Great Crested Flycatcher (click to see the larger version)
Migration doesn’t come to a screeching halt when May ends. We always get some spillover into early June, and this June 1 proved the point. Over 70 species were reported to eBird by all observers, and I ended up with 60 species in about 2.5 hours of effort. My migrant highlights include
All of the above birds are bona fide migrants that don’t breed at Montrose. I also had Great Crested and Willow Flycatchers and Eastern Wood-Pewees. These birds have bred at Montrose or nearby but could just as well be migrants. The point is you should keep checking Montrose into early June. The pace has slowed down from mid May but we’re still seeing a variety of shorebirds, warblers, flycatchers, and other birds. Why not squeeze every last drop out of migration while it lasts?
Amur Cork Tree and a Hermit Thrush (click to see the larger version)
One of the benefits of birding is that it touches so many other disciplines – you end up learning something about botany, entomology, weather, even physics. Montrose hosts an impressive variety of trees, including an exotic Asian species known as the Amur Cork Tree. Most naturalists don’t think highly of non-native plants because of the adverse effects they can have on the environment. One redeeming quality of the Amur Cork Tree is that it produces large amounts of juicy berries that fruit eating birds like American Robins and Hermit Thrushes love. The photo shows one of the Cork Trees from Montrose. Note the clusters of dark berries and the Hermit Thrush about to eat them.
The next time you’re at Montrose, practice your tree identification skills and see if you can find our Amur Cork Trees.
Cape May Warbler and Elderberry fruit (click to see the larger version)
It’s late August and Elderberry fruit are ripening. A variety of birds eat the juicy berries, including several warblers, vireos, thrushes, and House Finches. To find the berries and the birds, look for clusters of small, purplish fruit on shrub-like plants. The photo accompanying this post shows what the berries look like. The stand of Elderberry at the edge of the woods at the far southeast corner of the Point has been excellent for birds this August.
White-rumped Sandpiper (click to see the larger version)
We’re seeing the expected mid summer southbound migrant shorebirds like Least Sandpipers and Willets, but a White-rumped Sandpiper on July 3 was a surprise. Which way was this bird going? White-rumpeds are late spring migrants; we often see a few well into June but July birds are harder to interpret. I suspect this bird is a very tardy northbound migrant since we were seeing White-rumpeds in mid and late June, and we usually don’t get southbound birds until late August at the earliest.
Even more inexplicable was a Hermit Thrush near the Marovitz Golf Course. Hermit Thrushes are early spring and later fall migrants in northern Illinois. Most spring birds have moved on by early May and the first fall birds don’t start appearing before late September. In other words, Hermit Thrushes shouldn’t be in Chicago in July. Obviously this bird is confused.
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.
Olive-sided Flycatcher (click to see the larger version)
I spent about three hours birding Montrose on September 7 and it was time well spent. I tallied 51 species for my effort and saw a number of personal first of season birds. According to eBird, almost 80 species were recorded by all observers. Swainson’s Thrushes have arrived and they seemed to be everywhere. The dogwood north of the Magic Hedge and the cherry trees in the meadow were flush with them. My highlights include