2018: Illinois – “Lake Michigan’s late visitor.”

The alarm went off at 3 a.m., yup time to get up, showered and hit the road, accompanying me on this trip is two fellow birders/photographers (Bill and Casey.)

Why am I up at 3 a.m? Well for good reason, a Piping Plover has been reported on Lake Michigan’s Montrose Beach Dunes. It has been seen off and on since October 15th and as recently as December 25th reported, by Dan Kirk. Which is a bit odd, most inland breeding populations should already at their non-breeding grounds in the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Coast. Atlantic Coast populations move south along the coast to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Piping Plover, population species status is “Endangered.” The piping plover first received protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1985. Plovers nesting in the Great Lakes are listed as endangered; piping plovers nesting along the Atlantic Coasts and in the northern Great Plains of the U.S. and Canada are listed as threatened. All piping plovers on the wintering grounds are considered threatened.

Lady Luck must have been enjoying her Christmas break, as fortune did not shine on us for this adventure. A major consolation: We enjoyed a wind-free day, temps in the 40’s as we walked the dunes and harbor at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary.

There were a few diving ducks in the harbor, they weren’t the most co-operative and they weren’t close, so we made the best of our situation and photographed some of ducks.

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Red-breasted Merganser (mergus serrator)

common goldeneye (bucephala clangula)_fbm_0109

Casey had a brilliant idea, Lincoln Park Zoo was in the general vicinity, so he called ahead see if they had a Piping Plover in their collection, they did.

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Piping Plover at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

We headed over to check things out. This is the female bird in winter plumage pictured above.

Named for its melodic mating call, the piping plover (Charadrius melodus) is a small shorebird, one of several plovers in the Americas that shows a single black neck-band in breeding plumage. Its combination of a short and stout bill, pale upper-parts and orange legs are key to its identification.

Here are some fast facts on the species:

Length: 17-18 cm long, with males slightly larger than females.

Weight: Adults weigh 43-63 grams.

Lifespan: Relatively few birds live longer than 5 years; some individuals may reach 11 years of age.

Until the next adventure and thank you for stopping by!

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