be happy to talk to you at another time.
6) We are here to listen to comments from the public, not to engage in debate regarding any of those comments.

C) Written Comments:

1) The hearing record will remain open for 14 days
2) Submit written comments to:

Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board
One Natural Resources Way
Springfield, IL 62702-1271

Or e-mail comments to:

3) ALL comments must be received by the Board on or before February 6, 2004.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Copperas Landing and Banner Dike Road

Yesterday, on the 4th day of the new year, Scott and I drove down to Banner. The mess left at the landing by the pipeline/pumping station construction is still there. Huge trees lying on their sides. The machines that pushed them down parked near by.

The entire area leading out to the landing, including the proposed mining site, is under water.

There is a cofferdam in the ditch by the road:

The levee on the south side of Morgan Ditch is under water.

Two hawks flew together from one snag to another.

But the most exciting find was a pair of Brown Creepers whistling in the trees a long the road on the proposed Banner Mine site! Brown Creepers are threatened in Illinois. The trees on the mining site provide an ideal habitat. And now we know they are present on that site!