This past weekend, I birded with Ethan, Aaron, and Eric Gyllenhaal of Oak Park (near Chicago). They are crazy young birders who seem to traverse the state for every bird they want/need to see. This past Saturday, the winds looked very promising for lakewatching at Gillson Park, in Wilmette. This is the premier spot to lakewatch in Illinois, as it seems to be the spot that birds pass closest to when flying out over the lake. We were hoping for something rare or uncommon like a Black-legged Kittiwake, a Jaeger of any species, or something better. We did not see any of those, but it was a good day for Scoters since we had 17 of them. We had one close flying female Black Scoter, called out by long-time birder Al Stokie, and 7 identified White-winged Scoters. The rest of them were either dark-winged (Surf or Black) Scoters or just Scoter species.
While there, I was continuously updating my phone to see if the Evening Grosbeak that had been seen the day before in a backyard in Mundelein had come back. But since it hadn't, we were staying a bit longer at Gillson before going to try and find Aaron some Red Crossbills for his **Big Year** (he denies the fact that he is doing one, but he got 306 for the year in Illinois on Saturday). Aaron suddenly called out at random at one point, "Black-legged Kittiwake at Montrose! Sitting in the water, found by Michelle Devlin." After the words Black-legged Kittiwake, I shouted, "Lets go!" and we were off.
We arrived at Montrose after only 25-30 min of driving, and as we got to the concrete steps, we could not see any birders. But Aaron was not deterred, and after setting up the scope, he found something floating in the water. He put the scope on it, and there it was! It was an immature Black-legged Kittiwake, ABA bird #504, and Illinois State bird #306. This day could not have gotten any better. The original looks were not great, but the bird eventually drifted in closer to the shoreline, allowing great photo opps:
At this point, more birders showed up, and we eventually spotted Michelle, huddled on the steps keeping warm. She told us that earlier the Kittiwake was flying only 10 feet above the heads of some fisherman. We really wanted to see it fly, and not even ten minutes after saying that, it decided to get up and stretch. It flew away from us at first, but then turned around and flew right towards us, at eye level. It passed about 20 feet in front of all of us, and allowed amazing looks. This was an awesome way to get a lifer!
Also, while at Montrose, we had a group of about 40 Snow Buntings land on the concrete stairs. They quickly got up and flew out over the lake, and I was able to get a few pictures before they were too far out:
I took a short video of the Kittiwake, which I compiled with some other rarity clips from this past winter. The Kittiwake video starts at :53:
Tomorrow I will be looking for the Bohemian Waxwings that were found at the Chicago Botanical Gardens yesterday with Aaron Gyllenhaal. Perhaps I will also get an Evening Grosbeak or two this weekend!