Piping Plovers lead busy week in birding
A closer look at the vagrant Ruff, a bird of Eurasian wetlands.
Another season of Piping Plover mania kicked off last week when an unbanded bird showed up at 57th Street Beach. That was quickly followed by the stunning return of Imani, offspring of Monty and Rose, to Montrose Beach.
I shared some reflections on the excitement of Imani’s return with Paid subscribers on Friday. WTTW’s Patty Wetli has a nice recap of the Piping Plover activity that took place last week also. I had a minor role in that I confirmed the surprise presence of the 57th Street plover at Montrose Beach on Wednesday along with Scott Judd and another birder. A third plover joined the birds and remained with them at the time of this writing.
It was a busy week that concluded with a real jaw dropper in Wisconsin. There was a Black-legged Kittiwake at Clark Street Beach in Evanston. A young California Gull at Montrose Beach that eagle-eyed observers picked out from the usual bevy of Herring and Ring-billed Gulls. Hudsonian and Marbled Godwits stopped by Montrose as well. And someone spotted a Townsend’s Warbler at Big Marsh on Chicago’s Far South Side. Then a Flame-colored Tanager, a bird of mountainous sections of Mexico and Central America, arrived in a park in Milwaukee:
These were amazing discoveries in a spring that some have deemed later and slower than usual.
There are still many species to enjoy in this interregnum between the first bursts of migration and the major waves yet to come. A few that are passing through and won’t be here long include White-throated Sparrow, Winter Wren, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Yellow-rumped Warbler.
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An independent Ruff enjoys Illinois
Ruffs are fascinating shorebirds of the wet meadows of northern Eurasia. Males come in three forms: the independent, the subordinate, and the faeder. The independent and subordinate are very showy; the faeder looks a lot like a reeve, aka a female Ruff. There’s a hierarchy among the forms, with the independent at the top. We don’t get Ruffs often in the Midwest, so when one shows up it’s a big deal. In recent years, we haven’t gotten a male Ruff like the one seen in Boone County and McHenry County since April 14. The bird appears to be coming into breeding plumage, though I’m not able to say whether this one will be an independent or subordinate (I welcome your thoughts).
It’s amazing how well the Ruff’s bizarre plumage blends in with our Illinois corn stubble. And yes those are Chorus Frogs providing vocals in the background of the video.
Lincoln Park Zoo is home to the last known rookery of Black-crowned Night-Herons in Illinois. We’re fortunate to have these beautiful and intriguing birds in our midst. You might recall the piece that appeared in the Chicago Tribune in December that revealed gaps in the state’s endangered species plan. Construction at the Chicago History Museum last year displaced herons that were attempted to nest there.
The Night-Herons are the focus of a new conservation-focused research project by the University of Illinois in coordination with the Urban Wildlife Institute, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and Chicago Park District. Researchers are using decoys to attract Night-Herons so GPS trackers may be used to follow their movements. The Night-Herons range widely across Chicagoland; the project hopes the herons eventually can diversify their nesting sites in future years. Learn more about this effort through the Chicago Black-Crowned Night-Heron Facebook page.