Monty the Piping Plover returns to Montrose Beach for his 4th summer. Now where is Rose? – Chicago Tribune


Word has started to spread about their long-awaited return.

He had not been spotted at his home in Texas and the winds were favorable for travel. She was known to take off around the same time from her Florida island, sometimes arriving before him. Wishes for safe flights came from across the country as Chicagoans eager to get an early view planned to hit the beach.

Thursday afternoon, Monty, the Great Lakes piping plover, was back in Chicago.

Now birdwatchers are waiting for Rose.

The endangered shorebird pair chose Montrose Beach as their summer nesting spot three years ago, breaking records, removing chicks and serving as symbols for a town as hopeful and tough as two birds , individually weighing less than a stick of butter, who chose an urban beach to save their species.

Monty, recently seen in his breeding plumage, was not sighted earlier this week on his wintering grounds in Texas, where he landed in August after a journey that lasted at most 53 hours. In previous years, Rose had arrived in Chicago first, en route from a Florida island off the Gulf Coast.

Together they traveled over 2,000 miles from the first signs of spring back to Chicago. Last year they arrived in the last days of April, the year before at dawn in May.

“It’s like having your kids come home from college,” said Tamima Itani, of the Illinois Ornithological Society and leader of the Chicago plover control effort.

Birdwatchers gathered in Montrose on Thursday where a female plover joined Monty – but it wasn’t Rose. Monty was seen engaging in courtship displays with the unbanded bird, leaving viewers wondering if a soap opera might be in store for the summer.

Birders have prepared for the plovers with a full monitoring schedule in place, scavenged habitat ready to go, and the knowledge that there are likely to be more surprises to come.

Monty and Rose first nested in Chicago in 2019, becoming the first pair of plovers to do so successfully in a generation. Their story gained traction in a David and Goliath saga that pitted the little birds against potential human disturbance at the scale of a multi-day beach EDM festival. The music festival was canceled and the birds prevailed, but in subsequent years the couple faced more natural challenges.

They have come to represent a conservation success story for a species once reduced to a dozen breeding pairs, their efforts aided by Great Lakes habitat restoration and the people of Chicago who guarded the beach day and night. , scaring off predators and raising awareness about why anyone should care about two shorebirds in the first place.

“The agony and ecstasy of surveillance,” ornithologist Eden Essex called it last year.

Monty and Rose met on a beach in Waukegan when they were less than a year old and returned to the suburbs in 2018 for a first nesting attempt that flopped. In 2019 they flew two chicks to Montrose. The following summer, they flew three.

Last summer in Montrose offered more beach space as water levels dropped and the Chicago Park District created habitat expansion. Monty and Rose fled two chicks – Imani and Siewka – after a skunk incursion caused their first nest to be devoured.

Armand Cann, a biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, said lessons have been learned from the ordeal and the nest enclosure is being updated for this season. The agency also worked with the Park District to bring the habitat back into shape. Various stakeholders will be on the lookout for storms, predators and even unexpected obstacles.

“We can’t predict everything that’s going to happen, but we’re going on the fly and making sure they hopefully have a successful nesting season,” Cann said.

Last year’s season exceeded targets, with 74 breeding pairs and 123 wild chicks fledged – the highest number since 2018. The total included three offspring from Nish, one of Monty and Rose’s chicks in 2020 which then spawned Ohio’s first nest in over 80 years. Nish was seen with Rose on her Florida island this fall.

Monty, Rose and their offspring, including Nish, signal that more plovers may move into urban areas, Cann said.

“In an idealistic way, I really hope that someday, maybe this year, maybe another year, we can win a second pair,” Cann said. “Whether it’s Montrose, Rainbow Beach, Illinois Beach State Park or maybe even Indiana Dunes.”

And last season’s success bodes well for nesting numbers this summer.

“I’m really optimistic about what some of the sites are going to look like around the Great Lakes,” said Jillian Farkas, Great Lakes piping plover recovery coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

There’s no word yet on Monty and Rose’s chicks, but a few more plovers have appeared in Chicago in recent days.

A banded plover showed up at Rainbow Beach on the south side. The female, born at Sleeping Bear Dunes, reached her Michigan lands the following day. A beach cleanup, according to site researchers, holds promise for another pair of plovers, is scheduled for Saturday.

An unbanded plover also appeared in Montrose. The bird is thought to be a Great Plains plover, the majority of which is unbanded, unlike the Great Lakes population. But this plover’s visit was a sign that other plovers might be heading north.

Even if passing plovers don’t nest in Chicago, their visits are a sign of a welcoming habitat, said Francie Cuthbert, a professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota. , who has dedicated decades to the plover recovery effort.

“There are other birds besides Monty and Rose stopping in Chicago,” Cuthbert said. “It’s something positive. Even though this bird did not stay, it saw good habitat.

Plovers live five to six years on average, Cuthbert said, and some live longer.

“But all sorts of things can happen during migration, or any time of the year,” Cuthbert said. “So, we’re crossing our fingers.”

If Rose finds her way back to Montrose Beach, it may only be a matter of time before fuzz ball chicks on toothpick legs fly across the sand, adding to the list of plover. monitor and family tree of Chicago’s favorite birds.


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