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Birding in the 21st Century.

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Priority Sites: monitors needed!

Eastern Meadowlark, by Wes Serafin

The Chicago Wilderness region needs bird monitors at many beautiful and exciting locations. If you know the local birds by sight and sound and want to contribute to conservation, if you have time to visit a site several times a year and report your observations, please look at our current list of high priority sites without monitors. These are sites where the land manager or steward is eager for input, or where coverage is needed for trends analysis. Updated May 2013.

MONITOR NEWS: February 2013

Birding the Highland Park lakefront

For the past seven years, the Park Districtof Highland Park (Lake County IL) has surveyed the city’s lakefront parks during the height of spring migration. Every year 20 or more monitors have turned out to tally birds in Central Park, Moraine Park, Rosewood Park, Millard Park, all along Lake Michigan, and in the parks’ varied habitats (ravine, savanna, lakefront). In 2012 the monitors found 58 species in the four parks.

Join the Conversation!

Blue-winged Warbler, by Nolan Lameka

All bird monitors and everyone interested in habitat and conservation in the Greater Chicago area–

Join us on beebzz, the newly-created listserv of the BCN Survey! Connect with other monitors and people of like interests. Share your observations, ideas and concerns. See how your efforts combine with those of others to improve bird habitat in our area.

Subscribe now! The conversation has already begun.


Terry Murray at Big Rock

Terry Murray got his introduction to natural habitats at age 5 on a trip to Yellowstone. Later he took up hiking and climbing in the Tetons and Cascades. The Sierra Club got him interested in birding, and he joined Audubon. In Illinois he had the opportunity to go on spring counts with outstanding mentors such as Jon Duerr and Vern LaVia. As you would expect from this background, birding is most rewarding to him as a way to enjoy nature. His advice to others: Get out early when you have the place to yourself and the birds are active.


Bartlett Ravine

In one of BCN’s first attempts at migration monitoring, a group of Lake County birders made repeated visits to a new Openlands preserve during last fall’s migration. The place was Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, situated in the ravines along the Lake Michigan shore, once a part of the Army’s Fort Sheridan. Volunteers Coral Ackerman, CiCi Birnberg, and Dale Crusoe, and Preserve Manager Aimee Collins surveyed this area at pre-established monitoring points in the ravines and along the shore from August through October, making a combined 120 visits and reporting 70 different species. The ravines, formed by run-off in the glacial moraine bordering on the lakeshore, are among our rarest and most diverse ecosystems. Besides containing endangered and rare plants, the ravines are havens for migrating birds following the shoreline north in the spring and south in the fall. Our ravine ecosystems are now largely destroyed by suburban development, but in Fort Sheridan the army’s impact was somewhat lighter than elsewhere. Now the recently-established Openlands Lakeshore Preserve provides public access to three of these ravines and the beach connecting them. Note: There is public access into only one of the ravines, but the other two can be viewed from the bluff trail or from the bottom at beach level.

Chicago Region Bird Population Trends


The 2007 Chicago Region Breeding Birds Trends Analysis, a joint project by Audubon Chicago Region, the Bird Conservation Network, and Chicago Wilderness, can be viewed on the BCN website: www.bcnbirds.org/trends07. This second trends analysis, including large amounts of new data, shows results of breeding bird surveys from 1999 to 2007.

For national trends, click on the tab “View and Explore Data” in eBird/BCN.

MONITOR NEWS: March 2012

Lee Witkowski at Keepataw

Keepataw Preserve, Will County IL Lee Witkowski monitors birds at a forest preserve under assault. Will County’s Keepataw Preserve encompasses a 215-acre stretch of wetlands along the Des Plaines River and the limestone bluffs bordering them on the north. When the I-355 tollway was extended south into Will County, its planned route cut directly over […]

MONITOR NEWS: February 2012

Annemarie Rand at Ronan Park

One beautiful Saturday last September we had the opportunity to walk around Ronan Park with Annemarie Rand, the bird monitor there for 4 years. This small park along the Chicago River’s North Branch is surrounded by residential neighborhoods and a power plant but is becoming known as a spot for birds, witness the dog walkers and kayakers who paused to talk about them with Annemarie. Meanwhile, a kingfisher cruised up and down the river, a great blue heron stood on the bank, and fall warblers, vireos and thrushes worked the bushes along the shore. And a surprise: eight young black-crowned night-herons sat on the spillway, looking hopefully for fish in the water. They have been regular breeders there for the past three years.

MONITOR NEWS, December 2011

David Schwaegler at Lake-in-the-Hills Fen

David Schwaegler wants you to know about Lake-in-the-Hills Fen.

“The fen,” a McHenry county Conservation Area, is actually a run-off channel through glacial outwash, with an esker and kame alongside. Above the now mostly dry channel is a line of gravel hills, out of which on the east side seep several fens, producing exceptionally rare plants in the summer and trickles of open water where birds come to drink in the winter. Saving this highly unusual site has been a 30 year long process, beginning in the early 1980s when a grant to preserve “Spring Hill Farm Fen, “ motivated by botanists’ discovery of over 300 plant species in what was then a dairy farm and being eyed as a gravel mine, was never used. At that time a group called the McHenry County Defenders started leading walks and pushing for conservation of the site. The first major conservation steps came in 1988 when the State of Illinois bought the gravel hills and Material Services Corp (the gravel mining company) donated the lowlands to the Village of Lake in the Hills. The state designated it an Illinois Nature preserve in 1990, and the McHenry County Conservation District took over management with Brad Woodson as ecologist. Subsequently there were three additions to the preserve – by the Conservation District, by the state, and by the Larsen family. Later, stewards such as Don Purn and Al Wilson, aided by volunteers and community service workers, continued to bring the site back to its original condition and save the numerous rare plants, including white prairie goldenrod, horned bladderwort, marsh valerium, and swamp thistle.

MONITOR NEWS: November 2011

Donnie Dann at Half Day Preserve

Every conservationist in our area – and many across the country as well – know Donnie Dann. Donnie works tirelessly for a variety of conservation organizations, including the American Bird Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy. He was a member of the ABC board from 1997 to 2006, their treasurer for 4 years, and today he continues on the Advisory Board. He does numerous presentations and slide shows for bird clubs. He has been a trustee of TNC and is now in his third term as a trustee emeritus. Locally, he is a past president of the BCN and now sits on the Executive Committee as Advocacy Chair. He sends out a bi-monthly newsletter, Conservation Alert, that goes \ directly or indirectly to several thousand people (www.facebook.com/profile.php?\ \ \ id=1027756404&v=app_2347471856). He frequently fires off letters to politicians and others about conservation issues. Governor Quinn has appointed him to the state’s Nature Preserves Commission, and recently IDNR Director Marc Miller appointed him to the Lake Michigan Offshore Wind Energy Advisory Council.

Does this sound like a busy man? This isn’t all.