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
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.
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.
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.
American Bittern (click to see the larger version)
It’s axiomatic among Chicago lakefront birders that warm fronts with southwest winds in spring bring large numbers of migrants to the Chicago lakefront parks. That axiom was in full effect at Montrose Point today, April 12. I had the day off and spent a little over 3 hours at Montrose, tallying 69 species for my effort. Most impressive was the high volume of Eastern Phoebes, Hermit Thrushes, Yellow-rumped Warblers and other mid-spring migrants. I knew I was in for a good morning when I saw Northern Flickers and flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers and American Robins coming in off Lake Michigan. I didn’t bird Montrose much in March because of the cold weather, so seeing all these migrants was a nice way to get back in the birding saddle.
Some of the other birds I saw at Montrose this a.m. include migrating Osprey and Northern Harriers, a lingering White-winged Scoter, American Woodcock, Wilson’s Snipe, Pectoral Sandpipers, Dunlin, migrating Common Loons, and a cooperative American Bittern. Link to my eBird checklist below.