A strong movement of northbound waterfowl occurred at Montrose this morning, March 30. Geoff Williamson and I stood at the end of the fishing pier for a couple of hours and watched flock after flock of diving and dabbling ducks moving north along Lake Michigan. Most were scaup and Redheads but we also had small numbers of Canvasbacks (uncommon at Montrose), Northern Pintails, Gadwall, American Wigeon, and smaller numbers of Northern Shovelers and Green-winged Teal. We also had a couple of Common Loons and Iceland and Great Black-backed Gulls. A group of White-winged Scoters (~12) was still on the lake off the end of the fishing pier. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning 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 spent about 2.5 hours at Montrose this morning, March 19, most of that
time looking at the lake. The visibility was good and there were birds
to look at, both on the water and flying around. Except for blackbirds
and Robins, landbirds were scarce. My highlights (not a complete list):
Gadwall – ~12
American Wigeon – 5
Redhead – ~30
Lesser Scaup – ~20
Greater Scaup – 1
White-winged Scoter – ~20
Common Goldeneye – ~12
Bufflehead – ~7
Common Merganser – 1 adult male flying north
Red-breasted Merganser – ~300
Red-throated Loon – 2 flying north, both in basic type plumage
Common Loon – 1 alternate plumaged bird flying north
Horned Grebe – ~50, most on the lake but a few in the harbor
Eared Grebe – 1 alternate plumaged bird on the lake
Great Black-backed Gull – 1 first cycle
Glaucous/Iceland Gull – 1 near adult flying north
The Eared Grebe was a big surprise. I tried to turn it into something
more expected but everything about the bird said Eared Grebe. Somewhat
surprisingly it was in full alternate plumage; most of the Horned Grebes
today were still in basic plumage or transitioning into alternate
plumage. I also had a meadowlark in the Dunes that looked good for a
Western but I let it go.
The birding wasn’t very good this morning but the fishing sure was. A lucky fellow caught this beautiful Brown Trout from the end of the Fishhook Pier just before I got there. Actually, I didn’t know it was a Brown Trout at the time but I did some research and Brown Trout is the best match (it turns out that fish identification can be just as difficult and challenging as bird identification). Brown Trout are native to Europe and Asia but have been introduced to many places around the world, including the Great Lakes. This one was about 2 feet long and 10-12 pounds.
Oh yeah, I also had a first cycle Great Black-backed Gull, so the birding wasn’t a complete loss.
Tis’ the season for Short-eared Owls at Montrose. This morning I kicked one up out of the western panne in the dunes. The bird flew out over the lake and circled around a few times before I walked away and lost sight of it. This is typical Short-eared Owl behavior at Montrose, and sometimes they come back and sometimes they don’t.
Migration is really winding down, especially passerine migration, but I did have a few other birds, including:
Great Black-backed Gull (click to see the larger version)
A walk around Montrose this morning, January 19, yielded a couple good birds. While I was scanning the lake from the fishing pier I saw a Red-throated Loon on the water a few hundred yards offshore. The bird was slowly drifting to the north and I thought I could get a better look at it by walking north on the pier as it swam north but I lost sight of it. Red-throated Loons are rare in winter at Montrose, though they are the expected loon at this time of the year.
I also had a first cycle Great Black-backed Gull near the parking lot adjacent to the bathroom building. The bird was actually up on the grass feeding on handouts like a Ring-billed Gull, a behavior I don’t think I’ve seen before for GBBG. The bird also has a bad left foot as can be seen in the photo below. I saw nothing else of note.