Plover chicks at Montrose mark new chapter in extraordinary story

July 7, 2021, was another hot one on Chicago’s beaches. The humidity was thick in the air as beachgoers stood almost shoulder-to-shoulder on the sands.

As if to portend the drama that was to come, the winds shifted off the lake and a fog rolled in. The temperatures dropped about 15 degrees almost immediately.

It was around then that my typical Wednesday afternoon plover-monitoring shift began. Just as it has since late April. My regular monitoring partner, Leslie Borns, had another meeting so she wasn’t there right away. But when I walked up to the monitoring site, I was greeted by “plover mother” Tamima Itani and intern Staś Gunkel. This wasn’t just any shift, because today was the day that Monty and Rose’s eggs might hatch.

Right away, Tamima commented that she thought an egg may have hatched. I wasn’t quite as sure. Rose was a little fidgety on the nest but looked about the same as every other day since incubation began in early June.

Then Tamima and Staś stepped away to tend to some gulls. It was right then that I saw Rose leave the nest with an eggshell and drop it about 15 feet away. In that moment, I could see a little mass of feathers where there should have been a speckled egg. I shouted to Tamima and Staś; Tamima quickly confirmed the presence of a chick. She’d been right after all (I should have never questioned a plover mother, ha!). I later could see the chick’s little face peering out from under a fluffed-up Rose.

This was a first for me personally. I was out of town when the first chick hatched in 2019, and last year only a handful of people were allowed on the beach. Having the first nest lost to a skunk this year, and seeing how Monty and Rose have persisted, not to mention how the whole world has been turned upside-down recently…it was a little emotional to say the least. In about a month we went from the loss of the nest to Monty and Rose mating again to new eggs and then chicks. There definitely have been some travails this year.

We’re near certain a second chick hatched within the hour last Wednesday, as again we saw eggshell carrying. By the next day, another chick had hatched also.

The chicks haven’t ventured far due to the wind and chill in the air (at the time of this writing). But now the challenges (and the fun) really do begin. The chicks are precocial and begin feeding on their own almost right away. Wherever they head next, be it the shoreline or the little inland pools of standing water, it will be fun to see. But there are threats, too, like the American Kestrel lurking nearby last week. A Red-winged Blackbird and a Barn Swallow quickly harassed the kestrel and distracted from the hatchlings nearby.

There have been many memorable moments like this during the last three summers. For whatever reason, perhaps because of the skunk attack, this one’s a challenge to put into words. Plover hatchlings are brooding under Monty and Rose again, and that’s really all that matters.


Next “Monty and Rose” documentary set for September release

I have been working on the second “Monty and Rose” documentary on and off for most of the past year. This film is going to be longer, at least double the length of the first film, and will stretch the story out over several years. Music will again feature local indie favorites Congress of Starlings, and this time we also have tunes from San Diego ska pioneers Spy Kids. There are many new and fun features in this film, and I look forward to sharing it with you!

The new film will make its debut on Saturday, Sept. 4, at 1 p.m. at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago. There will be a second showing Monday, Sept. 6, at 2:30 p.m. Tickets will go on sale this Friday at 10 a.m. at www.montyandrose.net. And soon we’ll be sharing how you can watch the film through streaming as well.