Continuing the trend starting last weekend, May 26 was excellent for flycatchers. I ended up with 9 species, including all 5 regularly occurring Empidonax. Best were an Olive-sided and an Acadian. Olive-sideds are uncommon but regular late spring migrants at Montrose, as are Acadians. Many of today’s Empis were silent, so I left them unidentified. We’re in the peak of migration for flycatchers, so don’t stop birding because the warblers have largely moved through. There’s always the chance of an uncommon or rare Tyrannid showing up – think Western Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, or better. Let your imagination run wild with the possibilities. Take a look at the Montrose List page to see the impressive number of flycatchers recorded at Montrose. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
Ospreys over Montrose (click to see the larger version)
May 21 saw a big influx of flycatchers at Montrose. Every tree and shrub seemed to have at least a few Empidonax or Eastern Wood-Pewees, and small groups of Eastern Kingbirds were flying south over the Point in reverse migration. I ended up with 7 different flycatchers, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but we don’t see nearly as many flycatchers as we do warblers. Montrose is an excellent place to study the confusing Empidonax, particularly the look-alike Alder and Willow Flycatchers. I also tallied 16 species of warblers and a bonus pair of flyover Ospreys, so migration isn’t over yet. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
Big Day – An effort to see as many birds as possible in a 24 hour period.
If you follow Montrose on eBird, you’ve probably noticed that several people have had 100 or more species in a day this May. There’s a narrow window when this is possible, usually the first 2 weeks in May. This coincides with the peak of spring migration in northern Illinois. Montrose is one of the few places where you can see 100 species on your own by foot. Big days usually require large amounts of planning and strategy, like building a route and staking out birds. Montrose is different. Getting to 100 involves hitting it on a day with loads of migrants and then birding like mad for 4 or 5 hours. Every May several people manage to cross the century threshold. The weekend of May 14 – 16, 2021, for example, saw multiple birders hit 100.
Doing a big day at Montrose isn’t for everyone, but if you’re competitive and like a challenge, give it a try. Also, you don’t have to go for 100. You could start at 60 or 70 or whatever goal you’re comfortable aiming for, and working your way up as you gain experience. I’ve included a link to my eBird checklist below for May 15, a day I had 104 species.
The weather conditions didn’t look great for a large fallout of birds on May 14, but that’s exactly what happened. I ended up with 98 species in 3.5 hours of birding, and about 130 were reported to eBird by all observers. This is about as good as it gets for Montrose. I had so many personal first of season sightings I lost track. We suffer through January and February for days like this. My highlights include
American Woodcock (late)
22 species of warblers; best were Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue, Pine, Golden-winged
Throw in tons of White-crowned Sparrows, scads of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Gray Catbirds, and 3 or 4 male Scarlet Tanagers and you shouldn’t ever complain about anything again. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
We were all expecting a great day on April 27, but I don’t think anyone knew just how good it would be. It turned out to be one of the best April days at Montrose any of us could remember. According to eBird, about 120 species were reported by all observers, with multiple rarities and first of season sightings. I ended up with 73 species in about 2.5 hours. My highlights include
Eastern Kingbird (early)
Yellow-throated Vireo (early)
All 6 regularly occurring swallows
Gray Catbird (early)
Swainson’s Thrush (early)
Cerulean Warbler (very rare, less than annual)
Yellow-throated Warbler (very rare, less than annual)
Pine Warbler (2, uncommon)
Summer Tanager (a nice adult male, uncommon at Montrose)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (early)
Any day with Cerulean and Yellow-throated Warblers and Summer Tanager is hard to beat. I don’t think I’ve had this trio at Montrose before either. The number of early passerines felt like early or mid-May rather than late April. It’s amazing and predictable what southwest winds do for bird migration in the spring. Link to my eBird checklist below.
The forecast for April 24 called for rain, so I planned on spending the day inside doing chores and such. When I woke up and checked the news, the forecast indicated most of the rain would occur south of Chicago, so I headed over to Montrose for some late April birding. Good choice as it turned out to be the best day of the spring so far. The trees and shrubs were dripping with Swamp and White-throated Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Hermit Thrushes, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Many of these birds were in the tops of trees feasting on swarms of small insects. I ended up with 66 species in almost four hours, and about 80 species were reported to eBird by all observers. I had multiple personal first-of-spring sightings. My highlights include
Willet – 3
White-faced Ibis – 1, first site record
Long-eared Owl – 1
Grasshopper Sparrow – 1
Northern Parula – 1
Pine Warbler – 1
The White-faced Ibis was on the protected beach early in the morning. It did not stay long. We’ve had multiple Long-eared Owls in the last week in what has been one of the best springs I can remember for them. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.