Northern Saw-whet Owl (click to see the larger version)
Finding a roosting Northern Saw-whet Owl is a rewarding experience for a birder. The resident gang of Black-capped Chickadees located this half-asleep Saw-whet for me; without their scolding, I would have walked right by it. Northern Saw-whet Owls aren’t rare but can be hard to find due to their small size, retiring habits, and tendency to roost in dense vegetation during migration. The lesson here is this: if you hear complaining chickadees, pay attention and see what they have. There might be a pleasant surprise waiting for you. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
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!
Well, the Barred Owl that was at the Jarvis Bird Sanctuary in Lincoln Park on March 22 wandered north to Montrose (Montrose is about a mile north of Jarvis). This is a big deal for us, the first confirmed Barred Owl record for Montrose and one of only a handful of records for Lincoln Park. Hard to believe I know, but Barred Owls are rare in Chicago; chalk it up to a lack of extensive forest in the city. The bird was viewed and photographed by many. A big shoutout to the mob of American Crows for locating it. To see a list of the birds recorded at Montrose, refer to the Montrose List page.
A very late Piping Plover was at Montrose Beach on October 18. The bird has been present for a couple of days and represents the latest record of this species for Montrose.
While the Piping Plover was the best bird it wasn’t the only goodie. I tallied 59 species in about 3 hours of birding, highlighted by Short-eared Owl, the continuing Eastern Wood-Pewee, and a female Black-throated Blue Warbler. Link to my eBird checklist below.
This is why it pays to keep birding in June (and why it also pays to track down complaining blackbirds).
I was at Montrose on June 7, looking for late migrants and any oddball birds that might show up. Montrose holds late migrants better than most places and I try to keep birding it until the second week in June or so. At about 8:00 a.m. I heard some Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds making a major league ruckus over something in the trees not far from where I was. I walked over to where they were, expecting to see a Cooper’s Hawk or something else mundane. When I scanned the trees where the blackbirds were I saw a Barn Owl, looking very agitated. I took a few photos, admired the bird for a bit, and walked away. The blackbirds were mercilessly harassing the owl and I didn’t want to stress it any further. After a few minutes, I stopped hearing the blackbirds complaining, so I don’t know if the owl settled in or flew off to calmer pastures. This is about the 5th Barn Owl I’ve seen at Montrose in the 40 years I’ve been birding there.
The Barn Owl was the highlight today but there were also a few late migrants, mostly flycatchers and shorebirds. See my eBird checklist below for details.
I had a Snowy Owl at Montrose this morning, February 17. This is the first Snowy Owl I’ve seen at Montrose in several weeks, my last sighting being January 21 (see the post below). The bird was at the end of the fishing pier, the first place you should look for Snowies if you visit Montrose to look for them. While I was watching the Snowy, an adventurous (foolish, really) young man walked all the way to the end of the pier and flushed the bird a couple times. Most of the pier is still covered in ice and snow and most definitely treacherous to walk on; a person could easily end up going for a swim in Lake Michigan if not careful. The only other birds of interest I saw this a.m. were a White-throated Sparrow and a Swamp Sparrow, both feeding with House Sparrows near the main entrance to the sanctuary.