Northern Shovelers (click to see the larger version)
A strong flight of ducks took place at Montrose on March 20. In about an hour and a half of lakewatching I saw the following
Wood Duck – 30
Blue-winged Teal – 6
Northern Shoveler – 200
Gadwall – 15
American Wigeon – 8
Northern Pintail – 15
Green-winged Teal – 120
Ring-necked Duck – 40
Greater Scaup – 15
Lesser Scaup – 100
White-winged Scoter – 2
Long-tailed Duck – 1, continuing female in the harbor
Bufflehead – 10
Common Goldeneye – 20
Hooded Merganser – 8
Common Merganser – 3
Red-breasted Merganser – 200
We usually get a day or 2 each spring when large numbers of ducks move north like this. The numbers of Northern Shovelers and Green-winged Teal were most impressive. Interestingly, the winds were from the north and strong, which means these birds were flying into a headwind. I also had 2 flyby Common Loons, my first of the year.
In the above photo, note the spoon-shaped bills of the Northern Shovelers, a field mark that makes them easy to identify, even in flight.
March 20, 2020
Greater White-fronted Geese (click to see the larger version)
A spectacular movement of Greater White-fronted Geese occurred on March 5. Greater White-fronted Geese are rare but regular early spring migrants at Montrose. We usually see a few most years, but this flight was like nothing I’ve experienced before. I estimated 1200 passed over between 6:45 and 7:30 a.m. Most were in groups of 50-200 birds and flying north over Lake Michigan. When they reached Montrose they turned west and continued in that direction over Chicago. The majority of flocks were between 500 and 1500 feet, so even though they flew over me most were too high to photograph.
March 5, 2020
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 (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.
February 24, 2020
Weather map (click to see the larger version)
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.
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.
February 21, 2020