Have you ever wondered how Montrose Point looks to migrating birds? We know birds fly over Montrose, sometimes at great height, but it’s hard to envision how they perceive the place. Justine Neslund snapped this pic while flying out of Chicago in early September 2021. Montrose Point can clearly be seen in the photo. The landmarks we’re familiar with, including the beach, fishing pier, and harbor are obvious. This is how a high-flying migrant like an Osprey sees Montrose during the day. What’s striking is how much the Point protrudes into Lake Michigan, which is one reason why migrating birds are drawn to it.
BirdCast, the online migration tool, is showing a big push of birds on the night of September 14 and 15. This coincides with a cold front passage late in the day on September 14. There should be a lot of bird activity at Montrose on September 15, so if you can get there by all means do. I’ve included a link to the BirdCast main page below. BirdCast is a free and easy to use resource.
The only reliable, easy to access source of fresh water for birds at the sanctuary is the small ground fountain we call the water feature. This makes it vitally important to migrants, and it’s been a magnet for warblers and other songbirds this fall. These birds are attracted to the water but find cover in the small shrub and thick vegetation inside the water feature enclosure. The water feature is about 50 yards east southeast of the Magic Hedge and runs during the warmer months of the year. The best way to bird it is to stand quietly on the dirt path that surrounds the enclosure and look for birds moving around inside.
I spent about three hours birding Montrose on September 7 and it was time well spent. I tallied 51 species for my effort and saw a number of personal first of season birds. According to eBird, almost 80 species were recorded by all observers. Swainson’s Thrushes have arrived and they seemed to be everywhere. The dogwood north of the Magic Hedge and the cherry trees in the meadow were flush with them. My highlights include
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Additionally, swarms of Chimney Swifts were moving south over the Point. I estimated 600 but that total is likely conservative. Link to my eBIrd checklist for the day below.
September 7, 2021
The dogwood just north of the north end of the Magic Hedge has been a hotspot for a variety of passerines this early fall. Birds I’ve seen feasting on its fruit include Gray Catbird, Swainson’s Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo, and Eastern Kingbird. As of early September, the shrub has abundant berries, so it should be productive for a few weeks. Look for the clusters of pea-sized white berries to find it (as far as I know, this is the only dogwood in the sanctuary). The best approach for birding it is to stand quietly 15 to 20 feet in front of it. Patience and determination are needed to pick birds out in the thick foliage.
Some of you may remember the hordes of Purple Martins that staged at Montrose in late summer in the 1970s and 1980s. It was quite a sight and quite a sound, as several thousand martins would roost in the tall cottonwoods and suddenly explode in noisy, excited flight. This spectacle is a thing of the past – most of the Purple Martins we see anymore are the nesting birds on the northwest side of the harbor, and they number less than 100. I took this photo of migrant Purple Martins staging at LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area in Indiana in late August 2021. The photo reminds me of what we used to experience at Montrose.