You may have never seen a Beaver at Montrose but you’ve almost certainly noticed the damage they’ve done if you’ve been to the Dunes. It’s hard to miss. Many of the willows along the shore at the east end of the beach have been gnawed to stumps by the busy rodents. Birders like checking these willows because they’re the first line of trees migrating warblers and other passerines encounter at Montrose during fall migration. Beavers are interesting animals but we’d hate to lose the beach willows as a migrant trap. The photo shows the damage I’m referring to.
On June 23 I saw an indolent Beaver lounging along the inlet next to the fishing pier, munching on a twig. In the 40 years I’ve been birding Montrose this is only the third or fourth Beaver I’ve seen there. I’m always struck by how massive they are, like a Muskrat on steroids. The variety of wildlife that finds its way to Montrose is remarkable. In addition to Beavers, we’ve recorded White-tailed Deer, Muskrat, Opossum, Coyote, Red Fox, Striped Skunk, and Raccoons. Montrose isn’t just for the birds.
I’ve been seeing this Cape May Warbler for several days in the same small hawthorn tree. I posted photos online and someone noticed what look like scale insects on the branches. Scale insects are a group of insects that don’t move and suck plant juices for sustenance. You can see them festooning the branches in the lower right corner of the photo — they look like tiny white flakes or clumps of rice grains. Putting two and two together, I’m guessing the Cape May Warbler has been frequenting this particular hawthorn because of the abundant scale insects and the food they provide it. More photos of the Cape May Warbler and scale insects are at my eBird checklist for October 5, URL below.
October 5, 2020
Continuing the fish theme this summer, I saw and photographed a Longnose Gar in Montrose Harbor on July 13. Gar are distinctive as a group but specific identification can be challenging (and I’m hardly a fish expert). My gar was about 2 feet long and had heavy, dark spotting on the body. It was swimming slowly and close to the surface, enabling me to get diagnostic photos. After some research, I narrowed down the options to Spotted and Longnose Gar, and after sharing the photos online several fish experts weighed in and confirmed it as a Longnose Gar. This is the first gar of any kind I’ve seen on Lake Michigan and the most unusual fish I’ve seen at Montrose. More photos are on my Facebook page, URL below. Also, see the Fish Archives on this blog for more fish stories from Montrose.
What’s next on the fish menu at Montrose? Musky? Sturgeon?
The fish in Montrose Harbor are taking advantage of the decrease in human activity and putting on a show. I’ve been checking the north side of the harbor on my morning walks and I’ve noticed an abundance and variety of fish I didn’t notice before Chicago closed the lakefront parks. Some of the different species include Black Crappie (a Montrose first for me), numbers of Smallmouth Bass and Freshwater Drum, and the ever-present Common Carp. Some of the carp are huge. I’ve also seen large schools of smaller fish, either Alewife or Smelt. It’s noteworthy that Montrose Harbor is far from being a pristine body of water. The many boats release gasoline into the water and there’s often garbage floating on the surface and debris in the water. Despite this, aquatic life is thriving. More fish photos from Montrose Harbor are on my Facebook page, URL below. Also, see the Fish Archives on this blog for more fish stories from Montrose.
Who needs the aquarium?
More October butterfly mania from Montrose. This Painted Lady and Common Buckeye were cheek to jowl, so to speak, on this aster in the Butterfly Garden. Asters are like magnets for attracting nectar-feeding insects. This has been one of the best falls for butterflies I can remember, with hundreds of Monarchs and other leps.