Northern Harrier (click to see the larger version)
The Northern Harriers put on quite a show on October 23. I counted 16, all southbound flybys, in about 2 hours of morning birding. Most were female/immature type birds, like the individual pictured here. Several were coming in low off Lake Michigan and flying right over the beach and dunes (and me). Other birds seen include Short-eared Owl, 3 Surf Scoters, Franklin’s and Bonaparte’s Gulls, Merlin, American Woodcock, Wilson’s Snipe, and Purple Finch. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below. October rocks!
Today was the kind of day I could have stayed out all morning and then some, it was that good. All this morning’s bird activity confirmed that cold fronts and west winds are fantastic bird producers along the west side of Lake Michigan in fall. I ended up with 54 species in about 2 hours of early morning birding at Montrose, highlights including Merlin, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Wilson’s Snipe, 2 Pine Warblers, Northern Parula, 12 Nelson’s Sparrows, 3 Marsh Wrens, Bobolinks, and a Purple Finch. No pics today – I was too busy looking. Link to my eBird checklist below.
American Goldfinch (click to see the larger version)
I saw my first juvenile American Goldfinch of the year at Montrose Point in Chicago this morning, August 17. Juvenile American Goldfinches are similar to the adult females except for their brown body color and wide buffy wingbars (adult females are green and have a narrow white wingbar). I’ve been seeing adult AMGOs at Montrose on almost all of my visits this summer so I’m fairly sure they nested there.
Because American Goldfinches are such late nesters they don’t start producing young until mid or late summer, well after most other species. In fact, many of the local nesting songbirds at Montrose, like Baltimore Orioles, Tree and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, and Red-winged Blackbirds have already migrated south.
I had a Rough-legged Hawk fly south over Montrose Point this morning. Rough-legged Hawks are rare at Montrose; I think I’ve seen fewer than 10 in the 35+ years I’ve been birding there. I saw the bird just after sunrise and it was a couple of hundred feet high so it must have started migrating in the dark.
Other birds seen at Montrose this chilly a.m. include:
American Pipit – 2
Fox Sparrow – 2
Savannah Sparrow – 1
Lapland Longspur – 5
Snow Bunting – ~8
Common Redpoll – 3
Pine Siskin – 1
It was so cold this morning the lake was steaming, something we usually don’t see until well into winter.
Lake Michigan Steaming (click to see a larger version)
Black-legged Kittiwake. Photo by Geoff Williamson. (click to see a larger version )
One doesn’t usually associate Black-legged Kittiwakes with strong west winds on the west side of Lake Michigan but this morning a first year Black-legged Kittiwake flew south past Montrose Point, delighting the several people who were conducting a lakewatch at the end of the fishing pier.
Other birds seen on today’s westerlies include about a dozen Franklin’s Gulls (a more expected species on strong west winds), numbers of Bonaparte’s Gulls, several Northern Harriers, an American Woodcock, and a few Lapland Longspurs and Common Redpolls.
Baird’s Sandpiper (click to see the larger version)
I had a late juvenile Baird’s Sandpiper this morning, October 18. This is over a month past their peak time of occurance. I also had a first cycle Franklin’s Gull on the beach and 6 Lapland Longspurs in the dunes. Other landbirds seen include 2 Purple Finches, several Pine Siskins, and a few Orange-crowned Warblers, in addition to the usual mid October fare of kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, Winter Wrens, and White-throated Sparrows.