Top of the Morning, May 22, 2014

On May 10, Greg Lambeth and Evan Glynn made Champaign County history by recording 147 species of birds. Talk about a long day: They started listening for owls at 3 a.m. around Mahomet and finished after at 9 p.m. in Royal. The celebration was simple.

"We did a fist bump when we broke the record with three Smith's Longspurs flying overhead," Lambeth said.

It's no surprise Lambeth was involved. A clinical psychologist at the University of Illinois who teaches bird identification courses and leads the Busey Woods bird walks on Sunday mornings in May and in the fall, Lambeth held the previous record of 143 (set with Bob Chapel in 2003). We went straight to the expert for more:

What went right on May 10 that allowed you to set a record?

May 10 is right about the peak of spring migration so there are many birds arriving in Illinois to breed at that time or making their way further north to breed in the boreal forests of Canada. We saw almost all of the species we expected to see along with a few uncommon birds. I believe 160 to 165 species is possible in Champaign County if everything goes just about perfect.

I didn't realize there were even 147 species of birds!

There are over 200 species of birds that migrate through Champaign County during Spring migration, but it would be difficult to see more than 160 on any given day because their migrations don't overlap (waterfowl migrate in March and April, whereas warblers and flycatchers migrate in May).

What's your best advice to a novice birder?

Buy a good pair of binoculars and spend time with birders who have good identification skills.

Best place to watch birds would be ...

I'd choose Ecuador if we're talking the entire world, but here in Champaign County my favorites are Crystal Lake Park and Busey Woods during spring migration. These parks can be absolutely amazing in late April and early May.

Three things every birder needs to get by?

Binoculars, a decent field guide and the right clothing for the weather.

What's your best birding story?

I've been birding for more than 40 years so it's hard to pick just one favorite, but many of them involve birding with my father. One of my favorites happened just a few weeks ago here in Busey Woods when a summer tanager landed on my father's (Dave Lambeth) camera lens.

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