November is known for rare waterbirds but it’s also excellent for owls. Long-eared, Short-eared, Snowy, and Northern Saw-whet Owls have been reported at Montrose as of November 12. So, while you’re dreaming about alcids and waiting for a Black-legged Kittiwake to fly by, don’t forget to check the Dunes, woods, and shrubs for owls. Look for whitewash, listen for complaining songbirds, and scan open areas for round white lumps.
Howard Blum and Terry Walsh found a red morph Eastern Screech-Owl on August 8. Hard to believe but this is the first verified Eastern Screech-Owl record for Montrose Point. Montrose boasts a long list of birds, a list that includes first and second state records as well as many other rare and unexpected species. Eastern Screech-Owl is a common and widespread bird in Illinois, including the Chicago area, but for unknown reasons it went unrecorded at Montrose until Howard and Terry found the August 8 bird. The total number of birds seen at Montrose now stands at 350.
Several Long-eared Owls are attempting to overwinter at Montrose. If you look for them, please be discreet and exercise proper etiquette – give them plenty of space, be quiet, and don’t linger. These owls disturb easily and should be resting during the day. If they’re flying around, someone probably got too close and flushed them. Also remember to stay on trails and paths and out of roped or fenced off areas.
We’ve had a good fall and early winter for both Long-eared and Short-eared Owls at Montrose. Multiple birds have been recorded during this period, though Short-eareds were and usually are more numerous. This Long-eared Owl looked comfortable roosting in a stand of cedars. It’s hard to say if this individual is a recent migrant or an overwintering bird that’s been around for a few weeks. December 22, 2022.
A surprise Long-eared Owl was the highlight of an otherwise uneventful morning on December 1. Migration is largely over and bird activity has slowed down dramatically; birding at Montrose will be like this for the next three months. We could still get an unusual gull, duck, or grebe, and today’s Long-eared Owl shows that owls are possible, at least for a while. Also, Snow Buntings have been fairly regular in the Dunes and should remain so through December. Winter is the time to think about birding other, more productive places. As always, keep checking the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for current sightings.
If you were lucky enough to be at Montrose Dunes on the morning of November 10, you were treated to a dazzling aerial display of Short-eared Owls. Up to 5 were swooping, circling, and floppy flying over the Dunes and Lake Michigan. Most eventually settled down in the Dunes and disappeared from sight. This is about as many Short-eareds as we see at one time at Montrose. It’s also a reminder that November is an excellent month for owls. More photos of this morning’s Short-eared Owls are at my eBird checklist, URL below.
November 10, 2022