The Piping Plover monitors found a Whimbrel on the protected portion of Montrose Beach in the afternoon of May 23. Whimbrels are rare in spring and have a narrow window of occurrence from about May 15 to May 25. This bird delighted the many birders who came to see it. It’s also a reminder that afternoon and evening birding can be just as productive as morning birding, especially for shorebirds, gulls, and terns.
A Whimbrel made a brief appearance at Montrose on August 22, the first one reported this summer. We’re coming into the peak time for Whimbrels, from late August to early September. Take a look at the screenshot below from eBird.
Obviously the beach is the best place to look for Whimbrels. We see them along the shore, up on the beach mixed in with Ring-billed Gulls, in the Dunes, and flying by. Whimbrels are vociferous birds and their loud, excited call is distinctive. Don’t forget to check the beach and Dunes in the afternoon and evening too.
Shorebirds have been moving south at Montrose since late June. This is typical. The first birds are invariably adult Least Sandpipers (adult shorebirds precede their offspring). It’s hard to believe they have enough time to breed before starting migration again. The earliest southbound migrants almost overlap in time with the last northbound spring migrants! Montrose Beach serves as a convenient stopover for feeding and resting. The public part of the beach is often flooded in summer and migrant shorebirds like to break there and fuel up before continuing their journey. Some of the more unusual birds we’ve seen this summer include Whimbrel, Red Knot, Western Sandpiper, and White-rumped Sandpiper. Montrose doesn’t get huge numbers of shorebirds but the ones we do get we usually see well.
Monty and Rose
Also on the shorebird front, our celebrity Piping Plovers Monty and Rose returned in 2020 and nested again. This year they set up in the Dunes among the thick beach grass, which made monitoring challenging. They successfully raised 3 young, and unlike last year’s brood, fish and wildlife officials banded all 3. The young were also given names — Hazel, Esperanza, and Nish. The family departed by mid-August.
For more information about shorebirds at Montrose, see the Shorebirds section on the What to See page.
Miserable weather often means fantastic birding at Montrose. Such was the case on May 2. The temperature never got out of the 40s, drizzle was a constant companion, and it started raining before I left. Parka and Polartec weather in May. I tallied 79 species in 3.5 hours, my best day of the spring so far, highlighted by 2 Whimbrels, 8 Willets, a Piping Plover, and 13 species of warblers, including Pine, Hooded, and Blue-winged. I also had a number of new birds for the year. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
I had a Whimbrel at Montrose Beach late this afternoon, May 19. The bird was about 200 yards west of the protected area on the north shore of “Lake Montrose”, the large pool of water on the beach. This is prime time for spring Whimbrels on Lake Michigan and Montrose Beach is one of the better places to see them in Illinois.
A juvenile Whimbrel was at Montrose Dunes this evening, September 24. The bird spent a couple hours in the dunes, mostly in the southeast corner. This is the latest Whimbrel I’ve seen at Montrose and possibly the latest I’ve seen in the Midwest. The peak for fall Whimbrel migration on the west side of Lake Michigan is around Labor Day.