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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 D. Hughes

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.

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 background in Web development and communications to promote the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary through social media and this blog. You could say I’m a Web guy at heart.

Robert D. Hughes
February 2020

Need A Birding Guide For Montrose?

I offer guided birding services for Montrose Point as well as other locations in the Chicago area. What are you interested in seeing? Spring warblers? Specialty birds like Henslow’s Sparrow? I love finding and showing birds to people. Contact me for more information. I look forward to hearing from you!

I designed and developed this site and produce most of the content for it and its sister birding website, The Orniphile. I also pay for hosting and deal with the many challenges associated with hosting. Managing these sites is a labor of love – I thoroughly enjoy writing about birds and telling the story of Montrose Point, one of the most popular and renowned bird and nature sanctuaries in the United States. Empowering people with the information they can use to make informed decisions about birding Montrose is a passion of mine. With that in mind, I’m asking for contributions to help offset the hosting and management costs.

I use PayPal for donations. It’s safe, secure, and easy to use. To make a contribution, click the Donate button below and follow the instructions. Thanks!





What’s New

NOTE: Montrose Point, including the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, is closed to the public as of March 26, 2020 as part of an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The closure will last at least a few weeks. This is a bitter pill to swallow as it will mean missing a big chunk of spring migration but necessary to protect the public and reduce the severity of the outbreak. DO NOT attempt to access Montrose while it is closed – you could be fined or even arrested.

Rising water levels on Lake Michigan have changed the shoreline dynamics at Montrose Point. The public portion of the beach is frequently flooded, reducing the amount of beach available to beachgoers, but creating habitat for gulls, terns, and shorebirds. Also, the winter of 2020 saw a couple of severe storms that flooded and damaged the Dunes, including the pannes. The effects of this damage will be long-lasting. A video of one of these storms is at this link – January 11, 2020 Storm

Header Photo: White-winged Scoters from Montrose Harbor

Montrose Closed, March 26, 2020

Police closing Montrose Point

Police closing Montrose Point. Photo by Ben Sanders (click to see the larger version)

On March 26, 2020, the city of Chicago closed all of Lincoln Park, including Montrose Point, to the public to limit the spread of the coronavirus. It’s unclear how long Montrose will be closed. It could be weeks, it could be months. DO NOT attempt to access Montrose (or any other part of Lincoln Park) while it is closed – you could be fined or even arrested.

Spring Has Sprung, March 26, 2020

March 26 saw an influx of migrants, most notably American Robins, blackbirds, and several types of sparrows. There were also good numbers of ducks on Lake Michigan, particularly Red-breasted Mergansers, and a few ducks moving north. This happens every spring when we get warm fronts and south winds. I tallied 46 species in a little less than 2 hours of effort, including a number of first of seasons. My highlights

Blue-winged Teal – 11
Northern Shoveler – 4
American Wigeon – 5
Ring-necked Duck – 4
White-winged Scoter – 8
Caspian Tern – 1
Common Loon – 4
Merlin – 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet – 4
Brown Creeper – 1
Fox Sparrow – 10

This will be my last bird report or blog post from Montrose for a while. See the post immediately above for the reason why.

eBird Checklist
March 26, 2020

eBird is the Word

If you want to know (and be in the know) what’s going on bird-wise at Montrose Point, there’s no better resource than eBird. Migration is picking up and more people are reporting their sightings using this invaluable tool. Click the image below to be taken to the Montrose Point eBird hotspot.

Knowledge is power.

Montrose Point eBird Hotspot

Ducks (lots of ’em), March 20, 2020

Northern Shovelers

Northern Shovelers (click to see the larger version)

A strong flight of ducks took place at Montrose on March 20. In about an hour and a half of lakewatching I saw the following

Wood Duck – 30
Blue-winged Teal – 6
Northern Shoveler – 200
Gadwall – 15
American Wigeon – 8
Northern Pintail – 15
Green-winged Teal – 120
Ring-necked Duck – 40
Greater Scaup – 15
Lesser Scaup – 100
White-winged Scoter – 2
Long-tailed Duck – 1, continuing female in the harbor
Bufflehead – 10
Common Goldeneye – 20
Hooded Merganser – 8
Common Merganser – 3
Red-breasted Merganser – 200

We usually get a day or 2 each spring when large numbers of ducks move north like this. The numbers of Northern Shovelers and Green-winged Teal were most impressive. Interestingly, the winds were from the north and strong, which means these birds were flying into a headwind. I also had 2 flyby Common Loons, my first of the year.

In the above photo, note the spoon-shaped bills of the Northern Shovelers, a field mark that makes them easy to identify, even in flight.

eBird Checklist
March 20, 2020

Greater White-fronted Geese (lots of ’em), March 5, 2020

Greater White-fronted Geese

Greater White-fronted Geese (click to see the larger version)

A spectacular movement of Greater White-fronted Geese occurred on March 5. Greater White-fronted Geese are rare but regular early spring migrants at Montrose. We usually see a few most years, but this flight was like nothing I’ve experienced before. I estimated 1200 passed over between 6:45 and 7:30 a.m. Most were in groups of 50-200 birds and flying north over Lake Michigan. When they reached Montrose they turned west and continued in that direction over Chicago. The majority of flocks were between 500 and 1500 feet, so even though they flew over me most were too high to photograph.

eBird Checklist
March 5, 2020

Another Long-tailed Duck, February 24, 2020

Long-tailed Duck

Long-tailed Duck (click to see the larger version)

Two female Long-tailed Ducks have been frequenting Montrose Harbor, a darker, probably immature bird, and this whiter headed individual. The darker bird hasn’t been seen in a while but the pale Long-tailed was still around on February 24.

On a side note, I grew up calling this species Oldsquaw; it took some time and effort to get used to calling it Long-tailed Duck.