White-rumped Sandpiper (click to see the larger version)
We’re seeing the expected mid summer southbound migrant shorebirds like Least Sandpipers and Willets, but a White-rumped Sandpiper on July 3 was a surprise. Which way was this bird going? White-rumpeds are late spring migrants; we often see a few well into June but July birds are harder to interpret. I suspect this bird is a very tardy northbound migrant since we were seeing White-rumpeds in mid and late June, and we usually don’t get southbound birds until late August at the earliest.
Even more inexplicable was a Hermit Thrush near the Marovitz Golf Course. Hermit Thrushes are early spring and later fall migrants in northern Illinois. Most spring birds have moved on by early May and the first fall birds don’t start appearing before late September. In other words, Hermit Thrushes shouldn’t be in Chicago in July. Obviously this bird is confused.
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.
Olive-sided Flycatcher (click to see the larger version)
I spent about three hours birding Montrose on September 7 and it was time well spent. I tallied 51 species for my effort and saw a number of personal first of season birds. According to eBird, almost 80 species were recorded by all observers. Swainson’s Thrushes have arrived and they seemed to be everywhere. The dogwood north of the Magic Hedge and the cherry trees in the meadow were flush with them. My highlights include
Dogwood at The Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary (click to see the larger version)
The dogwood just north of the north end of the Magic Hedge has been a hotspot for a variety of passerines this early fall. Birds I’ve seen feasting on its fruit include Gray Catbird, Swainson’s Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo, and Eastern Kingbird. As of early September, the shrub has abundant berries, so it should be productive for a few weeks. Look for the clusters of pea-sized white berries to find it (as far as I know, this is the only dogwood in the sanctuary). The best approach for birding it is to stand quietly 15 to 20 feet in front of it. Patience and determination are needed to pick birds out in the thick foliage.
American Avocets working the western panne in the Dunes (click to see the larger version)
Just because May has ended doesn’t mean migration comes to a screeching halt. The following are just some of the bonafide migrants I saw at Montrose on June 1
I ended up with 60 species in about 3 hours of birding. The first week in June isn’t as frenetic as mid-May but is still worth birding, and Montrose tends to hold migrants later in spring migration than most other places. Link to my eBird checklist below.
We were all expecting a great day on April 27, but I don’t think anyone knew just how good it would be. It turned out to be one of the best April days at Montrose any of us could remember. According to eBird, about 120 species were reported by all observers, with multiple rarities and first of season sightings. I ended up with 73 species in about 2.5 hours. My highlights include
Eastern Kingbird (early)
Yellow-throated Vireo (early)
All 6 regularly occurring swallows
Gray Catbird (early)
Swainson’s Thrush (early)
Cerulean Warbler (very rare, less than annual)
Yellow-throated Warbler (very rare, less than annual)
Pine Warbler (2, uncommon)
Summer Tanager (a nice adult male, uncommon at Montrose)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (early)
Any day with Cerulean and Yellow-throated Warblers and Summer Tanager is hard to beat. I don’t think I’ve had this trio at Montrose before either. The number of early passerines felt like early or mid-May rather than late April. It’s amazing and predictable what southwest winds do for bird migration in the spring. Link to my eBird checklist below.