Five species of swallows nest at Montrose – Barn, Bank, Northern Rough-winged, Tree, and Purple Martin. In mid summer, the young and adults of several of these species like to perch on the ropes and fencing in the Dunes. If you want to work on swallow identification and aging, the Dunes provide an excellent opportunity for study and photography. Similar species will often queue up side by side, making the differences between them more obvious. Watching the adults feed their begging children is also entertaining.
Some of you may remember the hordes of Purple Martins that staged at Montrose in late summer in the 1970s and 1980s. It was quite a sight and quite a sound, as several thousand martins would roost in the tall cottonwoods and suddenly explode in noisy, excited flight. This spectacle is a thing of the past – most of the Purple Martins we see anymore are the nesting birds on the northwest side of the harbor, and they number less than 100. I took this photo of migrant Purple Martins staging at LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area in Indiana in late August 2021. The photo reminds me of what we used to experience at Montrose.
We’re about a month from peak landbird migration but we’ve been getting a steady trickle of Empidonax flycatchers, cuckoos, Baltimore Orioles, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and a few warblers, all expected late summer/early fall migrants. On the flip side, the Tree, Bank, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows that were such a visual and noisy presence in the Dunes have moved on. We’re still seeing Barn Swallows and Purple Martins, but the martins are getting restless and will be gone in a few weeks. Link to my eBird checklist for August 16 below.
August 16, 2021
Today was the best day of the fall for me. I ended up with 53 species in about 3 hours of birding, with good numbers of passerines, especially warblers and Catharus thrushes. Highlights include Connecticut and 2 Golden-winged Warblers (10 warbler species total), Bobolink, Dickcissel, the continuing American Avocet, and a surprise Turkey Vulture. TVs aren’t rare at Montrose but we don’t see a lot of them. Shorebirds were skimpy, mainly because the fluddle has dried up. I also had impressive numbers of aerial insectivores, mostly Chimney Swifts and Barn Swallows, a few bonus Cliff Swallows, and what seemed like thousands of buzzing dragonflies. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
September 5, 2020
After the eggs from their first nesting attempt were removed by biologists, Rose and Monty, the intrepid Piping Plover pair, picked up their show and moved it a few hundred yards east to a new area. This is a more propitious location, both above the flood zone and away from people. One bird on the nest is visible in this photo (inside the protective cage). A couple of eggs have been laid. Note the photobombing Bank Swallow on the rope.
Swallows are starting to gather at Montrose Point. On July 15 I had all 5 of our smaller swallows in the Dunes at Montrose. They like to perch on the white rope that cordons off protected areas in the Dunes. This is a great way to study and photograph these birds. This phenomenon has a narrow window – just a few weeks in July – and won’t last much longer.