Purple Sandpiper (click to see the larger version)
The highlight of an excellent day of overall birding at Montrose on September 17 was an unexpected Purple Sandpiper. The bird hung out on the fishing pier during the morning, happily feeding on some kind of insect, perhaps midges. This is the earliest Purple Sandpiper for Montrose I know of – all other records come from late October, November, and into December. Interestingly, the bird was in juvenal plumage, maybe the first record of a juvenile for Illinois. Dozens of people saw and photographed it. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
Yellow-rumped Warbler (click to see the larger version)
July isn’t the most notable month for rarities at Montrose, but this July is proving to be the exception to that rule. On July 18 I found an adult male Yellow-rumped Warbler in full breeding plumage. I can’t think of a month less likely for Yellow-rumpeds in Chicago than July. Yellow-rumped Warblers nest in the northern United States and throughout Canada and that’s where they should be in July. Talk about an anomaly.
Even more anomalous than a July Yellow-rumped Warbler is a July Townsend’s Solitaire. On July 18 Mark Kolasa found one at Montrose. Townsend’s Solitaires are birds of the western United States and Canada and shouldn’t be anywhere near Illinois or the Midwest in July, though they are rare but regular visitors to our state in winter. This bird was seriously misoriented, but remember, the misoriented birds make birding magical.
Woody Goss found a Snowy Plover early on the morning of May 31 on the protected portion of Montrose Beach. It reappeared in the same place on June 3. This is about the 5th Snowy Plover record for Montrose and the second this year (the first was on April 23 and 24). More photos of the bird can be seen at my eBird checklist for the morning, URL below.
Snowy Plovers are normally found on the Gulf Coast and throughout the western and southwestern United States. They do vagrate regularly and show up far outside their usual range.
Eared Grebe (upper left) with 2 Horned Grebes and a Red-breasted Merganser (click to see the larger version)
April 11 lived up to the billing and turned out to be an exceptional day for migrants, with about 80 species reported to eBird. The south winds overnight brought in a lot of birds, as south winds usually do in spring. Northern Flickers and Hermit Thrushes were conspicuous by their numbers. Bird of the day goes to the nearly full breeding plumaged Eared Grebe on Lake Michigan near the base of the fishing pier. The bird was close to shore and conveniently associating with a group of Horned Grebes for comparison. Eared Grebes are rare and not annual at Montrose. Other goodies include Merlin, Short-eared Owl, Eurasian Collared-Dove, and the late continuing male Long-tailed Duck along the fishing pier. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
Black Vulture, November 14, 2021 (click to see the larger version)
A Black Vulture was seen at Montrose on Saturday, November 13. The bird worked its way up the lakefront from the Jarvis Sanctuary at Addison, stopping briefly near the harbor before ending up at Foster Avenue. On Sunday, November 14, it visited the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, roosting obligingly on a light pole for the many birders who came to look for it. This is just the second Black Vulture record for Montrose.
Black Vultures are common throughout the southern United States and range south into Central and South America. The closest they normally come to Chicago is west central Indiana, though they frequently occur outside of their regular range as vagrants, sometimes dramatically so.
Postscript: The bird was captured by wildlife rehabbers on November 14 because it wasn’t healthy.
Snow Buntings at Montrose Dunes, fall 2020. (click to see the larger version)
November is one of the most exciting months of the year at Montrose. The list of rarities found there in November is long and distinguished. As examples, an Ancient Murrelet, just the fourth record for Illinois, made an appearance in 2019, and in 2020 the fourth state record Cassin’s Sparrow delighted birders. General birding can be good too. Here are a few November birding tips:
Check the beach and Dunes for Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings. The buntings favor the more open areas of the Dunes, and the longspurs are usually flying over. Both will sometimes feed out in the open on the beach or even in the algae that washes up on the beach.
On days with brisk west winds, Short-eared Owls are a good bet in the Dunes. They usually kick up out of the denser vegetation and fly out over Lake Michigan.
With a little effort and luck, Northern Saw-whet and Long-eared Owls can be found in the peripheral plantings. Look for whitewash and listen for scolding, excited Black-capped Chickadees.
The fishing pier is an excellent place to scan Lake Michigan for loons, grebes, and waterfowl, either resting on the surface or in flight. Overcast days with light winds offer the best viewing conditions.
Northern Shrikes like the Dunes and more open areas of the Point. Look for them perched in the tops of trees or flying through, flashing their white wing and tail spots.
Black-legged Kittiwakes sometimes turn up, especially on days with northeast winds. They aren’t a sure bet but if you’re at Montrose on a day with easterly winds, pay attention to the gulls flying by. This applies for jaegers too.