Great Horned Owl and friends (click to see the larger version)
I tallied only 22 species on December 8 but two of those 22 were owls. Seeing more than one owl in a day at Montrose is unusual. A Great Horned Owl was flying around the Point trying to find a place to take a break but a Cooper’s Hawk had other ideas and harassed it relentlessly. When the Cooper’s Hawk gave up and moved on, a gang of American Crows found the owl and picked up where the hawk left off. The besieged owl kept moving around, trying to lose the crows and find a quiet place to rest. Montrose has little in the way of habitat where a large owl can hide. Throw in some American Crows and you’ve got an unhappy situation. The crows were still yammering at the Great Horned when I left.
The other owl was a Northern Saw-whet. This bird was in the same area as last winter’s Saw-whet and may be the same individual. The best way to find a Saw-whet is to listen for complaining Black-capped Chickadees and to look for whitewash (owl poop) in roosting habitat like dense stands of conifers. Link to myeBird checklist for the morning below.
Short-eared Owls are regular mid and late fall visitors to Montrose. We usually see them on days with brisk west winds following the passage of a cold front. Most of the time they flush from the Dunes and fly over Lake Michigan where they hang out and wait until people have left. They then drift back to the Dunes to settle in. On November 19 I saw a Short-eared perched high in a Honey Locust near the Magic Hedge. This is uncommon behavior for Short-eareds at Montrose. The bird had been flying around the Point, looking for a place to come down, and decided a tree would suffice. It didn’t stay long and continued its search for a quiet spot to roost for the day. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
Black-capped Chickadees brighten cold Chicago winter days with their energy and charm. They’re also good at finding roosting owls. Without the scolding of the local chickadees, I would have walked right by this Long-eared Owl. I said this before and it’s worth repeating: if you hear complaining chickadees, pay attention and see what they have. There might be a pleasant surprise waiting for you. Back in November, these chickadees found a Northern Saw-Whet-Owl for me.
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.