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.
I spent a couple hours at Montrose today, February 24. It was a cold morning and the east winds off Lake Michigan made it feel even chillier. I ended up with 23 species for my effort, not particularly impressive, but I did have a few bona fide spring migrants. My highlights include
Cackling Geese – 4 flying north with a group of Canada Geese
White-winged Scoters – 2, 1 in the harbor and the other near the end of the fishing pier
Northern Pintail – 6 flying north over the lake
Gadwall – 3 with the pintails
Great Black-backed Gull – 1 first/second cycle bird at the beach
The fishing pier is now ice-free and the massive ice shelves on the beach have disappeared. Our local wintering Snowy Owl is probably not too thrilled about this.
I had a Snowy Owl at Montrose this morning, February 17. This is the first Snowy Owl I’ve seen at Montrose in several weeks, my last sighting being January 21 (see the post below). The bird was at the end of the fishing pier, the first place you should look for Snowies if you visit Montrose to look for them. While I was watching the Snowy, an adventurous (foolish, really) young man walked all the way to the end of the pier and flushed the bird a couple times. Most of the pier is still covered in ice and snow and most definitely treacherous to walk on; a person could easily end up going for a swim in Lake Michigan if not careful. The only other birds of interest I saw this a.m. were a White-throated Sparrow and a Swamp Sparrow, both feeding with House Sparrows near the main entrance to the sanctuary.
This continues to be a banner winter for Snowy Owls along the Chicago lakefront. This morning, January 21, I had 2 Snowies at Montrose, both at the east end of the beach. One bird was on the fishing pier and the other was on the ice shelves on the beach. Despite the warmup we’re currently experiencing, the fishing pier still has ice in places; if you venture onto it be careful or you could end up in the lake.
I spent about an hour and a half at Montrose this morning, February 27. I haven’t been birding Montrose much this winter, but I had the day off, so I thought I’d take advantage of it. I ended up with 27 species, highlighted by 2 northbound White-winged Scoters and a drake Long-tailed Duck, both seen from the end of the fishing pier as part of a brief lakewatch. I spent most of my time checking the lake and harbor, so my landbird total isn’t that impressive, but I did see a couple of Rusty Blackbirds near the Magic Hedge and an Eastern Meadowlark in the native planting area. Link to my eBird checklist below.
Who knew the human hand could double as a feeding platform for birds? I wanted to see if I could entice the resident Black-capped Chickadees at Montrose to take food from my hand (and video the experience at the same time). I’ve seen people hand feeding chickadees at Montrose, so I knew the birds were accustomed to this practice. I went over there one recent morning and when I found the chickadees I crumbled up a granola bar, put it in my left hand, and filmed the encounter with my phone camera in my right hand. After a few seconds and a little pishing the birds started coming in and taking the food. It’s amazing how tame wildlife can be. Video of the encounter below.