As expected, the strong south winds brought a lot of migrants to Montrose Point on March 30. I ended up with 41 species in a little over two hours of effort, and 57 species were reported on eBird by all observers. Most impressive were the numbers of Northern Flickers coming in off Lake Michigan early in the morning. These birds were migrating north over the lake at night, and when the sun rose they started to head inland towards land and safety. No passerine or other landbird worth its life wants to get caught over Lake Michigan when the sun comes up. The local Peregrine Falcons and Herring Gulls relish hunting these tardy migrants as they make their way to shore. I also had multiple first of spring sightings, including Caspian Tern, Belted Kingfisher, Hermit Thrush, and Lapland Longspur. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
Migration screenshot for March 30 (click to see the larger version)
I’ve included this screenshot from the night of March 30 to show what migration looks like on radar. The blue rings or “doughnuts” are groups of birds picked up by radar as they migrate in the night sky. This is a typical scenario during spring and fall migration. The birds are common spring migrants like Dark-eyed Juncos, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.
Chicago weather forecast for March 21 – 24 (click to see the larger version)
It looks like we’re in for a nice stretch of favorable migration conditions from March 21 to 24, with southerly winds each day. Montrose should be excellent during this period. We should see an influx of “later” early spring migrants like Golden-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, Eastern Towhees, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and others. As always, check the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for current sightings.
Turkey Vulture. Photo courtesy of Tamima Itani. (click to see the larger version)
It’s axiomatic among Chicago lakefront birders that southwest winds in spring produce lots of migrants. Today, March 8, reaffirmed that maxim. I ended up with 42 species in a couple of hours of birding, including a number of new birds for the year. Large numbers of blackbirds and Canada Geese were moving on the south winds, and we had a number of unusual sightings. Best for the morning were
Chicago weather forecast for March 6 – 13 (click to see the larger version)
The forecast for March 8 to March 11 looks propitious for a strong movement of birds, with southwest winds each day. This is an ideal setup for a big push of blackbirds, American Robins, waterfowl, and other early spring migrants. If you can get to Montrose any of these days, by all means do. We wait all winter for a stretch of favorable migration conditions like this.
The main entrance to Montrose has been closed a couple of times in the morning since the park reopened in late February. The gate should be open by sunrise but was still locked at 6:30 a.m. and 7:15 a.m. when I tried driving in in early March. If this happens, drive north to the entrance at Wilson Avenue or Lawrence Avenue and enter there. You can also enter the park at Foster Avenue.
Great Black-backed Gull soaring over the Point (click to see the larger version)
March 2 could have passed for February 2 or even January 2, it was that cold and wintry. The harbor even refroze after being open for a few days. Most of the birds I saw were January or February birds but migrants are trickling in. Red-winged Blackbirds have arrived in small numbers and Horned Larks have been seen the last few days. Both of these species are bona fide and expected early spring migrants, and usually the first spring songbird migrants we see. My most unusual sighting was an adult Great Black-backed Gull soaring high over the Point. The warmer weather and south winds forecast for the next few days should bring in more migrants.