Ald. James Cappleman (46th) thinks now is a great time to add to the habitat at Montrose Beach Dunes. That’s great news for birds and for a small parcel that’s home to an array of federally and state-listed flora and fauna—28 plant species and 18 bird species in all. The additional 1.5 acres would expand a site that’s been reduced by high lake levels and erosion.
“The area encompasses the habitat used during the most critical phases of breeding, brooding, and rearing of [the] Piping Plover chicks,” Cappleman wrote this week in a letter to the Chicago Park District’s leadership. “Additionally, the habitat expansion would protect a colony of more than 150 Bank Swallow nests. Bank Swallows are described by the nonprofit Partners in Flight as ‘a Common Bird in Steep Decline.’”
The pair of endangered Piping Plovers that have nested at Montrose the past two years have been a major factor in the alderman’s thinking. That’s great to hear, as some birders and local residents are still smarting from a music festival that would have happened on the beach, something I highlighted in a 2019 documentary I made about the birds.
“It was Monty and Rose that highlighted the Montrose Beach bird sanctuary and how important it is across the world,” Cappleman told me. “It was reading and hearing about Monty and Rose that did that.”
The question about adding to the dune habitat first came up last year and has lingered throughout the winter. Adding the habitat provides more permanent protection for the plovers and rare plants that sprung up on barren sand last year. The habitat addition would be open to the public when not in use during nesting season.
Cappleman cites the pandemic, too, and the role nature has played for those looking for a respite in challenging times.
“We connected with these birds,” Cappleman says, “in a time when we are trying to survive ourselves.”
Montrose Beach Dunes Volunteer Site Steward Leslie Borns, who’s led the restoration of the dunes during the past 20 years, has requested a decision from the Park District by April 20. The plovers are expected back in late April.
Wrote the alderman: “It’s my hope you will grant this request so that Monty and Rose will be welcomed back this spring with open arms.”