Herring, Ring-billed, and Iceland Gulls (click to see the larger version)
The middle of January is about the slowest time of the year for birding at Montrose. If you see 20 species on a visit you’re doing very well. January 13, 2024 proved to be the best mid winter day of birding I’ve experienced at Montrose. I tallied 32 species in a couple hours of birding, and 41 species were reported to eBird by all observers for the day. My highlights include
Some of these birds were likely driven south by an approaching Artic cold front. The temperature on January 13 was in the 20s, but dropped below zero overnight and is expected to stay in this range for several days. Extreme weather events like this often produce extreme birding events.
Herring and Iceland Gulls (click to see the larger version)
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.
I walked over to Montrose on February 10, the first time I’ve been there since the polar air and bitter temps set in a week ago. Not surprisingly, Lake Michigan was mostly frozen, though an area of open water extended from the harbor mouth and along the shore up to the fishing pier. Hundreds of waterfowl and gulls were here, mostly Red-breasted and Common Mergansers, Common Goldeneye, and Herring Gulls. Best were a female type Black Scoter, a female Long-tailed Duck, seven Iceland Gulls, and a first cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull. A frozen Lake Michigan concentrates waterfowl in the remaining open water; these conditions are great for birding but admittedly hard on the birds. More photos are at my eBird checklist for the morning, URL below.
I didn’t have great expectations for October 31. The forecast called for south winds and south winds in late October never produce many birds at Montrose. Despite the unfavorable weather conditions, I was pleasantly surprised by what I did see. A couple of dead salmon washed up on Montrose Beach that attracted the attention of some Herring Gulls, which attracted the attention of a juvenile Iceland Gull. This was my first Iceland Gull of the season. Another birder alerted me to a scoter on Lake Michigan off the beach that turned out to be a Surf Scoter, another first of the season. The biggest surprise was a late Wood Thrush, the latest Wood Thrush I’ve had at Montrose, and probably anywhere else. Rounding out the list were four Common Redpolls and a couple of Snow Buntings. I tallied 37 species in three hours of birding. My eBird checklist for the morning has photos of the Iceland Gull and Surf Scoter. Follow the URL below to see it.
Lesser Black-backed Gull (click to see the larger version)
I ran over to Montrose on the afternoon of May 13 to check the beach for gulls, terns, and shorebirds. Montrose Beach has been excellent this spring, thanks in part to efforts by Chicago Park District security to keep unleashed dogs off the public beach. I was surprised to see so many Lesser Black-backed Gulls – I counted at least 5, 3 first cycle birds and 2 second/third cycle type birds. I also saw a first cycle and adult Iceland Gull. I don’t know if I’ve ever had so many LBBGs at one time at Montrose. My eBird report has more photos; follow the link below to see them.
Lake Michigan was alive with birds this morning, April 27. Red-breasted Mergansers, Caspian Terns, and Double-crested Cormorants were conspicuous in their abundance. I didn’t see any unusual large shorebirds but I did have a pale third cycle type Iceland Gull on the beach and a second cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull flying around the fishing pier. Also, a late Red-throated Loon going north. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.