November is known for rare waterbirds but it’s also excellent for owls. Long-eared, Short-eared, and Barn Owls have been reported at Montrose this November and Northern Saw-whet is a good bet. If Snowy Owls are invading they usually start appearing around Thanksgiving. So, while you’re looking for Black-legged Kittiwakes on Lake Michigan, don’t forget to check the Dunes, woods, and shrubs for owls.
A second March Snowy Owl made an appearance on the 25th. Ironically, it was on the end of the fishing pier in the exact same spot as the March 15th bird. Snowy Owls love to roost on the pier – always give it a good scan late fall through early spring for them. Other interesting birds include a flyby Red-throated Loon and 27 White-winged Scoters. Also, Red-breasted Merganser numbers are starting to pick up on Lake Michigan. The males are doing their elaborate dip and bow display to impress the females. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
March 25, 2022
A Snowy Owl was lounging on the end of the fishing pier at Montrose on March 15. We don’t see Snowies as often in the spring but we do get them occasionally. They have to go back north at some point and March is when we see most of these rebounding birds. Illinois experienced an impressive influx of Snowy Owls during the winter of 2021/2022. We even saw a few at Montrose.
March 15 was also an exciting day for waterfowl. Scores of Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Mallards, and several others were making their way north over Lake Michigan. A few times each spring we get large flights of ducks moving north over the lake. These flights (and today’s flight) often occur on days with north winds. It seems counterintuitive for birds to migrate into a head wind, but doing so may actually make flying easier as the onrushing air generates lift for them. This is also why airplanes like to take off into a head wind. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
March 15, 2022
Winter is the slow season at Montrose. You’d be doing well if you saw 20 species in a morning. As such, there are some things to do and birds to look for.
- This is shaping up to be a good winter for Snowy Owls. As of mid January, many have been reported in the Chicago area, and several have been seen at Montrose. The best places to check for Snowies are the beach and Dunes and on the fishing pier, especially after it ices over. Note: Be careful as the paths and sidewalks can be covered in ice. This is especially true of the fishing pier. Sometimes this ice is thin and not easy to see, so-called black ice.
- The fruiting trees are hosting numbers of American Robins and Northern Cardinals. That’s probably all you will see but there’s always a chance a more unusual frugivore will show up, like a Townsend’s Solitaire or Varied Thrush.
- The open waters of Lake Michigan and the harbor are attracting numbers of ducks, mainly Red-breasted and Common Mergansers and Common Goldeneyes, but as long as the water remains open, an unusual duck, loon, or grebe is possible. Don’t forget to check the harbor mouth too.
- Common Redpolls are showing up in big numbers in northeastern Illinois, and several have been seen at Montrose. Good places to look for them are weedy areas, like the Native Planting Area along the southeast corner of the Point.
As always, don’t forget to check the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for current sightings.
A Snowy Owl was roosting on the end of the fishing pier early on the morning of December 21. This may be the same individual we saw on December 17 as both birds were heavily barred and had paler napes. The fishing pier is a popular location for Snowies when they are around – for this reason, you should always scan it in winter. Unfortunately the pier is also popular with humans while it’s ice free, a fact today’s Snowy found out when an unobservant jogger ran to the end of the pier and flushed it.
As exciting as the Snowy Owl were the 8 Long-tailed Ducks that flew in and landed on Lake Michigan off the end of the fishing pier. Seven of these Long-tailed were striking adult males in their gray and white winter garb. Long-tailed Ducks are regular at Montrose, but seeing a large group of adult males so close to shore is unusual, as well as unforgettable.
Another photo of the Snowy and 3 of the Long-tailed Ducks are at my eBird checklist for the day, URL below.
December 21, 2021
Not unexpected but perhaps a bit tardy, the first of what will hopefully be many Snowy Owls made an appearance at Montrose on December 17. Snowies can show up almost anywhere. In the past we’ve seen them on the fishing pier, on the stardocks inside the harbor, on top of light poles, at the beach and Dunes, and on the light tower at the harbor mouth. As always, please be discreet when viewing and photographing these birds and give them plenty of space.
In the picture, note the photobombing House Sparrow, or is the Snowy photobombing the House Sparrow?