We were all expecting a great day on April 27, but I don’t think anyone knew just how good it would be. It turned out to be one of the best April days at Montrose any of us could remember. According to eBird, about 120 species were reported by all observers, with multiple rarities and first of season sightings. I ended up with 73 species in about 2.5 hours. My highlights include
Eastern Kingbird (early)
Yellow-throated Vireo (early)
All 6 regularly occurring swallows
Gray Catbird (early)
Swainson’s Thrush (early)
Cerulean Warbler (very rare, less than annual)
Yellow-throated Warbler (very rare, less than annual)
Pine Warbler (2, uncommon)
Summer Tanager (a nice adult male, uncommon at Montrose)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (early)
Any day with Cerulean and Yellow-throated Warblers and Summer Tanager is hard to beat. I don’t think I’ve had this trio at Montrose before either. The number of early passerines felt like early or mid-May rather than late April. It’s amazing and predictable what southwest winds do for bird migration in the spring. Link to my eBird checklist below.
The forecast for April 24 called for rain, so I planned on spending the day inside doing chores and such. When I woke up and checked the news, the forecast indicated most of the rain would occur south of Chicago, so I headed over to Montrose for some late April birding. Good choice as it turned out to be the best day of the spring so far. The trees and shrubs were dripping with Swamp and White-throated Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Hermit Thrushes, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Many of these birds were in the tops of trees feasting on swarms of small insects. I ended up with 66 species in almost four hours, and about 80 species were reported to eBird by all observers. I had multiple personal first-of-spring sightings. My highlights include
Willet – 3
White-faced Ibis – 1, first site record
Long-eared Owl – 1
Grasshopper Sparrow – 1
Northern Parula – 1
Pine Warbler – 1
The White-faced Ibis was on the protected beach early in the morning. It did not stay long. We’ve had multiple Long-eared Owls in the last week in what has been one of the best springs I can remember for them. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
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.
Virginia Rail on the revetment (click to see the larger version)
You know you’re doing well when you see a Short-eared Owl, two Long-eared Owls, and a Virginia Rail within a couple hours on the same day. All four were at Montrose on April 23. The Short-eared was flying over Lake Michigan, as Short-eareds are wont to do at Montrose during migration. The Long-eareds were roosting in vegetation and were pointed out to me by different people. The biggest surprise was the Virginia Rail. I saw it walking on the concrete revetment at the southeast corner of the Point, not exactly prime rail habitat. In addition to these morsels, there were also good numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. The southwest winds the night before did us and the birds good. Over 70 species were recorded by all observers on eBird, the highest daily total of the year so far. My eBird checklist has more photos, URL below.
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.
Turkey Vulture. Photo courtesy of Tamima Itani. (click to see the larger version)
It’s axiomatic among Chicago lakefront birders that southwest winds in spring produce lots of migrants. Today, March 8, reaffirmed that maxim. I ended up with 42 species in a couple of hours of birding, including a number of new birds for the year. Large numbers of blackbirds and Canada Geese were moving on the south winds, and we had a number of unusual sightings. Best for the morning were