Herring and Ring-billed Gulls feeding in the algae mat at Montrose Beach (click to see the larger version)
The title of this post sounds like the title of a horror or monster movie — “Return of the Green Gunk!” On December 14 I was pleasantly surprised to find an extensive algae* mat at the east end of Montrose Beach. This algae mat developed when a powerful early winter storm churned up Lake Michigan and dumped large amounts of the stuff on the beach. I also noticed a group of Herring and Ring-billed Gulls picking through the algae for food. From what I could tell, and from what I’ve seen in the past, the gulls were hunting crayfish that washed in with the algae. Why does this matter? Because groups of active, feeding gulls attract more gulls that could include something unusual. Now that winter is here, there are multiple, possible rare gulls to consider. The algae could also attract a rare shorebird like a Purple Sandpiper or Red Phalarope. So if you venture out to Montrose this winter don’t forget to check the beach, and if there’s an algae mat, check it too. Once the beach gets covered in ice the algae mat won’t be accessible to gulls and shorebirds.
Only a birder gets excited about algae mats, right?
The eBird database will be unavailable from 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time on November 17 until 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time on November 19. You won’t be able to enter your sightings or view checklists using the ebird.org website. You can still enter your sightings with the eBird Mobile app and submit them when eBird is back up. This article from Cornell has more information – Cornell Lab Scheduled Database Maintenance.
Shorebirds and Algae (click to see the larger version)
Green gunk has returned to Montrose Beach. Green gunk is just algae that has washed up and accumulated on the beach. Shorebirds love to feed in this stuff. This morning, July 26, there were ~30 Sanderlings, ~6 Semipalmated Sandpipers, a fresh juvenile Least Sandpiper, 4 Semipalmated Plovers, plus the local Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers feeding in the gunk inside the protected area at he east end of the beach.
The Birds of Illinois list on the Illinois Ornithological Society website has been updated to reflect taxonomic changes and recent additions and removals. The list is available for downloading as Word, RTF, Excel, and PDF documents. Go to the Birds of Illinois page on the IOS website.