Purple Gallinule (click to see the larger version)
Fortuitous – Happening by a lucky chance; fortunate.
On the morning of September 23 I was walking on the footpath at the east end of Montrose Point as I usually do when I visit. This is one of my favorite places at Montrose as it provides a sweeping view of Chicago and Lake Michigan. Around 7:30 an unfamiliar, medium-sized bird flew over me, heading west, and moving fast. Right behind it and in hot pursuit was one of our local Peregrine Falcons. I thought the mystery bird may have been a Least Bittern or Green Heron. Whatever it was it just missed becoming breakfast for the Peregrine and crash-landed in some shrubs not far from where I was walking. I hurried over to where I thought the bird came down and after poking around found a juvenile Purple Gallinule about 10 feet up buried in dense vegetation. It appeared stunned from the near-death experience and didn’t move while I watched and photographed it. The bird stayed in the same spot for the rest of the day and was viewed and photographed by many. It was not seen after September 23. This is the second record of Purple Gallinule for Montrose. I’ve included a link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
Purple Gallinules breed in the southeastern United States, parts of Mexico and Central America, the Caribbean, and throughout much of South America. Birds in the southeastern United States are migratory and retreat to the American tropics and Florida for the winter. Assuming the bird was born in the US, the Montrose Purple Gallinule should have gone south instead of north, an example of mirror image misorientation. Purple Gallinule vagrancy is well-established; individuals occur regularly far out of range in North America.
Previous Purple Gallinule Records For Montrose Point
May 7 – 10, 1999 (adult). Meadowlark, A Journal of Illinois Birds, Volume 8, Number 4.
A number of other shorebirds occur at this time of the year, including Dunlin (expected) and Long-billed Dowitcher (rare), and later in the fall Purple Sandpiper and Red Phalarope are possible. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
An immature (first cycle) Franklin’s Gull graced Montrose Beach on September 16. This is the time of the year when Franklin’s Gulls start to show up on Chicago lakefront beaches. Large numbers, sometimes in the dozens, can occur in October, especially after strong west winds. Checking groups of Ring-billed Gulls is the best way to find them. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
Franklin’s Gull is named after the English Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, not the American statesman Benjamin Franklin. Easy mistake to make. Some eponymous bird names may be in trouble because of the questionable activities of their namesakes. As far as I can tell, Franklin’s Gull is safe.
Franklin’s Gull (click to see the larger version)
Note the white outer tail feather in the second photo, a field mark that distinguishes first cycle Franklin’s Gulls from similarly aged Laughing Gulls. This field mark isn’t easy to see and other characteristics like size, structure, and face pattern are more obvious.
Grasspiper – A shorebird often found in short-grass habitat, e.g., Buff-breasted Sandpiper.
More fun with Sanderlings at Montrose. On September 12 I noticed a group flying around the grassy field south of the beach. Eventually some landed and began feeding. I’m not sure I’ve seen this behavior before. Sanderlings show high fidelity to sandy beaches but like other birds can adjust their behavior and use non-typical habitat. BTW, the Montrose Beach Sanderling flock is up to 100 or so birds. This is one of the best falls for them I can remember.
Montrose Beach in Chicago sure does. I had over 60 on September 10, my best count of 2020. This is a continuation of the excellent shorebird migration we’ve had this summer and fall. All of these Sanderlings appeared to be juveniles; Arctic breeding shorebirds must have had a good season. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
Try counting the Sanderlings in the photo. I got up to 62.
For more information about shorebirds at Montrose, see the Shorebirds section of the What to See page.
Today was the best day of the fall for me. I ended up with 53 species in about 3 hours of birding, with good numbers of passerines, especially warblers and Catharus thrushes. Highlights include Connecticut and 2 Golden-winged Warblers (10 warbler species total), Bobolink, Dickcissel, the continuing American Avocet, and a surprise Turkey Vulture. TVs aren’t rare at Montrose but we don’t see a lot of them. Shorebirds were skimpy, mainly because the fluddle has dried up. I also had impressive numbers of aerial insectivores, mostly Chimney Swifts and Barn Swallows, a few bonus Cliff Swallows, and what seemed like thousands of buzzing dragonflies. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.