If you’ve been to Montrose early in the morning this June, you may have noticed Black-crowned Night-Herons gathered around the edge of the harbor. These birds are fishing. The edge of the harbor is too high above the water for the herons to reach by extending their necks, so when they see a fish they have to fly to the surface, catch it, and fly back to land to eat. It must be worth the effort – Black-crowned Night-Herons have been a common sight on the east side of the harbor this month. The photo shows 8 Black-crowned Night-Herons lined up and alert, bills pointed down, and eyes scanning the water for small fish. The Golf Course Pond is another good place to look for Black-crowned Night-Herons in summer. See the Montrose Glossary for descriptions of these places.
American Bitterns can show up in strange places during migration. They prefer marshes and other wetlands but when those habitats aren’t available they have to settle for whatever they can find. I once saw one standing on top of a picnic table at the end of Navy Pier in Chicago, trying hard to be inconspicuous. The American Bittern in this photo was at the small pond in the Marovitz Golf Course at Montrose on April 13. The bird wasn’t hard to pick out but it must have felt secure blending in with the rocks and vegetation at that fountain.
A female Long-tailed Duck has been hanging around the fishing pier at Montrose for the last few days. On October 28 I saw her near the end of the pier on the Lake Michigan side. Long-tailed Ducks are uncommon but regular late fall through early spring visitors to Montrose.
October 28 was an interesting day with a nice mix of birds. I ended up with 49 species for about 2 hours of effort, and 60 species were reported to eBird for the day. Some of my highlights include
White-winged Scoter – 1
Dunlin – 2
Greater Yellowlegs – 1
Bonaparte’s Gull – 6
Great Egret – 1, getting late
Gray Catbird – 1, getting late
Snow Bunting – 3
Vesper Sparrow – 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow – 1, getting late
Link to my eBird checklist for October 28 below, which includes more photos of the Long-tailed Duck and a few other birds.
October 28, 2020
I was a little surprised to see a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron on January 26. While eBird doesn’t flag Black-crowned Night-Heron at this time of the year, I haven’t seen many at Montrose in the winter, though they do winter in and around Chicago in small numbers. It was the highlight of an otherwise slow day for birding – I ended up with 17 species, which is about as well as we do at this time of the year. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
January 26, 2020
With the rain last night and the dense fog this morning I was hoping for a warblers-dripping-from-the-trees kind of morning at Montrose today, but it didn’t happen. Not that there weren’t birds – during my brief visit I snagged a Least Bittern and a roosting Eastern Whip-poor-will, thanks to a couple of friendly birders. Also, Soras were flushing left and right from the pannes, which, thanks to last night’s rain, are soaking wet and looking very good for rails.
I took this photo from the western panne with the north Chicago skyline in the background. Note the layer of fog over Lake Michigan. Visibility was down to about 75 yards at one point.
It’s axiomatic among Chicago lakefront birders that warm fronts with southwest winds in spring bring large numbers of migrants to the Chicago lakefront parks. That axiom was in full effect at Montrose Point today, April 12. I had the day off and spent a little over 3 hours at Montrose, tallying 69 species for my effort. Most impressive was the high volume of Eastern Phoebes, Hermit Thrushes, Yellow-rumped Warblers and other mid-spring migrants. I knew I was in for a good morning when I saw Northern Flickers and flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers and American Robins coming in off Lake Michigan. I didn’t bird Montrose much in March because of the cold weather, so seeing all these migrants was a nice way to get back in the birding saddle.
Some of the other birds I saw at Montrose this a.m. include migrating Osprey and Northern Harriers, a lingering White-winged Scoter, American Woodcock, Wilson’s Snipe, Pectoral Sandpipers, Dunlin, migrating Common Loons, and a cooperative American Bittern. Link to my eBird checklist below.