Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ice birding

I'm not proud to admit this, but I don't know anything about gulls. Last weekend, a 12-year-old took a glance at a gull and pronounced it a glaucous gull, a visitor from the Arctic. I can hardly tell a herring gull from a ring-billed gull.

I've done relatively little winter birding, having focused mostly on spring migration and its showy warblers. But perhaps winter is the best time to go birding, especially here in Chicago. The lakefront feels wilder, with its bizarre icy formations and frigid winds. It's absolutely quiet along the lake now, nothing but ice cracking and the wind's howl. In other seasons, there is plenty of human activity to remind you that you're in a big city.

So this morning I began an exercise in improving my winter birding skills. Montrose Point was mostly icebound, but there were a few pockets of water harboring diving ducks and gulls. I saw a huge flock of gulls (mostly ring-billed with a few herring), common mergansers, one male red-breasted merganser, common goldeneyes and buffleheads. The above photo shows buffleheads, the male red-breasted merganser and common goldeneyes, near the fishhook pier at Montrose.

The positive side of winter birding is that there are fewer geographical possibilities so the list of birds is substantially narrowed. And the Great Lakes are filled with wintering gulls and ducks, so it's a great opportunity to live near Lake Michigan. The winter tallies aren't gaudy--just 11 species today--but satisfying nonetheless.

1 comment:

Daily Chicago Photo said...

Hi Bob. Hope all is well. Phil enjoys winter birding more than I do but the little buffleheads have won me over. And, surprisingly, there is quite a variety of birds that over winter here. That said, I'm looking forward to Spring Migration starting ;)