Northern Harrier (click to see the larger version)
The Northern Harriers put on quite a show on October 23. I counted 16, all southbound flybys, in about 2 hours of morning birding. Most were female/immature type birds, like the individual pictured here. Several were coming in low off Lake Michigan and flying right over the beach and dunes (and me). Other birds seen include Short-eared Owl, 3 Surf Scoters, Franklin’s and Bonaparte’s Gulls, Merlin, American Woodcock, Wilson’s Snipe, and Purple Finch. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below. October rocks!
Long-tailed Duck (click to see the larger version)
What nature giveth, nature also taketh away. Seeing a dead bird is always sad. Seeing a dead bird as beautiful as a male Long-tailed Duck is poignant. This deceased Long-tailed Duck was on Montrose Beach on April 3. The bird was alive (but apparently not well) the day before but for unknown reasons didn’t survive. The specimen will go to the Field Museum where it will be available to scientists and others to study. Long-tailed Ducks are regular visitors to Lake Michigan during the colder months of the year.
A strong movement of northbound waterfowl occurred at Montrose this morning, March 30. Geoff Williamson and I stood at the end of the fishing pier for a couple of hours and watched flock after flock of diving and dabbling ducks moving north along Lake Michigan. Most were scaup and Redheads but we also had small numbers of Canvasbacks (uncommon at Montrose), Northern Pintails, Gadwall, American Wigeon, and smaller numbers of Northern Shovelers and Green-winged Teal. We also had a couple of Common Loons and Iceland and Great Black-backed Gulls. A group of White-winged Scoters (~12) was still on the lake off the end of the fishing pier. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
Today was a good day to look at Lake Michigan – overcast skies, a flat surface, and excellent visibility most of the way to the horizon, perfect conditions for looking for birds on the water. While scanning the lake I found several groups of White-winged Scoters, a female Black Scoter, and 4 Long-tailed Ducks. The White-winged Scoters (~20) were scattered in small flocks 1/5 to 1/4 mile offshore from the fishing pier. With one of these flocks was a female Black Scoter, a good bird for Montrose in the spring. Finally, I saw a group of Long-tailed Ducks flying south far offshore. These birds landed eventually but disappeared because of distance. Also of note were about a dozen Double-crested Cormorants on the water crib a couple of miles offshore from Montrose, the beginnings of the nesting colony. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
I spent a couple hours at Montrose on Thursday, November 8. The female type Harlequin Duck was inside the fishing pier and the Piping Plover continues on the beach. The Plover has been present for 3 weeks now. My best passerine was a very late Swainson’s Thrush near the Magic Hedge. A strange mix of birds for November. I ended up with 43 species for my effort. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
Baird’s Sandpiper (click to see the larger version)
I wasn’t even going to bird this morning (November 4) because of rain in the forecast, but when I looked out my window at 7:30 I saw no rain, so I grabbed my gear and headed over to Montrose. I tallied a whopping 20 species for my effort, unimpressive even by early November standards. But, BUT, 25% of that tally consisted of good birds – Harlequin Duck (off the end of the fishing pier, found by Krzysztof Kurlyowicz), Black Scoter (2 flybys, found by Steve Huggins), Red-necked Grebe (flyby), Piping Plover, and Baird’s Sandpiper. The Baird’s (2 juveniles) represent one of the latest records of this species for Montrose, continuing the trend for late birds started by the Piping Plover.