We usually get a nice spillover of migrants into early June, but this year activity has dropped sharply since the peak day on May 19. Migrants are in a hurry to get to their breeding grounds, so they probably took advantage of the favorable weather we’ve been experiencing and continued moving north without stopping. We should get one last push of flycatchers, cuckoos, Red-eyed Vireos, and later warblers sometime in the next week. Spring shorebird migration also continues into June, and a rare gull or tern could show up, so don’t forget to check the beach.
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.
This doesn’t look like typical Brown Thrasher habitat. During spring and fall, songbirds will sometimes land on the fishing pier at Montrose early in the morning after a night of migration over Lake Michigan. They don’t stay long and continue on to the more protected Dunes or Bird Sanctuary after a few minutes. Lingering on the pier can be dangerous for a small bird – Peregrine Falcons, Merlins, and gulls like an easy breakfast and won’t hesitate to hunt them.
Few birds spark feelings of ecstacy the way Ross’s Gull does, so when one showed up at Park 566 on the south side of Chicago on March 11, 2023, it generated a lot of excitement in the birding community. Hordes of eager birders descended on Park 566 and Rainbow Beach to see what may be the rarity of the decade in Chicago. The Ross’s obliged and put on a show worthy of its status as one of the most sought after of North American birds. This is the fourth record of Ross’s Gull for Illinois, and the first record of an immature for the state. Many excellent photos are at the Park 566 eBird Hotspot.
Ross’s Gulls at Montrose Point
Montrose has two confirmed Ross’s Gull sightings, the first from November 1978 and the second from March 2011. The 1978 record is the same bird first seen at Gillson Park along Lake Michigan in Wilmette, Illinois. This individual made its way south to Chicago, where it was observed at North Avenue Beach and again at Montrose. The 2011 record is of a well-photographed adult sitting on the fishing pier.
Now that February is here we’re starting to think about spring and migration, but it’s still winter and we’re still getting winter birds. I can’t think of two more wintry birds in Chicago than Glaucous Gull and Long-tailed Duck. Both were at Montrose on February 10. This is the first Glaucous Gull I’ve seen at Montrose all winter. Not to be outdone, a tame adult male Long-tailed Duck graced the inside of the fishing pier. The Glaucous Gull flew off shortly after I photographed it, but the Long-tailed was still there when I left. More photos are at my eBird checklist for the morning, URL below.
February 10, 2023
We’ve had some unusual gulls at Montrose this winter, including Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, and Iceland. We haven’t had any Glaucous Gulls but they could show up too. The best place to look for these gulls is on Lake Michigan off the fishing pier. Ironically, the harbor rarely gets unusual gulls in the winter, even though Ring-billed Gulls often gather there. If you have a spare loaf of bread or two, try chumming from the fishing pier. You’ll at least bring in Herring and Ring-billed Gulls, and the commotion may draw in something better.