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.
Long-billed Curlew. Photo by L. Munoz. (click to see the larger version)
This is turning out to be a fantastic spring for rarities at Montrose. A Long-billed Curlew graced Montrose Beach on the morning of April 13. The bird flew off after a few minutes but returned a short while later before departing again for good. This is the first Illinois record since 1985 and a new species for Montrose, bringing the site total to a whopping 345.
Long-tailed Duck (click to see the larger version)
What nature giveth, nature also taketh away. Seeing a dead bird is always sad. Seeing a dead bird as beautiful as a male Long-tailed Duck is poignant. This deceased Long-tailed Duck was on Montrose Beach on April 3. The bird was alive (but apparently not well) the day before but for unknown reasons didn’t survive. The specimen will go to the Field Museum where it will be available to scientists and others to study. Long-tailed Ducks are regular visitors to Lake Michigan during the colder months of the year.
A strong movement of northbound waterfowl occurred at Montrose this morning, March 30. Geoff Williamson and I stood at the end of the fishing pier for a couple of hours and watched flock after flock of diving and dabbling ducks moving north along Lake Michigan. Most were scaup and Redheads but we also had small numbers of Canvasbacks (uncommon at Montrose), Northern Pintails, Gadwall, American Wigeon, and smaller numbers of Northern Shovelers and Green-winged Teal. We also had a couple of Common Loons and Iceland and Great Black-backed Gulls. A group of White-winged Scoters (~12) was still on the lake off the end of the fishing pier. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
Well, the Barred Owl that was at the Jarvis Bird Sanctuary in Lincoln Park on March 22 wandered north to Montrose (Montrose is about a mile north of Jarvis). This is a big deal for us, the first confirmed Barred Owl record for Montrose and one of only a handful of records for Lincoln Park. Hard to believe I know, but Barred Owls are rare in Chicago; chalk it up to a lack of extensive forest in the city. The bird was viewed and photographed by many. A big shoutout to the mob of American Crows for locating it. To see a list of the birds recorded at Montrose, refer to the Montrose List page.
Today was a good day to look at Lake Michigan – overcast skies, a flat surface, and excellent visibility most of the way to the horizon, perfect conditions for looking for birds on the water. While scanning the lake I found several groups of White-winged Scoters, a female Black Scoter, and 4 Long-tailed Ducks. The White-winged Scoters (~20) were scattered in small flocks 1/5 to 1/4 mile offshore from the fishing pier. With one of these flocks was a female Black Scoter, a good bird for Montrose in the spring. Finally, I saw a group of Long-tailed Ducks flying south far offshore. These birds landed eventually but disappeared because of distance. Also of note were about a dozen Double-crested Cormorants on the water crib a couple of miles offshore from Montrose, the beginnings of the nesting colony. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
Birding has been slow this winter at Montrose. My best days have maxed out at between 20 and 24 species. This is typical but in some years we at least have Snowy Owls to keep us entertained and to pass the time until spring and migration arrive. Not this year. Not one Snowy Owl has been reported at Montrose this winter.
Today, February 22, was no different; I tallied 24 species in 90 minutes of birding, but the ice formations on Lake Michigan made the long walk out onto the fishing pier worthwhile. I’m always impressed by the geometry of these formations. In this picture, one of the pieces in the foreground looks perfectly square, the piece above it looks perfectly rectangular, and the large piece to the left looks trapezoidal. Nature’s artwork. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.