Category Archives: Spring Bird Reports

March 1 – May 31, inclusive

Spring Has Sprung, But…, March 26, 2020

March 26 saw an influx of migrants, most notably American Robins, blackbirds, and several types of sparrows. There were also good numbers of ducks on Lake Michigan, particularly Red-breasted Mergansers, and a few ducks moving north. This happens every spring when we get warm fronts and south winds. I tallied 46 species in a little less than 2 hours of effort, including a number of first of seasons. My highlights

Blue-winged Teal – 11
Northern Shoveler – 4
American Wigeon – 5
Ring-necked Duck – 4
White-winged Scoter – 8
Caspian Tern – 1
Common Loon – 4
Merlin – 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet – 4
Brown Creeper – 1
Fox Sparrow – 10

This will be my last bird report or blog post from Montrose for a while. See the post immediately above for the reason why.

eBird Checklist
March 26, 2020

Ducks (lots of ’em), March 20, 2020

Northern Shovelers

Northern Shovelers (click to see the larger version)

A strong flight of ducks took place at Montrose on March 20. In about an hour and a half of lakewatching I saw the following

Wood Duck – 30
Blue-winged Teal – 6
Northern Shoveler – 200
Gadwall – 15
American Wigeon – 8
Northern Pintail – 15
Green-winged Teal – 120
Ring-necked Duck – 40
Greater Scaup – 15
Lesser Scaup – 100
White-winged Scoter – 2
Long-tailed Duck – 1, continuing female in the harbor
Bufflehead – 10
Common Goldeneye – 20
Hooded Merganser – 8
Common Merganser – 3
Red-breasted Merganser – 200

We usually get a day or 2 each spring when large numbers of ducks move north like this. The numbers of Northern Shovelers and Green-winged Teal were most impressive. Interestingly, the winds were from the north and strong, which means these birds were flying into a headwind. I also had 2 flyby Common Loons, my first of the year.

In the above photo, note the spoon-shaped bills of the Northern Shovelers, a field mark that makes them easy to identify, even in flight.

eBird Checklist
March 20, 2020

Greater White-fronted Geese (lots of ’em), March 5, 2020

Greater White-fronted Geese

Greater White-fronted Geese (click to see the larger version)

A spectacular movement of Greater White-fronted Geese occurred on March 5. Greater White-fronted Geese are rare but regular early spring migrants at Montrose. We usually see a few most years, but this flight was like nothing I’ve experienced before. I estimated 1200 passed over between 6:45 and 7:30 a.m. Most were in groups of 50-200 birds and flying north over Lake Michigan. When they reached Montrose they turned west and continued in that direction over Chicago. The majority of flocks were between 500 and 1500 feet, so even though they flew over me most were too high to photograph.

eBird Checklist
March 5, 2020

Franklin’s Gulls, May 23, 2019

Franklin's Gull

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

Three Franklin’s Gulls stopped at Montrose Beach on May 23. Two of these birds were immatures, the other an adult in alternate plumage. Breeding plumaged adult Franklin’s Gulls are always a treat to see; it’s by far the rarest age and plumage we get at Montrose. Franklin’s Gulls are uncommon but regular visitors to Montrose in spring and fall. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.

eBird Checklist
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S56650147

Abbondanza!, May 19, 2019

Least Bittern

Least Bittern (click to see the larger version)

Montrose was on fire with birds on May 19, hands down the best day of the spring. I ended up with 107 species for the day, 103 in the morning and 4 more on a return visit in the afternoon and evening, my second best daily total ever there (over 130 species were reported to eBird for the day, which is about as well as we do). The Magic Hedge lived up to its name and was bursting with warblers, thrushes, vireos, and flycatchers. One of the highlights was a slightly out of place male Least Bittern in the peripheral plantings. We live for days like this. We suffer through Midwestern winters for experiences like this. My highlights include

Piping Plover (2)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (first cycle bird)
Least Bittern
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Philadelphia Vireo (4)
Clay-colored Sparrow
Nelson’s Sparrow
Yellow-breasted Chat
24 species of warblers including Mourning, Connecticut, Black-throated Blue, and Hooded, plus gobs of Bay-breasted, Magnolias, and Blackpolls

eBird Checklist (morning visit)
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S56488818

eBird Checklist (p.m. visit)
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S56512714

Lesser Black-backed Gulls, May 13, 2019

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull (click to see the larger version)

I ran over to Montrose on the afternoon of May 13 to check the beach for gulls, terns, and shorebirds. Montrose Beach has been excellent this spring, thanks in part to efforts by Chicago Park District security to keep unleashed dogs off the public beach. I was surprised to see so many Lesser Black-backed Gulls – I counted at least 5, 3 first cycle birds and 2 second/third cycle type birds. I also saw a first cycle and adult Iceland Gull. I don’t know if I’ve ever had so many LBBGs at one time at Montrose. My eBird report has more photos; follow the link below to see them.

eBird Checklist
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S56250182