An immature (first cycle) Franklin’s Gull graced Montrose Beach on September 16. This is the time of the year when Franklin’s Gulls start to show up on Chicago lakefront beaches. Large numbers, sometimes in the dozens, can occur in October, especially after strong west winds. Checking groups of Ring-billed Gulls is the best way to find them. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
Franklin’s Gull is named after the English Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, not the American statesman Benjamin Franklin. Easy mistake to make. Some eponymous bird names may be in trouble because of the questionable activities of their namesakes. As far as I can tell, Franklin’s Gull is safe.
Franklin’s Gull (click to see the larger version)
Note the white outer tail feather in the second photo, a field mark that distinguishes first cycle Franklin’s Gulls from similarly aged Laughing Gulls. This field mark isn’t easy to see and other characteristics like size, structure, and face pattern are more obvious.
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!
Lesser Black-backed Gull with Ring-billed Gulls (click to see the larger version)
The birding highlight for me on October 4 was this crisply marked juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull. I can’t remember the last time I saw a full juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull anywhere – usually by this time of the year first cycle birds have molted in at least a few second-generation upperpart feathers. Lesser Black-backed Gulls have increased dramatically in North America in recent years, including the Great Lakes, where they are uncommon but regular. I wonder where this one hatched? Europe? Iceland? Somewhere in North America? Impossible to know but fun to think about. More photos are at my eBird checklist for the day, link below.
Three Franklin’s Gulls stopped at Montrose Beach on May 23. Two of these birds were immatures, the other an adult in alternate plumage. Breeding plumaged adult Franklin’s Gulls are always a treat to see; it’s by far the rarest age and plumage we get at Montrose. Franklin’s Gulls are uncommon but regular visitors to Montrose in spring and fall. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
Montrose was on fire with birds on May 19, hands down the best day of the spring. I ended up with 107 species for the day, 103 in the morning and 4 more on a return visit in the afternoon and evening, my second best daily total ever there (over 130 species were reported to eBird for the day, which is about as well as we do). The Magic Hedge lived up to its name and was bursting with warblers, thrushes, vireos, and flycatchers. One of the highlights was a slightly out of place male Least Bittern in the peripheral plantings. We live for days like this. We suffer through Midwestern winters for experiences like this. My highlights include
Piping Plover (2)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (first cycle bird)
Philadelphia Vireo (4)
24 species of warblers including Mourning, Connecticut, Black-throated Blue, and Hooded, plus gobs of Bay-breasted, Magnolias, and Blackpolls
Lesser Black-backed Gull (click to see the larger version)
I ran over to Montrose on the afternoon of May 13 to check the beach for gulls, terns, and shorebirds. Montrose Beach has been excellent this spring, thanks in part to efforts by Chicago Park District security to keep unleashed dogs off the public beach. I was surprised to see so many Lesser Black-backed Gulls – I counted at least 5, 3 first cycle birds and 2 second/third cycle type birds. I also saw a first cycle and adult Iceland Gull. I don’t know if I’ve ever had so many LBBGs at one time at Montrose. My eBird report has more photos; follow the link below to see them.