I didn’t have great expectations for October 31. The forecast called for south winds and south winds in late October never produce many birds at Montrose. Despite the unfavorable weather conditions, I was pleasantly surprised by what I did see. A couple of dead salmon washed up on Montrose Beach that attracted the attention of some Herring Gulls, which attracted the attention of a juvenile Iceland Gull. This was my first Iceland Gull of the season. Another birder alerted me to a scoter on Lake Michigan off the beach that turned out to be a Surf Scoter, another first of the season. The biggest surprise was a late Wood Thrush, the latest Wood Thrush I’ve had at Montrose, and probably anywhere else. Rounding out the list were four Common Redpolls and a couple of Snow Buntings. I tallied 37 species in three hours of birding. My eBird checklist for the morning has photos of the Iceland Gull and Surf Scoter. Follow the URL below to see it.
Two Common Redpolls were at Montrose on October 30. These were the first of hopefully what will be many more this season. Both were feeding in weeds on the side of the path between the Golf Course Pond and harbor. This is forecast to be an excellent fall and winter for finches. We’ve already had record numbers of Pine Siskins and good numbers of Purple Finches. To see redpolls at Montrose, check any weedy area, such as the native planting areas at the east end of the Point or north of the Golf Course. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
I live on the outskirts of Wrigleyville in Chicago, about a mile from Montrose Point and its famous bird sanctuary. My third-floor apartment offers a decent and relatively unobstructed view to the west. When I’m home I often look out my windows to see if anything is flying by. I’ve had some interesting birds and birding experiences over the years – Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons, big flights of Common Nighthawks in late summer, and when the conditions are right, flocks of Sandhill Cranes in late fall. On the morning of October 28, 11 Sandhills came in from the north, not far from my apartment building. Sandhill Cranes are less common close to Lake Michigan – I rarely get large flights of them, unless the wind is strong and from the west, which it was on October 28. When those conditions occur, and I have time to look, I sometimes see hundreds or even thousands moving south. I didn’t have a lot of time that day, so those 11 Sandhills were all I saw.
If you live in Chicago and want to see Sandhill Cranes, check the skies from late October to early December on days with strong west winds following the passage of a cold front. You might see them under other weather conditions but they move en masse on days with west winds, the stronger the better.
Long-tailed Duck (click to see the larger version)
A female Long-tailed Duck has been hanging around the fishing pier at Montrose for the last few days. On October 28 I saw her near the end of the pier on the Lake Michigan side. Long-tailed Ducks are uncommon but regular late fall through early spring visitors to Montrose.
October 28 was an interesting day with a nice mix of birds. I ended up with 49 species for about 2 hours of effort, and 60 species were reported to eBird for the day. Some of my highlights include
Snow Buntings are one of the last fall migrant passerines we see at Montrose. Two showed up in the Dunes on October 24, the first of the season. Montrose Snow Buntings can be tame and approachable, as the photo suggests. The best way to see them is to check the Dunes, especially the more open sandy areas at the south end. I’ve included a link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
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.