What eluded me in 2002

What eluded me in 2002

By Rod Myers, Naturalist

Some very unique wildlife eluded my plain of vision in 2002. It all started in January, mid-January to be exact, when I was checking for life near the Jefferson Street Bridge in back of the Rockford Public Library. It was a cold, crisp day with a weak, yet steady wind blowing from the north. The wind drafted me into an ornithological forensic specialist by blowing downy pigeon feathers across my field of observance.

I was on the case like a baggage handle. Quickly, I scanned the foreground like J. Pinkerton Snoopington on a scavenger outing in the tepid vernal health. I pounced on the source of dislodged pigeon feathers, a dead pigeon. It was your basic commoner breed; its color phase was bluebar. Most of the pigeon had been eaten, and it was obvious that a sizeable portion of its abdomen had been plucked. This is a telltale sign of a Peregrine falcon, which, by the way, loves to eat pigeon.

I found many more pigeon carcasses killed and eaten the same way over the next two months but never saw the killer. There was a pair of Red-tailed hawks preying on sick pigeons in the downtown area, but they just rip into their food. They don’t partially denude their kills as Peregrines do.

Peregrine falcons only rarely spend the winter in the heartland, but my guess is with the warm winter we had and the surplus of pigeons, one Peregrine made downtown Rockford its winter resort. I never got to meet this visitor, give him a tour or carry his luggage. I only got to pick up after him.

I found coyote scat at various places in my neighborhood, but as far as seeing one, the answer is negative. I found scat on Saint Anthony Hospital property several times, and even heard them there in July. I guess living close to Saint Anthony’s has its advantages. A friend pointed out some coyote scat in the Milestone Dental Clinic parking lot, which is an eighth of a mile from the old Venture store on East State. This animal was probably looking for dumpster fallout from all the eateries in the area. Of course, he may have been hunting another dumpster hunter, the Norway rat. I’ve heard reports of extremely large groups of rats climbing in back of Park Strathmoor Nursing Home. Once over the creek bank, the rats divided into two groups with some heading toward Arby’s and Burger King just a couple hundred yards away. Fast food rat now!

On a balmy, early October evening, the din of local traffic and human commotion was split by the scream of a bobcat. The hair-raising noise appeared to have come from the fragmented forest on Saint Anthony Hospital property. This couldn’t be, I thought to myself, but yes, it could. There is still a lot of green space connected if you combine Aldeen Park, Rockford College, Mauh-Nah-Tee-See golf course, parts of Regents Park and the undeveloped region of OSF. I didn’t expect to see this animal, and I didn’t. I think it’s highly unusual to have a bobcat within city limits, as they are uncommon in rural areas, where they are better suited. There are sightings of them in our county every year. In recent years, they’ve been spotted at forest preserve golf courses, using the sand traps as big kitty litter. They were seen at Elliot Golf Course adjacent to the Belford Theatre nearly a decade ago. Bobcats are seen at least once a year near the Rock River at Woodcrest Estates south of the Greater Rockford Airport.

Mauh-Nah-Tee-See Country Club golf course may be the key to drawing a bobcat to the Aldeen Park area. Just look at all the in-ground big kitty litter boxes it has. Next time you hear the blood-curdling scream of a bobcat, duck from the golf ball.

In November I received a credible report of a wolf hunting a farmer’s field near Riverside and the I-90 Tollway. The wolf, described as a typical gray color, was not seen again despite two days of searching. One mistake I made was not going out to search the very next day.

I wrote about the sighting in a December TRRT article, and the very day the story came out, a reader who had read the story called the TRRT and reported seeing a wolf in the same area. I contacted the reader, who informed me that the wolf he had seen was almost black. He saw the animal a week after the first sighting while goose hunting in the same vicinity.

If you think you saw a wolf, please cry. Please call the TRRT if you think you see a wolf or any unusual wildlife.

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associate’s degree in science and a bachelor’s in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.

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