Chicago Lakefront Winter Field Trip Report

One day after the Gull Frolic on February 12th, a small group of birders joined gull expert, Amar Ayyash, and Gull Frolic speaker, Jean Iron, for a day of birding along the Lake Michigan lakeshore. The main target of this excursion was winter gulls and waterfowl. Much like the Gull Frolic finding masses of gulls was extremely difficult without the ice cover that would normally be found on a Chicago winter day along the lake. Birders assembled on this balmy winter day (topping out at 50 degrees) at the Calumet River Turning Basin Number 5 at 8:30 am. Almost immediately at 8:30 am the continuing second cycle California Gull was spotted and gave a brief flyby before disappearing down the river. With few gulls in the area overall, Amar eagerly chummed hoping to bring in something else good for the group to no avail. After the California Gull left us the only other gulls observed were Ring-billed and Herring gulls circling the basin, with a couple Common and Red-breasted Mergansers flying by.

Scoping for Gulls on Lake Michigan

Scoping for Gulls on Lake Michigan

The group then started a caravan for the BP warm water outlet in Whiting, IN. Along the way we made a brief stop on 126th where a Red-shouldered Hawk was spotted perched on a power line along the roadside. After everyone got a look at the hawk the caravan continued to Whiting where about 70 gulls were present near the BP outlet. Among the flock of primarily Herring Gulls we picked up 5 Great Black-backed Gulls and 18 Common Goldeneye out further in the lake. However, those were the only new birds for the day at this stop despite Amar’s effort to chum the beach. From Whiting, the group headed to Calumet Park which lacked in birds other than the couple hundred Canada Geese near shore in the water. After that brief stop the group headed to Jackson Park which netted a few more duck species: Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, and Bufflehead, in addition to other birds such as American Coot and American Crow. However, there were once again few gulls so this proved to be our last stop of the trip. Maybe not the most exciting winter birding day, but we definitely willed our way to a few good bird species on the day.

Thank you to all that attended the trip and Amar for leading the group down and up the lakeshore!

Species totals:

200 Canada Goose
14 Mallard
3 Redhead
1 Ring-necked Duck
21 Greater Scaup
3 Bufflehead
18 Common Goldeneye
2 Common Merganser
30 Red-breasted Merganser
1 Cooper’s Hawk
1 Red-shouldered Hawk
5 American Coot
40 Ring-billed Gull
60 Herring Gull
5 Great Black-backed Gull
11 American Crow
3 European Starling
1 Red-winged Blackbird
2 House Sparrow

Locations: BP Warm Water Outlet; Calumet Park, Chicago; Jackson Park, Chicago–Inner/Outer Harbors; Jackson Park, Chicago–north lakefront (56th St. to 62nd St.); Lake Calumet area–126th St Marsh/Hyde Lake Wetlands; Lake Calumet area–Calumet River Turning Basin Number 5

by Matt Igleski

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