Dixon Waterfowl Refuge

Good Morning GreatBirdPics Members!

You were all probably wondering, “Where was the “GBP Notes” email yesterday?”  Well Karen and I, along with birding buddy Mark, left the house before 7am to take a 1 hr 45 minute drive down to the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge.  Mark just bought himself a new scope (Vortex Razor) as a retirement gift to himself and he was itching to use it.  Dixon was just the place to try it out.

Just north of Peoria, IL, Dixon Waterfowl Refuge is over 3,000 acres, most of which is mostly comprised of the Hennepin and Hopper Lakes.  Once farmland, the refuge purchased the area, turned off the drainage pump and began restoration in 2001.  Now the vast area is visited by many species of waterfowl and land-based birds.

The local expert there is Scott Harp.  He lives nearby and goes to the boat dock most days (each time gone, he’s been there).  Scott is very knowledgeable not only of all the species that can be seen there, but when they typically arrive each year and he is always willing to help.  His eBird checklist from yesterday had 74 species.  To give you an idea of how many birds you can see there, here is an excerpt of his checklist (click HERE to see his whole checklist):

  • 310 Canada Goose
  • 70 Northern Shovelers
  • 63 Ring-necked Ducks
  • 156 Wigeon
  • 280 Ruddy Ducks
  • 1,300 Coot
  • 22 White Pelicans
  • 3,000 Tree Swallows
  • 12 White Pelicans

It seemed like every square foot of water had a bird on it!  Scott counted over 5,600 birds there (I reference his checklist instead of ours because he is much more experienced at counting the larger numbers of birds).  Mark’s new scope started smoking as it whipped it back and forth looking at all different species there.

As for me, my camera was pretty much unused most of the time.  At some points the waterfowl are over 550 yards away; even the closest ones kept themselves 50 yards away (every time we approached the shoreline they swam away from us – go figure).  The camera just doesn’t get decent pics at those distances.  I did snap a couple just to prove we were there.

Here are some American White Pelicans with a couple of Sandhill Cranes.  The water in front of them has mostly Coots with a couple of Northern Shovelers and Gadwalls sprinkled in:


Here’s a closer picture of a Coot (and its reflection):


We were able to get close to a couple of Gadwalls in a little inlet.  Note the black tail and the white patch (not always visible) as this one stretches out:


We did have a couple of different birds flyover.  First an immature Bald Eagle:


We got a good long look as a Northern Harrier flew by.  Note the owl-like face and the distinctive white patch on its rump:


As we walked along one of the paths we scared up a pair of Blue-winged Teals.  You can’t see the blue wing-patches very well when they are floating on the water but they are obvious when they are flying:


Our new friend Scott encouraged us to come back down (with our scopes) in November when it really gets busy there.  Another road trip!

Happy Birding!


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