December 11, 2011

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow (click to see the larger version)

I took advantage of the break in the snowstorm to get some birding in this morning, December 11. I don’t expect to see much at this time of the year, but I did have a few surprises, highlighted by a late Savannah Sparrow near the mouth of the harbor. I also had an immature Northern Harrier in the Dunes, 15 Redheads, 2 American Pipits that probably wish they had flown south, and a Rusty Blackbird. Several American Pipits have been holding on in the native planting area for a few weeks. Link to my eBird checklist below.

eBird Checklist

Red-breasted Mergansers, Early December, 2016

Red-breasted Mergansers

Red-breasted Mergansers (click to see the larger version)

Red-breasted Mergansers have arrived in force on the southern end of Lake Michigan. Hundreds to thousands of these fish eating ducks have been at Montrose and other Illinois lakefront locations the last few days. Red-breasted Mergansers are one of three common wintering ducks on Lake Michigan, the other two being Common Merganser and Common Goldeneye. Luiz Munoz photographed this swarm of Red-breasted Mergs at Montrose on December 3, 2016.

Black Scoters, November 24, 2016

I spent a couple hours at Montrose this morning, November 24. I saw very little of interest, the highlight being 3 southbound Black Scoters. Typically at this time of the year one can expect to see loons, grebes, and a variety of waterfowl resting on Lake Michigan or flying by. I saw no loons, a couple Horned Grebes, and except for the scoters only Red-breasted Mergansers on the lake. November is the best month of the year for rare and unusual species, but the extended period of mild weather for the first 3 weeks of the month made for slow and unremarkable birding. Indian Summer does not do a fall birder good. Bring on the Arctic fronts. Link to my meager and unimpressive eBird checklist below.

eBird Checklist

Cattle Egret and Franklin’s Gulls, November 8, 2016

Montrose was surprisingly birdy this morning, November 8, with several unexpected finds. I ended up with 35 species in about 1.5 hours of birding, which isn’t too shabby considering the date. Best were a Cattle Egret and 5 Franklin’s Gulls. The egret was flying around the beach and Dunes early in the morning. I think it landed briefly on the beach, but was flying north over Lake Michigan the last time I saw it. Cattle Egret is an unusual bird for Montrose; we don’t see them every year. This has been a good fall for them in the upper Midwest, so maybe this sighting shouldn’t have been surprising.

Three of the 5 Franklin’s Gulls were at the west end of the beach early in the morning and were still there when I left. The other 2 were flybys. This hasn’t been a good fall for Franklin’s Gulls along the Lake Michigan lakefront, probably because we haven’t had many storms with strong west winds. Link to eBird checklist below.

eBird Checklist

Le Conte’s Sparrow, November 7, 2016

Le Conte's Sparrow

Le Conte’s Sparrow (click to see the larger version)

I’ve had some weird birding experiences, but this morning’s encounter with an out of place Le Conte’s Sparrow has to rank as one of the strangest. I was walking on the fishing pier when about two-thirds of the way out I noticed a small bird standing on the concrete just ahead of me. If you’ve been to the fishing pier you know that it doesn’t offer much in the way of cover, plus it’s surrounded by Lake Michigan. Not the most desirable habitat for a migrating passerine. The bird was holding perfectly still; if I wasn’t looking down I may have stepped on it. At first glance I thought it was a Golden-crowned Kinglet, but upon closer scrutiny it turned out to be a Le Conte’s Sparrow! There, on the concrete, exposed and in the open, was a bird known for its skulking habits, a bird that can be frustratingly difficult to see well. It was alert and seemed healthy, so I’m guessing it came in off the lake after a night of migration and plunked down on the pier because that was the first “land” it encountered. I’m also guessing the 2 Peregrine Falcons patrolling the beach were why it was holding so still and why it was reluctant to fly. I took a few pics before turning around and walking back.

eBird Checklist

Black-crowned Night-Heron, November 3, 2016

Black-crowned Night-Heron

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

A juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron has been hanging around Montrose Harbor for several weeks, taking handouts of fish given by sympathetic local fishermen. Most Black-crowned Night-Herons have departed for the fall. We’ll see how long this one stays.