The weekend of May 1 – 3 looks like a good one for birding, with sustained southwest winds Saturday, Sunday, and into Monday. We should see a big influx of warblers and sparrows, as well more thrushes and flycatchers. Don’t forget to check the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for updates.
We’re in for a surge of warm air and southwest winds on Tuesday, April 27 and Wednesday, April 28. These conditions look favorable for a strong movement of passerines during that two day period. We should see an increase in warbler activity, with several uncommon species possible, including Hooded, Kentucky, and with luck, Worm-eating. Sparrows will be the big story. White-throated and Swamp Sparrow numbers will increase dramatically, and late April is a good time to see less common species like LeConte’s and Henslow’s. As always, keep checking the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for updated information and sightings.
Time to get excited.
As expected, the strong south winds brought a lot of migrants to Montrose Point on March 30. I ended up with 41 species in a little over two hours of effort, and 57 species were reported on eBird by all observers. Most impressive were the numbers of Northern Flickers coming in off Lake Michigan early in the morning. These birds were migrating north over the lake at night, and when the sun rose they started to head inland towards land and safety. No passerine or other landbird worth its life wants to get caught over Lake Michigan when the sun comes up. The local Peregrine Falcons and Herring Gulls relish hunting these tardy migrants as they make their way to shore. I also had multiple first of spring sightings, including Caspian Tern, Belted Kingfisher, Hermit Thrush, and Lapland Longspur. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
March 30, 2021
It looks like we’re in for a nice stretch of favorable migration conditions from March 21 to 24, with southerly winds each day. Montrose should be excellent during this period. We should see an influx of “later” early spring migrants like Golden-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, Eastern Towhees, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and others. As always, check the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for current sightings.
The forecast for March 8 to March 11 looks propitious for a strong movement of birds, with southwest winds each day. This is an ideal setup for a big push of blackbirds, American Robins, waterfowl, and other early spring migrants. If you can get to Montrose any of these days, by all means do. We wait all winter for a stretch of favorable migration conditions like this.
Probability plays a big part in birding. By probability, I mean using history and what’s expected to aid identification. A good example is identifying swifts. If you see a swift in Chicago, chances are overwhelming it’s a Chimney Swift, the common and regular swift in the Midwest. You don’t have to scrutinize field marks to know, with a high degree of certainty, that a swift in Illinois will be a Chimney Swift. In fact, Chimney Swift is the only swift we see in Illinois – there are no verified records of other swifts in the state as of 2021. Where probability falls short and becomes problematic is if other possibilities for occurrence exist. Chimney Swift may be the only swift recorded in Illinois, but it’s not the only swift species recorded in the Midwest or eastern United States. A check of eBird reveals a handful of records of four other swifts in the United States east of the Mississippi River – Vaux’s, Black, White-throated, and White-collared. If you relied solely on probability for swift identification you could miss something unexpected. Swifts are strong-flying, migratory birds, and the number of vagrant species that have shown up far out of range in the United States warrants not relying solely on probability to identify them. My approach is to use probability as a general guide but to be mindful of other, less likely possibilities if they exist, and be prepared for the unexpected. For the swift example, I’m aware of the less likely possibilities, so I periodically brush up on Vaux’s, Black, White-throated, and White-collared Swift identification. This way I’m at least familiar with the basic field marks of these species.