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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? Contact Robert D. Hughes.

About Me

Robert Hughes

Photo by Karen Mansfield

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. I also write about Web development issues and get social with social media. My non-work life revolves around my family, birding, and managing my extensive online presence.

Robert D. Hughes
January 17, 2018

Tree Top Feeding Passerines

Passerines feeding on flies

Passerines feeding on flies (click to see the larger version)

If you were at Montrose on May 5 you probably noticed the many passerines feeding in the tops of trees that were leafing out. These birds – Gray Catbirds, Swainson’s Thrushes, Baltimore Orioles, and a variety of warblers and sparrows were feeding on small flies. I also saw a Prothonotary Warbler and White-eyed Vireo doing the same. I’m not sure what kind of flies these were, possibly midges, but it was enjoyable to watch normally ground dwelling birds up high and above eye level.

This photo shows Red-winged Blackbirds, White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows, Gray Catbirds, and a Swainson’s Thrush, all feasting on flies.

May 5, 2018

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird (click to see the larger version)

The hit parade of spring migration wonderfulness continued today, May 5 at Montrose. I ended up with 101 species in 6 hours of birding, only the fifth time I’ve topped 100 species in a day at Montrose. Passerines were abundant, with White-crowned, White-throated, and Swamp Sparrows and Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers leading the way. There were also good numbers of Gray Catbirds and Swainson’s Thrushes. Interestingly, many of these birds were feeding in the tops of trees that were just leafing out, apparently on newly emerged midges. Shorebird variety, however, was low, which was surprising given the complete lack of dogs on the beach (thanks to CPD security) and the presence of a large fluddle on the public beach. The large number of people probably didn’t help (there were 2 major events at Montrose today). My highlights include

White-eyed Vireo – 1, feeding in the top of trees, a common theme today
All 6 regularly occurring swallows
Golden-crowned Kinglet – 1, getting late
20 species of warbler, the best being Prothonotary and Golden-winged. Only Yellow-rumped, Palm, Northern Waterthrush, and Ovenbird were common however
Clay-colored Sparrow – 2
Lark Sparrow – 1
Yellow-breasted Chat – 1
Yellow-headed Blackbird – 1
Orchard Oriole – 2

eBird Checklist
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45299316

May 3, 2018

Panne and Chicago Skyline

Panne and Chicago Skyline (click to see the larger version)

With the rain last night and the dense fog this morning I was hoping for a warblers-dripping-from-the-trees kind of morning at Montrose today, but it didn’t happen. Not that there weren’t birds – during my brief visit I snagged a Least Bittern and a roosting Eastern Whip-poor-will, thanks to a couple friendly birders. Also, Soras were flushing left and right from the pannes, which, thanks to last night’s rain, are soaking wet and looking very good for rails.

I took this photo from the western panne with the north Chicago skyline in the background. Note the layer of fog over Lake Michigan. Visibility was down to about 75 yards at one point.

Montrose Unleashed, Part II, May 1, 2018

Franklin's Gull

Franklin’s Gull (click to see the larger version)

I took today off in anticipation of what I expected to be a great day of birding at Montrose Point in Chicago. It was fantastic, exceeding even my own optimistic expectations. The southwest winds brought in a ton of migrants – I’ve lost track of all the FOS’s I snatched up today. A review of eBird reports from Montrose shows about 125 species reported from about 20 submissions. This will probably go down as one of the best days this spring. My highlights include

Baird’s Sandpiper – Probably the same bird from yesterday. A very good spring bird for us.
Willet – 2
Franklin’s Gull – Older immature bird on the beach
All 6 regularly occurring swallows
All Catharus thrushes plus Wood Thrush. Excellent numbers of Swainson’s Thrushes.
19 species of warblers highlighted by Pine, Hooded, Blackpoll, Chestnut-sided, and Blackburnian
Grasshopper Sparrow – 1
Le Conte’s Sparrow – 1
Dickcissel – 1
Bobolink – 1
Orchard Oriole – 1
Rusty Blackbird – 1

I ended up with 102 species for the day, only the fourth time I’ve cracked the century mark at Montrose in the 30+ years of been birding the place.

eBird Checklist
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45143092

Montrose Unleashed, April 12, 2018

American Bittern

American Bittern (click to see the larger version)

It’s axiomatic among Chicago lakefront birders that warm fronts with southwest winds in spring bring large numbers of migrants to the Chicago lakefront parks. That axiom was in full effect at Montrose Point today, April 12. I had the day off and spent a little over 3 hours at Montrose, tallying 69 species for my effort. Most impressive was the high volume of Eastern Phoebes, Hermit Thrushes, Yellow-rumped Warblers and other mid-spring migrants. I knew I was in for a good morning when I saw Northern Flickers and flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers and American Robins coming in off Lake Michigan. I didn’t bird Montrose much in March because of the cold weather, so seeing all these migrants was a nice way to get back in the birding saddle.

Some of the other birds I saw at Montrose this a.m. include migrating Osprey and Northern Harriers, a lingering White-winged Scoter, American Woodcock, Wilson’s Snipe, Pectoral Sandpipers, Dunlin, migrating Common Loons, and a cooperative American Bittern. Link to my eBird checklist below.

eBird Checklist
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44493797

Cackling Geese, White-winged Scoters, and Great Black-backed Gull, February 24, 2018

I spent a couple hours at Montrose today, February 24. It was a cold morning and the east winds off Lake Michigan made it feel even chillier. I ended up with 23 species for my effort, not particularly impressive, but I did have a few bona fide spring migrants. My highlights include

Cackling Geese – 4 flying north with a group of Canada Geese
White-winged Scoters – 2, 1 in the harbor and the other near the end of the fishing pier
Northern Pintail – 6 flying north over the lake
Gadwall – 3 with the pintails
Great Black-backed Gull – 1 first/second cycle bird at the beach

The fishing pier is now ice-free and the massive ice shelves on the beach have disappeared. Our local wintering Snowy Owl is probably not too thrilled about this.

eBird Checklist
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43135900