Getting around Montrose Point in winter can be tricky, even treacherous because of ice and snow covered streets, paths, and sidewalks. If you visit this winter, please be mindful of these conditions and exercise caution while walking and driving. Be especially careful on the fishing pier at the east end of the beach. Ice forms on the pier when it gets cold enough; if you slip and fall into Lake Michigan you’ll be in trouble. There are no ladders on the pier to climb out of the water. Note that there is a life preserver at the far south end of the pier. If you’re discreet you won’t need it.
Thousands of Sandhill Cranes migrated over Chicago on November 18 and 19. This is an annual occurrence in late fall when we get intense cold fronts and brisk west winds. These conditions are necessary to force them south out of Wisconsin and east as far as the city. Birders throughout Chicago and northeastern Illinois were reporting big numbers, as well as a few rarer Whooping Cranes. Several hundred Sandhills made it to Montrose, which is unusual, and a testament to how strong the winds were. The Sandhill Cranes in the photo flew right down the Lake Michigan shoreline and over Cricket Hill on their way south.
A strong cold front will pass through northern Illinois late in the day on October 12. The backside winds will be from the west on October 13 and 14. These conditions are favorable for several birds at Montrose, including Franklin’s Gulls, Short-eared Owls, and possibly American Avocets and Smith’s Longspurs. We should also see an influx of typical mid October passerines.
Look at the Magnolia Warbler in the accompanying photo. Magnolia Warblers are normally found in trees but cold weather can force them to look for insect prey on the ground. This isn’t unusual – birds have to find food where they can and will adjust their behavior accordingly. The temperature on October 9, 2022, when I took this photo, was in the 50s and it was windy. These conditions reduce insect activity and make life more challenging for insect dependent birds like most warblers. The Magnolia Warbler wasn’t alone on that day. Numbers of hungry Yellow-rumped Warblers and Golden-crowned Kinglets were also down low, busily looking for food. Some of the Yellow-rumpeds were even feeding on the sand in the Dunes.
The forecast for May 19 and May 20 looks good for a push of birds, with warmer temps and sustained southwest winds, ideal spring migration conditions. We’re a little past the peak of migration but we should see an influx of flycatchers, vireos, cuckoos, and “later” warblers like Connecticut and Mourning. As always, check the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for the latest sightings.
The forecast for May 9 to May 14 looks good for a big movement of birds. We should see an influx of warblers, flycatchers, Catharus thrushes, and other migrants. Most of the week will see sustained south winds and temperatures in the 70s and 80s. This might turn out to be one of the best birding weeks of the year. If you can get out for a few hours on any day during the week, by all means do.