Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tiger Hunting in Chicago

Montrose Point in Chicago is an unexpected location. It sits at the south end of one of the major city beaches on Lake Michigan. The point extends into the lake, making it a migrant trap for birds. Such a diversity of migrating bird life has been encountered here that it has been nicknamed The Magic Hedge.

Some years ago, sprigs of native (and very rare) dune grass began appearing in the sand along the lake. A bit of protection from trampling was offered, and grass began expanding into patches that allowed the wind to re-sculpt the sand dunes that would have originally been found here. Almost by magic, other dune plant species began appearing. Eventually, a stewardship team assembled and began active restoration and management of the site. They have added some appropriate plant species, however most of the biological diversity has returned on its own.

What have returned on their own are tiger beetles. They have returned in huge numbers. I went out last Thursday to do a survey. I only found one species, the bronzed tiger beetle (Cicindela repandra), however this species is present in almost staggering numbers. There are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of individuals on just a couple of acres of land. Despite their abundance and accessibility, they are very wary and difficult to photograph. I did manage to get off a couple of decent shots.

I'm thrilled and amazed that I can find tigers in such an urbanized setting.

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At 17:44, Blogger Kirk said...

Nice shots, Doug! One spot I visit is literally crawling with tigers, it's nuts. The ants aren't too happy with the situation.

At 18:11, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Is this the spot you have blogged about? I really want to see the New England subspecies of longilabrus.

At 18:39, Blogger Kirk said...

Yes it is. Tiger beetle central. They're fun to watch and right now outrageously abundant.

At 03:38, Blogger SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Isn't it a fantastic feeling to see the return of something like this? A wonderful story Doug. I think if we can do this in just small areas at a time, we will soon get this world returning to what it should be.

At 07:04, Blogger cedrorum said...

Again, great photo. This is very good to hear. As you know I work in areas that have off-site loblolly pine that we are trying to convert to long leaf pine. Many of these areas haven't burned in quite some time. Therefore, the herbaceous layer biodiversity is lacking compared to what was once there on a historically correct fire pattern. We plan to start burning these areas on a 1-3 year cycle. Hopefully this will bring back some or all of the native plant species that once occurred there. One thing we wonder about is whether the insect diversity will return also. Red-cockaded woodpeckers obviously eat insects. People are now wondering if the size of their foraging area is related not so much to species of pine and forest structure, but insect diversity. This has all kinds of implications for trying to reestablish birds on the landscape relating to how many acres do they need to support themselves while we are trying to convert pine stands within their forage areas. Sounds like in your example insects are coming b ac to an area they haven't been in a while. That is great news for me. Sorry for the rant, but this is something that is close to me.

At 11:10, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's so encouraging to hear about diversity coming back. Great beetle photos.

At 08:21, Blogger Amila Suwa said...

I am learning new things everytime I come here. I often do habitat enrichment work in my 'dragonfly and butterfly patch' and it is really nice to see when new species arrive.

I found a Tiger Beetle the other day but did not have my camera to photograph. BUT, I promise to impress you with a photograph of one!

At 09:47, Blogger Ur-spo said...

I am thrilled to hear that with a little effort and leaving things alone some things can come back, and rather quickly. It gives me some hope: nowadays all environmental news seems to be so bleak.

At 10:16, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With any luck, Cicindela hirticollis (hairy-necked tiger beetle) will eventually colonize there also.

At 13:26, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

Very cool! Now I KNOW where to look for 'em!

At 14:03, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Joan- That hope informs a lot of my professional work.

cedrorum- Excellent observations. I think a followup post may be in order here.

Lilian- Thanks, it was amazing to witness.

Amila- Thanks for the kind words. I would REALLY love to see photos of tiger beetles from Sri Lanka.

Spo- I thinks it's very important for those of us working in the field to be presenting the good news as well as the bad.

Ted- Yes, that and C. formosa are two other species I'd like to see turn up at Montrose.

Dave- I know you've been there before. At the right time of year, it's not at all difficult to find tigers there.

At 14:50, Blogger Celeste said...

Who would have thought it. Did you find any lions? We are well on the way with our Chicago small five :)

At 12:19, Anonymous Mark H said...

It is probably ONLY you that CAN find a tiger beetle in such a setting.... And I wish you were here to explain the insectomillions we're seeing now in our EARLY warm weather. Glad you having time to enjoy.

At 19:31, Blogger Kathie Brown said...

Doug, how nice to hear a cheerful and positive story for once. Restoration instead of destruction and loss. How uplifting! Hooray for dune grass and hooray for tiger beetles!

When do you think you will be in AZ?

At 21:46, Blogger mangoverde said...

I am visiting Chicago from Cincinnati and was at Montrose today. C. hirticollis was quite widespread. I found them on both the east and west sides of the fenced off native vegetation area. They were quite numerous on the east side between the breakwall and the magic hedge. C. repanda was also present. I will be posting photos to my Flickr account in a few days.
Bill Hull

At 12:48, Blogger mangoverde said...

Flickr photos of C. hirticollis at Montrose.







There are more photos posted but that should get you started.
Bill Hull


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