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It’s (Mostly) About Montrose

Welcome to The Montrose Birding Blog, a WordPress website about birding Montrose Point in Chicago. I created this blog to report bird and nature sightings from Montrose and to serve as a guide to birding Montrose. Unless stated otherwise, all images and content were created by and are the property of Robert D. Hughes; any unauthorized use is prohibited..

Questions or comments? Contact the website administrator, Robert D. Hughes.

About Me

Robert D. Hughes

I’ve been birding since 1978 and much of that time has been spent at Montrose. I’ve never lived far from Montrose so it’s always been easy for me to bird there before or after school or work.

I was born, raised, and currently live in Chicago. My professional background is in webmastering, front-end Web development, and content management. When I’m not working I apply my passion for communications to promoting the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary through social media and this blog. You could say I’m a Web guy at heart.

Robert D. Hughes, Administrator
November 2022

Need a Birding Guide?

I offer guided birding services for Montrose Point as well as other locations in the Chicago area. What are you interested in seeing? Spring warblers? Specialty birds like Henslow’s Sparrow? I love finding and showing birds to people. Contact me for more information. I look forward to hearing from you!

I designed and developed this site and produce most of the content for it and its sister birding website, The Orniphile. I also pay for hosting and deal with the many challenges associated with hosting. I thoroughly enjoy writing about birds and telling the story of Montrose Point, one of the most popular and renowned bird and nature sanctuaries in the United States. Empowering people with the information they can use to make informed decisions about birding Montrose is a passion of mine. With that in mind, I’m asking for contributions to help offset the hosting and management costs.

I use PayPal for donations. It’s safe, secure, and easy to use. To make a contribution, click the Donate button below and follow the instructions. Thanks!

What’s New

Migration is largely over and bird activity has slowed down dramatically. An unusual gull or duck could show up, but winter is the time to think about birding other, more productive places. As always, keep checking the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for current sightings.

Header Photo: White-winged Scoters from Montrose Harbor

Winter Caution

Life preserver

Life preserver at Montrose. If you’re smart you won’t need it. (click to see the larger version)

Getting around Montrose Point in winter can be tricky, even treacherous because of ice and snow covered streets, paths, and sidewalks. If you visit this winter, please be mindful of these conditions and exercise caution while walking and driving. Be especially careful on the fishing pier at the east end of the beach. Ice forms on the pier when it gets cold enough; if you slip and fall into Lake Michigan you’ll be in trouble. There are no ladders on the pier to climb out of the water. Note that there is a life preserver at the far south end of the pier. If you’re discreet you won’t need it.

Long-eared Owl, December 1, 2022

Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owl (click to see the larger version)

A surprise Long-eared Owl was the highlight of an otherwise uneventful morning on December 1. Migration is largely over and bird activity has slowed down dramatically; birding at Montrose will be like this for the next three months. We could still get an unusual gull, duck, or grebe, and today’s Long-eared Owl shows that owls are possible, at least for a while. Also, Snow Buntings have been fairly regular in the Dunes and should remain so through December. Winter is the time to think about birding other, more productive places. As always, keep checking the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for current sightings.

Something Fishy

Lake Trout

Lake Trout (click to see the larger version)

Ah, there’s nothing like seeing a dead fish to lift the spirits. I usually don’t post photos of deceased animals but this one is worth mentioning. On November 29, 2022 I found a washed-up Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush) on Montrose Beach. This might be the first Lake Trout I’ve seen at Montrose. Most of the large predatory fish in Lake Michigan are non-native and introduced, like the familiar Chinook and Coho Salmon. Lake Trout were once the dominant large predatory fish in the Great Lakes; lamprey predation, pollution, and overharvesting greatly reduced their numbers. Thanks to conservation measures, they’ve rebounded but they aren’t as common as they once were.

Identification: We know this is a Lake Trout and not an introduced salmon because of the small white spots on the body and the deeply forked tail. Our non-native salmon have dark speckling on their bodies and shallower tail forks.

Sandhill Cranes, November 19, 2022

Sandhill Cranes over Montrose

Sandhill Cranes over Montrose (click to see the larger version)

Thousands of Sandhill Cranes migrated over Chicago on November 18 and 19. This is an annual occurrence in late fall when we get intense cold fronts and brisk west winds. These conditions are necessary to force them south out of Wisconsin and east as far as the city. Birders throughout Chicago and northeastern Illinois were reporting big numbers, as well as a few rarer Whooping Cranes. Several hundred Sandhills made it to Montrose, which is unusual, and a testament to how strong the winds were. The Sandhill Cranes in the photo flew right down the Lake Michigan shoreline and over Cricket Hill on their way south.

Montrose Restroom Update, November 16, 2022

The portable toilet at the north end of the harbor has been removed, and the public restrooms in the beach house are closed for the season. The only bathroom option at this time are the four portable toilets at the south end of the harbor near the turnaround. Plan your visit accordingly. The Montrose Map page shows the location of the harbor, as well as the locations of other landmarks at Montrose Point.

eBird Tip – Writing Good Species Descriptions

eBird species description example

eBird species description example (click to see the larger version)

eBird makes it easy to add written details to your bird sightings – just click the Add Details button to the right of the species name when you’re entering bird sightings. This opens up a field where you can enter as much text as you like. eBird strongly encourages you to provide details about rare birds. This extra information helps eBird reviewers determine the validity of a rare bird. Diagnostic photographs are the best evidence, but if you don’t have photos the next best option is to provide a good, detailed written description. A good description should include field marks that confirm the identification and eliminate similar species. For example, say you saw a female Hooded Warbler at Montrose in November. A Hooded Warbler in November is rare and unexpected and would trip the eBird filters. Writing something like “It looked like the picture in the book” or “It was hopping on the ground” aren’t very helpful to eBird reviewers. A better description would be “Female. A warbler with unmarked green wings and back, unmarked yellow underparts, yellow face with a black rear border, and prominent white tails spots”. This is enough information to eliminate other species. The key is to include field marks you noted in the field. eBird reviewers will appreciate your attention to detail.