The forecast for April 24 called for rain, so I planned on spending the day inside doing chores and such. When I woke up and checked the news, the forecast indicated most of the rain would occur south of Chicago, so I headed over to Montrose for some late April birding. Good choice as it turned out to be the best day of the spring so far. The trees and shrubs were dripping with Swamp and White-throated Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Hermit Thrushes, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Many of these birds were in the tops of trees feasting on swarms of small insects. I ended up with 66 species in almost four hours, and about 80 species were reported to eBird by all observers. I had multiple personal first-of-spring sightings. My highlights include
Willet – 3
White-faced Ibis – 1, first site record
Long-eared Owl – 1
Grasshopper Sparrow – 1
Northern Parula – 1
Pine Warbler – 1
The White-faced Ibis was on the protected beach early in the morning. It did not stay long. We’ve had multiple Long-eared Owls in the last week in what has been one of the best springs I can remember for them. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
April 24, 2021
Virginia Rail on the revetment (click to see the larger version)
You know you’re doing well when you see a Short-eared Owl, two Long-eared Owls, and a Virginia Rail within a couple hours on the same day. All four were at Montrose on April 23. The Short-eared was flying over Lake Michigan, as Short-eareds are wont to do at Montrose during migration. The Long-eareds were roosting in vegetation and were pointed out to me by different people. The biggest surprise was the Virginia Rail. I saw it walking on the concrete revetment at the southeast corner of the Point, not exactly prime rail habitat. In addition to these morsels, there were also good numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. The southwest winds the night before did us and the birds good. Over 70 species were recorded by all observers on eBird, the highest daily total of the year so far. My eBird checklist has more photos, URL below.
April 23, 2021
Great Horned Owl and friends (click to see the larger version)
I tallied only 22 species on December 8 but two of those 22 were owls. Seeing more than one owl in a day at Montrose is unusual. A Great Horned Owl was flying around the Point trying to find a place to take a break but a Cooper’s Hawk had other ideas and harassed it relentlessly. When the Cooper’s Hawk gave up and moved on, a gang of American Crows found the owl and picked up where the hawk left off. The besieged owl kept moving around, trying to lose the crows and find a quiet place to rest. Montrose has little in the way of habitat where a large owl can hide. Throw in some American Crows and you’ve got an unhappy situation. The crows were still yammering at the Great Horned when I left.
The other owl was a Northern Saw-whet. This bird was in the same area as last winter’s Saw-whet and may be the same individual. The best way to find a Saw-whet is to listen for complaining Black-capped Chickadees and to look for whitewash (owl poop) in roosting habitat like dense stands of conifers. Link to myeBird checklist for the morning below.
December 8, 2020
Short-eared Owl (click to see the larger version)
Short-eared Owls are regular mid and late fall visitors to Montrose. We usually see them on days with brisk west winds following the passage of a cold front. Most of the time they flush from the Dunes and fly over Lake Michigan where they hang out and wait until people have left. They then drift back to the Dunes to settle in. On November 19 I saw a Short-eared perched high in a Honey Locust near the Magic Hedge. This is uncommon behavior for Short-eareds at Montrose. The bird had been flying around the Point, looking for a place to come down, and decided a tree would suffice. It didn’t stay long and continued its search for a quiet spot to roost for the day. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
November 19, 2020
Long-eared Owl (click to see the larger version)
Black-capped Chickadees brighten cold Chicago winter days with their energy and charm. They’re also good at finding roosting owls. Without the scolding of the local chickadees, I would have walked right by this Long-eared Owl. I said this before and it’s worth repeating: if you hear complaining chickadees, pay attention and see what they have. There might be a pleasant surprise waiting for you. Back in November, these chickadees found a Northern Saw-Whet-Owl for me.
February 21, 2020
Northern Saw-whet Owl (click to see the larger version)
Finding a roosting Northern Saw-whet Owl is a rewarding experience for a birder. The resident gang of Black-capped Chickadees located this half-asleep Saw-whet for me; without their scolding, I would have walked right by it. Northern Saw-whet Owls aren’t rare but can be hard to find due to their small size, retiring habits, and tendency to roost in dense vegetation during migration. The lesson here is this: if you hear complaining chickadees, pay attention and see what they have. There might be a pleasant surprise waiting for you. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
November 13, 2019