We’re having a strong late April and early May songbird migration. Sparrow numbers and variety have been excellent, with many White-throated and Swamp Sparrows and Eastern Towhees around. Smaller numbers of White-crowned, Lincoln’s, Savannah, and a few Lark, Vesper, and Clay-colored Sparrows have also been seen. Non-sparrow passerines like Brown Thrashers, Gray Catbirds, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers have been in good numbers for those species. What we haven’t been seeing are large numbers of insect dependent songbirds like flycatchers, warblers, vireos, and Catharus thrushes, excluding Hermit. This is probably because of the unseasonably chilly temperatures and persistent north winds we’ve been experiencing. Unfortunately, as of May 2, the forecast out to about May 8 doesn’t indicate much change in this pattern. When it does break and we get a serious warm up, we should see a big influx of migrants. Mid may is typically the peak of spring migration, with the largest variety of passerines of the year. As always, keep checking the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for the latest sightings.
The dogwood just north of the north end of the Magic Hedge has been a hotspot for a variety of passerines this early fall. Birds I’ve seen feasting on its fruit include Gray Catbird, Swainson’s Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo, and Eastern Kingbird. As of early September, the shrub has abundant berries, so it should be productive for a few weeks. Look for the clusters of pea-sized white berries to find it (as far as I know, this is the only dogwood in the sanctuary). The best approach for birding it is to stand quietly 15 to 20 feet in front of it. Patience and determination are needed to pick birds out in the thick foliage.
The Curve-billed Thrasher was still at Montrose early this morning, June 29. I was near the north end of the Magic Hedge when I noticed Geoff Williamson looking at and then pointing to something. I assumed he had the thrasher and when I got closer I could see the bird perched near the top of a Jack Pine. The thrasher posed obligingly for a minute or 2 before flying about 50 yards to the east and disappearing into the underbrush. I didn’t follow it but I assume it’s still in the area.
Geoff also alerted me to a Clay-colored Sparrow he heard singing near the Park Bait Shop while driving in. I went over to the area and after a little poking around found the Clay-colored in the group of small evergreens just across the road from the Park Bait Shop. This is a very unusual sighting as Clay-colored Sparrows don’t normally occur at Montrose in late June.
The Curve-billed Thrasher was obviously the big story at Montrose today but there were a few other birds of interest. Late this afternoon I had 6 Semipalmated and 1 White-rumped Sandpiper inside the protected area at the east end of the beach. This might be the latest spring White-rumped I’ve ever seen. Also, the continuing female Red-breasted Merganser was inside the harbor.
Montrose regular Luiz Munoz found a Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre) near the Magic Hedge on Wednesday, June 18. The bird was seen and photographed by many, and as of June 22 is still present. Curve-billed Thrashers are normally found in the southwest United States and northern Mexico, though they do wander and there are extralimital records for several Midwestern states. This is just the second Illinois record of this species, the first coming from Rend Lake in December, 1992, as well as the 338th species recorded from Montrose.
To see a list of the birds that have been recorded at Montrose, please refer to the Birds Recorded at the Montrose Point Area in Chicago page.
Montrose was very good this morning. I ended up with 16 species of warblers and there were good numbers of flycatchers too. I also had a few bonus birds. Here are my highlights:
Yellow-billed Cuckoo – ~5 and very vocal
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee – ~12
Alder Flycatcher – ~10
Willow Flycatcher – 3
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher – 1
Least Flycatcher – 1
Great Crested Flycatcher – 1
Eastern Bluebird – 1
Gray-cheeked Thrush – 1
Veery – 1
Swainson’s Thrush – ~5
Northern Mockingbird – 1 in the dunes
Tennessee Warbler – 3
Northern Parula – 1
Chestnut-sided Warbler – 3
Magnolia Warbler – ~6
Black-throated Blue Warbler – 1 female
Blackburnian Warbler – 1 female
Palm Warbler – 1
Bay-breasted Warbler – 1 female
Blackpoll Warbler – 3
American Redstart – ~25
Mourning Warbler – ~5
Connecticut Warbler – 1 female
Canada Warbler – ~8
Wilson’s Warbler – ~6
Savannah Sparrow – ~15
Nelson’s Sparrow – 1 in the dunes
Lincoln’s Sparrow – 1
Swamp Sparrow – 1
White-throated Sparrow – 1
Meadowlark sp. – 1
Bobolink – 2, male and female