On June 22 the city reopened the Chicago lakefront trails after being closed for 3 months. The lakefront trails are the paths in the lakefront parks for running, walking, and bike riding. The trails extend out to and through Montrose Point, so accessing the Point is possible, but only on foot or by bike (parking is not allowed at this time). Note that activities such as picnicking, going to the beach, playing sports, and gathering in groups are prohibited.
Gray Catbird in the catbird’s seat at Montrose Point (click to see the larger version)
I live about a mile from Montrose and I started walking there when the trails reopened. The park looks very different from when I last visited in late March – a lot greener, with many fewer people, and an even higher Lake Michigan. Breeding season is in full swing with lots of begging immature birds around. Monty and Rose, the pair of Piping Plovers that nested at Montrose in 2019, have returned and are raising a family again in the Dunes. As of this writing, they have 3 ping pong ball-sized downy young. The male Red-winged Blackbirds are in attack mode and sparing no one. The first southbound shorebirds are starting to appear, signaling the beginning of migration.
If you want to visit Montrose you’ll have to walk in until the park fully reopens. I don’t know when this will be. People have been parking west of Lake Shore Drive and walking in, not very convenient but the only option available now. I’ve included a link to one of my eBird lists from a recent visit, URL below. Also, check the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot to find out what’s being seen there.
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!
Highlights from October 12 were an American Avocet that almost became brunch for 2 of the local Peregrine Falcons, and this male Merlin that took a break from terrorizing songbirds long enough to have his pic taken. I ended up with 47 species in 3 hours of birding. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
Montrose Point was birdy on the morning of September 30. I ended up with 63 species in about 3 hours, my highest single-day total there this month. A little over 70 species were reported on eBird. Two of my better finds were a late juvenile Baird’s Sandpiper (by eBird standards) and a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk taking a bath in a flooded parking lot. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
We had a nice influx of shorebirds at Montrose Beach in Chicago on September 15, including a couple of late birds flagged as such by eBird. Best were a Willet and Short-billed Dowitcher, plus Pectoral Sandpiper and 2 Lesser Yellowlegs. Sanderlings and Semipalmated Plovers continue. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
Long-billed Dowitcher (click to see the larger version)
I checked Montrose Beach on the evening of September 11 to see if any interesting shorebirds had come in. A cold front was forecast to pass the next morning and I know from experience that shorebirds often move ahead of cold fronts in the summer and fall. To my great surprise, a juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher flew in and landed in the fluddle on the public part of the beach. This is a very rare bird at Montrose—in my 40 years of birding there I’ve only seen one (and this was the only record before the September 11 sighting). Hard to believe I know but we just don’t get them. More photos of the Long-billed Dowitcher are at my eBird checklist for the day, link below.