Panne and Chicago Skyline (click to see the larger version)
With the rain last night and the dense fog this morning I was hoping for a warblers-dripping-from-the-trees kind of morning at Montrose today, but it didn’t happen. Not that there weren’t birds – during my brief visit I snagged a Least Bittern and a roosting Eastern Whip-poor-will, thanks to a couple friendly birders. Also, Soras were flushing left and right from the pannes, which, thanks to last night’s rain, are soaking wet and looking very good for rails.
I took this photo from the western panne with the north Chicago skyline in the background. Note the layer of fog over Lake Michigan. Visibility was down to about 75 yards at one point.
American Bittern (click to see the larger version)
It’s axiomatic among Chicago lakefront birders that warm fronts with southwest winds in spring bring large numbers of migrants to the Chicago lakefront parks. That axiom was in full effect at Montrose Point today, April 12. I had the day off and spent a little over 3 hours at Montrose, tallying 69 species for my effort. Most impressive was the high volume of Eastern Phoebes, Hermit Thrushes, Yellow-rumped Warblers and other mid-spring migrants. I knew I was in for a good morning when I saw Northern Flickers and flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers and American Robins coming in off Lake Michigan. I didn’t bird Montrose much in March because of the cold weather, so seeing all these migrants was a nice way to get back in the birding saddle.
Some of the other birds I saw at Montrose this a.m. include migrating Osprey and Northern Harriers, a lingering White-winged Scoter, American Woodcock, Wilson’s Snipe, Pectoral Sandpipers, Dunlin, migrating Common Loons, and a cooperative American Bittern. Link to my eBird checklist below.
I spent a couple hours at Montrose today, February 24. It was a cold morning and the east winds off Lake Michigan made it feel even chillier. I ended up with 23 species for my effort, not particularly impressive, but I did have a few bona fide spring migrants. My highlights include
Cackling Geese – 4 flying north with a group of Canada Geese
White-winged Scoters – 2, 1 in the harbor and the other near the end of the fishing pier
Northern Pintail – 6 flying north over the lake
Gadwall – 3 with the pintails
Great Black-backed Gull – 1 first/second cycle bird at the beach
The fishing pier is now ice-free and the massive ice shelves on the beach have disappeared. Our local wintering Snowy Owl is probably not too thrilled about this.
I had a Snowy Owl at Montrose this morning, February 17. This is the first Snowy Owl I’ve seen at Montrose in several weeks, my last sighting being January 21 (see the post below). The bird was at the end of the fishing pier, the first place you should look for Snowies if you visit Montrose to look for them. While I was watching the Snowy, an adventurous (foolish, really) young man walked all the way to the end of the pier and flushed the bird a couple times. Most of the pier is still covered in ice and snow and most definitely treacherous to walk on; a person could easily end up going for a swim in Lake Michigan if not careful. The only other birds of interest I saw this a.m. were a White-throated Sparrow and a Swamp Sparrow, both feeding with House Sparrows near the main entrance to the sanctuary.
Snowy Owl (click to see the larger version)
This continues to be a banner winter for Snowy Owls along the Chicago lakefront. This morning, January 21, I had 2 Snowies at Montrose, both at the east end of the beach. One bird was on the fishing pier and the other was on the ice shelves on the beach. Despite the warmup we’re currently experiencing, the fishing pier still has ice in places; if you venture onto it be careful or you could end up in the lake.
Short-eared Owl (click to see the larger version)
I had a fine morning of birding at Montrose today, October 28, highlighted by 3 Short-eared Owls in the dunes, including this perched individual. This may be the first Short-eared I’ve seen at Montrose that wasn’t flying. Days with brisk west winds in late October are best for seeing these birds at Montrose.