May 6, 2023 – A Good Day

May 6 lived up to the billing and turned out to be the best day of the spring so far. The persistent south winds brought in a lot of migrants, including many first of seasons. About 130 species were reported to eBird by all observers, which is about as good as we do. Sparrows were well represented, with many White-throated and White-crowned. Warbler variety was low, but it’s still early. My highlights for the morning include

Common Tern
Golden-crowned Kinglet (getting late)
Clay-colored Sparrow (3)
Lark Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco (getting late)
Bobolink (3, all males)
Orchard Oriole
Black-throated Blue Warbler

We’re close to the peak of spring migration. The next couple weeks should see an increase in warbler, flycatcher, and Catharus thrush numbers. Keep checking weather forecasts for warm fronts, and keep checking the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for the latest sightings.

Birding and Weather Forecast, May 1 – 7, 2023 – Revised

The forecast for this week has changed. We’ll get a shot of warmer air and south winds on Thursday and into Friday, so Friday could be a good day. This change is reflected in the BirdCast forecast showing a sizable movement of migrants into northern Illinois Thursday night. Hopefully some of these birds will hang around for our Spring Count on Saturday.

Birding and Weather Forecast, May 1 – 7, 2023

Weather forecast screenshot

Weather forecast screenshot for May 1 – 7. From (click to see the larger version)

The weather forecast for the first week of May does not look favorable for a large movement of birds. Chicago will experience north or east winds for most of the week; these conditions will greatly slow down migration, especially for insect eating songbirds. Birds will trickle through but we won’t get any large waves of warblers and other later spring migrants. When this unfavorable pattern finally breaks, hopefully sometime next week, the floodgates will open. What we need are two or three days of deep south winds coming up from the Gulf of Mexico. Keep checking forecasts for updated information.

California Gull, April 26 and 27, 2023

California Gull

California Gull at Montrose Beach (click to see the larger version)

A first cycle California Gull was at Montrose Beach on April 26 and 27. This is about the fifth California Gull record for Montrose. It’s almost warbler time and the last group of birds we’re thinking about is gulls, but we’ve been seeing large numbers of Herring Gulls along the lakefront, so something more unusual was bound to turn up. California Gulls can be tricky to identify, especially the messy immature birds, but the body size, head shape, and bill shape and pattern of this bird stood out among the numerous Herring amd Ring-billed Gulls.

Return of Imani, April 25, 2023

Imani, the male Piping Plover and son of Rose and Monty, returned to Montrose Beach on April 25. This is expected as young Piping Plovers usually return to the area where they were born. Imani also came back to Montrose in 2022 and spent most of the summer in the Dunes. On April 27, two unbanded Piping Plovers joined Imani. It’s too soon to tell what these other Piping Plovers are up to. They could be passing through on their way further north, or they could try to nest at Montrose. Only time will tell. To protect the Plovers, the Dunes is now off limits to the public. This includes the portion of the beach between the fishing pier and protective fence on the west. Please follow the rules and stay out of these areas. You can view the Dunes and beach from the fishing pier on the east and the public beach on the west.

LeConte’s Sparrow, The Sparrow With Orange Eyebrows

LeConte's Sparrow

LeConte’s Sparrow (click to see the larger version)

We do well with sparrows at Montrose. To date, 24 species have been recorded there, and of these, 20 are regular. One of the more sought after sparrows is LeConte’s, a rare but regular migrant at Montrose. LeConte’s Sparrow is normally found in grassy type habitats, but during migration they can show up almost anywhere. We’ve seen them on bare ground under trees and even on the concrete fishing pier. Migrant birds can’t always find the right habitat on their journeys and can end up in strange places. The LeConte’s in the photo spent a few hours in a brush tangle near the pond at the Marovitz Golf Course on April 20, 2023.

April is sparrow month in Chicago. While you’re sorting through all the Swamp, White-throated, and White-crowneds, don’t forget about LeConte’s, the sparrow with orange eyebrows (Nelson’s Sparrow also has orange eyebrows, but we don’t see them in April).