Rose and Monty, Chicago’s much loved piping plover pair whose presence on one of the city’s busy beaches made headlines, may have reunited once again on Montrose Beach Dunes.
Rose, who made an 1,100-mile journey to Montrose Beach from Key Preserve State Park in Florida where she spent winter, was spotted back on the lakefront Sunday morning.
Monty may have been spotted back in Montrose on Monday.
Though the number coordinates on the piping plovers could not yet be confirmed, the plover that was sighted wore a green band, as Monty does, explained Louise Clemency, field supervisor for the Chicago office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Monty was last sighted on Galveston Island’s East Beach in Texas last Thursday.
Last May, Monty and Rose were spotted as having returned on the same day, said Clemency.
“But still, one day after the other is still amazingly close when you consider that Rose winters in Florida and Monty winters in Texas,” she added.
The endangered pair have mated on Montrose Beach Dunes for the past two years, a strong indication that Rose could nest there again this year. If Monty really is back, this would mark the pair’s third year returning to Chicago.
Earlier this month, the Chicago Park Distract expanded the Montrose Beach Dunes Natural Area an additional 3.1 acres to provide more permanent protection for the piping plovers and other endangered wildlife. The natural area is a prime bird watching spot covered daily by birders.
Piping plovers who have nesting success at one site tend to come back to the same place to nest again, explained Tamima Itani, vice president and treasurer of the Illinois Ornithological Society.
Because the plovers don’t have tracking devices, wildlife conservation groups rely on other bird watching communities across the country to report band color and number combinations that are wrapped around birds’ legs to identify them.
“We get these reports in the wintering grounds from citizens, scientists, or people who are really passionate about birds in general,” said Jillian Farkas, the Great Lakes piping plover coordinator with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“It’s really crucial that people are sending their observations… to any place that can help protect the birds, because there’s still a lot that is a mystery about their migration patterns,” she said.
Two out of Rose and Monty’s three chicks that hatched in Chicago last June were also recently seen.
The hatching site of these three chicks prompted major debate when conservationists successfully canceled a major music festival that was scheduled to take place on the beach in 2019.
Though dogs are not allowed on the public beach or the protected area, the Illinois Ornithological Society requests that pedestrians obey the signs and keep their dogs off the beach, because of growing concerns about the safety of the plovers and other shore birds.
“People love these piping plovers. Frankly, we get very attached to them,” said Itani.