A male Red-winged Blackbird surprised me on February 15. It seems a little early for them, but Red-wingeds didn’t (and usually don’t) winter at Montrose, so this bird has to be a migrant. Along with Red-wings, other early spring passerine migrants we should start seeing in the next couple weeks include Horned Larks, Song Sparrows, and Eastern Meadowlarks. Waterfowl diversity will also pick up during this period. Check weather reports for warm fronts and south winds as these are the conditions that bring in spring migrants.
Getting around Montrose Point in winter can be tricky, even treacherous because of ice and snow covered streets, paths, and sidewalks. A recent visit confirmed this – I found deep, almost impassable snowdrifts along the path that borders the south side of the Dunes and ice on the walkway around the southeast end of the Point. If you go to Montrose this winter, please be mindful of these conditions and exercise caution while walking.
Chicago area birder David Johnson likes to point out that February is a good month for White-winged Scoters on Lake Michigan. Indeed, the first White-winged Scoters we see at Montrose show up in February. On February 9, a group of three White-wingeds flew north past the Point, the first report of this species at Montrose in 2022. The best way to look for White-winged Scoters at Montrose is to spend time along the immediate lakefront, scanning Lake Michigan for waterfowl on the lake or flying by. Flocks of 20 or more birds are seen on occasion. White-wingeds can also turn up at or just outside the harbor mouth.
Terry Walsh found a tame female Surf Scoter at the harbor mouth on February 7. Surf Scoters are rare winter visitors to the Chicago lakefront in winter. This bird brightened what was otherwise an unremarkable morning of birding in a usually uneventful month. February isn’t much different than January in terms of avian variety, though towards the end of the month we can start seeing early migrants, especially if we get a warmup. Link to my eBird checklist below.
Tip: Don’t forget to check the harbor mouth when birding Montrose. Waterfowl and grebes can be hidden from view if you only scan the east, south, or north sides of the harbor. To do this, park at the west end of the harbor near the turnaround and walk over to the harbor mouth.
February 7, 2022