Midwest Living Review
Chicago Audubon Society guide Joe Lill focused his binoculars for a close look at the black-legged kittiwake, a gull rarely seen in Chicago but found at Montrose Point, one of the Midwest's leading rest stops for birds winging along the U.S. Central Flyway. Joe says, "Of 440 bird species in Illinois, about 325 have been spotted at this little nature laboratory." Just 5 miles north of Chicago's skyline, the 15-acre span of woodlands, dunes and beach reaches into Lake Michigan, creating an easy-to-explore bird and butterfly sanctuary. Marked paths take visitors within 6 feet of bird habitats. (Be sure to stay on the paths, so you don't disturb hidden wildlife.) And it's a draw to both birds and people, year-round. In summer, shore birds populate sprawling, public Montrose Beach. You may spot endangered piping plovers, American avocets, whimbrels and ruddy turnstones. Peregrine falcons soar overhead. Tall dune grass attracts short-eared owls, killdeer and seldom-sighted Nelson's and Le Conte's sparrows. During spring and fall migrations, avid and novice bird-watchers flock to the point's Magic Hedge, a former Cold War Nike missile site camouflaged by thick shrubs, a feathered friend's paradise. Linger to listen to purple martins twitter, doves purr, grackles whistle and woodpeckers peck away. Get to the park early (between dawn and 10 a.m., when the birds are feeding) for the best sightings. Chicago Audubon Society hosts free bird walks year-round at Montrose Point and other Chicago nature sanctuaries (773/539-6793; chicagoaudubon.org).