A week of sadness, but also celebration, for Chicago’s favorite piping plovers, Monty and Rose

A band of Chicago bird lovers has shown us how to preserve and rejuvenate our natural world. The accretion of thousands of seemingly insignificant efforts, like rallying around a couple of plovers, can make all the difference.

SHARE A week of sadness, but also celebration, for Chicago’s favorite piping plovers, Monty and Rose
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Piping plovers Rose (left) and Monty at Chicago’s Montrose Beach in April.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

It was a bad week for Monty and Rose. A skunk attacked their nest on Montrose Beach and ate all four of their eggs.

Do piping plovers mourn? We wouldn’t put it past them. If only they had also heard the happy news that one of their offsprings from last year, Nish, is now working on a family of his own in Ohio. But plovers don’t make phone calls.

From the moment Monty and Rose first arrived at Montrose Beach in June of 2019, their survival has been iffy. Great Lakes piping plovers are an endangered species. Trying to reproduce and raise chicks on a public Chicago beach, a thump away from any wayward volleyball, didn’t seem promising.

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But a passionate band of Chicago bird lovers showed how the preservation and rejuvenation of our natural world can work best. It’s all well and good to set aside millions of acres of protected lands, as they do out West. But in crowded urban areas, it is the accretion of thousands of seemingly insignificant efforts — like rallying around a couple of plovers — that can make the difference.

Volunteers fenced off Monty and Rose’s nesting area. They stood watch with binoculars day and night. They finagled to have a summer music concert relocated elsewhere. They worked with the Chicago Park District to expand the birds’ area of protection by three acres.

They gave Monty and Rose every chance possible, and it has paid off.

In the summer of 2019, Monty and Rose fledged two chicks. Last summer, they fledged three more: Nish, Hazel and Esperanza. Now Nish, as reported on Wednesday, has paired up with a plover from Pennsylvania to build a nest — holding one egg and counting — in Maumee Bay State Park near Toledo. They are the first plovers to nest in Ohio in 83 years.

In the early 1980s, there were only 13 pairs of piping plovers in the Great Lakes region, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Today, there are about 64 pairs.

Monty and Rose lost four eggs last week, which is a tragedy only in the eye of the beholder. A skunk’s gotta eat, too. But they went right back to building a new nest.

And you can bet that a dedicated band of Chicagoans will watch over them more than ever.

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