Cover photo, Black-bellied Plover
Photo credit: Scott Judd

Trip report by Christine Williamson
Few things in nature are better than seeing birds on a beach on a morning of spectacularly gorgeous fall weather.

The 18 participants on the Sept. 15 COS-Sierra Club nature and birding tour of Montrose Beach and bird sanctuary hit the jackpot in terms of weather and cooperative local breeding birds. The number of migrating birds was lower than it can be on this date but several unusual species were counted among the total of 27 species seen.

Peregrine Falcons, which breed in Chicago on top of tall buildings, stole the show on this fall morning. An adult Peregrine was the first bird of the day, readily viewed devouring a small bird in the old light tower on the beachside pier.

Later, two juvenile falcons landed in the tower, squabbling with each other vocally and then physically as they took to the air for a rousing mock battle – talons outstretched - over Lake Michigan. The original Peregrine Falcon likely was one of the parents of the siblings as he/she completely ignored the raucous, violent play.

Juvenile Peregrine Falcons Photo credit: Lin Johnston

Juvenile Peregrine Falcons
Photo credit: Lin Johnston

The presence of the Peregrines occasionally disturbed the shorebirds on the beach (because they are favorite falcon prey!) but for the most part, our group got great looks in clear morning sunshine of Sanderlings (a loose flock of 24), a White-rumped Sandpiper (uncommon on Chicago beaches) and a juvenile Black-bellied Plover in brand-spanking-new plumage.

Our group also spotted an uncommonly late Marsh Wren in a wet, reedy patch in Montrose Dunes along with a Savannah Sparrow.

Up on Montrose Point, we had good looks at a Philadelphia Vireo, a Warbling Vireo and a smattering of warblers in feeding flocks including Black-and-White, Nashville and Blackpoll Warblers. Gray Catbirds were still scavenging the remnants of elderberries accompanied by a Swainson’s Thrush.

Photo credit: Christine Williamson

Photo credit: Christine Williamson