If you want to want to become a better birder this winter, don't just wing it. Head over to one of the Forest Preserve District’s four bird feeding stations to learn more about this fun and relaxing hobby.
The Forest Preserve has begun a new bird feeding and watching initiative featuring interpretive signs, QR codes and roving naturalists who will educate visitors about all things bird.
“Participants will learn new tips and tricks to feed birds in their yards and how to create a place where birds feel comfortable,” said Bob Bryerton, a Forest Preserve program coordinator. “In doing this, they will learn more about what birds require from their habitat and can make decisions in their own yard and neighborhood that help birds and the environment in general.”
With socializing activities being limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic, birding is wonderful way to get outdoors and explore as well as reduce stress, he added. A visit to one of the bird stations will help you get started as a birder or enhance the skills you already have.
The four bird feeding stations are located at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon, Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville, Monee Reservoir in Monee Township and Plum Creek Nature Center in Crete Township.
Signs at these sites provide general information on winter bird feeding and watching, Bryerton explained. QR codes allow visitors to link to a bird checklist and more detailed information on what they can expect if they put out a bird feeder.
“The checklist is linkable via your smartphone and it has photos for identifying birds you are likely to find in our feeder areas so you can track them,” Bryerton said.
Expand your knowledge
The Forest Preserve recently launched a Roving Naturalist initiative that will play a part in the bird-watching and feeding program.
“Naturalists will be at various preserves at random times to interact with visitors and give them some information on bird-watching and feeding,” Bryerton said. “There will be signs indicating the naturalist is on site and they will have handouts for visitors to take with them.”
The naturalists will help visitors learn which birds they might see on a trail and how to find them. They also will provide information on apps that can help find, identify and track birds.
“This will provide an extra dimension to the preserve experience,” Bryerton said. “Since birds are often the easiest wildlife to find, this is a great way to expand your knowledge and get more enjoyment out of preserve visits and hikes.”
Stay up-to-date on the happenings in Will County's forest preserves by subscribing to The Citizen, our weekly digital newsletter that provides subscribers with updates on Forest Preserve news, upcoming events, and other fun and useful information for the whole family. If you're only interested in programs, subscribe to The Weekly Five, which outlines the five must-do programs each week. Signing up for either newsletter is easy and free of charge.
For instance, Merlin Bird ID helps birders identify birds at home or on the trail. And the eBird app can help you keep track of the birds you see, find good places to bird and/or find where others are seeing specific species that you want to see, Bryerton said.
“Interpreters will be able to help you get started with these apps, learn how to use them and show you how the bird information that you log helps scientists learn more about birds,” he said. “Visitors can contribute to our overall understanding of nature, just by taking a hike and marking down the birds they see.”
Slowing down for birds
The Forest Preserve's new birding initiative is designed to help people connect to the preserves and nature and to learn more about the habitat preserves provide, not just for birds, but for other creatures as well, Bryerton said.
“Once you start looking for birds, you find you slow down a bit to try and track the bird’s flight to see where it lands, or you become quiet to hear its call,” he said. “When doing this, you will often notice other wildlife and plants.
“You may not have noticed them if you were just hiking or jogging through a preserve, but by going a little slower, looking and listening for birds, the entirety of the preserve reveals itself and you find more than you realized.”