Mia Majetschak makes regular visits to Anclote Key, Florida, to check on wintering Piping Plovers. The 180-acre key isn’t necessarily an easy place to get to—it’s 3 miles off-shore and requires a ferry ride or having a catamaran or kayak.
Majetschak’s mode of transport is an inflatable catamaran. Getting to Anclote means encounters with dolphins, sea turtles and sharks and sailing some rough seas in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Once in a while you crash because the waves are too much or you rip a hole into the inflatable hull,” Majetschak says.
She was photographing Piping Plovers on Oct. 17 when she encountered one that had an air of familiarity. Maybe it was the unique leg band combination, which was similar to that of a bird she knew in her old Chicagoland haunts:
Of,RV:X,B (Orange flag on upper left leg, Red band over Violet band on lower left leg, Silver band on upper right leg and Blue band on lower right leg)
There might be only one Piping Plover in the world with those leg bands. That Piping Plover happens to be our beloved Rose, who’s nested the past three summers at Chicago’s Montrose Beach with her handsome beau, Monty.
“I was close to fainting when I saw the bands and knew it was her,” Majetschak says.
Rose wasn’t alone, though, Majetschak also located her 2020 offspring, Nish, who was in Florida after a successful year of making history of his own in Ohio.
“I love all plovers and birds and knowing the longtime efforts to save our Great Lakes plovers, I made it my ‘winter’ mission to find the birds,” Majetschak says. “Carrying the gear through the sand isn’t always fun but the moment I see the plovers all misery is forgotten and I am pumped.”
Majetschak’s encounter is just one of the plover highlights from this off-season. As we await the birds’ return, likely in late April, here's a rundown of all that’s happened since the Piping Plovers departed Chicago.
August 16 - Houston, we have a plover: Monty jets to Texas
We knew Monty was fast, but this fast? Kristen Vale, with the American Bird Conservancy, provided Chicago Piping Plovers with a digiscoped photo of Monty at...East Beach, Galveston, Texas. He was last seen on a Saturday morning in Chicago; two days later, he was in the Lone Star State. Yet another reason why we're fortunate to have plover spotters on the winter grounds as well as the breeding territory.
October 22 - A winter home for Ohio plover dearie Erie
Word came on Oct. 22, that Erie, one of Nish and Nellie’s 2021 chicks, would be spending winter in the Detroit Zoo. Erie hadn't migrated from Maumee Bay when summer ended and had been treated previously at the zoo for an illness. Upon release, Erie stuck around the beach and didn’t migrate south. The decision was made to keep Erie in the zoo for the winter, and by all accounts the juvenile bird is healthy and comfortable there.
October 26 - Ida takes Gulf Coast by storm
Hurricane Ida was a Category 4 hurricane that made landfall east of Monty’s wintering ground, in Louisiana. Good news came on Oct. 26, when Vale shared a photo of Monty from East Beach in Galveston. Severe storms are some of the greatest threats Piping Plovers face.
December 21 - It's a girl!
Though Maumee and Ottawa haven’t been spotted this winter—nor Nellie for that matter--an interesting piece of news arrived about their sibling, Erie: It’s a girl! The gender of juvenile Piping Plovers is unknown until it becomes obvious when they return to the Great Lakes for breeding. Erie is enjoying her time at the zoo, where she loves “all kinds of bugs.”
We approach 2022 nesting season with a number of questions. What happened to Imani and Siewka, the chicks hatched to Monty and Rose last year? Will we see them again? Where will they show up?
What about Nellie and Nish, and offspring Maumee and Ottawa? Where will they be seen? Might we have Piping Plovers turning up in other unexpected places on the Great Lakes (see Indiana Dunes)? Will they hatch chicks of their own? The possibilities are endless.
Last but certainly not least, will Monty and Rose return again? When will they return? Migration journeys of 1,000-plus miles are not to be taken for granted. Sad to say, but it's not a fait accompli that Monty and Rose will be with us forever.
Until then, stay warm, keep birding and, as always, take pride in being part of the conservation success story of a lifetime!
We're pleased to share that "Monty and Rose 2: The World of Monty and Rose" will make its film festival premiere at the Thunder Bay International Film Festival, starting Jan. 26. The festival brings together a collection of more than 75 independent films focused on the ocean and Great Lakes. The entire 12-day film festival is offered virtually so viewers can participate in the festival from the comfort and safety of their home.
The film festival is hosted by NOAA’s Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (Alpena, Mich.) in partnership with the International Ocean Film Festival (San Francisco, Calif.) and supported locally by the Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Featuring an extensive collection of acclaimed, independent ocean and Great Lakes films of the past year, the festival features options for all ages and interests, ranging from adventure and science to marine life and coastal cultures.
“This year we even have a little romance featuring “Monty and Rose II,” a film about a pair of Great Lakes endangered shore birds that have become an international sensation,” notes TBIFF Film Festival Coordinator Stephanie Gandulla. Conservationist and film director Bob Dolgan documents Chicago’s beloved piping plovers from their hatching in 2017 to their courtship, nesting, and raising chicks over three summers. As one of only 70 breeding pairs in the Great Lakes region, their inspiring story is just one of many inspiring films featured in the TBIFF 2022 program.
For detailed schedule, ticket pricing, and film descriptions, visit www.thunderbayfriends.org. "Monty and Rose 2" will be available to view at no cost between Jan. 26 and Feb. 6.