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MSWRD Wetland Field Trip
November 7, 2009
Thad Edmonds of the The Peoria Audubon Society, received special permission to visit the Prairie Plan facility of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MSWRD) of Chicago. This 16,000 acre facility, with its wetlands and lakes, is closed to the public.
Located a few miles west of Canton, Illinois, the formerly strip mined land was originally purchased by the Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District 50+ years ago for use as a location to deposit sludge from Chicago. The intent was to use barges to transport liquid sludge down the Illinois River, pump it to the facility, then deposit it onto farm fields for use as fertilizer. Allegedly, in the early pilot stages, it was determined that the logistics were too expensive and the sludge process was never put into full action.
Over the ensuing years, the facility remains closed to the general public (unless special permission is obtained from the Chicago headquarters).
Geese on One of the MSWRD Lakes
With the many lakes, large flocks of migrating waterfowl take refuge at the MSWRD facility. On the day of the trip, we had very mild conditions, with the temperatures reaching up into the mid 60s. Although the sunshine and warmth felt really nice, the lack of colder conditions to the north was a factor for keeping many of the larger flocks still to the north.
Location of MSWRD
In the interactive Google Map above, one can garner a perspective of the reclaimed strip land that made up the lakes and wetlands.
Numerous coots were in the lake above. Not shown was an elusive Horned Grebe that made its appearance.
Canada Geese were one of the more dominant waterfowl species. Also, they were not as likely to spook when approached by our group of birders.
Milkweed Pods with Seeds
In the early morning, the above seedpods of milkweed looked picturesque.
Coyote Running in Distance
On two occasions, as we drove through the facility, we encountered coyotes that saw us before we saw them.
Sub-adult Bald Eagle
Wider View of Sub-adult Bald Eagle
Throughout the day, we saw 5-6 individual bald eagles. The above sub-adult bald eagle was the only one that posed at a more reasonable distance for a "portrait."
Greater White-fronted & Canada Geese
There were a few greater white-fronted geese mixed in with the Canada geese in a few places. Note the orange legs of the white-fronted species.
Cackling Goose (small on left) with Greater White-fronted & Canada Geese
We spotted a cackling goose with the larger geese at the above location. Note that this goose is about 1/2 the size of the larger Canada goose species.
We had the good fortune of following the above Northern Harrier hawk across some distance. Note the field making of a white spot on the rump.
Another Northern Harrier
The above Northern Harrier was s second one that we found hunting in the pasture.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
We found a number of small sparrows flitting about in one location of grown up vegetation. It was difficult to identify the species, but one of the Eurasian Tree Sparrows poked up long enough for a photo. Note the black patch on the checks as the best field mark. The other sparrow species were too elusive to identify.
One of the highpoints was a brief excursion into a small woods at the MSWRD facility. Briefly playing a recording of the barred owl was too much for one of them. The above bird just had to come out and take a look at us. Since this facility is closed to others, we felt that the single brief recording would not be too disturbing to the bird.
The Peoria Audubon Society wishes to thank the Metropolitan Sanitary Water Reclamation District of Chicago for granting us the permission to visit their Prairie Plan facility to determine the bird species
Photos are courtesy of Dennis, humble webmaster for Peoria Audubon Society
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