Virginia Rail on the revetment (click to see the larger version)
You know you’re doing well when you see a Short-eared Owl, two Long-eared Owls, and a Virginia Rail within a couple hours on the same day. All four were at Montrose on April 23. The Short-eared was flying over Lake Michigan, as Short-eareds are wont to do at Montrose during migration. The Long-eareds were roosting in vegetation and were pointed out to me by different people. The biggest surprise was the Virginia Rail. I saw it walking on the concrete revetment at the southeast corner of the Point, not exactly prime rail habitat. In addition to these morsels, there were also good numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. The southwest winds the night before did us and the birds good. Over 70 species were recorded by all observers on eBird, the highest daily total of the year so far. My eBird checklist has more photos, URL below.
Rails show up in the strangest places. Friend and fellow Montrose birder Dave Antieau alerted me to this Virginia Rail floating on Lake Michigan off the fishing pier on October 16. I’m guessing the bird was migrating over the lake and got chased into the water by marauding gulls or one of the local Peregrine Falcons and stayed there for its own safety. It also could have been stunned from striking the pier on its way in to shore. It’s a good thing rails can swim well.
I’ve found dead Soras and Virginia Rails on the fishing pier and concrete revetment at Montrose in the past. I think these birds crash into the pier and revetment as they’re coming into shore after a night of migration. They must not see these structures in the dark well enough to avoid hitting them. I’ve included a link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
On a side note, all eight species of rails recorded in Illinois have also been recorded at Montrose. This includes Black Rail (2 records), Yellow Rail (multiple records), and Purple Gallinule (2 records). Not bad for a small park in one of the largest and most densely populated urban areas in the United States. The Montrose List page shows all the birds recorded at Montrose.
I spent a few hours birding Montrose this morning, October 15. There were good numbers of birds around, especially shorebirds. In fact, I had my best shorebirding day all fall (in terms of individuals) today. I ended up with 49 species total, highlighted by:
Surf Scoter – 3 immatures in the surf at the east end of the beach
Virginia Rail – 1 in the dunes
Sora – 1 in the dunes
Sanderling – ~30
Dunlin – ~30
Baird’s Sandpiper – juvenile
Pectoral Sandpiper – 2 juveniles
Greater Yellowlegs – 28
Lesser Yellowlegs – 1
Forster’s Tern – 3
Merlin – 1
Peregrine Falcon – 2
Lapland Longspur – 1
5 warblers – Yellow-rumped, Palm, Black-throated Green, Orange-crowned, and Tennessee
Bobolink – 1
The yellowlegs and Dunlin were using the large fluddle that has reformed on the beach, and the other shorebirds were feeding in the extensive algae on the beach at the shoreline. Unfortunately, the unleashed dogs running up and down the beach kept flushing most of the shorebirds; by the time I left few shorebirds were left.
I spent about 3.5 hours at Montrose this morning, May 1, and it was worth just about every minute. Passerines were in in good numbers; I had a number of goodies and FOSs. Shorebirds, however, were disappointing. I woke up extra early and made it the beach just before sunrise, but all I could muster were a few Spotted Sandpipers, probably the nesting birds, and a couple Killdeer, again probably the local breeding birds. I ended up with 78 species, highlighted by
Virginia Rail – 1 in the eastern panne
Sora – 3
Forster’s Tern – ~60, strong movement
Merlin – 1
Great Crested Flycatcher – 1
Eastern Kingbird – 5
All 5 regularly occurring swallows
Sedge Wren – 1 singing in the eastern panne
Gray-cheeked Thrush – 1
Wood Thrush – 2
Veery – 1
11 species of warblers, Blue-winged being the best
Clay-colored Sparrow – 1, thanks Phil
Lark Sparrow – 1
Blue Grosbeak – 1 immature male
Bobolink – 1
Bird of the day goes to the immature male Blue Grosbeak. I’ve only seen 2 or 3 BLGR at Montrose in my 35+ years birding there, so I was fairly excited. Link to my eBird checklist below.
Montrose was hopping this morning with passerines, dominant among them Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers and Swamp Sparrows. Also, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Hermit Thrushes, White-throated and Savannah Sparrows, American Pipit, Cliff Swallow, and a male Scarlet Tanager. Non-passerine highlights include Great Egret, Green Heron, Solitary Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Wilson’s Snipe, and Virginia Rail.
Karen spotted a very cooperative Virginia Rail walking around inside the small satellite hedge this afternoon, April 25. Virginia Rails always remind me of kiwis, though rails and kiwis aren’t closely related.