Category Archives: Rare Birds

Posts about rare birds

Snowy Plover, May 31, 2022

Snowy Plover

Snowy Plover (click to see the larger version)

Woody Goss found a Snowy Plover early on the morning of May 31 on the protected portion of Montrose Beach. It reappeared in the same place on June 3. This is about the 5th Snowy Plover record for Montrose and the second this year (the first was on April 23 and 24). More photos of the bird can be seen at my eBird checklist for the morning, URL below.

Snowy Plovers are normally found on the Gulf Coast and throughout the western and southwestern United States. They do vagrate regularly and show up far outside their usual range.

eBird Checklist
May 31, 2022

April 11, 2022 – Fantastic Day

Eared Grebe

Eared Grebe (upper left) with 2 Horned Grebes and a Red-breasted Merganser (click to see the larger version)

April 11 lived up to the billing and turned out to be an exceptional day for migrants, with about 80 species reported to eBird. The south winds overnight brought in a lot of birds, as south winds usually do in spring. Northern Flickers and Hermit Thrushes were conspicuous by their numbers. Bird of the day goes to the nearly full breeding plumaged Eared Grebe on Lake Michigan near the base of the fishing pier. The bird was close to shore and conveniently associating with a group of Horned Grebes for comparison. Eared Grebes are rare and not annual at Montrose. Other goodies include Merlin, Short-eared Owl, Eurasian Collared-Dove, and the late continuing male Long-tailed Duck along the fishing pier. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.

eBird Checklist
April 11, 2022

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

November Cometh

Snow Buntings

Snow Buntings at Montrose Dunes, fall 2020. (click to see the larger version)

November is one of the most exciting months of the year at Montrose. The list of rarities found there in November is long and distinguished. As examples, an Ancient Murrelet, just the fourth record for Illinois, made an appearance in 2019, and in 2020 the fourth state record Cassin’s Sparrow delighted birders. General birding can be good too. Here are a few November birding tips:

  • Check the beach and Dunes for Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings. The buntings favor the more open areas of the Dunes, and the longspurs are usually flying over. Both will sometimes feed out in the open on the beach or even in the algae that washes up on the beach.
  • On days with brisk west winds, Short-eared Owls are a good bet in the Dunes. They usually kick up out of the denser vegetation and fly out over Lake Michigan.
  • With a little effort and luck, Northern Saw-whet and Long-eared Owls can be found in the peripheral plantings. Look for whitewash and listen for scolding, excited Black-capped Chickadees.
  • The fishing pier is an excellent place to scan Lake Michigan for loons, grebes, and waterfowl, either resting on the surface or in flight. Overcast days with light winds offer the best viewing conditions.
  • Northern Shrikes like the Dunes and more open areas of the Point. Look for them perched in the tops of trees or flying through, flashing their white wing and tail spots.
  • Black-legged Kittiwakes sometimes turn up, especially on days with northeast winds. They aren’t a sure bet but if you’re at Montrose on a day with easterly winds, pay attention to the gulls flying by. This applies for jaegers too.

See the Montrose Glossary page for descriptions of the locations mentioned above.

Think Flycatchers

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird. Photo by M. Ferguson. (click to see the larger version)

We’re always trying to guess what the next new bird for Montrose will be. It’s a fun game to play, though we’re usually wrong with our predictions. Montrose has an impressive 15 species of flycatchers to its credit, including several rare and uncommon species – Western Kingbird (regular), Cassin’s Kingbird (first state record), Say’s Phoebe (several records), and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (several records). Montrose is clearly an excellent place for Tyrannids, and there are several excellent candidates we should be thinking about as fall approaches. These potentials include

  • Gray Kingbird (many extralimital records in the Eastern United States, including three for Illinois)
  • Tropical Kingbird (many extralimital records in the Eastern United States, including one for Illinois)
  • Fork-tailed Flycatcher (well established pattern of vagrancy in the eastern United States, with several records for Illinois)
  • Vermillion Flycatcher (multiple records for Illinois, including one from Lincoln Park)

These are the most likely Tyrannids to show up, but there are a few less likely, though possible species like Variegated Flycatcher (a handful of eastern US records), Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher (a few eastern North American records), Thick-billed Kingbird (a few eastern North American records), and Hammond’s Flycatcher (multiple eastern North American records).

The best way to prepare for vagrants is to keep an open mind about what’s possible and to brush up on field marks for these birds.

White-faced Ibis, April 24, 2021 – First Site Record!

Virginia Rail

White-faced Ibis (click to see the larger version)

Clearly the highlight of an exceptional day of birding at Montrose on April 24 was a White-faced Ibis. The bird was on the protected beach early in the morning but flew off after about 10 minutes. It never returned. I managed to get one identifiable photo. This is a new species for Montrose, number 348 for the list I maintain. To see that list, refer to the Montrose List page on this blog.