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
Panne and Chicago Skyline (click to see the larger version)
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.
I spent about 4.5 hours at Montrose this morning, May 21, and it was still birdy. My total for the morning was 84 species. A week ago White-crowned Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers formed the bulk of the migrant passerines. By contrast, I saw only two White-crowned Sparrows and no Yellow-rumped Warblers this morning. The dominant warblers today were Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Common Yellowthroat, and American Redstart. There were also decent numbers of Wilson’s and Canada Warblers. Thrush and sparrow numbers were way down from early last week as well. My highlights include
Least Bittern – 1 female. Thanks to the kind couple who pointed her out to me.
Yellow-billed Cuckoo – 1
Chimney Swift – ~300, swarming over the point
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher – 4
All 6 regularly occurring swallows
19 species of warblers, including Mourning, Connecticut, and 2 male Black-throated Blues
One of the better birds I had on my May 21 Big Day was a Least Bittern. Least Bitterns are rare but regular, mostly spring migrants at Montrose. This bird, a female as evidenced by the brown back, had been hanging around the dunes for a couple days. When I photographed her she was in the pool of water next to the fishhook pier, at times right out in the open, behavior uncharacteristic of this species.