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.
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.
Montrose Dunes is completely open. Chicago Park District personnel removed the fence that prevented access to the beach. You can now walk out to the beach from the Dunes. Note that the pannes are still roped off; please stay out of them to protect the vegetation.
Birding tip: The small grove of willows near the shoreline in the Dunes can be good in fall migration for warblers and other passerines.
The heavy rain on the night of August 24 flooded parts of the Dunes and beach at Montrose, creating shorebird habitat. Before the rain the Dunes and beach were bone dry. We’ll see how long this habitat lasts. We’re in the peak of shorebird migration, so additional rain can only help.
A Whimbrel made a brief appearance at Montrose on August 22, the first one reported this summer. We’re coming into the peak time for Whimbrels, from late August to early September. Take a look at the screenshot below from eBird.
Obviously the beach is the best place to look for Whimbrels. We see them along the shore, up on the beach mixed in with Ring-billed Gulls, in the Dunes, and flying by. Whimbrels are vociferous birds and their loud, excited call is distinctive. Don’t forget to check the beach and Dunes in the afternoon and evening too.