Monday, 19 September 2011

The Magic Hedge, Montrose Point, Chicago. Sept 2011

From a few honeysuckles planted outside the ground floor windows of a US Army barracks, the Magic Hedge (Google Earth ref; 41 57 46N 87 38 04W) has developed into one of Chicago's foremost birding locations and probably the most famous along the Chicago Lakefront Birding Trail.
The barracks have long since gone, but the hedge has been enhanced and given protected status since its humble beginnings.
I took the long way in this morning, stepping from the bus (no. 146) at N. Lake Shore Drive and W. Addison. The underpass comes out at Bill Jarvis Migrant Bird Sanctuary (Google Earth ref; 41 56 57N 87 38 29W). Signs stating that the sanctuary closes at dusk imply that it must open at some point, but in fact, it does not.


The mowers were already cutting when I arrived just after 07.00, but I could see plenty of bird activity as I approached and the butterflies were up early too. This one is a Buckeye.
Swainson's Thrushes were very common this morning with Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Ovenbird and Wilson's Warbler also seen along the fence line.


There is a viewing platform on the lake side of the reserve and I arrived here just as a small party was passing through. Red-eyed Vireo, American Redstart and Magnolia Warblers flitted through the trees while Grey Catbirds gorged on berries from the elder bushes.
The walk along the lake-front past the church and the golf course was lined with beautiful blue cornflowers which had taken over from the thistles. Palm Warblers, American Goldfinches and an unidentified empidonax flycatcher were seen along the path.


Another bird party greeted me as I arrived at the hedge. Cedar Waxwings flew over while a Black and White Warbler, Palm Warbler and a Chestnut-sided Warbler passed through.


A  young Red-headed Woodpecker called from a large tree. It sported just a few specks of red on its dark juvenile head.
The American Redstarts rivalled the Swainson's Thrushes for the most sightings today with the highest numbers coming from the Ring-billed Gulls and overflying Cedar Waxwings.
There were good numbers of birds, but not a great variety, so I moved on to take a look at the dunes by the pier.


Another birder was working the line of bushes close to the water and I was benefitting from the birds that she flushed, adding Northern Flicker to pad out my day list. Palm Warbler were common here again with yet another empid evading identification. I am sorry, but I just do not have the skill required to separate them without their song.


Along the beach, mats of soggy weed covered the beach. Sanderlings and a Semipalmated Plover found rich pickings there.


A whining screech had been vying for my attention for a while and I turned my attention to the tower where a young Peregrine Falcon was complaining hungrily to one of its parents who was tucking into what, until 20 minutes before, had been a Flicker.


Occasionally the youngster would take a turn around the dunes, putting the Sanderlings to flight even though it was not making a serious attempt to catch anything. Perhaps the parent bird was purposefully witholding from the juvenile to encourage it to put more effort into catching something (PS in the photo below indicates that I have taken liberties with the placement of the birds in the picture).


I had bumped into a few birders through the day, but hadn't joined up with anyone until I bumped into Clara and Mike who made interesting companions until they had to move on.


Back by the hedge, Monarch Butterflies were sipping nectar from the sunflowers and I noticed that one of them was wearing an identification tag. Its identification code was PLT 226 and the actual date of the sighting was 12 Sept 2011. I sent an email to Monarch Watch tag@ku.edu hoping to have a little more information to pass on about this individual. I have not received acknowledgement of receipt, so if anyone can make sure that the sighting information gets to the right place, I would be grateful. Thank you.


The sunflowers were also attracting American Goldfinches. The birds were exerting a lot of effort to extract the seeds from the unripe heads.


Band-winged Meadowhawk, sat quietly for a picture and allowed a very close approach.


Bus no. 146 passes through Chicago, stopping regularly along the Magnificent Mile. Alight at W. Addison to visit Bill Jarvis Migrant Bird Sanctuary. To go straight to the hedge, stay on until Montrose Dr and head towards the lake after alighting. To return from the Magic Hedge, follow West Montrose Dr back under the North Shore Dr Freeway and a bus stop will be seen on the corner of West Montrose and North Marine Dr at Clarendon Park.


Species seen; 37
Double-crested Cormorant 6, Canada Goose 60, Mallard 15, Cooper’s Hawk 1, Peregrine Falcon 2, Semipalmated Plover 2, Sanderling 8, Ring-billed Gull 120, American Herring Gull 3, Mourning Dove 8, Chimney Swift 1, Ruby-throated Hummingbird 3, Red-headed Woodpecker 2, Northern Flicker 1, Eastern Wood-Pewee 2, Eastern Kingbird 2, American Barn Swallow 30, Cedar Waxwing 150, Grey Catbird 6, Swainson’s Thrush 50, Carolina Chickadee 2, American Crow 4, Common Starling 40, Red-eyed Vireo 1, Tennessee Warbler 1, Chestnut-sided Warbler 2, Magnolia Warbler 4, Palm Warbler 25, Black and White Warbler 6, American Redstart 30, Ovenbird 4, Northern Waterthrush 2, Common Yellowthroat 2, Wilson’s Warbler 1, Song Sparrow 3, Northern Cardinal 3.
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