March is the month for waterfowl and one of the more uncommon waterfowl species at Montrose is Greater White-fronted Goose. We usually see them in early March or even late February if the weather is right. Sometimes large movements involving hundreds of birds occur, but a few dozen is more typical. For some reason, we saw only one White-fronted at Montrose in spring 2023, a flyover immature on March 26. This is a bit late but also a helpful reminder that birds don’t always behave like we expect them to. One interesting tidbit about White-fronted Geese is that hunters refer to them as specklebellies, an allusion to the prominent dark spotting and barring on the underparts of the adults.
I’ve decided not to post any more owl photos online, including this blog, social media, and eBird. Doing so only encourages others to photograph and possibly disturb them, and maybe even tip people off about their location. I made this decision after watching how photographers behaved towards the Long-eared Owls that wintered at Montrose in 2022/2023. Once word of these birds got out, photographers set up just feet from where the Long-eareds were roosting. This caused the owls to move to another, more secluded area or leave altogether. I admit that I’ve been part of the problem by posting my owl photos on the internet, but I won’t do it anymore. We’re not just birders and photographers. We’re also conservationists, and a decent consideration of the welfare of these birds should take precedence over the attention we get from posting our photos on Facebook and other platforms. The internet is full of owl photos. It doesn’t need more.
Few birds spark feelings of ecstacy the way Ross’s Gull does, so when one showed up at Park 566 on the south side of Chicago on March 11, 2023, it generated a lot of excitement in the birding community. Hordes of eager birders descended on Park 566 and Rainbow Beach to see what may be the rarity of the decade in Chicago. The Ross’s obliged and put on a show worthy of its status as one of the most sought after of North American birds. This is the fourth record of Ross’s Gull for Illinois, and the first record of an immature for the state. Many excellent photos are at the Park 566 eBird Hotspot.
Ross’s Gulls at Montrose Point
Montrose has two confirmed Ross’s Gull sightings, the first from November 1978 and the second from March 2011. The 1978 record is the same bird first seen at Gillson Park along Lake Michigan in Wilmette, Illinois. This individual made its way south to Chicago, where it was observed at North Avenue Beach and again at Montrose. The 2011 record is of a well-photographed adult sitting on the fishing pier.
We’ll get a shot of milder air and south winds starting March 15 and lasting a couple days. At this point, Thursday, March 16 looks like the better day for birding. We should see an influx of typical early spring migrants, including Eastern Phoebe, American Woodcock, and Rusty Blackbird. As always, check the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for recent sightings.
An impressive flight of dabbling and bay ducks took place on the morning of March 2. This flight included numbers of Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Redheads, and Canvasbacks, the latter uncommon at Montrose. Most of these birds were flying north into a strong headwind. This seems counterintuitive but is typical behavior for migrating spring ducks along the western shore of Lake Michigan.