Author Archives: rhughes

About rhughes

Robert D. Hughes lives and works in Chicago, Illinois. His professional background is in Web site management and front-end Web development. He also writes about Web development issues and works with Joomla! CMS. When he isn't sitting in front of a computer he's out in the field looking for and photographing birds and other critters.

Red-breasted Nuthatches, Fall 2022

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch (click to see the larger version)

For the second consecutive fall, Chicago is experiencing an invasion of Red-breasted Nuthatches. We’ve been seeing them daily and in good numbers at Montrose for most of September. Almost every flock of warblers has a Red-breasted Nuthatch or two associating with it. Back to back years with high numbers are atypical – usually we have to wait a few years between influxes. Some of the better places to see them are in the tree snags just west of the Magic Hedge and in the Honey Locusts south of the Magic Hedge.

Record Early Purple Sandpiper, September 17, 2022

Purple Sandpiper

Purple Sandpiper (click to see the larger version)

The highlight of an excellent day of overall birding at Montrose on September 17 was an unexpected Purple Sandpiper. The bird hung out on the fishing pier during the morning, happily feeding on some kind of insect, perhaps midges. This is the earliest Purple Sandpiper for Montrose I know of – all other records come from late October, November, and into December. Interestingly, the bird was in juvenal plumage, maybe the first record of a juvenile for Illinois. Dozens of people saw and photographed it. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.

eBird Checklist
September 17, 2022

Buff-breasted Sandpiper, September 8, 2022

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Buff-breasted Sandpiper (click to see the larger version)

The late summer shorebird bonanza continues at Montrose Beach. The show stealer on September 8 was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper that walked and fed nonchalantly among birders on the fishing pier. Shorebirds will often feed on the pier but this may be the first time a Buffy has done so. Other shorebirds seen at Montrose Beach on September 8 include the continuing juvenile Red Knot, 2 Baird’s Sandpipers, and 2 Greater Yellowlegs. Though not a shorebird, a surprise American White Pelican was also resting on the beach. We see a few flyover White Pelicans at Montrose each year, but this may be the first time one has set foot on land there.

Montrose Shorebirding – Quality Over Quantity

American Golden-Plover

American Golden-Plover (click to see the larger version)

Thirty-eight species of shorebirds have been recorded at Montrose and of this 38 about 28 are regular and occur each year. We don’t get huge numbers however, usually no more than a few dozen individuals during the height of shorebird migration in May and August. What we lack in volume we more than make up for with great, close-up views. Look at the photo of the American Golden-Plover with this post. It’s from Montrose Beach and you can see how close the bird came to the photographer. It illustrates how tame and approachable these shorebirds can be. It’s also one reason why Montrose Beach is so popular with bird photographers. To see more Montrose shorebird pics on this blog, try a keyword search for “shorebirds”.

September Shorebirds

Red Knot

Red Knot (click to see the larger version)

August is the best month for shorebirds but most of the regular August shorebirds occur in September, especially the first half of the month. As of September 4, we’ve had Red Knot, Baird’s Sandpipers, and an American Golden-Plover, plus several of the more common species. Though none have been reported, September is also good for White-rumped Sandpipers, so keep checking the beach this month.

Shorebirding Tip: Don’t forget to check the fishing pier while you’re at the beach. Shorebirds will use the pier for feeding and resting.

Elderberry Delight, Late August

Cape May Warbler and Elderberry fruit

Cape May Warbler and Elderberry fruit (click to see the larger version)

It’s late August and Elderberry fruit are ripening. A variety of birds eat the juicy berries, including several warblers, vireos, thrushes, and House Finches. To find the berries and the birds, look for clusters of small, purplish fruit on shrub-like plants. The photo accompanying this post shows what the berries look like. The stand of Elderberry at the edge of the woods at the far southeast corner of the Point has been excellent for birds this August.