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.
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.
Northern Harrier (click to see the larger version)
The Northern Harriers put on quite a show on October 23. I counted 16, all southbound flybys, in about 2 hours of morning birding. Most were female/immature type birds, like the individual pictured here. Several were coming in low off Lake Michigan and flying right over the beach and dunes (and me). Other birds seen include Short-eared Owl, 3 Surf Scoters, Franklin’s and Bonaparte’s Gulls, Merlin, American Woodcock, Wilson’s Snipe, and Purple Finch. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below. October rocks!
A very late Piping Plover was at Montrose Beach on October 18. The bird has been present for a couple of days and represents the latest record of this species for Montrose.
While the Piping Plover was the best bird it wasn’t the only goodie. I tallied 59 species in about 3 hours of birding, highlighted by Short-eared Owl, the continuing Eastern Wood-Pewee, and a female Black-throated Blue Warbler. Link to my eBird checklist below.
I had a fine morning of birding at Montrose today, October 28, highlighted by 3 Short-eared Owls in the dunes, including this perched individual. This may be the first Short-eared I’ve seen at Montrose that wasn’t flying. Days with brisk west winds in late October are best for seeing these birds at Montrose.
Montrose wasn’t quite as birdy (for me) as on Thursday, but it was still pretty good today, October 21. I ended up with 47 species in a little over 2 hours of effort, highlighted by
Baird’s Sandpiper – the continuing juvenile
Semipalmated Sandpiper – the continuing molting first cycle bird
Short-eared Owl – 1 in the dunes
Northern Shrike – 1 in the dunes
Black-throated Blue Warbler – female near the Magic Hedge
Le Conte’s Sparrow – 2 in the dunes
The Northern Shrike was my bird-of-the-day; I haven’t seen one at Montrose in a few years. Maybe this will be a flight year for them. The algae mat continues at the east end of the beach, and it continues to attract shorebirds and ducks. The dominant passerine was Swamp Sparrow.