Now that hundreds of birds born this year at Lake Renwick Heron Rookery Nature Preserve are old enough to fend for themselves, the site will reopen Friday, August 16, for general use.
The preserve and its 1.45-mile crushed limestone trail will be open from 8 a.m. to sunset daily through Feb. 28.
The 839-acre site has restricted access each year from March 1 through August 15 to protect the birds that nest there, including bald eagles, great blue herons, great egrets, double-crested cormorants, black-crowned night herons, songbirds and more. The only way to access the preserve during this time period is by attending scheduled programs.
“Mid-August was chosen as the date to remove visitor restrictions to the nature preserve based mostly on about 15 years of observations on the nesting cycles of the rookery,” said Dave Robson, the Forest Preserve’s natural resource management supervisor. “By this time in a typical year, most of the nests have fledged, meaning the young birds are no longer flightless and relying on the adults for daily care, if at all.”
Also by mid-August, both young and adult birds are far less sensitive to human encroachments and the rearing of the remaining young is not likely to be negatively impacted by people using the preserve in an authorized manner, Robson added.
In addition, this is the time of year when many of the birds prepare to migrate.
“They stop returning to Lake Renwick on a nightly basis so the number of birds on site is starting to diminish compared to the height of the breeding season,” Robson explained.
“Many birds are just spending their days now foraging and loafing on area water bodies and will roost there for the night rather than fly back to the Lake Renwick site," he added. "Most of the individuals will migrate out of the area for the winter, but not all, particularly great blue herons. Numerous great blue herons, and what appears to be an increasing number of great egrets, attempt to overwinter in this area. Other species, such as the black-crowned night herons, seem to vacate for the winter completely.”
Now that the site has reopened for general use, the trail can be used for hiking and running. And the preserve’s visitor center will be open for bird viewing programs, which are held throughout the year and can be viewed on the Event Calendar. The preserve access and visitor center are located on Renwick Road, 0.5 mile east of Route 30, in Plainfield.
Dogs, bikes and fishing are not allowed at Lake Renwick Heron Rookery because it is a protected nature preserve. Those activities are allowed at the nearby Turtle Lake Access on Lockport Street. Turtle Lake also features the paved 3.35-mile Lake Renwick Bikeway. The preserve's other access, Copley Nature Park, includes a gazebo with mounted scopes for bird viewing.
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