Lake County

Lake County Fairgrounds

Though discovered years before, 2012 has seen a rise in interest in the Lake County Fairgrounds as a birding destination.  With close proximity to a dump, it is easy to see what makes this spot stand out in the winter months.

The fairgrounds main parking lot is becoming a good destination for winter gulling in Lake County and one of the only reliable Lake County spots outside of Winthrop Harbor that hosts a wide range of species in the winter.  As per usual, the dominant species in the parking lot are Herring Gull and Ring-billed Gull.  Scattered amongst these species, there have been records of Lesser Black-backed Gull, Thayer’s Gull, Iceland (Kumlien’s) Gull, and California Gull.

Just north of the parking lot is a small ponds that many of the gulls travel to for preening and water.  This pond in April had a beautiful pair of juvenile Bonaparte’s Gulls that spent the better part of a week feeding there.  Besides the gulls, this pond can hold significant amounts of waterfowl.  Recorded so far have been, Canada Goose, Cackling Goose, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Hooded Merganser, Wood Duck, and American Wigeon.

In summer, the pond dried significantly, revealing decent mud flats.  Large numbers of Great Egret and Great Blue Heron congregated in late summer and shorebirds seen during fall migration included Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, and Spotted Sandpiper.  Sora’s have been heard and seen in the cattails.

The gravel parking lot to the west of the pond had summering Horned Larks.  In winter, flocks of American Tree Sparrow are common, and on rare occasions, Snow Bunting have been seen and heard.  The fairgrounds is also an easy spot to pick up American Kestrel, as a resident pair has been seen here for more than a year.

NOTE: It’s important to know that gull congregations are only great when the water at the pond adjacent to the parking lot is OPEN. If it is frozen, the gulls WON’T congregate in any significant number. The gulls need open water for bathing and preening. This most likely designates this as a great gulling spot early and late in the season.

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