An impressive flight of dabbling and bay ducks took place on the morning of March 2. This flight included numbers of Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Redheads, and Canvasbacks, the latter uncommon at Montrose. Most of these birds were flying north into a strong headwind. This seems counterintuitive but is typical behavior for migrating spring ducks along the western shore of Lake Michigan.
Tag Archives: Waterfowl
Glaucous Gull and Long-tailed Duck, February 10, 2023
Now that February is here we’re starting to think about spring and migration, but it’s still winter and we’re still getting winter birds. I can’t think of two more wintry birds in Chicago than Glaucous Gull and Long-tailed Duck. Both were at Montrose on February 10. This is the first Glaucous Gull I’ve seen at Montrose all winter. Not to be outdone, a tame adult male Long-tailed Duck graced the inside of the fishing pier. The Glaucous Gull flew off shortly after I photographed it, but the Long-tailed was still there when I left. More photos are at my eBird checklist for the morning, URL below.
February 10, 2023
Cackling Geese and Red-throated Loon, January 22, 2023
Late January is the slowest time of the year for birding at Montrose. Fall migration is over and spring migration won’t start for two or three weeks at the earliest. If you see 20 species in a day in the middle of winter you’re doing well. January 2023 hasn’t been any different than previous Januarys, except perhaps for the milder weather, but we have had a few interesting sightings. Two Cackling Geese are hanging out with the large wintering Canada Goose flock. Look for them wherever the Canadas are, like the harbor or at the north end of the Marovitz Golf Course. The smaller, shorter necked, and stubbier billed Cacklers really stand out among their larger cousins.
Red-throated Loons are regular in winter in small numbers along the Illinois Lake Michigan lakefront. On January 22 one was resting on the lake a few hundred yards offshore from the end of the fishing pier. Red-throated Loon is the default winter loon on Lake Michigan. Your best bet for seeing them at Montrose is from the fishing pier.
Photos of the Cackling Geese and Red-throated Loon are at my eBird checklist for the morning, URL below.
January 23, 2023
Cackling Goose, January 4, 2023
A tried and true method for finding unusual birds is to look through flocks of common birds. Want to find an out of range California Gull? Sort through groups of Herring Gulls. How would you look for an Arctic Tern? By carefully scanning flocks of Common Terns. This same approach applies to geese. Rare geese tend to associate with the common geese of an area, and in much of Illinois Canada Goose is the expected goose. This uncommon Cackling Goose fell in with the local wintering Canada Geese at Montrose Harbor in January 2023. Cackling Goose is the toy version of its larger relative.
Kleptoparasitism – Stealing Does a Bird Good
You may have noticed Herring Gulls hanging around groups of Red-breasted Mergansers at Montrose. The gulls are there for a good reason, at least for them – to steal fish the mergansers have caught. When a merganser dives and then surfaces with a fish, the Herring Gulls race in and try to snatch it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but the gulls must succeed enough to justify the effort. This thieving behavior is called kleptoparasitism and is a common practice where mergansers and Herring Gulls occur together. It’s easier for the gulls to let the mergs do the hard work of finding food and try to steal it then to catch the fish themselves. No one ever said nature was fair or just.
Fun With Long-tailed Ducks, December 8, 2022
On December 8 a group of six Long-tailed Ducks put on an air show worthy of the Blue Angels. The birds flew in a big circle low over the fishing pier, beach, and against the Chicago skyline. Most were strikingly plumaged adult males. Seeing this many Long-tailed Ducks so close to shore is unusual. More photos are at my eBird checklist for the morning, URL below.
December 8, 2022