Category Archives: Fall Bird Reports

September 1 – November 30, inclusive

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

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

The Water Feature is Hot! September 2021

Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo at the water feature. Photo courtesy of Terry Walsh. (click to see the larger version)

The only reliable, easy to access source of fresh water for birds at the sanctuary is the small ground fountain we call the water feature. This makes it vitally important to migrants, and it’s been a magnet for warblers and other songbirds this fall. These birds are attracted to the water but find cover in the small shrub and thick vegetation inside the water feature enclosure. The water feature is about 50 yards east southeast of the Magic Hedge and runs during the warmer months of the year. The best way to bird it is to stand quietly on the dirt path that surrounds the enclosure and look for birds moving around inside.

September 7, 2021

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher (click to see the larger version)

I spent about three hours birding Montrose on September 7 and it was time well spent. I tallied 51 species for my effort and saw a number of personal first of season birds. According to eBird, almost 80 species were recorded by all observers. Swainson’s Thrushes have arrived and they seemed to be everywhere. The dogwood north of the Magic Hedge and the cherry trees in the meadow were flush with them. My highlights include

Baird’s Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Black-billed Cuckoo
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Golden-winged Warbler
Northern Parula

Additionally, swarms of Chimney Swifts were moving south over the Point. I estimated 600 but that total is likely conservative. Link to my eBIrd checklist for the day below.

eBird Checklist
September 7, 2021