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Debut set for Piping Plover documentary

Piping Plovers
Three Piping Plover chicks hatched by Monty and Rose in 2020 stand on a Chicago Beach. Photo by Bob Dolgan

Chicago’s famous pair of Piping Plovers, Monty and Rose, are the subjects of a new documentary film that will debut on Labor Day Weekend at the Music Box Theatre, located about 2.5 miles from Montrose Beach, where the birds have nested for the last three summers. 

As members of the federally endangered Great Lakes population, Monty and Rose were already invaluable members of their species when they hatched on the shores of western Michigan in 2017. Only about 70 pairs of Piping Plovers live around the Great Lakes, far fewer than the several hundred pairs that existed around the year 1900. Only a dozen pairs were hanging on in 1990, but since then, conservation work has helped the birds rebound. The goal is to restore their population to 150 pairs by 2050.

In 2019, the birds showed up on Montrose Beach and soon laid eggs. The species last successfully nested in Chicago in 1948, so Monty and Rose made headlines, not only in Chicago but around the country. A 2019 music festival that would have come within feet of the plovers’ nest was cancelled to protect the birds.

Read our August 2017 cover story about Great Lakes Piping Plovers

Their presence is the culmination of 20 years of habitat restoration activities at Montrose Beach Dunes, a state natural area on Lake Michigan, and the efforts of Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery and Research. In April of this year, because of Monty and Rose, the Chicago Park District expanded the natural area at Montrose by 3.1 acres. 

Volunteer plover monitor Bob Dolgan started filming the birds when they arrived in Chicago two years ago. Dolgan is a past board member of the Chicago Ornithological Society, and he writes the This Week in Birding newsletter. Dolgan’s company, Turnstone Strategies, produced the documentary, “Monty and Rose,” which is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council. The film follows the story of the plovers and the hundreds of volunteers who have protected them. Against the odds, Monty and Rose have hatched 11 chicks on one of the busiest stretches of the busiest beach in Chicago.

Tickets go on sale Friday, July 16, at 10 a.m. Central time, at Screenings are slated for 1 pm, Saturday, September 4, and at 2:30 pm on Monday, September 6. Ticket prices are $25 for the premiere, which will include a panel discussion afterward, and $20 for the second showing. A portion of proceeds benefit the education work of the nonprofit Great Lakes Flyway Project.

Music Box Theatre is located at 3733 North Southport Ave., Chicago.

Watch the trailer

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