More Piping Plovers Have Arrived at Montrose, as the Mating Plot Thickens

Imani at Montrose Beach, April 2023. (Matthew Dolkart)Imani at Montrose Beach, April 2023. (Matthew Dolkart)

Chicago’s favorite ongoing soap opera has a new plot twist: There are now four Great Lakes piping plovers hanging out at Montrose Beach, and one of them is likely a female.

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Hometown boy Imani, son of the city’s beloved lovebirds Monty and Rose, arrived at Montrose in late April. Plover monitors have had their fingers crossed ever since that this would be the year the bachelor would find love.

Those wishes may have come true, with monitors reporting on Wednesday that Sea Rocket — a captive-reared plover chick released at Montrose in summer 2023 — had made her way back to Montrose.

That’s right, we said “her.” Sea Rocket appears to be a female. 

But Imani will have competition for Sea Rocket’s affections.

Another male — a Wisconsin-born plover that some have nicknamed “Green Dot” for his colored leg band — turned up at Montrose a couple of weeks ago and has been seen dueling with Imani to mark his territory. A third unbanded male has also been spotted.

“It’s hard to tell right now whether the two males other than Imani will stick around or leave,” said Tamima Itani, long-time coordinator of Chicago’s plover monitors.

It’s common, she said, for piping plovers to stop over in Chicago on their way to beaches further north, which is one reason Monty and Rose's choice of the city as their nesting site was so remarkable.

Though any plover pair nesting at Montrose would be a big win for the endangered birds, if Sea Rocket reads the room, she’ll choose Imani.

Meanwhile, there’s another love story brewing at Illinois Beach State Park, where captive-reared piping plover chicks were also released in 2023.

Two of those chicks — a male named Pepper and a female named Blaze — both settled at the beach in recent days.

According to a Facebook update from Lake County Audubon Society, the two plovers appeared “within a few yards of where they were released on July 12th of last year! All winter Pepper was down near Sanibel Island FL and Blaze was off the coast of North Carolina and yet they both returned within a day of each other to the same spot!”

The two have already been observed mating.

Once any eggs are confirmed in a plover nest, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff will swoop in with an enclosure to guard against predators.

Both stretches of beach — at Montrose and Illinois Beach State Park — are off limits to people. Itani is requesting people respect the signage and fencing and not enter these areas.

So far in 2024, the Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Effort has reported 29 plover pairs with nests around the Great Lakes.

Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 |  [email protected]

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