Tag Archives: Sparrows

May 13, 2023 – A Fantastic Day

Clay-colored Sparrow

Clay-colored Sparrow (click to see the larger version)

Saturday, May 13 qualified as a fallout given the volume of warblers, sparrows, flycatchers, and other passerine migrants present. Over 140 species were reported to eBird by all observers. The rain, north winds, and temperatures in the 50s didn’t slow down the birds or the birders. My highlights include

Ruddy Turnstone
Common Tern (14)
Common Loon (getting late)
Yellow-throated Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
Clay-colored Sparrow (2)
Orchard Oriole (4)
22 warblers
Golden-winged Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Northern Parula
Canada Warbler
Scarlet Tanager (4)
Dickcissel (3)

We’re at the peak of spring migration; birding will be productive for the next 2 to 3 weeks. This is the time to call in sick or take those personal days off.

LeConte’s Sparrow, The Sparrow With Orange Eyebrows

LeConte's Sparrow

LeConte’s Sparrow (click to see the larger version)

We do well with sparrows at Montrose. To date, 24 species have been recorded there, and of these, 20 are regular. One of the more sought after sparrows is LeConte’s, a rare but regular migrant at Montrose. LeConte’s Sparrow is normally found in grassy type habitats, but during migration they can show up almost anywhere. We’ve seen them on bare ground under trees and even on the concrete fishing pier. Migrant birds can’t always find the right habitat on their journeys and can end up in strange places. The LeConte’s in the photo spent a few hours in a brush tangle near the pond at the Marovitz Golf Course on April 20, 2023.

April is sparrow month in Chicago. While you’re sorting through all the Swamp, White-throated, and White-crowneds, don’t forget about LeConte’s, the sparrow with orange eyebrows (Nelson’s Sparrow also has orange eyebrows, but we don’t see them in April).

Birding and Weather Forecast, April 10 – 14, 2023

Weather forecast screenshot

Weather forecast screenshot. From weather.com (click to see the larger version)

We’re in for an extended period of mild air and south winds starting Monday, April 10 and lasting the rest of the week. Tuesday through Friday look excellent. We should see an influx of typical mid spring migrants, including both kinglets, Eastern Phoebe, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and a variety of sparrows. LeConte’s and Henslow’s Sparrows are a good bet, and mid April is prime time for Smith’s Longspurs. If you have sick days you should think about cashing those chips in, or maybe find yourself conveniently sick a morning or two this week. As always, check the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for recent sightings.

LeConte’s Sparrow and the Weirdness of Migration

LeConte's Sparrow

LeConte’s Sparrow (click to see the larger version)

Migration is weird. Birds can and do show up in strange places and out of their normal, preferred habitat. You may have your own experience with this, like a Sora or Virginia Rail that showed up in a garage or parking lot. This LeConte’s Sparrow proves the point. LeConte’s are grassland and marsh sparrows, but this one found itself beneath a group of hawthorn trees at Montrose on September 29, 2022.

Midges, Midges Everywhere


Bobolink (click to see the larger version)

What’s more interesting in this photo? The male Bobolink feeding near the top of the tree or the midges buzzing around him?

If you were at Montrose in late April or early May 2022, you couldn’t help but notice the swarms of midges (midges are insects related to mosquitoes). If you happened to walk through a cloud of them, a few may have ended up in your eyes or mouth. The midges may have been annoying to us but the birds were loving them. Seeing White-throated and Swamp Sparrows feasting on these tiny insects in the tree tops was odd, something you’d expect from warblers, but they were taking advantage of an abundant food source, like any smart bird would.

Photo: Male Bobolink from Montrose Point in Chicago, May 7, 2022

Migration, April 30 – May 2

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird (click to see the larger version)

We’re having a strong late April and early May songbird migration. Sparrow numbers and variety have been excellent, with many White-throated and Swamp Sparrows and Eastern Towhees around. Smaller numbers of White-crowned, Lincoln’s, Savannah, and a few Lark, Vesper, and Clay-colored Sparrows have also been seen. Non-sparrow passerines like Brown Thrashers, Gray Catbirds, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers have been in good numbers for those species. What we haven’t been seeing are large numbers of insect dependent songbirds like flycatchers, warblers, vireos, and Catharus thrushes, excluding Hermit. This is probably because of the unseasonably chilly temperatures and persistent north winds we’ve been experiencing. Unfortunately, as of May 2, the forecast out to about May 8 doesn’t indicate much change in this pattern. When it does break and we get a serious warm up, we should see a big influx of migrants. Mid may is typically the peak of spring migration, with the largest variety of passerines of the year. As always, keep checking the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for the latest sightings.