Category Archives: Winter Bird Reports

December 1 – February 28/29, inclusive

Another Long-tailed Duck, February 24, 2020

Long-tailed Duck

Long-tailed Duck (click to see the larger version)

Two female Long-tailed Ducks have been frequenting Montrose Harbor, a darker, probably immature bird, and this whiter headed individual. The darker bird hasn’t been seen in a while but the pale Long-tailed was still around on February 24.

On a side note, I grew up calling this species Oldsquaw; it took some time and effort to get used to calling it Long-tailed Duck.

White-winged Scoters, February 24, 2020

White-winged Scoters

White-winged Scoters (click to see the larger version)

It’s White-winged Scoter time in Chicago. February is the month when White-winged Scoters return to Lake Michigan in numbers. I had about 40 at Montrose this morning. A few were resting on the water and a group of 30 flew north past the fishing pier close to shore. The structure on the horizon is the Wilson Avenue Crib, part of the water distribution system for Chicago and a little over 2 miles offshore. This particular crib is no longer operational. White-winged Scoters should be reliable at Montrose through early April.

eBird Checklist
February 24, 2020

Long-eared Owl, February 21, 2020

Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owl (click to see the larger version)

Black-capped Chickadees brighten cold Chicago winter days with their energy and charm. They’re also good at finding roosting owls. Without the scolding of the local chickadees, I would have walked right by this Long-eared Owl. I said this before and it’s worth repeating: if you hear complaining chickadees, pay attention and see what they have. There might be a pleasant surprise waiting for you. Back in November, these chickadees found a Northern Saw-Whet-Owl for me.

eBird Checklist
February 21, 2020

Long-tailed Duck, February 11, 2020

Long-tailed Duck

Long-tailed Duck (click to see the larger version)

A Long-tailed Duck was the highlight of an otherwise uneventful morning on February 11. It was in a small area of water being kept open by an aerator on the north side of the harbor. Long-tailed Ducks are usually offshore birds on Lake Michigan so when I see a bird like this so close to shore I wonder if it’s sick or injured.

Long-tailed Ducks are highly variable in appearance. Adult males in winter are a striking mix of gray, black, and white. At the other end of the spectrum are immature females which are mostly dark. Based on the dark color, and especially the dark crown, this bird is probably an immature female.

Spring can’t come soon enough.

eBird Checklist
February 11, 2020

Black-crowned Night-Heron, January 26, 2020

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron (click to see the larger version)

I was a little surprised to see a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron on January 26. While eBird doesn’t flag Black-crowned Night-Heron at this time of the year, I haven’t seen many at Montrose in the winter, though they do winter in and around Chicago in small numbers. It was the highlight of an otherwise slow day for birding – I ended up with 17 species, which is about as well as we do at this time of the year. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.

eBird Checklist
January 26, 2020

Ice Geometry, February 22, 2019

Ice Formations

Ice Formations (click to see the larger version)

Birding has been slow this winter at Montrose. My best days have maxed out at between 20 and 24 species. This is typical but in some years we at least have Snowy Owls to keep us entertained and to pass the time until spring and migration arrive. Not this year. Not one Snowy Owl has been reported at Montrose this winter.

Today, February 22, was no different; I tallied 24 species in 90 minutes of birding, but the ice formations on Lake Michigan made the long walk out onto the fishing pier worthwhile. I’m always impressed by the geometry of these formations. In this picture, one of the pieces in the foreground looks perfectly square, the piece above it looks perfectly rectangular, and the large piece to the left looks trapezoidal. Nature’s artwork. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.

eBird Checklist
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S53017665