Nesting season is getting underway at Lake Renwick Heron Rookery Nature Preserve, which means access will be restricted so as to not disturb the bird families residing there.
The preserve's main entrance on Renwick Road closed on March 1, and it will reopen August 16, once nesting season concludes. The entrance closes each spring to protect the birds that congregate at the site. These include herons, egrets, cormorants, pelicans and songbirds. The only way to access the nature preserve during this time is by attending a scheduled program.
Of the migrating birds that call the rookery home, great blue herons are among those most likely to arrive first, often already taking up residence by this time of year.
Eggs are typically laid in April, said Dave Robson, the Forest Preserve's natural resource management supervisor. "Most of the herons and egrets have a two- to three-month incubation and nestling stage," he said. "Somewhere around the end of July, most of the young are considered fledglings and are near leaving the nest. Usually by mid-August, most of the nests are empty."
While the nature preserve will be closed for general use during nesting season, guided programs offered by the District in spring and summer allow visitors access to the viewing platform and scopes to catch glimpses of the birds.
Families are invited to a "Family Fun Hike" from 1-2 p.m. Saturday, March 7, at the rookery. Registration is required prior to the event. In April, three “Migratory Bird Hikes,” will be held in the morning on Saturdays, April 4, 18 and 25. In addition, a “Photography Bird Hike” is set for 8-10 a.m. Saturday, April 25. Registration is required two days before each bird hike program.
“Lake Renwick Bird Viewing” programs will be held from 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays from May 2-August 8. Registration is not required. Bird-watching programs at the site are staffed by volunteers from the Will County Audubon Society, who are on hand to answer questions and point out some of the birds and nesting locations.
VIEW UPCOMING PROGRAMS AT LAKE RENWICK
While Lake Renwick Heron Rookery Nature Preserve will be closed during nesting season, the preserve's other two access areas – Turtle Lake and Copley Nature Park – remain open from 8 a.m.-sunset year-round.
The 839-acre Lake Renwick Preserve is one of the most unique spots in the Forest Preserve District. It was established at a time when some bird species were struggling. The site is a former quarry that was converted to a wildlife sanctuary, and it's become a perfect spot for bird-watching programs.
“The site is an important bird area in Illinois mostly due to the number and variety of water birds that can be seen at the preserve, although other avian types can also be observed,” Robson said. “At least 170 bird species have been documented at Lake Renwick Heron Rookery over the years, and the preserve continues to attract new species because of the availability of the isolated aquatic and wooded habitats that are rarely disturbed by people.”
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