Montrose Park in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood has been a magical place for me. As a child, I used to watch my big brother Herb play 16 inch softball games there. When older, I’d go for walks with girls there. Now, it’s a great place to see birds, and I’ve added many to my life list there.
Incredibly, during the Cold War, part of the beach front served as a Nike missile site. After decommissioning, the area was planted and tended by volunteers to support the migratory birds who would rest during Spring and Fall migrations. Many flyways concentrate along Lake Michigan, and the birds need a place to feed and recover. The tended area of plants, trees and grasses has become known as the “Magic Hedge” Unlike other migratory hot spots where the birds are flitting dots 100 feet high in the forest canopy, part of the magic here is that most are found lower to the ground.
One bird I added to my life list this year was a Yellow Warbler who found its way to a delightful blooming bush.
Lots of people enjoy this bit of wildness in the heart of Chicago. I had my doubts about this couple who were calling to the birds and encouraging them to come feed, but Hamid had a special touch.
The nearby beach attracts a great collection of gulls, terns, shorebirds and waders. The harbor, especially in winter, attracts a great variety of waterfowl. My best encounter occurred several winters ago when some Snowy Owls erupted from Canada to better feeding much farther south. An owl or two were spotted in the Montrose area, so I went for a look. I searched for a long time and was fooled by many distant seagulls. As I was thinking of leaving, I saw a large white bird more than a hundred yards away flying toward me. A snowy! He flew directly at me and went a few feet over my shoulder. He flew over the water, and then landed in the grasses and permitted me to get a few portraits before flying off. Those eyes are the last thing many a rodent saw. A pretty cool encounter for Uptown Chicago.