Monthly Archives: August 2021

Montrose Update, August 30, 2021

Montrose Dunes

Montrose Dunes (click to see the larger version)

Montrose Dunes is completely open. Chicago Park District personnel removed the fence that prevented access to the beach. You can now walk out to the beach from the Dunes. Note that the pannes are still roped off; please stay out of them to protect the vegetation.

Birding tip: The small grove of willows near the shoreline in the Dunes can be good in fall migration for warblers and other passerines.

Good News

Montrose Beach

. Flooding at Montrose Beach (click to see the larger version)

The heavy rain on the night of August 24 flooded parts of the Dunes and beach at Montrose, creating shorebird habitat. Before the rain the Dunes and beach were bone dry. We’ll see how long this habitat lasts. We’re in the peak of shorebird migration, so additional rain can only help.

Whimbrel Time

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.

eBird screenshot

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.

Finding Roosting Common Nighthawks

Common Nighthawk

. Common Nighthawk at Montrose, August 21, 2021 (click to see the larger version)

Migrant Common Nighthawks are starting to show up in the Chicago area. We usually see large numbers of them, sometimes in the hundreds or more, moving south in late afternoon and evening in late August and early September. Seeing one perched is a different matter. Like other nightjars, Common Nighthawks are cryptically colored and when they perch they don’t move, all but disappearing. A good way to find them is to examine bare, horizontal tree limbs on trees that don’t have a lot of leaves. I’ve used this method with some success at Montrose. You may have to look at a lot of trees to find a roosting nighthawk but the effort will be worth it when you find one. They’re also easy to photograph.

Think Flycatchers

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird. Photo by M. Ferguson. (click to see the larger version)

We’re always trying to guess what the next new bird for Montrose will be. It’s a fun game to play, though we’re usually wrong with our predictions. Montrose has an impressive 15 species of flycatchers to its credit, including several rare and uncommon species – Western Kingbird (regular), Cassin’s Kingbird (first state record), Say’s Phoebe (several records), and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (several records). Montrose is clearly an excellent place for Tyrannids, and there are several excellent candidates we should be thinking about as fall approaches. These potentials include

  • Gray Kingbird (many extralimital records in the Eastern United States, including three for Illinois)
  • Tropical Kingbird (many extralimital records in the Eastern United States, including one for Illinois)
  • Fork-tailed Flycatcher (well established pattern of vagrancy in the eastern United States, with several records for Illinois)
  • Vermillion Flycatcher (multiple records for Illinois, including one from Lincoln Park)

These are the most likely Tyrannids to show up, but there are a few less likely, though possible species like Variegated Flycatcher (a handful of eastern US records), Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher (a few eastern North American records), Thick-billed Kingbird (a few eastern North American records), and Hammond’s Flycatcher (multiple eastern North American records).

The best way to prepare for vagrants is to keep an open mind about what’s possible and to brush up on field marks for these birds.