I started the new year with a birding adventure at Montrose Bird Sanctuary in Chicago! The event was sponsored by the Chicago Ornithological Society. Because of the holiday the morning traffic was light on the freeway, so I braved the brisk weather to join a group of 20 – 30 beginners to seasoned birders who were eager to identify birds together.
This location has dune grasses, prairie, hedges and woods, and the beach, so multiple habitats for birds along Lake Michigan. The first order of business was to see if we could find the piping plover, who did not fly south for the winter. This is an uncommon shorebird, which is unbanded, and I have been following its story over the past months as it continued to be seen at this location.
The waves were choppy and the pounding sound of the surf greeted us.
We headed out into the icy winds looking for the piping plover.
Can you see the small piping plover in the picture above? I included the ring-billed gull so you can compare the size.
Close-up of piping plover on New Year’s Day at Montrose Beach.
Next we took a trail heading to the “magic hedge” where many migrants stop during spring and fall migration.
I saw my first ever red-breasted nuthatch. This bird was hopping around close to us, but did not stay still long enough for a very good picture.
The red-bellied woodpecker was flying around in the same area.
Some experienced birders pointed out the American Tree Sparrow eating seeds in a brushy area.
Close-up of American Tree Sparrow
Next, someone pointed out an Eastern Towhee sitting quietly in a bushy area. I could see it, but my camera refused to focus on the right object… Still, I think this might be only the second time I have seen one.
Another new bird for me was a hermit thrush.
Hermit thrush eating sumac seeds
We wandered on through the woods, stopping to look and listen.
In the harbor I spotted my first mallards for 2019.
There were many red-breasted mergansers in the harbor and on the lake.
Close-up of red-breasted merganser.
There were also quite a few common goldeneye ducks. Sorry for the fuzzy pictures as they were quite far away.
A herring gull was resting and watching on this gray morning.
Happy New Year! May this be a year full of adventure in whatever way most suits you!
Below is the list of what I saw today, modified from the list sent to us from the COS after the walk, as others saw birds I did not see, and I took those birds off my list.
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon))
Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea)
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)