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.
October 16, 2020
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.
October 13, 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 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.
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.
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 (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.
October 10, 2020
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 (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.
October 5, 2020