Imani, the young male Piping Plover and son of Rose and Monty, was still at Montrose in late June. His behavior has changed dramatically however. In late May and early June we would often hear him calling before we saw him and his slow motion flight display over the Dunes was an aerodynamic sight to behold. He was feeling his oats and ready to start a family and carry on Monty and Rose’s lineage. By late June the displaying and aggressive behavior towards other birds had stopped. He became harder to find and even disappeared for a few days. A female Piping Plover never showed up, which is probably the reason for Imani’s more subdued behavior. How long he will stay at Montrose is uncertain. Without a mate and the potential for a family he doesn’t have much incentive to hang around. The good news is that Imani is young, only about a year old, and there’s always next year.
Imani the Piping Plover confronted a Killdeer on the morning of June 7, 2022. Standing erect with chest puffed out he showed the larger Killdeer who the boss of the beach is. Imani is being hyper territorial, performing display flights over the Dunes, calling frequently, and chasing other birds who dare to enter his space. This aggressive behavior is an encouraging sign. It shows he has staked out the Dunes and is ready and able to defend it. The only missing element now is a female Piping Plover. If she shows up she’ll have a worthy partner in Imani.
Monty would be proud of his son.
A sample of birds from Montrose on June 3. This is why you should keep birding in June
Lots of photos are on my eBird checklist for the day, URL below.
June 3, 2022
Talk about fortuitous, and funny. Imani, the male Piping Plover and son of Monty and Rose, was feeding on the long fishing pier on May 26. This is common behavior for shorebirds at Montrose (Monty and Rose would do the same thing there). These shorebirds like to feed on the hordes of midges that gather on the pier. Easy pickings. When I saw Imani on the pier I walked out to look at and photograph him. I took lots of pics and the best one happened by accident when he walked across and stopped briefly on one of the “no diving” glyphs painted on the pier.
Rose and Monty are gone but if a female Piping Plover finds her way to Montrose, the cycle could start anew.
Monty died unexpectedly on May 13, 2022, thus ending the saga of Chicago’s first nesting Piping Plovers in over 50 years. The Dunes habitat is protected and intact, so perhaps another pair of Piping Plovers will find their way to Montrose and try to nest.
For the third consecutive year, Monty and Rose, our famous Piping Plover couple, nested and raised a family. This is an enormous conservation success story by any measure, the first time Piping Plovers have nested in Chicago in over 50 years.
The wide sandy beach at Montrose is near perfect Piping Plover habitat, but Montrose is far from ideal as a nesting location. Montrose is one of the most popular beaches in Chicago; all that human activity makes life difficult for any bird that nests on the open beach, like Piping Plovers do. The human animals aren’t the only challenge the plovers face. Montrose is also home to several mammalian predators, including Striped Skunks and Racoons, and they aren’t above preying on Piping Plover eggs. In fact, in 2021, a skunk ate some of the eggs from Monty and Rose’s first clutch. As if the mammalian predators weren’t enough, Montrose also hosts Peregrine Falcons, Cooper’s Hawks, Great Blue Herons, and gulls, all capable of dispatching the plovers and their young. With all these threats it’s a miracle Monty and Rose are able to nest and raise a family. The hard truth is that without human involvement the chances of them nesting successfully are small. Part of the beach got fenced off to keep people out in case Monty and Rose decided to nest there in 2021. Like the beach, the Dunes got fenced off to keep people out when Monty and Rose chose to nest there. To protect the eggs form predators, a steel cage was placed over the nest. Even with a cage a determined skunk managed to slip through and pilfer the eggs, forcing Monty and Rose to start over. A new, larger cage prevented this from happening again. To deter avian predators, biologists stationed a trap baited with a live pigeon in the Dunes. On top of all this, a cadre of dedicated volunteers spent hundreds of hours monitoring the plovers.
So the question is, is all this effort worth it? Is all the inconvenience worth it? I led field trips to Montrose in the spring of 2021 and I would take my guests down to the beach and Dunes, where I talked about the nesting Piping Plovers and the efforts to protect them. On one trip a client remarked “All this for a couple little birds?” It’s a legitimate question to ask. I think the answer is a resounding yes. Monty and Rose became celebrities in Chicago, raising awareness of their struggle and the plight of Piping Plovers on the Great Lakes. Their story was mentioned in the news and it became impossible not to sympathize with them. Their story also raised awareness of Montrose and how important it is for wildlife, especially the fragile Dunes.
The story of Monty and Rose is a story of hope and struggle, of people from different backgrounds working together to give a pair of underdogs a fighting chance at raising their kids in a not always hospitable environment. We look forward to their return.