Monthly Archives: October 2011

Sage Thrasher!

Sage Thrasher

Sage Thrasher. Photo by Kanae Hirabayashi.

A Sage Thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus) was discovered at Montrose on Saturday, October 29 by local birder and nature photographer Rob Curtis. The bird was still present the next day, much to the delight of those who couldn’t make it to Montrose on Saturday. This is a NEW species for Montrose, number 334. Sage Thrashers are found in the western United States but occasionally wander to the eastern United States, particularly in the fall. This is about the 6th record for Illinois. The photo at left was taken by my good friend Kanae Hirabayashi. October, or Rocktober as I like to call it, rarely disappoints.

For a complete list of the birds seen at Montrose, see the Montrose List.

Common Gallinule, October 27, 2011

Common Gallinule

Common Gallinule

Local birder Steve Spitzer found a Common Gallinule inside Montrose Harbor today. I relocated the bird late in the afternoon. Common Gallinule is extremely rare at Montrose, with perhaps 2 previous records. It was also a new Montrose bird for me, number 327. This species was known as Common Moorhen until very recently.

For a complete list of the birds seen at Montrose, see the Montrose List.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

A Red-tailed Hawk has been hanging around Montrose for the past couple days. Both times that I’ve seen the bird it’s crop has been full, so obviously it hasn’t had trouble finding food, which isn’t surprising considering all the chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits that call Montrose home. A winged Tyrannosaurus rex indeed.

Northern Shrike, October 24, 2011

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

I had a brief look at a Northern Shrike at Montrose this morning. Northern Shrikes are rare anytime at Montrose so this was a nice surprise. There were also good numbers of typical October birds, including Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Hermit Thrushes.

The most dramatic sighting of the morning was a Red-tailed Hawk being mercilessly harassed and pursued by a group of American Crows. The group name for American Crow is “murder of crows”, and watching this spectacle I can see how this name originated.

I went back out later in the day and found a Snow Bunting on Montrose Beach. Snow Buntings are songbirds that nest in the high arctic all around the world and winter in mid-latitudes. This bird hopped up on a fence post and posed very obligingly for me.

October 18, 2011

There were good numbers of birds at Montrose on this cold and gray October morning, especially White-throated Sparrows and kinglets. My highlights include American Pipit, Purple Finch, a Northern Harrier winging south out over Lake Michigan, and a Sharp-shinned Hawk that almost became breakfast for a Cooper’s Hawk. Sharp-shinned Hawks, or Sharpies as they are known in the birding community, are fairly unusual at Montrose. The lowlight was an unidentified sparrow that came in off the lake around dawn and was set upon by a gang of Ring-billed Gulls. This gruesome spectacle occurs fairly regularly in the fall at Montrose as passerines get caught out over Lake Michigan during migration after the sun rises. They then have to run a veritable gauntlet of hungry gulls to make it to shore and safety.

Water Crib

Water Crib

I’ve included a photo of one of the water cribs that lie a couple miles offshore from Chicago. These cribs pump water from Lake Michigan to filtration plants near Navy Pier and on the south side of the city. The filtration plants purify the water and then deliver it via a system of pipes to the residents and businesses of Chicago, as well as some of the nearby suburbs. One time I was at Montrose and I got into a conversation with an out-of-towner about the crib. This fellow remarked that the crib reminded him of Alcatraz. Perhaps he was speaking from personal experience.

Short-eared Owl, October 17, 2011

A Short-eared Owl, my first of the season, was at Montrose this morning. The bird flew in from the north over the beach and ended up in the meadow, where I last saw it. I also had Pine Siskin, Purple Finch, and Horned Lark this a.m. There seemed to be good numbers of birds around. I wish I could have stayed longer. It was a beautiful, crisp October morning.