UPTOWN — After wintering in Texas and Florida, Monty and Rose know what most locals do: nothing beats a summer in Chicago.
The pair of endangered, migratory Great Lakes piping plovers have been spotted at Montrose Beach, the couple’s preferred mating ground for their third straight summer. The female Rose was discovered near the beach and natural dune area Sunday, while Monty’s presence at the North Side lakefront park was confirmed Monday afternoon, local birder Bob Dolgan said.
“It’s very exciting,” Dolgan said. “There are no guarantees when birds are traveling 1,000 miles. Hopefully this is the start of another successful summer for the birds.”
For the past two years, Rose and her mate, Monty, have chosen to nest at Montrose Beach. Their presence at the beach in 2019 marked the first time a pair of endangered piping plovers had chosen to nest in Chicago since 1955.
Rose returned to Montrose from her winter home in Anclote Key, Florida, about 1,100 miles from Chicago. Monty was spotted in Texas this winter.
Monty and Rose were seen interacting with each other at the lakefront Monday after a long winter apart, Dolgan said.
The bird couple has successfully nested along the beach for the last two years. Their first effort to nest at the beach resulted in a conservation effort, which caused beach volleyball games to be relocated and a music festival to be canceled.
Last year, the birds had the beach free of human interaction, as much of Chicago’s lakefront was off-limits during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
But this year’s effort could be aided by the Chicago Park District’s recent decision to expand the plovers’ favored nesting grounds.
Earlier this month, the Park District approved a plan to add just over three acres of Montrose Beach to the adjacent Montrose Dune Natural Area. The beach’s easternmost portion — which Monty and Rose have chosen as their yearly nesting and foraging ground — has been absorbed into the natural area.
With Monty now spotted at the beach, birders will turn their gaze to a possible nest and eggs. The piping plovers could have some familiar company this year at Montrose. The couple’s chicks from last year — Esperanza, Hazel and Nish — could return to Montrose as well, Dolgan said.
A piping plover was spotted this week at Rainbow Beach on the South Side, but birders weren’t sure of the bird’s identity or if it was on its way north to Montrose, Dolgan said.
“The question is, where will those birds show up?” Dolgan said. “It’s fun to be on the lookout for that.”
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