Terry Walsh found a tame female Surf Scoter at the harbor mouth on February 7. Surf Scoters are rare winter visitors to the Chicago lakefront in winter. This bird brightened what was otherwise an unremarkable morning of birding in a usually uneventful month. February isn’t much different than January in terms of avian variety, though towards the end of the month we can start seeing early migrants, especially if we get a warmup. Link to my eBird checklist below.
Tip: Don’t forget to check the harbor mouth when birding Montrose. Waterfowl and grebes can be hidden from view if you only scan the east, south, or north sides of the harbor. To do this, park at the west end of the harbor near the turnaround and walk over to the harbor mouth.
I didn’t have great expectations for October 31. The forecast called for south winds and south winds in late October never produce many birds at Montrose. Despite the unfavorable weather conditions, I was pleasantly surprised by what I did see. A couple of dead salmon washed up on Montrose Beach that attracted the attention of some Herring Gulls, which attracted the attention of a juvenile Iceland Gull. This was my first Iceland Gull of the season. Another birder alerted me to a scoter on Lake Michigan off the beach that turned out to be a Surf Scoter, another first of the season. The biggest surprise was a late Wood Thrush, the latest Wood Thrush I’ve had at Montrose, and probably anywhere else. Rounding out the list were four Common Redpolls and a couple of Snow Buntings. I tallied 37 species in three hours of birding. My eBird checklist for the morning has photos of the Iceland Gull and Surf Scoter. Follow the URL below to see it.
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!
I spent a few hours birding Montrose this morning, October 15. There were good numbers of birds around, especially shorebirds. In fact, I had my best shorebirding day all fall (in terms of individuals) today. I ended up with 49 species total, highlighted by:
Surf Scoter – 3 immatures in the surf at the east end of the beach
Virginia Rail – 1 in the dunes
Sora – 1 in the dunes
Sanderling – ~30
Dunlin – ~30
Baird’s Sandpiper – juvenile
Pectoral Sandpiper – 2 juveniles
Greater Yellowlegs – 28
Lesser Yellowlegs – 1
Forster’s Tern – 3
Merlin – 1
Peregrine Falcon – 2
Lapland Longspur – 1
5 warblers – Yellow-rumped, Palm, Black-throated Green, Orange-crowned, and Tennessee
Bobolink – 1
The yellowlegs and Dunlin were using the large fluddle that has reformed on the beach, and the other shorebirds were feeding in the extensive algae on the beach at the shoreline. Unfortunately, the unleashed dogs running up and down the beach kept flushing most of the shorebirds; by the time I left few shorebirds were left.
Karen and I had 2 Surf Scoters, an immature male and an immature female, at the mouth of Belmont Harbor this morning, February 7. Both birds got up and flew north while we were watching them and may have landed near Montrose. After a long schlep up the lakefront we got to Montrose and could not relocate the birds, so apparently they kept going.
Our only other birds of note were a Red-bellied Woodpecker in the Marovitz Golf Course, a pretty good bird for the immediate lakefront, and the continuing juvenile Red-tailed Hawk at Montrose. It felt good to be out and about and feel the sun on our faces.