I lugged my Questar out to Montrose this morning, hoping to see waterfowl and other things on the water or flying by. Lake Michigan was nice and flat and the visibility was good, but except for Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Goldeneye, and a few Horned Grebes I saw little. More interesting and unexpected were 2 Snow Buntings playing around on the Fishhook Pier. Snow Buntings are regular at Montrose from late fall to early winter but are less common in spring. I guess they have to go back north at some point.
I had a Rough-legged Hawk fly south over Montrose Point this morning. Rough-legged Hawks are rare at Montrose; I think I’ve seen fewer than 10 in the 35+ years I’ve been birding there. I saw the bird just after sunrise and it was a couple of hundred feet high so it must have started migrating in the dark.
Other birds seen at Montrose this chilly a.m. include:
American Pipit – 2
Fox Sparrow – 2
Savannah Sparrow – 1
Lapland Longspur – 5
Snow Bunting – ~8
Common Redpoll – 3
Pine Siskin – 1
It was so cold this morning the lake was steaming, something we usually don’t see until well into winter.
Given the strong west winds I expected the dunes to be full of Short-eared Owls this morning but alas I could only muster one. Other birds seen or heard at Montrose this a.m. include:
Wilson’s Snipe – 1 in the western panne
American Woodcock – 1 flushed from the Magic Hedge
American Pipit – 1 flying over the beach
Lapland Longspur – 3 in the dunes
Snow Bunting – 1 in the dunes
Rusty Blackbird – 1 in the western panne
Yellow-rumped Warbler – 1
Pine Siskin – 1
White-throated Sparrow – 3
Fox Sparrow – 1
West winds in fall do a birder good.
I had a latish LeConte’s Sparrow this morning in the grass at the base of the willows at the east end of the beach. I have had LeConte’s in November in Lincoln Park but not very often so this is unusual. There were good numbers of other birds in the dunes, mostly American Robins and Savannah Sparrows but I also had a flyover Snow Bunting and Lapland Longspur. No Short-eared Owl this a.m. I saw nothing else of note in a short walk around the point but I didn’t stay long.
The gusty west winds produced a Short-eared Owl and 9 Franklin’s Gulls this morning, October 29. The owl flushed out of the dunes and the Franklin’s flew south over the east end of the beach. I only spent an hour in the field so I imagine there were more Franklin’s moving. I also had a Greater Yellowlegs on the beach, a Wilson’s Snipe in the dunes, 2 Snow Buntings, and 15 or so Pine Siskins at the point. The Snow Buntings posed obligingly on the fishing pier for a photograph (try to ignore the graffiti).
I spent about an hour at Montrose this morning, December 7. The birds and birding feel mostly like winter, which means I didn’t have a lot of variety, but the morning wasn’t a total loss. I didn’t see the Snowy Owl, and it wasn’t seen yesterday, so perhaps it has moved on. I suspect there will be a few more this winter, judging from the numbers to the north of us. The large raptor highlight was the continuing juvenile Red-tailed Hawk, which was dining on a rabbit near the Magic Hedge. This bird has been around for about a month and has no doubt made significant progress in reducing the rabbit population at Montrose. I also saw a young Great Black-backed Gull flying around the fishing pier, a male Red-bellied Woodpecker, and a heard only Snow Bunting. There were birds inside the harbor too, including a lone lingering Horned Grebe, a handful of Greater and Lesser Scaup, and what looks like a young male Ring-necked Duck.