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.
Check out the temperature and wind speed and direction for Saturday, February 22 on this map. The forecast for Sunday is largely the same. I think we’ll get some migration along the lakefront, perhaps Greater White-fronted Geese, White-winged Scoters, and the first blackbirds.
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.
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.
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.
Lake Michigan can be a violent body of water. Such was the case on January 11. An intense winter storm produced 20-30 m.p.h northeast winds that kicked up 15-foot waves, pounding the Chicago lakefront. I took this video near the base of the fishing pier and southeast corner of the Dunes at Montrose. Note the downed light pole and river of water flowing up the footpath. Not the best day to be on the fishing pier I’d say. Click the square in the lower right corner of the video to enlarge it to full-screen size.