CHICAGO — While piping plovers Monty and Rose are no longer with us, the city’s fascination with the small birds, and now their offspring, continues to be a rallying cry.
Professor Ann Hetzel Gunkel and Bob Dolgan, who decided to leave his sports writing career to make a film about the two birds making a nest on the sandy shores of Montrose Point, were one of the first to keep eyes on Monty and Rose.
“It’s funny that birds have really changed my life, specifically two birds that weigh an ounce a piece, Monty and Rose,” said Hetzel Gunkel. “They have completely rearranged my priorities.”
Within a month of bird watching at Montrose Point, the nest was under full-volunteer surveillance by bird lovers — like Ann and her son Stas.
Dolgan’s first film about the birds sold out six nights in a row.
“People all rallied around and by the second year of doing this, Monty and Rose kind of became famous in Chicago. People would show us and say ‘are Monty and Rose here?'” Hetzel Gunkel said.
Monty and Rose went on to raise three chicks for two more summers. By April 2022, their imminent return was the talk of the town. WGN News was there the day Monty came back to the beach.
For weeks, he waited for Rose, but she never returned. That May, Monty died from a bacterial infection.
“When Monty died, we were just distraught. It was like all this hard work was at an end but then Imani showed up at the beach,” Hetzel Gunkel said.
Imani was the first of Rose and Monty’s offspring to travel 1,000 miles from his southern winter grounds to Montrose Beach.
“This habitat worked. It’s field of dreams type of stuff. You build it and they come,” Hetzel Gunkel said.
Their work has expanded Montrose Point’s protected areas for shorebirds with volunteers continuing to work from dusk until dawn to monitor plover activity.
Bob Dolgan is back behind the camera — wrapping up his fourth bird film called “Fluddles,” which is slated to come out by the end of the year.