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It’s (Mostly) About the Birds

Welcome to my blog about birding Montrose Point in Chicago. I created this blog to report some of my recent sightings from Montrose. I’ll also write about non-Montrose bird sightings from time to time. Thanks for visiting and good birding. Unless stated otherwise, all images and content were created by and are the property of Robert D. Hughes; any unauthorized use is prohibited.

Questions or comments? Direct them to Robert D. Hughes.

About Me

Robert Hughes

RDH

I’ve been birding since 1978 and much of that time has been spent at Montrose. I’ve never lived far from Montrose so it’s always been easy for me to bird there before or after school or work. You could say that Montrose has been my obsession and love, and sometimes my disappointment.

I was born, raised, and currently live in Chicago. My professional background is in webmastering, front-end Web development, and content management. When I’m not working I apply my passion for communication to promoting the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary through social media and this blog. You could say I’m a Web guy at heart.

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What’s New

A pair of Piping Plovers is nesting on Montrose Beach! Read more about this history making event – Nesting Piping Plovers!

Shorebirds are moving throughAmerican Avocets, Willets, Whimbrel, and Short-billed Dowitchers have been seen at Montrose as of mid-July.

Header Photo: White-winged Scoters from Montrose Harbor

American Avocets, July 17, 2019

American Avocets

American Avocets (click to see the larger version)

Shorebird season is in full swing along the Chicago lakefront. Five American Avocets put in an appearance at Montrose Beach on the morning of July 17. They didn’t stay long but this is the time of the year when Montrose and other Illinois lakefront beaches should be checked regularly for shorebirds. Plus, something even more exciting could show up — a hurricane waif, Brown Booby, Limpkin, or similarly fantastic bird (extralimital Brown Boobies and Limpkins have been showing up in the eastern US). Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.

eBird Checklist
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S58246132

Willet, July 12, 2019

Willet

Willet (click to see the larger version)

I ran over to Montrose on the evening of July 12 to look for large shorebirds. With reports of Whimbrels and Willets along the Indiana lakefront recently I thought this might be a worthwhile effort. Between all the beach goers and flooding on the beach, shorebird habitat has been in short supply at Montrose. I did find a nice adult Willet at the far east end of the public beach, not far from where the Piping Plovers are nesting. This is a good time of the year to look for large shorebirds like Willets, Whimbrels, and Marbled Godwits at Montrose. I often have better luck with these birds in the evening than the morning as they get flushed off of other beaches and end up at Montrose because it has some habitat for them.

Milkweed Insects

Large Milkweed Bug and Red Milkweed Beetle

Large Milkweed Bug and Red Milkweed Beetle (click to see the larger version)

Two somewhat similar but not closely related insects, the Large Milkweed Bug (left insect in the composite photo) and the Red Milkweed Beetle. Large Milkweed Bugs are true bugs (order Hemiptera), while Red Milkweed Beetles belong to the order Coleoptera, the largest order of insects. Both species are obligate milkweed consumers, a distinction they share with the caterpillar of the Monarch butterfly. And like the Monarch, they are toxic to predators. Both of these insects can be found at Montrose during the summer by examining clusters of Common Milkweed. Photographed in July 2019.

Butterfly Garden

Red Admiral

Red Admiral (click to see the larger version)

If you plant it they will come. A few years ago the Butterfly Garden at Montrose was boring, low diversity, non-native lawn grass. Since then it has been planted in native wildflowers to attract butterflies, and attract butterflies it has. This magnificent Red Admiral was enjoying the early morning sun (with a little help from Spiderwort) on July 4, 2019. Well, the colors are sorta red, white, and blue.

Water Crib Action

Wilson Avenue Crib

Wilson Avenue Crib (click to see the larger version)

If you’ve been to Montrose you’ve probably noticed the structure due east on the horizon that looks like it’s floating on Lake Michigan. This is the Wilson Avenue Crib and it was part of the water distribution system for Chicago. The cribs pump water to the filtration plants, also along the lakefront. The filtration plants purify the water and distribute it to the city and nearby suburbs for consumption. The Wilson Avenue Crib is no longer operational but several species of birds are making good use of it. The dark shapes in the photos are Double-crested Cormorants and they nest on the crib. State endangered Peregrine Falcons have also nested there.

I took this photo with my digital camera and Questar telescope in June 2019, a technique known as digiscoping. To read more about how I digiscope, see the Digiscoping with a Questar page on my main birding website, The Orniphile. The Wilson Avenue Crib is about 2 miles offshore.

Nesting Piping Plovers, Take 2

Piping Plover

Piping Plover on nest (click to see the larger version)

After the eggs from their first nesting attempt were removed by biologists, Rose and Monty, the intrepid Piping Plover pair, picked up their show and moved it a few hundred yards east to a new area. This is a more propitious location, both above the flood zone and away from people. One bird on the nest is visible in this photo (inside the protective cage). A couple of eggs have been laid. Note the photobombing Bank Swallow on the rope.