Category Archives: Fall Bird Reports

September 1 – November 30, inclusive

Red-breasted Nuthatches, Fall 2022

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch (click to see the larger version)

For the second consecutive fall, Chicago is experiencing an invasion of Red-breasted Nuthatches. We’ve been seeing them daily and in good numbers at Montrose for most of September. Almost every flock of warblers has a Red-breasted Nuthatch or two associating with it. Back to back years with high numbers are atypical – usually we have to wait a few years between influxes. Some of the better places to see them are in the tree snags just west of the Magic Hedge and in the Honey Locusts south of the Magic Hedge.

Record Early Purple Sandpiper, September 17, 2022

Purple Sandpiper

Purple Sandpiper (click to see the larger version)

The highlight of an excellent day of overall birding at Montrose on September 17 was an unexpected Purple Sandpiper. The bird hung out on the fishing pier during the morning, happily feeding on some kind of insect, perhaps midges. This is the earliest Purple Sandpiper for Montrose I know of – all other records come from late October, November, and into December. Interestingly, the bird was in juvenal plumage, maybe the first record of a juvenile for Illinois. Dozens of people saw and photographed it. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.

eBird Checklist
September 17, 2022

Buff-breasted Sandpiper, September 8, 2022

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Buff-breasted Sandpiper (click to see the larger version)

The late summer shorebird bonanza continues at Montrose Beach. The show stealer on September 8 was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper that walked and fed nonchalantly among birders on the fishing pier. Shorebirds will often feed on the pier but this may be the first time a Buffy has done so. Other shorebirds seen at Montrose Beach on September 8 include the continuing juvenile Red Knot, 2 Baird’s Sandpipers, and 2 Greater Yellowlegs. Though not a shorebird, a surprise American White Pelican was also resting on the beach. We see a few flyover White Pelicans at Montrose each year, but this may be the first time one has set foot on land there.

September Shorebirds

Red Knot

Red Knot (click to see the larger version)

August is the best month for shorebirds but most of the regular August shorebirds occur in September, especially the first half of the month. As of September 4, we’ve had Red Knot, Baird’s Sandpipers, and an American Golden-Plover, plus several of the more common species. Though none have been reported, September is also good for White-rumped Sandpipers, so keep checking the beach this month.

Shorebirding Tip: Don’t forget to check the fishing pier while you’re at the beach. Shorebirds will use the pier for feeding and resting.

Sandhill Cranes (not at Montrose but not far away), November 22, 2021

Sandhill Cranes

Migrating Sandhill Cranes over Chicago. Taken at Graceland Cemetery. (click to see the larger version)

A big push of Sandhill Cranes took place over Chicago on November 22, 2021. These birds were migrating en masse, responding to an intense cold front and strong northwest winds, typical behavior for Sandhills in late fall. When I started to see flocks from my apartment around noon I walked over to Graceland Cemetery to get a better look. From Graceland I could see multiple flocks drifting south one to two miles to the west and 300 to 500 feet high, possibly following the Chicago River or Western Avenue (the photo shows how I was seeing them). We rarely get big numbers of Sandhills like this at Montrose, unless the wind is blowing very hard from the west, and it wasn’t on November 22.

Sandhill Crane migration is fairly predictable in late fall – be alert for strong cold fronts with west winds. They also seem to move better on days with clear or at most partly cloudy skies. Heavy overcast and precipitation discourage them from flying.

Black Vulture, November 13 and 14, 2021 – MEGA

Black Vulture

Black Vulture, November 14, 2021 (click to see the larger version)

A Black Vulture was seen at Montrose on Saturday, November 13. The bird worked its way up the lakefront from the Jarvis Sanctuary at Addison, stopping briefly near the harbor before ending up at Foster Avenue. On Sunday, November 14, it visited the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, roosting obligingly on a light pole for the many birders who came to look for it. This is just the second Black Vulture record for Montrose.

Black Vultures are common throughout the southern United States and range south into Central and South America. The closest they normally come to Chicago is west central Indiana, though they frequently occur outside of their regular range as vagrants, sometimes dramatically so.

Postscript: The bird was captured by wildlife rehabbers on November 14 because it wasn’t healthy.

Previous Montrose Black Vulture Records

  • April 9, 2019