Ice Formations (click to see the larger version)
Birding has been slow this winter at Montrose. My best days have maxed out at between 20 and 24 species. This is typical but in some years we at least have Snowy Owls to keep us entertained and to pass the time until spring and migration arrive. Not this year. Not one Snowy Owl has been reported at Montrose this winter.
Today, February 22, was no different; I tallied 24 species in 90 minutes of birding, but the ice formations on Lake Michigan made the long walk out onto the fishing pier worthwhile. I’m always impressed by the geometry of these formations. In this picture, one of the pieces in the foreground looks perfectly square, the piece above it looks perfectly rectangular, and the large piece to the left looks trapezoidal. Nature’s artwork. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
Sunrise Over Lake Michigan (click to see the larger version)
A nice, icy sunrise over Lake Michigan. The birding this winter has been unimpressive, but the sunrises haven’t.
Waterfowl trapped by ice (click to see the larger version)
I went over to Montrose this morning, March 4, to see what was around. There were a couple very small areas of open water along the shore, one at the harbor mouth and the other near the tower at the bend of the point. Both areas had birds, mainly White-winged Scoters, Greater Scaup, Redheads, Common Goldeneye, and Red-breasted Mergansers. The open area near the tower was all of about 10 feet in diameter and crammed with birds. The situation looked desperate and reminded me of when whales get trapped in small areas of open water surrounded by ice in the Arctic. Lake Michigan was frozen from horizon to horizon, though there was a decent sized lead just east of the fishing pier. I couldn’t figure out why the ducks that seemed to be trapped didn’t just get up and fly a few hundred yards to the larger area of open water. Maybe they were afraid of losing their places or leaving the safety of what little open water they thought existed. When I was walking back from the fishing pier I did see a group of scoters flying from the small area of open water near the tower to the lead, so some of them figured it out. I also saw several dead ducks on the ice which I guess shouldn’t be surprising considering the conditions.
We’re three weeks into meteorological spring now and winter just won’t let go. I didn’t see anything of note, except that ice seems to be reforming on Lake Michigan! Yes, it’s been that cold. The harbor is still mostly frozen over and the beach is covered in ice. I wonder if this is the beginning of a new ice age?
Ice encrusted Montrose Beach, looking west from the fishhook pier. This is spring? (click to see the larger version)
There seemed to be some movement this morning, especially waterfowl. The slight southerly component to the wind must have done some good, though it still felt like winter. Some of the birds I saw include:
Canada Geese – ~200, in groups of 10s, 20s, and 30s
White-winged Scoter – 1
Canvasback – 6
Ring-necked Duck – 2 in the harbor
Scaup sp – ~50
Northern Shoveler – 2
Green-winged Teal – 1
Gadwall – 2
Great Blue Heron – 1
Lapland Longspur – 1
Snow Bunting – 1