Category Archives: Fall Bird Reports

September 1 – November 30, inclusive

Franklin’s Gull, September 16, 2020

Franklin's Gull

Franklin’s Gull (click to see the larger version)

An immature (first cycle) Franklin’s Gull was at Montrose Beach on September 16. This is the time of the year when they start to show up on Chicago lakefront beaches. Large numbers, sometimes in the dozens, can occur in October, especially after strong west winds. Checking groups of Ring-billed Gulls is the best way to find Franklin’s in the fall. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.

Franklin’s Gull is named after the English Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, not the American statesman Benjamin Franklin. Easy mistake to make. Some eponymous bird names may be in trouble because of the questionable activities of their namesakes. As far as I can tell Franklin’s Gull is safe.

Franklin's Gull

Franklin’s Gull (click to see the larger version)

In the second photo note the white outer tail feather, a field mark that distinguishes first cycle Franklin’s Gulls from similarly aged Laughing Gulls. This field mark isn’t easy to see and other characteristics like size, structure, and face pattern are more obvious.

eBird Checklist
September 16, 2020

Sanderlings as Grasspipers

Sanderlings

Sanderlings (click to see the larger version)

Grasspiper – A shorebird often found in short-grass habitat, e.g., Buff-breasted Sandpiper.

More fun with Sanderlings at Montrose. On September 12 I noticed a group flying around the grassy field south of the beach. Eventually some landed and began feeding. I’m not sure I’ve seen this behavior before. Sanderlings show high fidelity to sandy beaches but like other birds can adjust their behavior and use non-typical habitat. BTW, the Montrose Beach Sanderling flock is up to 100 or so birds. This is one of the best falls for them I can remember.

Got Sanderlings?

Sanderlings

Sanderlings (click to see the larger version)

Montrose Beach in Chicago sure does. I had over 60 on September 10, my best count of 2020. This is a continuation of the excellent shorebird migration we’ve had this summer and fall. All of these Sanderlings appeared to be juveniles; Arctic breeding shorebirds must have had a good season. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.

Try counting the Sanderlings in the photo. I got up to 62.

For more information about shorebirds at Montrose, see the Shorebirds section of the What to See page.

eBird Checklist
September 10, 2020

September 5, 2020 – A Good Day

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture (click to see the larger version)

Today was the best day of the fall for me. I ended up with 53 species in about 3 hours of birding, with good numbers of passerines, especially warblers and Catharus thrushes. Highlights include Connecticut and 2 Golden-winged Warblers (10 warbler species total), Bobolink, Dickcissel, the continuing American Avocet, and a surprise Turkey Vulture. TVs aren’t rare at Montrose but we don’t see a lot of them. Shorebirds were skimpy, mainly because the fluddle has dried up. I also had impressive numbers of aerial insectivores, mostly Chimney Swifts and Barn Swallows, a few bonus Cliff Swallows, and what seemed like thousands of buzzing dragonflies. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.

eBird Checklist
September 5, 2020

American Golden-Plovers (and others), September 3, 2020

American Golden-Plover

American Golden-Plover (click to see the larger version)

We had a nice variety of shorebirds at Montrose Beach on September 3, highlighted by a pair of adult American Golden-Plovers, an adult Baird’s Sandpiper, 2 Pectoral Sandpipers, and an American Avocet. The fluddle briefly reformed on the public beach after overnight rains, providing valuable habitat. These birds were probably moving ahead of a cold front expected to pass later in the day. Checking the beach throughout the day could pay off. More photos are at my eBird checklist for the morning, URL below.

eBird Checklist
September 3, 2020

American Avocets, September 1, 2020

American Avocets

American Avocets (click to see the larger version)

Continuing the uncommon shorebird theme from this summer, 2 American Avocets were on the public beach on September 1 (the public beach is the portion of the beach west of and outside the Dunes, which are fenced off and protected). These are the first American Avocets recorded at Montrose since late June. By September of 2019, we had 3 sightings, 2 in July and 1 in August.

On a related note, the fluddle has disappeared. The fluddle is the pool of water on the beach that shorebirds use for feeding and resting. Without the fluddle we won’t see as great a variety of shorebirds this fall. The good news is that the fluddle reforms after heavy rain or when strong northeast winds push water onto the beach.

For more information about shorebirds at Montrose, see the Shorebirds section of the What to See page.