Featured post

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 bird and nature 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

On June 22, 2020, Chicago opened its lakefront trails to the public. This includes the trails at Montrose Point. See my Montrose Is Open Again blog post for more information. Also see the Montrose FAQ page for updated information regarding parking and restroom availability.

The Magic Hedge. The Dunes. The Butterfly Garden. Do you know what these terms mean? The Montrose Glossary has descriptions of these and other terms used when referring to Montrose.

A juvenile Purple Gallinule delighted birders on September 23. This is just the second record for Montrose. See the Purple Gallinule post for details.

Header Photo: White-winged Scoters from Montrose Harbor

Virginia Rail, October 16, 2020

Virginia Rail

Virginia Rail (click to see the larger version)

Rails show up in the strangest places. Friend and fellow Montrose birder Dave Antieau alerted me to this Virginia Rail floating on Lake Michigan off the fishing pier on October 16. I’m guessing the bird was migrating over the lake and got chased into the water by marauding gulls or one of the local Peregrine Falcons and stayed there for its own safety. It also could have been stunned from striking the pier on its way in to shore. It’s a good thing rails can swim well.

I’ve found dead Soras and Virginia Rails on the fishing pier and concrete revetment at Montrose in the past. I think these birds crash into the pier and revetment as they’re coming into shore after a night of migration. They must not see these structures in the dark well enough to avoid hitting them. I’ve included a link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.

On a side note, all eight species of rails recorded in Illinois have also been recorded at Montrose. This includes Black Rail (2 records), Yellow Rail (multiple records), and Purple Gallinule (2 records). Not bad for a small park in one of the largest and most densely populated urban areas in the United States. The Montrose List page shows all the birds recorded at Montrose.

eBird Checklist
October 16, 2020

Northern Shrike, October 13, 2020

Northern Shrike

Northern Shrike (click to see the larger version)

Always exciting to see, I had an immature Northern Shrike on October 13, 2020. We know the bird is immature because of the brownish upperparts and indistinct face mask. Adult Northern Shrikes have gray upperparts, black wings, and a more distinct dark face mask. This is the first Northern Shrike of the season at Montrose. Hopefully, we’ll get more! Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.

eBird Checklist
October 13, 2020

COVID-19 Update, October 2020

People have been asking me about parking and restroom availability at Montrose since COVID-19 affected visiting the park. This is what I know.

Parking
Parking is not allowed on West Montrose Harbor Drive or West Montrose Avenue. You run the risk of getting ticketed or towed if you do. The safer bet is to park on North Marine Drive (west of Lake Shore Drive) and walk in. See the map below for details.

Restrooms
The public restrooms at the beach house are closed. The only options are portable toilets at the north end of the harbor, just west of the yacht club building, and on the south side of the harbor. The toilets are within easy walking distance of the Magic Hedge. They’re not the Ritz but if you’re in a pinch they’ll do.

Additional Advice
If you visit Montrose wear a face mask, don’t gather in groups, and maintain at least six feet of distance between yourself and others. These rules are meant to promote public safety. The city closed Montrose in March because visitors were gathering in large groups and not maintaining enough distance between each other. Don’t be part of the problem, and don’t give the city an excuse to close Montrose again. We missed most of spring migration in 2020 because of irresponsible behavior by selfish people.

Map of Montrose Point
(Click to see the larger version)

Brewer’s Blackbird, October 10, 2020

Brewer's Blackbird

Brewer’s Blackbird (click to see the larger version)

It’s hard to believe Brewer’s Blackbird is rare anywhere in Illinois but they are at Montrose Point in Chicago. They nest to the north of us in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan, but for whatever reason, they largely avoid the Chicago lakefront. So seeing one at Montrose on October 10 was exciting. The bird, a female, was in the Dunes for a few minutes before flying south and disappearing. More photos of the Brewer’s are at my eBird checklist for the morning, URL below.

eBird Checklist
October 10, 2020

Peregrine Falcons

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon (click to see the larger version)

We see two different kinds of Peregrine Falcons at Montrose — local birds that were born in Chicago and birds that nest in the Canadian Arctic and pass through during migration. The local birds were introduced as part of a program to establish a breeding population in the city. These birds nest on skyscrapers and are part of a self-sustaining population. Most of the Peregrines that frequent Montrose are these local birds. We know this because they’ve been banded for identification and to keep track of their movements. The Peregrines that hunt from the tower on the fishing pier for example are local birds. We also see Peregrines that lack leg bands and show plumage characteristics of the subspecies that breeds in the Arctic, Falco Peregrinus Tundrius. These migratory Peregrines show up in late September and early October on their way south. The photo shows a probable juvenile Arctic or Tundra Peregrine. This bird lacks leg bands and is pale headed. Photographed at Montrose in September 2020.

Cape May Warbler and Scale Insects, October 2020

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler (click to see the larger version)

I’ve been seeing this Cape May Warbler for several days in the same small hawthorn tree. I posted photos online and someone noticed what look like scale insects on the branches. Scale insects are a group of insects that don’t move and suck plant juices for sustenance. You can see them festooning the branches in the lower right corner of the photo — they look like tiny white flakes or clumps of rice grains. Putting two and two together, I’m guessing the Cape May Warbler has been frequenting this particular hawthorn because of the abundant scale insects and the food they provide it. More photos of the Cape May Warbler and scale insects are at my eBird checklist for October 5, URL below.

eBird Checklist
October 5, 2020