Magic at Montrose: Chicago’s bird-watching hotspot

“The Magic Hedge” at Montrose Level Fowl Sanctuary known as that for a cause.

What began as a row of honeysuckle shrubs alongside a fence has grown into a protracted stretch of timber, crops and different greenery — an ideal spot for the plenty of birds passing by way of Chicago to relaxation and feed throughout migration seasons.

Andrea Tolzmann and her youngsters usually rush to Montrose Seashore with their cameras and binoculars early within the morning earlier than digital faculty begins. They depend on group chats and social media pages for alerts about uncommon hen sightings.

“We have been like, it’s early, we have now an hour and a half earlier than faculty begins. Let’s run over to Montrose,” stated Tolzmann, 47.

Tolzmann bought her love for birds from her father and handed it on to sons Peter, 12, and Simon, 16. They joined Illinois Younger Birders 5 years in the past.

The household is a part of Chicago’s birder neighborhood, a bunch bonded by a pastime that spans generations and talent ranges.

“It’s a extremely collaborative neighborhood. There’s quite a lot of friendship and sharing of data, and that makes it a extremely nice neighborhood to be part of,” Tolzmann stated.

Tamima Itani and different hen watchers visited Montrose Level Fowl Sanctuary on Could 20.
Zinya Salfiti/Chicago-Solar Instances

It’s the birders who look out for Monty and Rose, the pair of piping plovers nesting at Montrose Seashore. It’s the birders who set up instructional walks with specialists to look at birds of their pure habitat. And it’s the birders who attempt to educate most people about being hen pleasant.

“I’ve met individuals birding throughout Chicago this yr who instructed me that they began birding as a result of they went to see Monty and Rose in 2019,” stated Louise Clemency, area supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chicago workplace.

The plover pair confirmed up in April this yr, marking their third yr on the seaside. They made headlines when three of their chicks hatched on the seaside in 2019. It was the birders, once more, who helped drive the cancellation of a music competition on the seaside that yr to guard the nest.

“They’ve been great ambassadors to actually get individuals to cease momentarily and replicate simply how necessary this lakeshore is,” stated Brad Semel, an endangered species restoration specialist.

“This little postage stamp of a seaside and all of the endangered crops and animals which might be listed here are actually consultant of what the entire Nice Lakes are,” he stated.

A gaggle of birders have been out on the seaside once more one current morning, checking on the plovers and searching for different birds. Tamima Itani of the Illinois Ornithological Society was with them.

“No piping plovers had fledged chicks in Chicago or Cook dinner County in 71 years, so nobody thought they’d nest right here,” stated Itani, the society’s vice chairman and treasurer.

Montrose Level Fowl Sanctuary ranks first on eBird’s prime spots in Chicago, adopted by Illinois Seashore State Park and Jackson Park.

This previous April, the Chicago Park District expanded the Montrose Seashore Dunes Pure Space, including 3.1 acres of land to offer extra everlasting safety for the plovers and different endangered wildlife.

“It’s such a magnet for birds that it finally ends up being a magnet for birders,” Itani stated.

“There’s so many different superior birding locations in Chicago,” she added. “Like Washington Park, on the South Aspect — that’s an outstanding place to hen. There are locations all throughout the town.”

Black-throated Green Warbler spotted at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary on Thursday, May 20, 2021.

Black-throated Inexperienced Warbler noticed at Montrose Level Fowl Sanctuary on Thursday, Could 20.
Courtesy of Tamima Itani

At one level, Itani noticed a black-throated Inexperienced Warbler diving out and in of a hedge, perching itself up on a department beside two acorns and a spider’s internet. It displayed its yellow plumage as the group of birders tried to snap an image in time.

Spring migration is the very best time to be at Montrose, particularly over the last week of April and first three weeks of Could, defined Itani. August is the very best time to see shorebirds heading south, and fall migration — from mid-September till the tip of October — can be nice, she stated.

Montrose is a go-to spot for Warblers and different small hen migrants, stated Al Stokie, 76, who posts day by day journal entries about his birding adventures in a web based group, Illinois Birders Exchanging Ideas.

“You don’t actually need to do Montrose afterward, except you’re doing a breeding survey if you wish to see what birds nest right here,” stated Stokie, who was additionally at Montrose that morning.

Strolling by way of the mud path, birders preserve a lookout for various species — stopping often, then crouching for a greater have a look at some thrushes, which keep near the bottom. Others level towards the timber. However everybody retains noise to a minimal, respecting the calm, meditative nature of the exercise and listening to the birds chirp and sing.

Elements of the sanctuary have been closed for building of 1/3-mile lengthy path.

Avid birder Al Stokie, 76, at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary Thursday, May 20.

Avid birder Al Stokie, 76, on a go to to Montrose Level Fowl Sanctuary on Thursday, Could 20.
Zinya Salfiti/Chicago Solar-Instances

Monty and Rose produced 4 eggs in Could, however Wednesday evening, a skunk attacked the nest, consuming all 4 eggs.

“We hoped that having the wired cage over the nest would have precluded an occasion like this … however [the skunk] discovered a weak spot within the wire and broke the welding and was capable of attain in far sufficient to seize the nest,” Semel stated.

Monty and Rose are tremendous, he added, and “already contemplating nesting once more. The probability of them having a second nest could be very excessive.”

Thursday morning, the pair already have been courting and scraping a nest. In the event that they nest and produce eggs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Providers will set up a bigger enclosure to guard it.

Itani and different volunteers had monitored the nest in two-hour shifts from 6 a.m. to eight p.m. day by day, and can proceed to examine to see if Monty and Rose nest once more.

Earlier than the skunk, the plovers and their eggs had prevented one other menace, with slightly assist.

In mid-Could, surveillance cameras put in by the U.S. Division of Agriculture captured photographs of a balloon caught in opposition to the enclosure across the nest.

It was 4:30 a.m. when Clemency, the wildlife service area supervisor, noticed photographs of the balloon. She instantly rushed to the nest.

“Birds can get tangled and choked or trapped within the strings. So actually the mixture of these bits of plastic and the string make the balloons one of many extra lethal sorts of air pollution that we have now,” she stated.

Tamima Itani joins Nate Leahy, 41, in monitoring the piping plovers’ nest, May 20. Volunteers have been monitoring the nest daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Tamima Itani joins Nate Leahy, 41, in monitoring the piping plovers’ nest on an early-morning go to on Could 20. Volunteers have been monitoring the world day by day from 6 a.m. to eight p.m.
Zinya Salfiti/Chicago Solar-Instances

Nish, one among Monty and Rose’s chicks, hatched at Montrose in 2020. This yr, Nish mated with a plover at Maumee State Park, close to Toledo, and produced an egg. It was Ohio’s first piping plover nest in over 80 years.

“All of our assets have been shared with the Ohio crew, and the Chicago crew is able to assist in any capability it may possibly,” Itani wrote on Illinois Birders Exchanging Ideas. “These magical birds are bringing communities collectively in essentially the most great of the way.”

Itani and illustrator Anna-Maria Crum are releasing a youngsters’s image guide in regards to the plover pair this month. “Monty and Rose Nest at Montrose” is meant for kids ages 2 to eight, however will seemingly discover keen readers amongst plover-lovers of all ages.

All proceeds will help analysis and conservation efforts for piping plovers and different shorebirds. There’s a web site — — for extra info on ordering the guide.

“It’s a lot greater than simply the birding neighborhood, as a result of that entire story across the plovers is about conservation and defending not simply this one species, however the entire habitat,” Tolzmann stated.

“It’s all introduced everyone collectively, to see the significance of preserving and increasing these areas.”

There are 19,700 members of the Illinois Birding Community, a Fb group used to share uncommon hen sightings, hotspot areas and upcoming hen watching walks.

Marcia Suchy, 73, who lives in Franklin Park, says she sees 40 to 50 birds on a typical tour.

“I’ve met so many great individuals and bought so many stunning associates simply due to birds. These are all those who have that fireplace within them,” she stated.

“You see slightly hen and it’s form of like stopping and smelling the roses; you get such calmness, such pleasure, such prompt gratification from watching these little issues and the colours which might be in them.”

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