An immature Franklin’s Gull graced Montrose Beach on May 5. Franklin’s Gulls are uncommon but regular spring migrants at Montrose; most occur in late April and early May. The best way to look for them is to scan the flocks of gulls and terns that gather on the beach. This advice also applies to other, less common gulls, like Laughing, which also start to appear in late spring.
On a related side note, you should think about checking the beach in the afternoon and evening, especially the protected beach. Gulls, terns, and shorebirds settle down later in the day and you could find something unusual among the more common Herring and Ring-billed Gulls. The protected beach is fenced off on all sides and inaccessible to people and dogs, so the birds that end up there feel safer and tend to hang around.
An impressive flight of Franklin’s Gulls took place at Montrose on November 12. Multiple flocks were flying fast down the lakefront, totaling about 150 birds. Some were flying over Lake Michigan, but most were passing right over the Point. Large numbers of Franklin’s aren’t unexpected in mid November and considering the powerful fall storm that moved through northern Illinois. I also had a Black Scoter inside the fishing pier.
A strong cold front will move through Chicago over the weekend of November 12 – 14. Daily high temperatures will be in the low 40s and winds will be westerly, at least for Saturday and Sunday, and in the 10 to 15 mile per hour range. This is an excellent setup for a late fall push of birds. These conditions often produce Short-eared Owls and Franklin’s Gulls, and we could see a few hawks migrating down Lake Michigan, especially Northern Harriers. Sandhill Cranes also move on these conditions, though we rarely see large numbers of them at Montrose. There’s always the possibility of something extraordinary showing up – it is November after all.
Peregrine Falcon (click to see the larger version)
It was a Peregrine kind of day at Montrose on October 13. This juvenile perched obligingly in a snag long enough to have its picture taken. We also had an adult Peregrine, which knocked a poor migrating Winter Wren out of the sky and into Lake Michigan.
The Peregrine Falcons weren’t the only highlight. October 13 was one of the best days of the fall at Montrose for passerine migration, with lots of Swamp Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and kinglets. Bonus birds include American Avocet and three Franklin’s Gulls. I ended up with 52 species for the morning. Link to my eBird checklist below.
An immature (first cycle) Franklin’s Gull graced Montrose Beach on September 16. This is the time of the year when Franklin’s Gulls start to show up on Chicago lakefront beaches. Large numbers, sometimes in the dozens, can occur in October, especially after strong west winds. Checking groups of Ring-billed Gulls is the best way to find them. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
Franklin’s Gull is named after the English Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, not the American statesman Benjamin Franklin. Easy mistake to make. Some eponymous bird names may be in trouble because of the questionable activities of their namesakes. As far as I can tell, Franklin’s Gull is safe.
Franklin’s Gull (click to see the larger version)
Note the white outer tail feather in the second photo, a field mark that distinguishes first cycle Franklin’s Gulls from similarly aged Laughing Gulls. This field mark isn’t easy to see and other characteristics like size, structure, and face pattern are more obvious.