Monthly Archives: October 2022

Northern Saw-whet Owl, October 20, 2022

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl (click to see the larger version)

There isn’t a much more rewarding experience than finding a roosting Northern Saw-whet Owl during migration. This one was as fascinated with me as I was with it. Shoutout to the Northern Cardinal and Black-capped Chickadees for getting me on it. The secret to discovery in nature is awareness of the signs, cues, and messages it presents.

Tip: Listen for scolding Black-capped Chickadees and other small songbirds. They’re good at locating roosting owls in dense vegetation. If you hear complaining songbirds, look around and you might find a Saw-whet.

Note: Disclosing the exact location of a roosting owl is frowned upon in the birding community. Doing so could lead to harassment of the owl by birders and photographers. Giving the general location is acceptable, but if you find a roosting owl you should keep the precise location to yourself.

Harlequin Duck, October 21, 2022

Harlequin Duck and American Coots

Harlequin Duck and American Coots (click to see the larger version)

The female type Harlequin Duck seen at Foster Avenue a couple days ago wandered over to Montrose on October 21 (Foster Avenue is about a mile from Montrose). The bird hung out with the American Coots that have taken up residence at the east end of the beach and inside the fishing pier. It didn’t stay long and flew back west after a few minutes. Maybe it didn’t like keeping company with the pedestrian coots. Harlequin Ducks are rare but regular visitors to the inshore waters of Lake Michigan in late fall, winter, and early spring. This sighting is a reminder that waterfowl season is here and you should start checking Lake Michigan for scoters and other ducks.

All That Fencing and Roping

View of the protected beach at Montrose

View of the protected beach at Montrose (click to see the larger version)

If you’ve been to Montrose you’ve probably noticed the fencing and roping on the beach and in the Dunes and Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary. The fencing and roping are there for a good reason – to protect the natural areas from potentially harmful human activity. For example, the Dunes are home to unusual and fragile plants that are easily trampled. Montrose is a wonderful natural area but it’s also popular with joggers, dog walkers, birders and others. If these areas weren’t cordoned off they would be overrun with people who could, unintentionally, harm the nature that makes Montrose so special. Not being able to access these areas is an inconvenience to birders, but the protection gives the plants and animals a chance to thrive and feel safe.

Weather and Birding Forecast, October 13 and 14

Weather forecast screenshot for May 19 and 20

Weather forecast screenshot. From (click to see the larger version)

A strong cold front will pass through northern Illinois late in the day on October 12. The backside winds will be from the west on October 13 and 14. These conditions are favorable for several birds at Montrose, including Franklin’s Gulls, Short-eared Owls, and possibly American Avocets and Smith’s Longspurs. We should also see an influx of typical mid October passerines.

Warblers Down Low

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler (click to see the larger version)

Look at the Magnolia Warbler in the accompanying photo. Magnolia Warblers are normally found in trees but cold weather can force them to look for insect prey on the ground. This isn’t unusual – birds have to find food where they can and will adjust their behavior accordingly. The temperature on October 9, 2022, when I took this photo, was in the 50s and it was windy. These conditions reduce insect activity and make life more challenging for insect dependent birds like most warblers. The Magnolia Warbler wasn’t alone on that day. Numbers of hungry Yellow-rumped Warblers and Golden-crowned Kinglets were also down low, busily looking for food. Some of the Yellow-rumpeds were even feeding on the sand in the Dunes.