Ald. Cappleman on his support of more habitat at Montrose: "These birds are true survivors."

Request would add 1.5 acres to internationally recognized dune habitat

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) thinks now is a great time to add to the habitat at Montrose Beach Dunes.

“The area encompasses the habitat used during the most critical phases of breeding, brooding, and rearing of [the] Piping Plover chicks,” Cappleman wrote this week in a letter to the Chicago Park District’s leadership. “Additionally, the habitat expansion would protect a colony of more than 150 Bank Swallow nests. Bank Swallows are described by the nonprofit Partners in Flight as ‘a Common Bird in Steep Decline.’”

That’s great news for birds and for a small parcel that’s home to an array of federally and state-listed flora and fauna—28 plant species and 18 bird species in all. The additional 1.5 acres would expand a site that’s been reduced by high lake levels and erosion.

The pair of endangered Piping Plovers that have nested at Montrose the past two years have been a major factor in the alderman’s thinking. That is welcome news, as some birders and local residents are still smarting from a planned music festival, something I highlighted in a 2019 documentary I made about the birds.

“It was Monty and Rose that highlighted the Montrose Beach bird sanctuary and how important it is across the world,” Cappleman told me. “It was reading and hearing about Monty and Rose that did that.”

The question about adding to the dune habitat first came up last year and has lingered throughout the winter. Adding the habitat provides more permanent protection for the plovers and rare plants that sprung up on barren sand last year. The habitat addition would be open to the public when not in use during nesting season.

Cappleman cites the pandemic, too, and the role nature has played for those looking for a respite in challenging times.

“We connected with these birds,” Cappleman says, “in a time when we are trying to survive ourselves.”

Montrose Beach Dunes Volunteer Site Steward Leslie Borns, who’s led the restoration of the dunes during the past 20 years, has requested a decision from the Park District by April 20. The plovers are expected back in late April.

Wrote the alderman: “It’s my hope you will grant this request so that Monty and Rose will be welcomed back this spring with open arms.”

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Journey to a July morning in this clip

It’s again cold and dreary today. It’s a good day to dream about warm summer mornings.

Here’s a clip from Pembroke Savanna in eastern Kankakee County, filmed in July of last year. The temperature was already almost 80 when I arrived at the foot of a steep sand bluff amid the nationally significant Kankakee Sands. A black oak savanna landscape unfolded on top of the bluff, giving a glimpse into what much of Illinois may have looked like prior to European settlement. I quickly found a Northern Mockingbird atop an oak and enjoyed hearing Northern Bobwhite, Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow and more (you can hear all of them in this 45 second clip). This is about the closest mockingbirds come to Chicago, which is extra fun. Enjoy.

Today’s pick

Winter Wren takes on Bald Eagle in a first-round matchup as part of Indiana Audubon’s March Migration Madness. It’s a David vs. Goliath matchup if there ever was one. The Winter Wren is one of our smallest songbirds, scurries along tangles of logs and branches in the understory of woodlands. Its mouse-like behavior only surpassed by its tumbling, thrilling song that graces North Woods habitats in mid-summer.

Bald Eagles get all the love on social media. They’re the birds that launched a zillion Facebook posts and likely many photography careers. Heck, they’re our national symbol. But they’ve met their match in these pugnacious members of genus Troglodytes.

Pick: Winter Wren

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