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.
Lesser Black-backed Gull with Ring-billed Gulls (click to see the larger version)
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.
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
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.
Common Nighthawk. Photo by M. Ferguson (click to see the larger version)
The sweet season has commenced. Days like May 9 make suffering through Chicago winters worth it. I don’t know if the volume of birds was better than the fantastic weekend of May 4-5 but the variety certainly was. I tallied 95 species in about 3.5 hours of morning birding, my best spring total to date (according to eBird, over 120 species were reported). My highlights include 3 Black-bellied Plovers, Willet, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common and Forster’s Terns, a roosting Common Nighthawk, 5 woodpeckers, 19 species of warblers (Pine, Northern Parula, and Blue-winged being the best), and Clay-colored Sparrow. Link to my eBird checklist below.
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.