The forecast for April 24 called for rain, so I planned on spending the day inside doing chores and such. When I woke up and checked the news, the forecast indicated most of the rain would occur south of Chicago, so I headed over to Montrose for some late April birding. Good choice as it turned out to be the best day of the spring so far. The trees and shrubs were dripping with Swamp and White-throated Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Hermit Thrushes, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Many of these birds were in the tops of trees feasting on swarms of small insects. I ended up with 66 species in almost four hours, and about 80 species were reported to eBird by all observers. I had multiple personal first-of-spring sightings. My highlights include
Willet – 3
White-faced Ibis – 1, first site record
Long-eared Owl – 1
Grasshopper Sparrow – 1
Northern Parula – 1
Pine Warbler – 1
The White-faced Ibis was on the protected beach early in the morning. It did not stay long. We’ve had multiple Long-eared Owls in the last week in what has been one of the best springs I can remember for them. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
Semipalmated Sandpipers (click to see the larger version)
Shorebird activity is picking up. On August 19 I had a Willet, Red Knot, 6 Semipalmated Plovers, about 30 Semipalmated Sandpipers, and a Sanderling. The pool on the public beach we call the fluddle has been a hot spot and that’s where most of these shorebirds were. A Whimbrel was seen by others. Link to my eBird checklist for August 19 below.
Willets are one of the earliest southbound migrant shorebirds we see in Chicago. Adults start to appear in late June and early July, followed by juveniles in August. Their migration is largely finished by Labor Day. This juvenile was wading in the pool of water on Montrose Beach we call Lake Montrose. August 2020.
Where was this bird born? The Dakotas? Canada? And where was it headed? Texas? Florida? The journeys of birds are extraordinary.
For more information about shorebirds at Montrose, see the Shorebirds section of the What to See page.
We had a nice influx of shorebirds at Montrose Beach in Chicago on September 15, including a couple of late birds flagged as such by eBird. Best were a Willet and Short-billed Dowitcher, plus Pectoral Sandpiper and 2 Lesser Yellowlegs. Sanderlings and Semipalmated Plovers continue. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
I ran over to Montrose on the evening of July 12 to look for large shorebirds. With reports of Whimbrels and Willets along the Indiana lakefront recently I thought this might be a worthwhile effort. Between all the beach goers and flooding on the beach, shorebird habitat has been in short supply at Montrose. I did find a nice adult Willet at the far east end of the public beach, not far from where the Piping Plovers are nesting. This is a good time of the year to look for large shorebirds like Willets, Whimbrels, and Marbled Godwits at Montrose. I often have better luck with these birds in the evening than the morning as they get flushed off of other beaches and end up at Montrose because it has some habitat for them.
Common Nighthawk. Photo by M. Ferguson (click to see the larger version)
The sweet season has commenced. Days like May 9 make suffering through Chicago winters worth it. I don’t know if the volume of birds was better than the fantastic weekend of May 4-5 but the variety certainly was. I tallied 95 species in about 3.5 hours of morning birding, my best spring total to date (according to eBird, over 120 species were reported). My highlights include 3 Black-bellied Plovers, Willet, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common and Forster’s Terns, a roosting Common Nighthawk, 5 woodpeckers, 19 species of warblers (Pine, Northern Parula, and Blue-winged being the best), and Clay-colored Sparrow. Link to my eBird checklist below.