Bird watching in Jackson Park and elsewhere
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See in Park Issues what the Park District told naturalists, volunteer corps, sanctuary reps, conservancies and councils June 2005 the pd will do to preserve and upgrade natural areas and woodlands.
for the March 2000 International Migratory Bird Treaty and
Lakefront Birding Trail
Migratory Bird Routes of Chicago in Chicago Dept. of Environment site
Paul Clyne report on the importance of the Rose Garden fence on Wooded Island and similar fences March 2011
Purple Martin houses
Monk Parakeets (see also Monk Parakeet website (search engine, last updated Aug. '02?)
Dogs and Natural Areas, Wooded Island
Parks and green Links. More Conservation links at end of Green page.
Green News, Links, and Calendar
To Jackson Park Website home.
Birds to Watch for in Jackson Park
Jackson Park habitat and bird history and future with links to more pages
Jackson Park benchmark 2003 bird count
Doug Anderson's 2003 tour of Wooded Island
Wooded Island-history and how to maintain, upgrade
Dogs on Wooded Island, Natural Areas
To Washington Park. Washington
To Burnham Nature Center
To Harold Washington Park
To HPKCC Parks website-homepage. Contact us.
News and meetings
From National Audubon's August 2016 appeal:
9: The number of North American bird species that have gone extinct in the last century.
314: The number of North American bird species that will be at risk of extinction by the end of this century.
Just nine until now…but hundreds potentially to come. Taking in that grim piece of data—one of the findings of Audubon’s Birds and Climate Change Report...
Reported for Jackson Park by the park superfisoer- two birds supposed to be of at least subspecies distance were observed succesfully mating.
WOODED ISLAND IS FENCED OFF FOR ARMY CORPS WORK ON THE ISLAND AND LAGOONS, for public safety. Idt is hoped parts including the garden should be reopened in late fall. Walk through updates occur 4th Saturdays at 10 from the south end (Hayes/63rd lot).
September 13, Sunday, 5 pm. Bird and Butterfly Nature Tour with Jane Masterson- meet at the east door of the Museum of Science and Industry. This repeats various Fridays and Sundays.
Mary Murphy gives monthly bird walks in Washington Park- meet at the Refectory 8 am. October 11 and 25 2015.
Burnham Park Nature Sanctuary equinox and solstice walks occur on Sundays nearest, 9 am from the lot north of 47th.
Pat Durkin has prepared brochures for Audubon Chicago on birds and birding in Jackson Park- you may contact her concerning them.
Workdays in Bobolink
Meadow 2nd Saturday mornings- visit Bobolink
Meadow Volunteer Website. email@example.com.
Workdays on Wooded Island 4th Saturdays 10-after noon-meet at Darrow Bridge- contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Washington Park 3rd Saturday mornings (maybe). Burnham 1st Saturdays.
October 21, Sunday, 8 am-10:30 am. Bird walk in Jackson Park Wooded Island and Bobolink Meadow. Led by Rozenn Bailleul-LeSeur and Randy Shonkwiller. By Oriental Institute in conj. with Birds of Ancient Egypt exhibit. Meets at Cornell/Hayes Dr. parking lot. PREREG. REQ. at oibirdwalk.eventbrite.com/.
Bird walks Year
Round- Wed. mornings at 7 am (7:15 in winter), Saturdays at 8 am from the Darrow
Bird walks often occur in Washington Park- ask Madiem Kawa at email@example.com.
See the Wooded Island Care Summary page.
In spring-summer 2012, several persons raised concern that birds seem to be disappearing in Hyde Park. Experts from birding organizations and the Field Museum cautioned that without serious and expensive studies they could not make a determination, or speculate on causes, at this time. Predatory birds could play a role, at least in local spots if the decline is real. And the odd weather out of phase with birds' needs. A writer in the Hyde Park Herald makes a case for the 2000 Peregrine falcon release program bearing much or most of the blame. Fran Vandervoort throws doubt on the impact of the peregrines (noting also their role in the ecosystem) and whether the birds have really declined.
We look with interest at lakefront enhancements, particularly to planned nature and birding habitat expansion along the lakefront from south of McCormick place to 47th St. - especially west of the Drive, which will add to the additions made east of the drive and the natural areas in Jackson Park and at South Shore Cultural Center and in the Calumet region. Thousands of bird friendly plants and trees and ground cover are involved.
In spring, 2012 surveys were conducted with Openlands and our site stewards and many volunteer groups, inventorying, measuring, and putting into GIS the trees in Bobolink Meadow and Wooded Island. This will greatly aid planning for trees naturally and unnaturally dying and for a healthy habitat for the long run.
Here is the link for the newly completed interactive webpage.
Follow the instructions above the legend to utilize the map features.
Bird Trail Book, 'Bird Trail Guide to the Chicago Region,' was released by Mayor Daley, on Wooded Island.
The Guide was produced by the Chicago Dept. of Environment, Bird Conservation Network, Chicago Wilderness, Illinois Bureau of Tourism and Lettuce Entertain You. Inside: maps, photos, information on 70 birding sites in northeast Illinois. It's available free at visitor information centers, airports, museums, and parks.
IBET writes: This is a terrific effort by the City in support of birds and birding. Many volunteer birders worked hard to help with site selection, editing, photographs, etc. in the guide's development. If you are a member of a bird club please circulate this knowledge.
A Quick-through of major stopping points on the Lakefront Birding Trail.
From June 29 StreetWise. Suzanne Hanney
Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary (4400), whose "Magic Hedge"s may be the region's most heavily birded site. Over 300 bird species have been sen here: migrant flycatchers, sparrows and even Connecticut warblers. The nearby "fish hook" pier attracts migrant waterfowl, shorebirds and raptors, including Snowy Owls and Peregrine Falcons, with rarities including Black Rail, Kirkland's Warbler and the federally endangered Piping Plover.
Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary near Belmont Harbor (3200 North) is a wooded oasis that attracts migrants and roosting Black-crowned Night Herons. At the mouth of Belmont Harbor you can see water birds such as the common loon, Horned Grebe and Common Goldeneye.
Northerly Island, located southeast of the Museum Campus, attracts migrants like thrushes, warblers and sparrows during spring and fall and has been known as the best single location in Illinois for Snowy Owls.
McCormick Place Bird Sanctuary, Chicago's newest lakefront preserve, will include three acres of fenced prairie grasses and wildflowers on the east side of the underground garage of the city's main convention center and a three-acre prairie and trail on its south side. A stone water feature is designed to attract even more birds.
The Burnham Park Sanctuary, at 45th [-47th] Street, includes a butterfly meadow, overgrown prairie and preserved woodland, with wildflowers blooming through autumn. [Don't ignore Promontory Point for birds.]
Jackson park and its Wooded Island, 5800 S. Lake Shore Drive, was the site where 34 species of warblers were recorded on a single May day. Rarities include the Black Rail, Townsend's Warbler and Brewer's Sparrow as well as the region's largest population of introduced Monk's parakeet. The Christmas bird count in 2006 saw about the same numbers and species as in recent years.
Chicago's Lakefront is a noted hotspot for birding, with Wooded Island and Bobolink Meadow two prime targets for bird watchers from around the world. There has been some diminishment from thinning, partly through lagoon and Wooded Island forest management programs, part from the great storm of July, 2003.
Among rarer recent sightings is a juvenile whooping crane in the Washington Park lagoon, May 2005. This was #418 from the hatching of 2004--the only one of its cohorts to follow a wild flock rather than the glider plane south. 418 was later cited in Wisconsin. This may be the only Whooping crane sighting inside Chicago in a century.
To learn more of the storm damage and effect on wildlife (minimal compared to the tree loss), see The Old Oak. See also Doug Anderson's tour of Wooded Island.
was a serious invasion of the Jackson Park Lagoons, especially
the south end, by Eurasian Milfoil seaweed. It suffocated much flora
and fauna including fish. Sonar (a chemical that interferes with the
seaweed's energy-conversion pigment but little else in the water) has been applied.
As of 2005-7 the problem appears to be under control.
Washington Park lagoons have a potential problem with toxin-producing blue-green algae.
See below on the problems with glassy high-rises.
ENDANGERED AND THREATENED BIRDS THAT HAVE BEEN SPOTTED IN JACKSON PARK OR HYDE PARK
Appreciation to Jean Strable of Chicago Audubon. 2011
Black-crowned night heron: Endangered in Illinois. A regular visitor to the Wooded Island. They nest in Lincoln Park and in the Lake Calumet area and regularly come to roost and feed in the lagoons and habitat of the Wooded Island.
Yellow-crowned night heron: Endangered in Illinois. Not as common as the black-crowned night heron, but they do visit Jackson Park occasionally.
Peregrine Falcon: Threatened in Illinois. Hyde Park is home to at least one, possibly two pair of Peregrine Falcons. They primarily live on and around the University of Chicago campus but we have seen them at the Wooded Island.
Black-Billed Cuckoo: Threatened in Illinois. A regular visitor to the Wooded Island.
Piping Plover: Federally Endangered. A rare visitor to the beaches of Jackson Park, but there have been recent reports of piping plovers at Montrose beach.
Least Bittern: Threatened in Illinois. Rare in Jackson Park, but a least bittern spent several weeks in Lincoln Park this summer.
If you find an injured bird, the best chance is to either take it (in a smooth cardboard box) to the bird recovery station on Northerly Island, or contact the organizations below. Do not touch without wearing surgical gloves and do not pick up dead birds (even though studies say you are unlikely to contract west nile et al from touching- the disease is passsed through mosquito vectors). Spring starts about March 15.
Birds begin their migratory flight north around March 15th. Following the lakefront parks along Lake Michigan, one of the bird's major hazards are Chicago's highrise buildings. Thousands of birds crash into the reflective glass. If you find an injured bird, place the bird in a paper bag with a folded paper towel in the bottom. Secure the bag with a binder clip. Then place the bag in a quiet, dark location and call Flint Creek Wildlife's hotline at 1-888-flintcreek or 1-847-842-8000 to arrange pick up. Please do not give the bird food or medical attention as it might cause further injury. Injured birds may also be dropped of at Flint Creek's Northerly Island Facility daily between 8:30am and 10:30am. For more information please go to www.flintcreekwildlife.org.
Every spring and fall migration is --building bird collision season . If you know a building needing a reminder (isolated 20 stories plus, cluster 40 stories plus) contact Randi Doeker. Many buildings now cooperate, but a fifth of 8 million birds die each spring. At least 55 species pass over, up to 100,000 birds from dusk to 3 am at peak between May 5 and 15, for example. Some nest in the area (including Wooded Island), mainly those that winter over in Central America. Those that winter in South America generally fly on to Canada.
Chicago Bird Collision Monitors. 773 988-1867. www.birdmonitors.net. They will take a found injured bird to their hospital on Northerly Island. Also, Flint Creek website for helping at this center: www.flintcreekwildlife.org/volunteer.htm.
Dear friends of Grant Park,
As part of our ongoing effort to help make Grant Park and downtown Chicago more nature and environmentally-friendly, the Grant Park Conservancy and Grant Park Advisory Council are recruiting volunteers to help rescue fallen migratory birds. In partnership with the Chicago Park District, the Grant Park Conservancy and Advisory Council are helping to establish the Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation facility at Northerly Island. The facility is up and running and Flint Creek has done a remarkable job rescuing injured birds.
The Fall bird migratory season starts at the end of August/beginning of September. We need volunteers to help rescue fallen birds.
Thousands of birds strike glass on Chicago's many buildings during their twice-yearly migration through the city. These stunned birds fall to the ground where they lie unconscious. Without intervention, they are stepped on by unaware pedestrians, eaten by hungry gulls or die a slow death without the benefit of medical treatment. These birds include many beautiful warblers, woodpeckers, thrushes and buntings, among others.
Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation is establishing rescue and recovery teams that will patrol buildings in Chicago's downtown loop each morning during migration in order to save birds that strike buildings. These birds will be transported to Flint Creek Wildlife's nearby Northerly Island location where they will receive prompt medical care for treatment of their time-sensitive injuries.
Well over 80% of birds that are rescued recover and can be released back to the wild. Timely treatment is important to survival rates and rescue teams ensure that birds can be treated by Flint Creek’s trained staff at Northerly Island where they will have their best chance of survival.
In addition to rescue and recovery volunteers, Flint Creek is also recruiting for the following positions:
· Building Rescue Coordinator – coordinate rescue efforts at your residential or office building
· Transporters – transport birds from Flint Creek’s Northerly Island facility to their Barrington facility where they receive extended care
You only need to devote a few hours one morning a week to save the lives of birds in the city.
Training will be provided. Interested volunteers should complete the volunteer application on Flint Creek’s website at www.flintcreekwildlife.org/volunteer.htm or phone (847)602-0628 for more information or the Grant Park Conservancy at: 312-829-8015 with further general questions.
If you have found an animal, please do not e-mail; rather, call at: 847-602-0628. We may not answer the phone since we are often busy taking care of other animals, but please leave a message and we will return your call as soon as possible.
These are the recommendations of the Lights Out program, developed by the Mayor's Wildlife and Nature Committee after seeking a lot of input from research scientists: Tall buildings can save birds by extinguishing decorative lighting on the upper stories after 11 PM each evening from March 17 to June 7 and from August 25 to October 25. Birds migrate throughout these months; April 15 through May 31 and August 25 through September 30 are the weeks in which turning the lights out saves the most birds. Tenants on the upper floors are encouraged to turn out lights or draw blinds after 11 PM. We suggest that these recommendations apply to all buildings of 40 or more stories, and to buildings of 20 or more stories that are isolated from other buildings. To learn about the Dark Skies/Dark Nights program of the Center for Neighborhood Technology and its allied Sustainability Circles Project see stargazing or contact Clare Butterfield.
These walks start at Darrow Bridge and go to and around the Wooded Island and Osaka Garden and usually around southern lagoon edge through Bob-o-link Meadow to the point of origin. Tours resume March 26 and are on Wednesdays at 7 am and Saturdays at 8 am. Interested participants meet at the Darrow Bridge, just south of the Museum of Science and Industry. Bring binoculars and field guide. Dress for the weather. Call Doug Anderson at (773) 493-7058 for details and schedule. (Regular walks are suspended from New Years until late March.) Parking in the Music Court lot as above.
Every Christmas at 8 am Hyde Park and others from far afield participate in the local part of the Annual Bird Census--an early warning of emerging troubles for the planet. One major local staging area is the Darrow Bridge in Jackson Park, south of Museum of Science and Industry and Columbia Basin. One of the tasks is a census of the green monk parakeets. In 206, Wooded Island numbers were similar to those in recent years.
Lakefront Birding Trail signage
Four signs will be placed in the park calling attention to the birding trail on Chicago’s north and south lakefront, developed in pursuit of the Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds signed by Mayor Daley in 2000. Guidelines for conserving this precious resource were developed by a committee composed of many Chicago naturalists, organizations, and residents, including JPAC members.
We are now at the height of the spring migration. What a wonderful time to take Doug Anderson’s Bird Walk, Wednesdays at 7, Saturdays at 8 am. By early to mid-May up to 100,000 birds will be passing over the area every night between dusk and about 3 am, 8 million in all. Some will nest in Wooded Island or elsewhere in the Chicago region; most are bound for Canada. Up to a fifth are lost to building collisions. Fortunately, many high rises have been recruited to turn off or reduce their lights during the migration. There are also volunteer groups that collect birds that are merely stunned and nurse them back to health.
Here is the text of the signs (logo: pair of binoculars). (The Jarvis Sanctuary is at Addison St.) (The Wooded Island is officially the Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary.
“The Chicago Lakefront
Birding Trail offers 20 miles of opportunities to see birds in different shoreline,
lake, prairie, and woodland habitats. The north side portion winds through lakefront
parkland between Montrose Avenue (4400 north) and North Avenue (1600 north).
The southern portion of the birding trail includes the Chicago River (200 north)
and leads to Calumet Park (9500 south).
“The three best-known birding spots in Chicago are Montrose Point’s “Magic Hedge,” the fenced-off area of the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary, and Jackson Park’ Nature Sanctuary (Wooded Island).
“The Trail and other nature area are part of Chicago’s commitment to enhance and expand migratory bird habitat as part of the Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, signed by Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2000.”
(Pictures of Red-breasted Merganser, Least Sandpiper, and Yellow Warbler.)
The obverse has a locator map of 26 significant viewing spots along the trail, with what kinds of birds can be seen where, and in which months. These are Songbirds, Waterfowl, Gulls, Terns, Shorebirds, Raptors, Wading Birds, and Snowy Owl. The South Side sites are Sunken Pier, Monroe, Grant, Museum Campus, Northerly Island, McCormick Sanctuary, 31st, Burnham Prairie Path (47th), Promontory Point, Bobolink Meadow, Wooded Island and Lagoon, 63rd Beach, Harbors, South Shore Nature Sanctuary, Rainbow, and Calumet Park.
Purple Martin houses in Jackson Park, South Shore Cult. Ctr .Nature Center. No birds nested in Jackson 2003 -there were sightings in mid-August. One pair nested in 2002. Many birds and hatchlings in 2002 and 2003 at South Shore Cultural Center. Is something not suitable about the location south of Columbia Basin? The project appears to have been abandoned. Martins are due in town about April 15.
Signage has been installed on the approach from the Darrow Bridge.
One side says:
"These multi-family houses were placed here to entice purple martins to nest here. Purple martins are welcomed neighbors that delight us with their amazing acrobatics, vibrant colors, musical calls and social behavior.
"Purple martins traditionally built nests in natural cavities, such as tree hollows. Today because they often compete with European starlings and other non-native bird species for prime nesting sites, purple martins here are completely dependent on man-made nest boxes. These purple martin house were put up by the Chicago Park District are are monitored by local volunteers.
"Inside the boxes, leach purple martin pair constructs a nest from coarse materials such as grass, twigs, algae and mud. The female typically lays five to seven eggs per season and incubates them for 15 to 17 days. It takes up to 36 hours for all the babies to hatch, and both parents nurture th young. After 27 to 32 days, the nestlings fledge, or leave the nest.
"The parents continue to fed their offspring for about two more weeks. After that, the young purple martins are on their own, although juvenile martins are still guided by adult birds in the flock.
The other side says"
"Purple martins, the largest member of the swallow family. The only species of martin found in North America, the purple martin is a Neotropical migratory bird. This means that each spring purple martins nest and breed in North America, then migrate to the tropics of South America for the winter. Adult purple martins usually arrive in northern Illinois around April 15. Sub adults arrive about six weeks later, around Mothers Day. Every August, Chicago hosts tens of thousands of purple martins as they gather from a radius of about 200 miles to feed on the abundant flying insects along Lake Michigan.
"Then they commence their southward migration to wintering grounds in parts of western Bolivia and Brazil. The trip to South America spans thousands of miles, many of which are over open water. They fly across the Gulf of mexico, a nonstop trip of 600 miles that takes approximately 33 hours to complete.
"As long as nest houses are provided and well-managed, purple martins will return year after year."
The South Shore Nature Sanctuary is the home of a new (2002) 3.5 acre bird sanctuary, at 7059 South Shore Drive. Part of the South Shore Framework Plan, the new nature area is home to a butterfly meadow and a wetlands/dunes habitat. Open Lands has recently targeted this center as one of four they will adopt and provide volunteers for. The center and walk are southeast from the Center clubhouse and the beach. There is lots of purple loosestrife that needs pulling from certain sections.
It was another Big Day for nature and Purple Martins held in Chicago on 29 June when the South Shore Cultural Center Nature Park (71st and South Shore Drive) was dedicated by the Chicago Park District. The Nature Park is part of the complex which includes a public beach, golf course and cultural center. Mayor Richard M. Daley gave a speech about the importance of setting aside space in all city parks for birds and other nature. After the ceremony organizers of JET (Junior Earth Team) happened to see Terry and Ed Suchma (The Purple Martin Society, NA) and myself check the three martin houses located a short distance from the Nature Park area. They noticed Mayor Daley was still in the area and approached him to see the martin houses up close; the mayor walked up to them and I showed him a tray of four martin eggs in one of the houses. The 5th Ward Alderwoman, Leslie Hairston, also observed five eggs in one of the gourds.
South Shore Cultural Center Purple Martin landlord
Whiting-Robertsdale Purple Martin Society 2002
31st St. Sanctuary and the Firefighters Memorial Park to north(another being added south of McCormick Place) Along Lake Shore Drive and shore. Access via 31st and Lakefront Trail.
Burnham Natural Area and Butterfly Garden, simulated seasonal wetland. Looking for volunteers- contact George Davis, Nathan Schroeder.
Washington Park: Lagoons with Bynum Island, and Seven Hills sanctuary in south and southeast quadrant.
Nichols Park Wildflower Meadow. North of 54th Street between Kimbark and Kenwood.
HPKCC's hydepark.org maintains a listing of every bird identified in Jackson Park (Wooded Island and Bobolink Meadow and 63rd Street Beach) from January 1 to December 31, 2003. How many birds can we expect? Long-term observers claim over 250 species frequent the area--let's see how many appear in 2003! Click here for current list. Scroll to bottom for a feature on rare sightings in the park. The final count listed 180 for 2003.
ILbirds is an email exchange (listserve) by and for Illinois birders in order to share up-to-the-minute information about bird activity and sightings throughout the area. To subscribe, go to Yahoo, e-groups, and subscribe to ILbirds. You will soon be getting several emails a day (in peak seasons, sometimes a couple dozen or more) from participating bird watchers.
Migratory Bird Habitat Study, which looks at which trees are most visited by birds, asks help in its last year visiting and surveying at least one of its study areas in city and suburbs between April 15-May 31. Sufficient data is important so findings from different parts of the state and Midwest can be compared. For example, here in data collected hickory is heavily visited and silver maple very little, while at the south end of the state the findings are the reverse. Contact Judy Pollock at National Audubon, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hyde Park Herald April 23, 2003, by Maurice Lee
Birders made a pair of rare finds last Wednesday morning on Doug Anderson's Jackson Park bird walk. During the bi-weekly sojourn around the Wooded Island, bidders came across a Great Egretand a Henslow's Sparrow; one of the birds is rarely seen in the area, the other is rarely seen at all.
First, hikers were treated to a sighting of the Great Egret, a shallow-water, Florida Everglades bird rarely seen here because of the lake's deep water.
"It's something you'd see regularly if you went down to the Florida Everglades," said Anderson, "but here it's quite a rarity."
On most bird walks, the sighting of a bird so rare to these parts--Anderson says he's only seen four in his 30 years traversing Wooded Island--would be more than enough to make the morning memorable, but according to Anderson, the sighting of a tiny, mouse-sized sparrow in the grass, north of the island is cause for celebration among the birders.
"It's the kind of thing that's so spectacular when you mention those birds by name, people think you're lying," said Anderson.
Henslow's Sparrow is a tiny bird that stands less than two inches tall and hides out in grass as short as two inches high.
Jackson Park Bird Compiler Paul Klein [sic: Clyne] discovered the bird on the bird walk. [Clyne] said the find was doubly fortuitous because the bird uncharacteristically stood out in open. In addition to its size, what makes the bird so difficult to spot is its color pattern.
"They're patterned to blend into grass," said [Clyne]. When you se it out in the open it is very striking, but in the grass they are invisible. They blend in very well."
Anderson, a former president of the Chicago Audubon Society and widely recognized as the preeminent [bird expert] on the South Side, conceded the discovery to good luck. Anderson said Henslow's Sparrows are "extremely" endangered and have been losing habitat for many years. He added the birds are close to being put on the endangered species list.
Given its size and scarcity, even the most experienced birders have only seen them on rare occasion.
"You have to be lucky to spot [the bird]," said Anderson. "The Henslows that showed up today, April 16, was only the second one I've ever seen in 30 years of bird walks around Wooded Island," said Anderson.
Anderson said he would report the find to the Chicago Audubon Society and issue the Audubon Rare Bird alert. He said when the news that the sparrow has been seen in the area gets out, it will bring many birders running to Jackson Park.
"[Seeing a Henslow's Sparrow] would be what [birders] call a 'lifer.' It would be something for their life lists if they can find it. And sometimes the Henslow's will stick around for a while," said Anderson. "When people call in and find out about that bird being here, they are going to come from miles away because many have never seen this bird."
Anderson leads nature tours across Wooded Island twice a week through the fall. Tours meet at the Clarence Darrow Bridge at 7 a.m. on Wednesdays and 8 a.m. Saturdays. Call 493-7058 for details.
Hennipin duck, starting early April 2004 off 50th Street.
Letter of Aaron Turkewitz in June 16, 2010 Hyde Park Herald reiterates why dog limits help protect all animals
I would like to respond to the letter from Jules Quinlan in the last issue of the Hyde Park Herald. Mr. Quinlan raises the point that some of the newly restored "natural" areas along the lakefront are being designated as "no dog" zones, and he wonders whether the parks are "for people and their pets? or are they for teh birds?"
I should being by saying that I am devoted to my own dog, and would like her to enjoy as much freedom as possible. Nonetheless, the lakeshore, and the world in general, are richer places because of the animals with which we share it, and not just our pets. Wild animals are increasingly running out of space, due to the proliferation and appetites of human beings. A large number of the bird species that migrate along the shores of Lake Michigan are in decline, as many recent studies have attested. I would argue that our minimal responsibility as stewards is to maintain some habitat where they can rest, and feed and perhaps even breed. Unfortunately, the remaining natural habitats in the Midwest are few and far between. Many of the Herald's readers will know that several spots along the lake, including Jackson Park and Montrose Point, are famous for their concentrations of birds during migration. This concentration is due to the fact that there are so few other places for birds to take refuge.
Protecting those regions, and establishing additional safe havens for birds and other wildlife along the lake when possible, can go hand-in-hand with maintaining the large majority of the lakeshore as a high quality area that is fully accessible to people and dogs.
One last point. Mr. Quinlan specifically asks why at least leashed dogs shouldn't be allowed in such areas, and I definitely sympathize. I would love to go for regular walks on Northerly Island with my dog, but cannot because dogs are not permitted there. But it makes sense, because recent research indicates that even leashed dogs disturb birds more than humans do. A 2007 study (Biol. Lett. 3: 611-13) concluded that "dog walking in woodlands leads to a 35 percent reduction in bird diversity and 41 percent reduction in abundance, both in areas where dog walking is common and where dogs are prohibited. These results argue against access by dog walkers to sensitive conservation areas."