As expected, the strong south winds brought a lot of migrants to Montrose Point on March 30. I ended up with 41 species in a little over two hours of effort, and 57 species were reported on eBird by all observers. Most impressive were the numbers of Northern Flickers coming in off Lake Michigan early in the morning. These birds were migrating north over the lake at night, and when the sun rose they started to head inland towards land and safety. No passerine or other landbird worth its life wants to get caught over Lake Michigan when the sun comes up. The local Peregrine Falcons and Herring Gulls relish hunting these tardy migrants as they make their way to shore. I also had multiple first of spring sightings, including Caspian Tern, Belted Kingfisher, Hermit Thrush, and Lapland Longspur. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
Turkey Vulture. Photo courtesy of Tamima Itani. (click to see the larger version)
It’s axiomatic among Chicago lakefront birders that southwest winds in spring produce lots of migrants. Today, March 8, reaffirmed that maxim. I ended up with 42 species in a couple of hours of birding, including a number of new birds for the year. Large numbers of blackbirds and Canada Geese were moving on the south winds, and we had a number of unusual sightings. Best for the morning were
Great Black-backed Gull soaring over the Point (click to see the larger version)
March 2 could have passed for February 2 or even January 2, it was that cold and wintry. The harbor even refroze after being open for a few days. Most of the birds I saw were January or February birds but migrants are trickling in. Red-winged Blackbirds have arrived in small numbers and Horned Larks have been seen the last few days. Both of these species are bona fide and expected early spring migrants, and usually the first spring songbird migrants we see. My most unusual sighting was an adult Great Black-backed Gull soaring high over the Point. The warmer weather and south winds forecast for the next few days should bring in more migrants.
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
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.
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.