Wake up, Chicago, birds are indeed real
"Movement" catches on as counterpoint to proliferation of conspiracy theories
I was feeling peevish the first time I heard the phrase “Birds Aren’t Real.” It was around the time the 3 Billion Birds Gone study came out. “Yeah, birds aren’t going to be real for long if they keep declining at this rate,” I thought. The Endangered Species Act was being rolled back, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was gutted. It hit a little close to home.
Then I started to follow the Birds Aren’t Real “movement” and began to take a liking to it. Call it subversive and ironic, not unlike one of Sacha Baron Cohen’s projects. It also makes a point. Birds Aren’t Real turns out to be a spot-on sendup of conspiracy theories. With college student Peter McIndoe playing the founder and spokesperson for the movement.
Birds Aren’t Real emerged just as QAnon was taking shape and we entered this current era of disinformation and conspiracy mania. McIndoe says the U.S. government replaced birds with drones 70 years ago, around the time of JFK’s assassination. The drones recharge by perching on electrical wires. There’s a deep back story that would make for an A-minus grade in a high school creative writing course.
McIndoe appeared locally on WGN in January when he literally spit out a glass of milk on live television, chalking the gaffe up to “being nervous.” It was a prank, but a darn funny one at that.
Birds of course are real and pretty amazing at that. We can use a little more levity in birding, and that’s why Birds Aren’t Real isn’t such a bad idea after all.
Could Piping Plovers nest again in Indiana?
One of the exciting developments of the past few years has been the recent expansion of the Great Lakes Piping Plover population to the southern tier of the lakes, from Lake Michigan to Lake Erie. First there was the return of Piping Plovers to Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pa. Then there were Monty and Rose in Chicago (though it should be noted that plovers had still been nesting in Lake County, Illinois). And finally there was Monty and Rose’s chick, Nish, who landed along Ohio’s Lake Erie shore last year. Throw in that Toronto has hosted a pair in recent years, and you have generations of birds with recent experience nesting on highly traveled public beaches.
Scientists and conservationists are now turning to Indiana as the next site for the Great Lakes Piping Plover to re-establish itself. Piping Plovers haven’t bred in the state since 1955, when a pair nested on the Indiana side of Wolf Lake. In the early 20th century, they nested along Lake Michigan at Miller Beach and West Beach.
“We’re all hoping for Indiana with the new urban lineage of plovers,” said Stephanie Schubel of the Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team.
Hopes have been high with the appearance of “Enforcer” near Michigan City, Ind., last year. In case you don’t know Enforcer is the bird who ran off Rose’s dad, Little Guy, from a beach in Muskegon.
Dunes Calumet Audubon Society is taking it a step further this spring, surveying Lake Michigan beaches for signs of plovers. So far there haven’t been any sightings in northwest Indiana, although we have a ways to go as plovers are still moving north. It’s a great position to be in for a species that once dwindled to just a dozen pairs in the early 1990s.
Nominations for Chicago Excellence In Gardening Awards are now open
After two years of COVID-19 restrictions, Chicago Excellence in Gardening Awards (CEGA) is back. CEGA is Chicago’s only city-wide gardening awards program. It has honored more than 150 gardeners across 43 wards and 76 Chicago communities since 2017. CEGA’s set a goal of reaching every Chicago ward, neighborhood and green corner of the city in 2022. Click here if you’d like to enter your garden. If your garden is an award-winner, you’ll receive a certificate and a beautiful all-weather sign, courtesy of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. Your entry will place your garden into a raffle for one of three rain barrels provided by the Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. Entries are being accepted now through July 1, 2022, and they are limited to the City of Chicago.
Construction on an airport road through Rockford’s Bell Bowl Prairie quietly was delayed again recently. There’s now official word of an environmental consultation due to the presence of the endangered Rusty Patch Bumble Bee…..Tamima Itani has written a second children’s book about the indomitable Monty and Rose. The new book, “Monty and Rose Return to Montrose,” is available now, and 100 percent of proceeds will benefit Piping Plover conservation and research…..The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed an interesting story map tool that shows how important the western Great Lakes are as a migratory corridor. Chicago is at the epicenter, even moreso than points on the eastern side of Lake Michigan…..The Southern Illinoisan has a piece on how site superintendents have kept Illinois state parks going despite years of budget cuts. Their perseverance has been incredible, as anyone who’s visited one of our state parks can attest.