You know it’s a good fall for Pine Siskins when they outnumber the American Goldfinches. We’re at the beginning of what can only be described as a Pine Siskin invasion. Hundreds have been seen migrating south along the Illinois Lake Michigan lakefront, and numbers have been increasing at Montrose for over a week. On October 5 I saw about 100, my best count this fall, and probably my highest total ever for Montrose. Like other winter finches, Pine Siskins are irruptive, which means their numbers vary from one year to another, sometimes dramatically (2019 saw hardly any for example). This has also been an excellent fall for Purple Finches and Red-breasted Nuthatches, so something is going on in the boreal forest where these birds are coming from. Hopefully we’ll get redpolls and crossbills later in the fall. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning 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!
Today was the kind of day I could have stayed out all morning and then some, it was that good. All this morning’s bird activity confirmed that cold fronts and west winds are fantastic bird producers along the west side of Lake Michigan in fall. I ended up with 54 species in about 2 hours of early morning birding at Montrose, highlights including Merlin, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Wilson’s Snipe, 2 Pine Warblers, Northern Parula, 12 Nelson’s Sparrows, 3 Marsh Wrens, Bobolinks, and a Purple Finch. No pics today – I was too busy looking. Link to my eBird checklist below.
Baird’s Sandpiper (click to see the larger version)
I had a late juvenile Baird’s Sandpiper this morning, October 18. This is over a month past their peak time of occurance. I also had a first cycle Franklin’s Gull on the beach and 6 Lapland Longspurs in the dunes. Other landbirds seen include 2 Purple Finches, several Pine Siskins, and a few Orange-crowned Warblers, in addition to the usual mid October fare of kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, Winter Wrens, and White-throated Sparrows.
The Red-necked Grebe was still in Montrose Harbor this morning, November 11. I saw it swimming among the starfloats on the west side of the harbor. A brief walk around the point also yielded one each of Pine Siskin, Purple Finch, Snow Bunting, Lapland Longspur, and Rusty Blackbird.
Montrose was very lively this morning, October 19, with lots of White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, both kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Hermit Thrushes around. Here’s a partial list of what Karen and I saw:
Black-bellied Plover – 2
Dunlin – 2
Sanderling – 2
Merlin – 1
Chimney Swift – 6
White-eyed Vireo – 1 immature (gray eyes)
Winter Wren – ~5
Brown Creeper – 4
Gray Catbird – 1
American Pipit – 1
Lapland Longspur – 4, in the dunes
Snow Bunting – 4, also in the dunes
Tennessee Warbler – 1
Nashville Warbler – 1
Orange-crowned Warbler – ~8
Northern Parula – 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler – 1 male
Black-throated Green Warbler – 1
Palm Warbler – ~6
Blackpoll Warbler – 1
American Redstart – 1
Common Yellowthroat – 1
Chipping Sparrow – 1
Grasshopper Sparrow – 1
Lincoln’s Sparrow – 2
Fox Sparrow – ~6
Harris’s Sparrow – 1 immature
Rusty Blackbird – 2
Purple Finch – 2
Pine Siskin – 2
The White-eyed Vireo was probably the best bird of the day, and I don’t think I’ve seen one at Montrose in the fall before. I first saw it in the willows in the dunes and later in the peripheral plantings and again near the Magic Hedge. I’m assuming this was the same individual that was just moving around a lot.
The Harris’s Sparrow was at the east end of the native planting area, not far from the tower.