Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Chicago Done Naturally (Post 2 of 10) - The Magic Hedge

Okay, this is my favorite secret Chicago shooting spot. I lived in my apartment at Montrose and the lake for seven years before I discovered this place – and I could walk to it if I wanted to.

To get there, you drive down Montrose heading east (or take the Montrose bus to the Montrose Beach - it only goes that far east during the summer, though). Cross Lake Shore Drive and keep going all the way to the harbor. When you get to a curve in the road with a road on the right, take the right. (Montrose is one side of the top of a Y, it becomes Simmons which is the other side of the top of the Y, you want the street that becomes the bottom of the Y, which really doesn’t have a name.)

Drive around the curve until you see a whole lot of trees and a couple of signs announcing “The Montrose Harbor Bird Sanctuary”. Otherwise known as “The Magic Hedge.”

Quick history: The army built a barracks here back in the day. They put in honeysuckle bushes to give a little privacy to the bottom floor of the barracks. Eventually they left, the buildings came down, but the honeysuckle hedge remained.

Now over 300 different bird species are spotted here each year. Obviously not all at once or anything, but there are more birds than you can point a camera at. I’ve seen robins, cardinals, thrushes, some little yellow thing I still can’t identify, grackles, gulls and others. There’s also a load of squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits. I haven’t seen them yet – I’m guessing it’ll be June before they arrive – but they’ve also got up signs indicating the hedge is a butterfly spotting point.

Oh, it’s also famous for something else – a place to pick up a prostitute. The websites will tell you that since they put up fences around most of the stands of trees, that that’s been curtailed, but I’ve seen evidence that it’s not terribly true. ;) So, yeah, it's gorgeous during the day, but I'd head home around nightfall.

You’ll see other photographers out there no matter when you go. There aren’t a lot of kids and the bird watchers and high school couples you do see are pretty quiet, so it’s a nice quiet place to shoot. These are very wild birds though and will take off at the slightest noise. A good telephoto is your friend.

To hit:
Go as far east as you can through the trees and you’ll eventually reach the lake. You get a pretty awesome view of downtown from there. (This was clearly taken on a very hazy day.)

To miss:
Watch the ground. If it’s not the aforementioned prostitutes, someone’s still having a good time out there. This is probably the tamest evidence of that activity that I've found...

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