An adult Red-throated Loon was hanging around the end of the fishhook pier at Montrose this morning. Red-throated Loons are rare but regular late fall and early winter migrants at Montrose. This bird was very cooperative, as can be gathered from the photo. Note the ruby red eye.
I won’t be reporting any future Snowy Owl sightings from Montrose because of the continued harassment these birds have been receiving, both from birders and non-birders. I admit that it might be too late but I think enough people have seen, enjoyed and photographed these birds that it’s now time to leave them alone. I’m not going to tell people what to do and I’m not casting blame but I would encourage anyone who sees Snowy Owls at Montrose to consider their welfare and think twice about publicly reporting any future Snowy Owl sightings.
The Snowy Owl extravaganza continues at Montrose. Two birds were seen there over the weekend of December 10-11. I saw and photographed the bird at right on Sunday, December 11. Based on the heavy barring and complete tail bands I think this individual is a female. I’ve been birding for 34 years and this is one of the best years I can remember for Snowy Owls. To date, about 8 different Snowies have been seen at Montrose this fall and winter. The last major invasion of Snowy Owls into Illinois occurred in 1996-97.
An interesting little tidbit about Snowy Owl taxonomy. For a long time the scientific name of Snowy Owl was Nyctea scandiaca. The generic name was changed recently to Bubo, which is the “eagle owl” genus and includes our Great Horned Owl. The thinking is that Snowy Owls are really derived eagle owls, adapted for life on the tundra.
This continues to be an exceptional year for Snowy Owls in Illinois. I saw these 2 birds at Montrose this morning, December 7. Both birds were initially on the fishing pier but flew south into the native planting area at the southeast corner of the point and perched together on a sign there. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen 2 Snowy Owls so close to each other before. Both birds appear to be immature males.
A first cycle Glaucous Gull has been hanging around Montrose Beach for a couple days. Thayer’s and Lesser Black-backed Gulls have also been seen at Montrose recently. These gulls are attracted to the dead salmon that wash up on the beach. Glaucous Gulls breed in the high arctic all around the world. They are rare but regular winter visitors to Illinois.
Two Snow Geese have been at Montrose for the last week. Snow Geese are rare visitors to Montrose, occurring mostly in the fall. These two were part of a moderately large incursion of Snow Geese into the lower Lake Michigan area over the Thanksgiving holiday. The photo at left is of the white morph bird. The other Snow Goose was a dark morph bird.