Shedd Aquarium volunteers clean up Montrose Beach for return of piping plovers

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Dozens of volunteers searched the sands on Montrose Beach Saturday for pollution in an effort to get the stretch of Lake Michigan's shoreline ready for the homecoming of Monty and Rose -- the piping plovers.

"There's only about 70 different pairs of them left in the wild," said Edward Warden, conservation stewardship coordinator for Shedd Aquarium. "So every single individual nesting pair counts to the survival of the species."

The birds are part of an endangered species, which surprised wildlife experts, like Warden, when they nested here in 2019.

"They successfully hatched some eggs and reared some young chicks that year," he said. "While we were all shutting down for COVID, they showed up at the beach -- same place, same time, and did it again."

Now volunteers are looking for dangerous waste, especially at Montrose Beach's southern end, where Monty and Rose are expected in just a few weeks.

"A lot of caps. I have a lot of glass," said 10-year-old volunteer Naiya Fayad.

Fayad and her 8-year-old brother George said they found a lot of debris during the cleanup effort.

"I don't want to say this, but they get sick," the young volunteer said. "And it's not really good for them to have plastic in their stomachs."

Their mom, Mirna Fayad, said she was disappointed to see how much trash is on Chicago's beaches.

"It's really sad and honestly I think I could have stayed in just one section for the entire hour and continue to find little plastics that can hurt the wildlife," she said.

"We're talking about hundreds of other different bird species that use this site, [and] several different species of plants," Warden said. "Many of those endangered, and certainly our own drinking water here in Lake Michigan."

The weekend cleanup will hopefully make a difference, not just for Monty and Rose, but for all of us.

If you want to pitch in and help the environment, visit the Shedd Aquarium website for more information on action days ahead this spring.
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