Category Archives: Information

McHenry County Audubon Officially Endorses BCN Position on Free-Roaming Cats

Bird Conservation Network Position on Free-roaming Cats

At a time when nearly a third of North American bird species are in documented decline, releasing additional cats into the wild is a practice in direct opposition to the many attempts by conservation organizations to turn the tide on these declines1.

Conservative estimates put the number of birds killed by free-roaming cats at 1.4 billion in the United States every year, with that number possibly as high as 4 billion; the number for small native mammals killed is even higher2.

Cats are also one of the main vectors for several diseases that affect people, including rabies. Toxoplasmosis (for which cats are the leading vector) can cause serious birth defects when a woman is infected during pregnancy and it is the most common cause of certain retinal infections that can lead to blindness. There are increasing concerns with serious infections such as Pasteurella multocida that are transmitted through cat bites or scratches.

There are already an estimated 80 million free-roaming cats in North America3. Proposals to establish additional cat colonies will result in even greater devastation of wildlife and more negative health consequences. While “Trap, Neuter and Release/Return” programs may slow the growth of cat colonies in some cases, the released cats will continue to kill wildlife throughout the course of their lives. While rat control is often the rationale for the establishment of feral cat colonies, in an outdoor setting, there is no scientific evidence that free-roaming cats control rat populations.

Because of free-roaming cats’ impact on native wildlife populations and their potential as disease vectors, the Bird Conservation Network:  

> Strongly opposes the establishment of new outdoor cat colonies.  

> Strongly opposes the maintenance of outdoor cats whether individuals or colonies.

> Supports programs to urge owners to keep their cats indoors, the adoption of un-owned cats and the humane removal of free-roaming cats from the outdoors. ___________________________________________


North American Bird Conservation Initiative, State of North American Birds, 2016:  

Loss, S., T. Will, and P. Marra. 2013. The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States. Nature Communications 4:1396:

American Bird Conservancy – Cats Indoors!

McHenry County Audubon’s Darlene Fiske Memorial Birds in the Classroom Grant


McHenry County Audubon is accepting  applications for the  Birds in the Classroom Grants with awards up to $500.00 each.  Accredited McHenry County Schools and/or Classrooms (grades K – 12) may apply for the grants designed to further the understanding and appreciation of our native bird species and their habitat needs – in our county and beyond.

Projects that may be considered include, but are not limited to:

·         Bird-friendly plants for schoolyard habitat enhancement

·         Interpretive signage for schoolyard habitat

·         Binoculars

·         Books

·         Audio-visual materials

·         Curricular materials

·         Accredited teacher trainings that address birds

·         Partnership building with schools in “our” birds’ wintering grounds

·         Transportation funding for bird-related field trips


Applications may be found at

Applications are now accepted year round and award recipients will be notified by a committee member.


McHenry County Audubon is a 501(c)(3) membership organization and a chapter of Illinois Audubon Society.  The grants are made in memory of MCA founding member Darlene Fiske.  Donations to support the MCA BITC grants are happily accepted as are new MCA members.

Your McHenry County Audubon Birds in the Classroom Committee: Stacy Iwanicki, Chairperson, Jennifer Fiske, Kelly McDonald, Kay Preshlock, Members

Written By Lisa Maier

I’m happy to report that there was a successful nesting of Osprey at Moraine Hills State Park this year. Sightings of Osprey sitting on the nesting platform started showing up on eBird in April and May. In late August, my husband and I were lucky to catch what looked to be the fledgling’s first flight.

While walking along the trail, we could see the juvie Osprey sitting on the platform. It was calling constantly as the adult Osprey circled above the it, seemingly trying to coax the juvie out of the nest. This went on for quite some time, the juvie flapping and stretching its wings on the nest but not sure if it was ready to take off or not. Finally, the juvenile took off over the edge of the platform and successfully flew up towards the adult. The juvie and adult were flying together in circles and waves around Lake Defiance in a seemingly joyous way, as if to celebrate. Eventually they flew off out of sight. When we returned to the platform about an hour and a half later, the Osprey had not returned to the nest. Hopefully we will have another successful nesting pair next year!

Yeah I’m a wanderer
Yeah, a wanderer
I roam around, around, around, around

Written and compiled by Debra Nord, Vice President of McHenry County Audubon.

Whooper #2-15

Whooper #2-15. Photo by Debra Nord


On May 31st, which happened to be my Birthday, I found Whooping Crane  #2-15 poking around a farm field in the accompaniment of a Sand Hill Crane and a scrounging raccoon. She was visiting Lakewood in McHenry County Il.  The weather was overcast, with darkening clouds. Rain was imminent.

#2-15, which stands for #2 of year 2015, was hatched from an egg removed from the nest of #27-06 and #26-09 on May 5th. It appears we share the same birthday month!

(From Operation Migration) At first she was a real homebody and did not want to leave her safe, familiar run. She was a “crybaby” on her first tours outsides to see the water, the foot baths and pen, peeping in alarm most of the time. Some days she would not even follow Brooke to the field to try. She had a short attention span and was easily distracted by moving grass or leafs fluttering down from the trees. Keeping her focused on the trike was a challenge and training her took more time that the other birds. By May 31 she was like a different bird, running to the circle pen, eager for the training session. She began to calm down and do really well! By migration time in September, she was a leader!

July 2 was arrival day in Wisconsin for the six young cinnamon- colored Whooping cranes. None of the birds showed any signs of stress from their airplane trip-in-a-box from Maryland where they hatched. They happily explored their new surroundings for “Flight School.”


By the end of July, the colts are strong enough to fly close to the surface but not yet able to climb. “So our daily exercising consists of a high-speed taxi down the length of the runway while the birds fly beside us,” explains pilot Joe Duff. One day #2-15 was airborne for an extra 2 or 3 minutes after the others got their exercise flying from one end to the other!

Ready! By September, Operation Migration pilots reported that all six birds are doing incredibly well—a big contrast to last year’s cohort at this time. They said, “No doubt about it, this cohort is ready to migrate!” The target departure date has been set for September 20th.


Crane #2 has become one of the group leaders. “She is often first out of the gate and inevitably the first to find the sweet spot of the wing,” notes pilot Joe Duff. “Lately she is getting comfortable in the air and has started challenging the aircraft by speeding ahead and taking the lead. I have had leave the others behind several times to chase her and re-assert the dominance of the aircraft as leader of the flight. Once she gets tired she will tuck behind the wing again, while we wait for the others to catch up. Before long though, she is back out front. She has grown into a fine, strong bird, eager to fly and test the limits of her ability and our authority. She is still my favorite.”


The young cranes were banded with tracking transmitters and their lifetime color codes on Feb. 9. Crane #2 is one of the two cranes wearing a PTT for tracking.

Juvenile #2-15 began heading north March 22 with four older Whoopers (#5-12, 4-13, 4-14 and 7-14) from St. Marks NWR leading the way! Will she stay with them, and will it be long enough to pass the migration legs she made in a box? A March 22 PTT hit showed her over Henry County, Alabama—just over 100 miles from the St. Marks winter release enclosure in Florida. The group soon separated and #2-15 traveled with female #7-14 for a time, but then split off on her own—which she is fond of doing! She veered into eastern Indiana for several days. However, as of March 31, her GPS points put her in Iroquois Co, IL, back on the right course (hooray!). She next flew to Jasper County, Indiana, where she stayed put in lovely wetlands but adverse migration weather for about two weeks. She left Jasper County, IN on the morning of April 13 and flew to Boone County, Illinois. On April 16 she had reached Washington County, WISCONSIN. On April 17 a PTT hit for female #2-15 placed her northeast of the Wisconsin rectangle in Door County, Wisconsin. She was there until the third week in May, when she found her way back to a lovely wetland in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. By June she had wandered to McHenry County, Illinois, in fine health and hanging out with Sandhill cranes.

Read more about Operation Migration and #2-15.


Oh, well, I roam from town to town
I go through life without a care
And I’m as happy as a clown



Portions of this article reproduced with written permission by Operation Migration.