Dunlin (click to see the larger version)
A juvenile Dunlin was at Montrose Beach on August 23. This is the earliest Dunlin I’ve ever seen in Chicago and only the second juvenile. We usually don’t start seeing immature Dunlin until the second or third week in September, and by then they’ve started to moult and show gray first basic/formative upperpart feathers, so this is significant.
Cliff, Tree, and Barn Swallows (click to see the larger version)
Swallows are starting to gather at Montrose Point. On July 15 I had all 5 of our smaller swallows in the Dunes at Montrose. They like to perch on the white rope that cordons off protected areas in the Dunes. This is a great way to study and photograph these birds. This phenomenon has a narrow window – just a few weeks in July – and won’t last much longer.
Semipalmated Sandpiper (click to see the larger version)
We’re in the gray area for shorebird migration. The first southbound shorebirds should start appearing any day now (Least Sandpipers and Lesser Yellowlegs) if they haven’t appeared already, but a few shorebirds could still be moving north. This morning, June 24, I saw a Semipalmated Sandpiper at Montrose Beach. I tend to think this bird is a very late northbound migrant as opposed to a very early southbound migrant. We see Semi Sans regularly at Montrose well into June; I think this bird is at the tail end of that trend.
King Rail (click to see the larger version)
The King Rail continues at Montrose. This morning, June 14, I saw it walking and feeding in the grass and water next to the fishing pier at the base of the pier. It appeared to be healthy and put on quite a show for me. This is the first time I’ve seen this (presumably) continuing bird. Thanks to Andrew Aldrich for alerting me to its presence.
We also had a few late migrants and surprises, including Mourning and Blackburnian Warblers, Dickcissel, Orchard Oriole, Wood Thrush, and Bonaparte’s Gull. See? It pays to keep birding into June.
Barn Owl (click to see the larger version)
This is why it pays to keep birding in June (and why it also pays to track down complaining blackbirds).
I was at Montrose on June 7, looking for late migrants and any oddball birds that might show up. Montrose holds late migrants better than most places and I try to keep birding it until the second week in June or so. At about 8:00 a.m. I heard some Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds making a major league ruckus over something in the trees not far from where I was. I walked over to where they were, expecting to see a Cooper’s Hawk or something else mundane. When I scanned the trees where the blackbirds were I saw a Barn Owl, looking very agitated. I took a few photos, admired the bird for a bit, and walked away. The blackbirds were mercilessly harassing the owl and I didn’t want to stress it any further. After a few minutes, I stopped hearing the blackbirds complaining, so I don’t know if the owl settled in or flew off to calmer pastures. This is about the 5th Barn Owl I’ve seen at Montrose in the 40 years I’ve been birding there.
The Barn Owl was the highlight today but there were also a few late migrants, mostly flycatchers and shorebirds. See my eBird checklist below for details.
American Golden-Plovers (click to see the larger version)
I made a late afternoon run to Montrose today, August 31, to see if anything fun and interesting was on the beach. I didn’t have anything as exciting as the recent Parasitic Jaeger or Buff-breasted Sandpiper, but I did find 3 adult American Golden-Plovers on the public portion of the beach. The birds were initially near the plastic boardwalk but flushed and relanded a short distance away. A fair number of people were using the beach this afternoon, so I had a feeling the birds would be jumpy. Sure enough, when an unleashed dog got too close they picked up and flew off to the north. Typical. And frustrating. I also had a juvenile Baird’s Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plovers and Sandpipers, and Sanderlings. The good news is that Lake Montrose has reformed and should be attractive to migrant shorebirds as long as it lasts (Lake Montrose is the fluddle that forms on the public beach after a heavy rain). This is prime time for Red Knots and Whimbrels along Lake Michigan.