In 2016, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Preserves of Cook County, and the Bird Conservation Network teamed up to highlight some of the bird conservation success stories in the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Creative collaborations between government and nonprofit agencies, and volunteer monitors and stewards are improving habitat and increasing bird populations in grasslands, wetlands, woodlands and shrublands. Below is a recap of the sites that were featured.
Eggers Grove is a landbird migrant hotspot in the Calumet area, and it also contains one of the city’s most productive wetlands. Removal of invasive plants to make a healthier woodland and hydrologic changes in the wetland must take into consideration the needs of birds. Participants came out on this day in the heart of spring migration to meet some of the people who have made and are making the restoration happen. They heard stories of how volunteers, Forest Preserves of Cook County, the Field Museum, and the US Army Corps of Engineers improved habitat for wetland and woodland bird species, and how this site fits into a larger wetland conservation plan for the Calumet Region. They also walked the trail with expert birders who helped them look for warblers, vireos and flycatchers in the woods, as well as wetland birds such as Pied-Billed Grebes in the marsh.
View Location in Google Maps
In 2001, Bergman Slough Preserve was a fallow, row-crop farm field, interspersed with degraded sections of remnant prairie savanna that since has been restored to high quality native prairie, wetland, and savanna of award-winning regional importance. Participants joined staff from the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Openlands, and the Bird Conservation Network on a walk to learn of the history of Bergman Slough and the adjacent woodland in Cap Sauers Holdings; of the exemplary use of natural prairie landscaping, ecological restoration, and conservation design; and to observe present day native plants such as White Wild Indigo, Wild Hyacinth, Blue-eyed Grass, and Golden Alexanders and bird species of conservation concern breeding there now such as Henslow's Sparrows, Grasshopper Sparrows, Red-headed Woodpeckers, and Osprey.
The story of Orland Grasslands is a stunning example of what can happen when people dream big and work cooperatively. This 960-acre preserve, once a degraded farmland, is now one of the largest grassland habitat restoration projects in Cook County. Participants met some of the people who have made and are making it happen and heard their story of how volunteers, Forest Preserves of Cook County, Openlands, Audubon Chicago Region and the US Army Corps of Engineers rolled back the years to a time when this area sparkled with prairie, ponds and streams and teemed with bird life. Participants also walked the Bird Song Trail with expert birders who helped them look for Meadowlarks, Bobolinks and Dickcissels perched in lush vegetation, as well as many shorebirds including Pied-Billed Grebe families gliding among muskrat mounds in the ponds. Everyone received a packet with a bird checklist, map, and a brochure giving a brief history of the site.
Powderhorn Lake Forest Preserve is a high-quality remnant of the once continuous mix of prairie, sedge meadow, savanna and wetland in the Calumet region that existed before the Industrial Age, and today, with the benefit of ongoing ecological restoration and management, the remnant has become a haven for native plants and birds and the only state-dedicated nature preserve within Chicago city limits (Powderhorn Prairie and Marsh Nature Preserve). Folks from the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Friends of the Forest Preserves, the Calumet Stewardship Initiative and the Bird Conservation Network met for birding and an ecology walk through black oak savanna, short grass and tallgrass sand prairies right next to wetlands containing a rich variety of plants. Hazelnut, elderberry and buttonbush shrubs accompany lower-growing plants such as prickly pear cactus, nodding wild onion, Indian hemp, partridge pea, purple love grass, cinnamon willow-herb, rough blazingstar, Turk’s cap lily, slender false foxglove and many more. Controlling willow while maintaining Willow Flycatcher habitat was also discussed.
Forest Preserve Staff, Ecologists, and Bird Conservation Network Monitors met at McGinnis Slough to learn about the Slough's origin, history, and observe and understand why shorebirds (such as plovers and sandpipers) migrating south from their Arctic nesting grounds to their winter grounds in Central and South America are attracted to the mudflats exposed by the yearly drawdown of water in July. This shallow, 300-acre body of water also serves as an important migratory stopover for waders (such as herons and egrets) and waterfowl; the Forest Preserve District's waterfowl conservation efforts in the Palos area were also discussed.
This small urban preserve along the Chicago River is a hotspot for migrants. Participants heard the story of how The North Branch Restoration Project with the Centennial Volunteers, Cook County FPD, and the Chicago Ornithological Society are gradually converting an invasive-choked area to an attractive, healthy native bird habitat. Native shrub plantings are the key strategy being used; citizen involvement with shrub plantings and fundraising will be discussed. Participants walked the preserve with expert birders, district staff, and stewards who helped them look for late fall migrants and other preserve wildlife.
BCN is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization
Copyright © 2016 Bird Conservation Network - All Rights Reserved