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 had a couple of nice surprises on June 2. We’ve been seeing and hearing a Blue-headed Vireo for the last few days, and today I found it in the grove at the east end of the Point. Needless to say, it’s getting late for Blue-headed Vireo in northern Illinois – they should be gone by June and on their breeding grounds north of us.
An immature Lesser Black-backed Gull has been hanging around Montrose Beach. Today I saw it at the east end of the protected beach among the loafing Ring-billed Gulls and Caspian Terns. Lesser Black-backed Gulls are rare at Montrose in the summer. The protected beach is a haven for gulls, terns, and shorebirds to relax and not have to worry about people disturbing them.
There’s always something to look at and look forward to at Montrose, even with migration winding down. More photos of the Lesser Black-backed Gull and one of the Blue-headed Vireo are at my eBird checklist for the morning, URL below.
June 2, 2021
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.
February 10, 2021
The birding highlight for me on October 4 was this crisply marked juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull. I can’t remember the last time I saw a full juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull anywhere – usually by this time of the year first cycle birds have molted in at least a few second-generation upperpart feathers. Lesser Black-backed Gulls have increased dramatically in North America in recent years, including the Great Lakes, where they are uncommon but regular. I wonder where this one hatched? Europe? Iceland? Somewhere in North America? Impossible to know but fun to think about. More photos are at my eBird checklist for the day, link below.
October 4, 2019
Montrose was on fire with birds on May 19, hands down the best day of the spring. I ended up with 107 species for the day, 103 in the morning and 4 more on a return visit in the afternoon and evening, my second best daily total ever there (over 130 species were reported to eBird for the day, which is about as well as we do). The Magic Hedge lived up to its name and was bursting with warblers, thrushes, vireos, and flycatchers. One of the highlights was a slightly out of place male Least Bittern in the peripheral plantings. We live for days like this. We suffer through Midwestern winters for experiences like this. My highlights include
Piping Plover (2)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (first cycle bird)
Philadelphia Vireo (4)
24 species of warblers including Mourning, Connecticut, Black-throated Blue, and Hooded, plus gobs of Bay-breasted, Magnolias, and Blackpolls
eBird Checklist (morning visit)
eBird Checklist (p.m. visit)
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.