Monty the piping plover is back at Montrose Beach

His mate, Rose, hasn’t been spotted yet this year after flying down to her usual winter getaway in Anclote Key, Florida.

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Piping plover Monty walks near the area sectioned off for the endangered species on Montrose Beach on April 28, 2021.

Piping plover Monty walks near the area sectioned off for the endangered species on Montrose Beach on the North Side, Wednesday morning, April 28, 2021.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

After wintering in Texas, Monty the piping plover has made his way back to Montrose Beach.

He was captured on video strutting around his old stomping grounds Thursday, according to a tweet from the Chicago Piping Plovers group, a collaboration between the Chicago Audubon Society and the Chicago and Illinois ornithological societies.

His mate, Rose, hasn’t been spotted yet this year after flying down to her usual winter getaway in Anclote Key, Florida. The highly endangered Great Lakes piping plovers have nested at Montrose Beach every spring and summer since 2019, and their respective returns are now hotly anticipated.

Tamima Itani, vice president and treasurer of the Illinois Ornithological Society, said plover watchers shouldn’t be alarmed that Rose apparently hasn’t made her trip up north.

“In the past two years, Monty and Rose have returned within like 24 hours of each other,” Itani said. “But the first year, 2019, there was almost like a 10-day gap until they were both on the same beach.”

“We’re just keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that she’ll be back soon as well,” she added, noting that Monty’s back “relatively early” compared to the other years.

Although the beloved pair has always faced an uphill battle trying to reproduce and raise chicks on a public beach, last year’s trip to Chicago was particularly perilous. A skunk attacked their nest in June, eating four eggs but leaving Monty and Rose unharmed.

Ultimately, though, they persisted and gave birth to four chicks just over a month later, two of which went missing and were presumed dead. The remaining offspring were named Imani and Siewka.

Itani said she’s encouraged that the plovers have more “beach real estate” to nest on because the water level is lower, adding that the protected area at Montrose Beach has almost doubled from last year.

She acknowledged, however, that storm surges and gawkers can be disruptive. Bob Dolgan, a documentarian who has directed two films about Monty and Rose, also warned that predators and even dogs can pose a threat to the birds.

The piping plovers group urges the public to give the birds space, look for official monitors who can advise on safe viewing and help keep the beaches clean.

Even before Monty made his return, there was plenty of plover action at Chicago beaches this week. Another Great Lakes plover was spotted Tuesday at Rainbow Beach, while a Great Plains plover showed up at Montrose Beach the following day.

“It’s not totally unusual for other plovers to kind of wander through Chicago around this time of year, aside from Monty and Rose,” Dolgan said. “So I think the excitement with those wanderers is the potential that an additional plover pair could set up a nest in Chicago.”

A cleanup is planned Saturday at Rainbow Beach, which is considered by some experts to be the next most likely nesting ground after Montrose Beach, according to Chicago Ornithological Society President Edward Warden.

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