Gull-billed Tern. Photo courtesy of Woody Goss (click to see the larger version)
Woody Goss found a Gull-billed Tern on the protected beach late in the day on June 1. This is just the second record for Illinois and a first site record for Montrose. The bird flew off to the south after 30 minutes and has not been seen since. Gull-billed Terns are normally found on the Gulf and East coasts of the United States. They usually don’t stray far from the coast, though there are a number of extralimital records for the eastern United States. This amazing record is a reminder to keep checking the beach for unusual gulls, terns, and shorebirds.
To see the updated list of birds recorded at Montrose, refer to the Montrose List page on this blog.
We usually get a nice spillover of migrants into early June, but this year activity has dropped sharply since the peak day on May 19. Migrants are in a hurry to get to their breeding grounds, so they probably took advantage of the favorable weather we’ve been experiencing and continued moving north without stopping. We should get one last push of flycatchers, cuckoos, Red-eyed Vireos, and later warblers sometime in the next week. Spring shorebird migration also continues into June, and a rare gull or tern could show up, so don’t forget to check the beach.
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
May 6 lived up to the billing and turned out to be the best day of the spring so far. The persistent south winds brought in a lot of migrants, including many first of seasons. About 130 species were reported to eBird by all observers, which is about as good as we do. Sparrows were well represented, with many White-throated and White-crowned. Warbler variety was low, but it’s still early. My highlights for the morning include
Golden-crowned Kinglet (getting late)
Clay-colored Sparrow (3)
Dark-eyed Junco (getting late)
Bobolink (3, all males)
Black-throated Blue Warbler
We’re close to the peak of spring migration. The next couple weeks should see an increase in warbler, flycatcher, and Catharus thrush numbers. Keep checking weather forecasts for warm fronts, and keep checking the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for the latest sightings.
An immature Franklin’s Gull graced Montrose Beach on May 5. Franklin’s Gulls are uncommon but regular spring migrants at Montrose; most occur in late April and early May. The best way to look for them is to scan the flocks of gulls and terns that gather on the beach. This advice also applies to other, less common gulls, like Laughing, which also start to appear in late spring.
On a related side note, you should think about checking the beach in the afternoon and evening, especially the protected beach. Gulls, terns, and shorebirds settle down later in the day and you could find something unusual among the more common Herring and Ring-billed Gulls. The protected beach is fenced off on all sides and inaccessible to people and dogs, so the birds that end up there feel safer and tend to hang around.
As expected, the strong south winds brought a lot of migrants to Montrose Point on March 30. I ended up with 41 species in a little over two hours of effort, and 57 species were reported on eBird by all observers. Most impressive were the numbers of Northern Flickers coming in off Lake Michigan early in the morning. These birds were migrating north over the lake at night, and when the sun rose they started to head inland towards land and safety. No passerine or other landbird worth its life wants to get caught over Lake Michigan when the sun comes up. The local Peregrine Falcons and Herring Gulls relish hunting these tardy migrants as they make their way to shore. I also had multiple first of spring sightings, including Caspian Tern, Belted Kingfisher, Hermit Thrush, and Lapland Longspur. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.