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TWiB Notes: Big Days, Imani, Wind Turbines, and Gardening Awards
If it’s May, it’s an ideal time of year for a big day. And why not go for one in the most biodiverse county in the state, Cook County, home to Chicago and a mosaic of interesting habitats?
In birding parlance, a big day is a day devoted to observing as many species as possible in a 24-hour period. It requires planning, endurance, patience, and a bit of luck.
Two groups of birders set out on Cook County big days simultaneously on May 16. Stephanie Beilke, Chris Cochrane, Carl Giometti, and Jake Vinsel covered areas ranging from Swallow Cliff Woods near Palos Hills to Big Marsh on the Far South Side to Montrose Beach on the North Side and even Grant Park downtown. At Big Marsh, they received an assist from the park staff, who lent the quartet a set of bikes so they could cover more ground.
The group tallied 148 species, with the final bird of the day the inimitable Imani the Piping Plover at Montrose Beach.
“[The total] lands us around 6th or 7th best all time for Cook County and was probably my highest personal day tally birding anywhere ever,” Giometti wrote on Instagram. “Regardless of our count, it was a lot of fun birding with some great people!”
Giometti’s group wasn’t in competition with the other group that set out on a big day (reportedly). The team of Isoo O’Brien, Ryan Fuller, Jacob Drucker, and Woody Goss racked up 157 species on the 16th.
“We believe our route was ideal for setting a new record, but sadly the stars didn’t align in terms of luck and a crazy migration day,” O’Brien wrote on Facebook. “We’ll be back next year!”
And the Cook County big day record of 165 set in 1999, by Josh Engel and company, still stands for now.
What’s happening with Imani?
It’s been just over a year since Imani, the last remaining offspring of Monty and Rose, re-appeared at Chicago’s Montrose Beach. Since then, he’s gone south for winter and returned to Chicago only to find himself in the same situation as last year. Though a couple of passing plovers kindled hopes of romance a few weeks ago, Imani has remained the only Piping Plover on Montrose Beach. As the days pass, I often think about Enforcer, a Piping Plover that resided at Michigan’s Muskegon State Park. Enforcer landed in Muskegon when Bahama Mama and Little Guy (Rose’s parents) were still an item. Enforcer “ran off” Little Guy, according to monitor Carol Cooper, and took up with Bahama Mama. (Cooper is a hockey fan and hence dubbed the aggressive shorebird “Enforcer.”) Then Enforcer came back to the beach a few years ago, but Bahama Mama didn’t return. He spent at least the next two summers alone on the beach. It was a sad story but something that happens in the avian world, especially among a species as scarce as the Piping Plover.
Breeding season isn’t over yet. Plovers are still making new nests all around the Great Lakes. But it sure would be nice for a female Piping Plover to arrive soon and make Imani’s acquaintance.
Golden Eagles and wind turbines
An AP story moved on May 17 that brought the complexities of birds and wind energy into clearer focus. The fact is, wind turbines are deadly for eagles even as they provide a renewable energy source. There’s a big problem in Wyoming with wind turbines and the declining Golden Eagle. The story notes that while the government is encouraging the development of wind energy, it also should be protecting wildlife. There hasn’t been much enforcement of the energy companies responsible for eagles that are accidentally “taken.”
From the story:
“Part of the issue is that companies have generally not been requesting permits and they’ve been taking their chances and there hasn’t been a lot of law enforcement,” said Steve Holmer, vice president of policy at the American Bird Conservancy.
Under the Biden administration, he said, the wildlife service has “conflicting mandates: They are being directed to advance renewable energy and then they have obligations to preserve eagles.”
Excellence in gardening
The Chicago Excellence in Gardening Awards (CEGA) are back for the seventh year and accepting nominations through June 30. The awards are the only citywide gardening honors recognizing the hard work and creativity that make our city a healthier, more beautiful and more sustainable place, according to the CEGA website. CEGA judges visit backyards, parkways, school lots, community gardens and more, with an emphasis on sustainability and earth-friendly practices. That means native plants, wildlife habitat, and rainwater harvesting. Click here to enter your garden.
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