A second March Snowy Owl made an appearance on the 25th. Ironically, it was on the end of the fishing pier in the exact same spot as the March 15th bird. Snowy Owls love to roost on the pier – always give it a good scan late fall through early spring for them. Other interesting birds include a flyby Red-throated Loon and 27 White-winged Scoters. Also, Red-breasted Merganser numbers are starting to pick up on Lake Michigan. The males are doing their elaborate dip and bow display to impress the females. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
Snow Buntings at Montrose Dunes, fall 2020. (click to see the larger version)
November is one of the most exciting months of the year at Montrose. The list of rarities found there in November is long and distinguished. As examples, an Ancient Murrelet, just the fourth record for Illinois, made an appearance in 2019, and in 2020 the fourth state record Cassin’s Sparrow delighted birders. General birding can be good too. Here are a few November birding tips:
Check the beach and Dunes for Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings. The buntings favor the more open areas of the Dunes, and the longspurs are usually flying over. Both will sometimes feed out in the open on the beach or even in the algae that washes up on the beach.
On days with brisk west winds, Short-eared Owls are a good bet in the Dunes. They usually kick up out of the denser vegetation and fly out over Lake Michigan.
With a little effort and luck, Northern Saw-whet and Long-eared Owls can be found in the peripheral plantings. Look for whitewash and listen for scolding, excited Black-capped Chickadees.
The fishing pier is an excellent place to scan Lake Michigan for loons, grebes, and waterfowl, either resting on the surface or in flight. Overcast days with light winds offer the best viewing conditions.
Northern Shrikes like the Dunes and more open areas of the Point. Look for them perched in the tops of trees or flying through, flashing their white wing and tail spots.
Black-legged Kittiwakes sometimes turn up, especially on days with northeast winds. They aren’t a sure bet but if you’re at Montrose on a day with easterly winds, pay attention to the gulls flying by. This applies for jaegers too.
March 26 saw an influx of migrants, most notably American Robins, blackbirds, and several types of sparrows. There were also good numbers of ducks on Lake Michigan, particularly Red-breasted Mergansers, and a few ducks moving north. This happens every spring when we get warm fronts and south winds. I tallied 46 species in a little less than 2 hours of effort, including a number of first of seasons. My highlights
Lake Michigan was alive with birds this morning, April 27. Red-breasted Mergansers, Caspian Terns, and Double-crested Cormorants were conspicuous in their abundance. I didn’t see any unusual large shorebirds but I did have a pale third cycle type Iceland Gull on the beach and a second cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull flying around the fishing pier. Also, a late Red-throated Loon going north. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
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.
American Bittern (click to see the larger version)
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.