On June 22 the city reopened the Chicago lakefront trails after being closed for 3 months. The lakefront trails are the paths in the lakefront parks for running, walking, and bike riding. The trails extend out to and through Montrose Point, so accessing the Point is possible, but only on foot or by bike (parking is not allowed at this time). Note that activities such as picnicking, going to the beach, playing sports, and gathering in groups are prohibited.
Gray Catbird in the catbird’s seat at Montrose Point (click to see the larger version)
I live about a mile from Montrose and I started walking there when the trails reopened. The park looks very different from when I last visited in late March – a lot greener, with many fewer people, and an even higher Lake Michigan. Breeding season is in full swing with lots of begging immature birds around. Monty and Rose, the pair of Piping Plovers that nested at Montrose in 2019, have returned and are raising a family again in the Dunes. As of this writing, they have 3 ping pong ball-sized downy young. The male Red-winged Blackbirds are in attack mode and sparing no one. The first southbound shorebirds are starting to appear, signaling the beginning of migration.
If you want to visit Montrose you’ll have to walk in until the park fully reopens. I don’t know when this will be. People have been parking west of Lake Shore Drive and walking in, not very convenient but the only option available now. I’ve included a link to one of my eBird lists from a recent visit, URL below. Also, check the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot to find out what’s being seen there.
Rose, the mama Piping Plover (click to see the larger version)
Our Piping Plovers are now the proud parents of 2 chicks. A third chick hatched but died recently for unknown reasons. Monty, the papa, is doing an outstanding job of defending his kids from gulls and other shorebirds. Also, Rose, the mother, disappeared for a few days but returned on July 29. With a little luck, the chicks will survive, grow up, and fly away in a few weeks.
American Avocet, Piping Plover, and Semipalmated Plover (click to see the larger version)
Another hot, steamy summer day and another American Avocet at Montrose Beach. This one, an adult male, was working the public beach and protected area early on the morning of July 19. Also note the photobombing Semipalmated Plover and Piping Plover in the lower left corner of the photo. Link to my eBird checklist for the day below.
Piping Plover on nest (click to see the larger version)
After the eggs from their first nesting attempt were removed by biologists, Rose and Monty, the intrepid Piping Plover pair, picked up their show and moved it a few hundred yards east to a new area. This is a more propitious location, both above the flood zone and away from people. One bird on the nest is visible in this photo (inside the protective cage). A couple of eggs have been laid. Note the photobombing Bank Swallow on the rope.
Rose, the female Piping Plover (click to see the larger version)
Hope is the thing with eggs. A pair of Piping Plovers at Montrose Beach has ended the long drought of nesting Piping Plovers in Chicago. As of June 10, Rose, the female, has laid 3 eggs in a nest on the public portion of the beach just northwest of the Beach House. The area has been cordoned off by authorities to protect the birds and their nesting effort, and a cage has been placed over the nest to further protect the eggs. With a little luck and a lot of help from volunteers, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, the eggs will hatch within a few weeks. Stay tuned.
Montrose was on fire with birds on May 19, hands down the best day of the spring. I ended up with 107 species for the day, 103 in the morning and 4 more on a return visit in the afternoon and evening, my second best daily total ever there (over 130 species were reported to eBird for the day, which is about as well as we do). The Magic Hedge lived up to its name and was bursting with warblers, thrushes, vireos, and flycatchers. One of the highlights was a slightly out of place male Least Bittern in the peripheral plantings. We live for days like this. We suffer through Midwestern winters for experiences like this. My highlights include
Piping Plover (2)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (first cycle bird)
Philadelphia Vireo (4)
24 species of warblers including Mourning, Connecticut, Black-throated Blue, and Hooded, plus gobs of Bay-breasted, Magnolias, and Blackpolls