Tag Archives: Waterfowl

Spring Has Sprung, But…, March 26, 2020

March 26 saw an influx of migrants, most notably American Robins, blackbirds, and several types of sparrows. There were also good numbers of ducks on Lake Michigan, particularly Red-breasted Mergansers, and a few ducks moving north. This happens every spring when we get warm fronts and south winds. I tallied 46 species in a little less than 2 hours of effort, including a number of first of seasons. My highlights

Blue-winged Teal – 11
Northern Shoveler – 4
American Wigeon – 5
Ring-necked Duck – 4
White-winged Scoter – 8
Caspian Tern – 1
Common Loon – 4
Merlin – 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet – 4
Brown Creeper – 1
Fox Sparrow – 10

This will be my last bird report or blog post from Montrose for a while. See the post immediately above for the reason why.

eBird Checklist
March 26, 2020

Ducks (lots of ’em), March 20, 2020

Northern Shovelers

Northern Shovelers (click to see the larger version)

A strong flight of ducks took place at Montrose on March 20. In about an hour and a half of lakewatching I saw the following

Wood Duck – 30
Blue-winged Teal – 6
Northern Shoveler – 200
Gadwall – 15
American Wigeon – 8
Northern Pintail – 15
Green-winged Teal – 120
Ring-necked Duck – 40
Greater Scaup – 15
Lesser Scaup – 100
White-winged Scoter – 2
Long-tailed Duck – 1, continuing female in the harbor
Bufflehead – 10
Common Goldeneye – 20
Hooded Merganser – 8
Common Merganser – 3
Red-breasted Merganser – 200

We usually get a day or 2 each spring when large numbers of ducks move north like this. The numbers of Northern Shovelers and Green-winged Teal were most impressive. Interestingly, the winds were from the north and strong, which means these birds were flying into a headwind. I also had 2 flyby Common Loons, my first of the year.

In the above photo, note the spoon-shaped bills of the Northern Shovelers, a field mark that makes them easy to identify, even in flight.

eBird Checklist
March 20, 2020

Greater White-fronted Geese (lots of ’em), March 5, 2020

Greater White-fronted Geese

Greater White-fronted Geese (click to see the larger version)

A spectacular movement of Greater White-fronted Geese occurred on March 5. Greater White-fronted Geese are rare but regular early spring migrants at Montrose. We usually see a few most years, but this flight was like nothing I’ve experienced before. I estimated 1200 passed over between 6:45 and 7:30 a.m. Most were in groups of 50-200 birds and flying north over Lake Michigan. When they reached Montrose they turned west and continued in that direction over Chicago. The majority of flocks were between 500 and 1500 feet, so even though they flew over me most were too high to photograph.

eBird Checklist
March 5, 2020

Another Long-tailed Duck, February 24, 2020

Long-tailed Duck

Long-tailed Duck (click to see the larger version)

Two female Long-tailed Ducks have been frequenting Montrose Harbor, a darker, probably immature bird, and this whiter headed individual. The darker bird hasn’t been seen in a while but the pale Long-tailed was still around on February 24.

On a side note, I grew up calling this species Oldsquaw; it took some time and effort to get used to calling it Long-tailed Duck.

White-winged Scoters, February 24, 2020

White-winged Scoters

White-winged Scoters (click to see the larger version)

It’s White-winged Scoter time in Chicago. February is the month when White-winged Scoters return to Lake Michigan in numbers. I had about 40 at Montrose this morning. A few were resting on the water and a group of 30 flew north past the fishing pier close to shore. The structure on the horizon is the Wilson Avenue Crib, part of the water distribution system for Chicago and a little over 2 miles offshore. This particular crib is no longer operational. White-winged Scoters should be reliable at Montrose through early April.

eBird Checklist
February 24, 2020

Long-tailed Duck, February 11, 2020

Long-tailed Duck

Long-tailed Duck (click to see the larger version)

A Long-tailed Duck was the highlight of an otherwise uneventful morning on February 11. It was in a small area of water being kept open by an aerator on the north side of the harbor. Long-tailed Ducks are usually offshore birds on Lake Michigan so when I see a bird like this so close to shore I wonder if it’s sick or injured.

Long-tailed Ducks are highly variable in appearance. Adult males in winter are a striking mix of gray, black, and white. At the other end of the spectrum are immature females which are mostly dark. Based on the dark color, and especially the dark crown, this bird is probably an immature female.

Spring can’t come soon enough.

eBird Checklist
February 11, 2020