Now that the nesting season has concluded at Lake Renwick Heron Rookery Nature Preserve, the site reopened for general use on Sunday, August 16.
The preserve and its 1.45-mile crushed limestone trail is open from 8 a.m. to sunset daily through February 28.
While volunteer-led programs have typically been offered at the site in the past, those programs have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic with one exception. A staff-led “Take a Hike” program will be held on November 15 for National Take a Hike Day.
“Even without formal programs, the preserve is always a great place to go for birdwatching and taking a walk,” said Tina Riley, facility supervisor for Lake Renwick.
Riley encouraged potential visitors to view recent videos produced by the Forest Preserve District, including one on birdwatching at the preserve and a segment featured in the District’s new show, The Buzz.
“After watching the videos to find out what is available, take a trek to the preserve to see for yourself,” she added.
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.
“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.”
The preserve access is located on Renwick Road, 0.5 mile east of Route 30, in Plainfield. In addition to birdwatching, the preserve's trail can be used for hiking and running.
Please note: dogs, bicycles 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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