Author Archives: rhughes

About rhughes

Robert D. Hughes lives and works in Chicago, Illinois. His professional background is in Web site management and front-end Web development. He also writes about Web development issues and works with Joomla! CMS. When he isn't sitting in front of a computer he's out in the field looking for and photographing birds and other critters.

Harris’s Sparrows

Harris's Sparrow

Harris’s Sparrow at Montrose. Photo courtesy of Mike Ferguson. (click to see the larger version)

The middle of October is Harris’s Sparrow time in Chicago. We see a handful every year at Montrose, usually in fall. On October 15 Terry Walsh found an adult Harris’s at the Magic Clump, and Kevin Lin found an immature on October 17. The best way to look for Harris’s is to check groups of sparrows, especially White-throated and White-crowned, which can occur anywhere at Montrose at this time of the year.

October 13, 2021 – Peregrine Falcons and More

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon (click to see the larger version)

It was a Peregrine kind of day at Montrose on October 13. This juvenile perched obligingly in a snag long enough to have its picture taken. We also had an adult Peregrine, which knocked a poor migrating Winter Wren out of the sky and into Lake Michigan.

The Peregrine Falcons weren’t the only highlight. October 13 was one of the best days of the fall at Montrose for passerine migration, with lots of Swamp Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and kinglets. Bonus birds include American Avocet and three Franklin’s Gulls. I ended up with 52 species for the morning. Link to my eBird checklist below.

eBird Checklist
October 13, 2021

American Avocets, October 11, 2021

American Avocets

American Avocets (click to see the larger version)

American Avocets are strange birds. At Montrose, we see them from late April to early November and every month between. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to this pattern – they show up when they show up. The only other shorebird with such a broad range of temporal occurrence is Killdeer. These four American Avocets graced Montrose Beach on October 11. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.

eBird Checklist
October 11, 2021

Where Are the Cold Fronts? October 7, 2021

Weather map

Weather map showing a cold front approaching Chicago. Photo by Heart of Illinois ABC. (click to see the larger version)

We’ve been experiencing unseasonably mild conditions for most of October, with intermittent rain and south or east winds. It’s felt more like April or May and this pattern is forecast to continue into the middle of the month. These are poor conditions for fall migration. When October comes, birders look forward with eager anticipation to cold fronts and west winds, ideal conditions that bring large numbers of migrants south. A cold front is the leading edge of a colder air mass that originates to the north of us. The graphic illustrates what a cold front looks like on a weather map – a blue, curved line with small triangles that look like teeth. Migrants ride these cold fronts south out of Canada. If you’ve been to Montrose in the last week you’ve probably noticed how flat it feels. We are getting migrants, but not big numbers of birds we should be seeing now, like Yellow-rumped Warblers and White-throated Sparrows. At some point this pattern will break and things will change. Being a birder means waiting a lot for something to happen.

Bay-breasted Warbler Bonanza, October 2, 2021

Bay-breasted Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler. Photo courtesy of Craig Millard. (click to see the larger version)

I don’t think anyone had high expectations for October 2. BirdCast and radar didn’t indicate a strong movement overnight, and the last few days have been flat for migrants at Montrose. Early October is usually an excellent time for warblers and sparrows, but the number of Bay-breasted Warblers exceeded anything I’ve experienced before. They were the most common warbler and at times seemed to be everywhere, including on the ground feeding. My final Bay-breasted count was 16. Not surprisingly, eBird wanted details as this is a big number for a bird that isn’t abundant in Chicago. We also had large numbers of Tennessee and Black-throated Green Warblers. I’m not sure what caused this incursion of Boreal forest breeding warblers, as we’ve been experiencing unseasonably mild weather and few cold fronts, which are usually the impetus for birds to move in the fall. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.

eBird Checklist
October 2, 2021

Upcoming Non-Birding Events at Montrose, October

Montrose is a popular location for runs, charity walks, and other events. These are all for worthwhile causes but they complicate access and parking. This is the one event I know of so far. If you know of others, please let me know and I’ll update this post.

Event: AFSP Chicagoland Walk – Together to Fight Suicide
Date: Saturday, October 2, 2021
Time: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Location: Montrose Harbor

The best way to deal with these events is to arrive early at Montrose. You may also get caught in traffic as you leave, so be prepared to wait.