American Avocets (click to see the larger version)
Shorebird season is in full swing along the Chicago lakefront. Five American Avocets put in an appearance at Montrose Beach on the morning of July 17. They didn’t stay long but this is the time of the year when Montrose and other Illinois lakefront beaches should be checked regularly for shorebirds. Plus, something even more exciting could show up — a hurricane waif, Brown Booby, Limpkin, or similarly fantastic bird (extralimital Brown Boobies and Limpkins have been showing up in the eastern US). Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
Willet (click to see the larger version)
I ran over to Montrose on the evening of July 12 to look for large shorebirds. With reports of Whimbrels and Willets along the Indiana lakefront recently I thought this might be a worthwhile effort. Between all the beach goers and flooding on the beach, shorebird habitat has been in short supply at Montrose. I did find a nice adult Willet at the far east end of the public beach, not far from where the Piping Plovers are nesting. This is a good time of the year to look for large shorebirds like Willets, Whimbrels, and Marbled Godwits at Montrose. I often have better luck with these birds in the evening than the morning as they get flushed off of other beaches and end up at Montrose because it has some habitat for them.
Wilson Avenue Crib (click to see the larger version)
If you’ve been to Montrose you’ve probably noticed the structure due east on the horizon that looks like it’s floating on Lake Michigan. This is the Wilson Avenue Crib and it was part of the water distribution system for Chicago. The cribs pump water to the filtration plants, also along the lakefront. The filtration plants purify the water and distribute it to the city and nearby suburbs for consumption. The Wilson Avenue Crib is no longer operational but several species of birds are making good use of it. The dark shapes in the photos are Double-crested Cormorants and they nest on the crib. State endangered Peregrine Falcons have also nested there.
I took this photo with my digital camera and Questar telescope in June 2019, a technique known as digiscoping. To read more about how I digiscope, see the Digiscoping with a Questar page on my main birding website, The Orniphile. The Wilson Avenue Crib is about 2 miles offshore.
Piping Plover on nest (click to see the larger version)
After the eggs from their first nesting attempt were removed by biologists, Rose and Monty, the intrepid Piping Plover pair, picked up their show and moved it a few hundred yards east to a new area. This is a more propitious location, both above the flood zone and away from people. One bird on the nest is visible in this photo (inside the protective cage). A couple of eggs have been laid. Note the photobombing Bank Swallow on the rope.
Rose, the female Piping Plover (click to see the larger version)
Hope is the thing with eggs. A pair of Piping Plovers at Montrose Beach has ended the long drought of nesting Piping Plovers in Chicago. As of June 10, Rose, the female, has laid 3 eggs in a nest on the public portion of the beach just northwest of the Beach House. The area has been cordoned off by authorities to protect the birds and their nesting effort, and a cage has been placed over the nest to further protect the eggs. With a little luck and a lot of help from volunteers, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, the eggs will hatch within a few weeks. Stay tuned.
White-rumped Sandpiper (click to see the larger version)
White-rumped Sandpipers are late spring migrants in the United States. In fact, they’re one of the last migrants seen in the spring, with some still moving north well into June. This bird, one of two White-rumpeds present, was taking a break at Montrose Beach on June 5. Note the reddish base to the lower mandible, a field mark that helps distinguish White-rumpeds from other small sandpipers.