and Events

Check out our full calendar of activities, events, and educational opportunities. You're sure to find something to interest you. Please join us!

Events include:

  • Monthly educational programs and issues discussions
  • Local bird walks
  • Field trips
  • Preserve work days

For more details, see the current newsletter.


Friday, Sep. 29, 2023
September 29 Birdseed Sale Order Deadline!... >

Friday, Sep. 29, 2023
Full Moon Campfire at Silver Creek Biodiversity Preserve... >

Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023
Program: Update from Illinois Evironmental Council, 2023 Annual Report... >

Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023
Field Trip: Maquoketa Caves State Park... >


Northwest Illinois Audubon Society is a chapter of National Audubon Society, Inc.


Birding Sites

Code Season and Bird Group General Timing
SMW Spring Migrating Waterfowl/Waterbirds Mid-March through Mid-April
SMSh Spring Migrating Shorebirds Mid-April through Mid-May
SMS Spring Migrating Songbirds April and May
NS Nesting Species May through Mid-July
FMS Fall Migrating Songbirds Late August through early November
FMSh Fall Migrating Shorebirds Mid-July through August
FMW Fall Migrating Waterfowl/Waterbirds September through November
WV Winter Varieties December through February

Note: It is assumed that year-round resident species will be found at nearly every location, so this group wasn’t coded. Visit to learn about the specific species of birds listed in each area.

Stephenson County

Nieman’s Pond
A recreated pond, wetland and sometimes mud flats, east of Freeport off of HWY 20 on North Springfield Rd. Private property – stay on roadside. Bird presence much dependent upon water levels. Nesting Bald Eagle in trees along the Pecatonica River north of pond – visible from road.
Ridott Wetlands
Farmed wetlands – a series of ponds and mud flats, on both sides of Rock City Rd. just north of Ridott. Private property – stay on roadside, but pull off sufficiently (busy road). Depending on water levels, good for water birds and shorebirds. Both American White Pelicans and Whooping Cranes have been sighted here.
Pearl City Sewage Ponds
Surprisingly good place for shorebirds, especially on rock edges on south pond. Ponds adjacent to village park on northeast side of town. Stay on park side of fence to avoid spooking birds. Occasional waterfowl.
Montague & Prairie Dell Rds.
Former prairie lands that have long been converted to row crops. About six miles south of Freeport turn west on to each of these roads (they run parallel) and drive slowly scanning fields and road shoulders. Great place for open land winter birds such as Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs, etc. when snow is present. Private land – stay on roads.
Jane Addams Trail – Orangeville Wetlands
The trail is an abandoned railroad right of way, so typical brushy/some woods edges with trail bordering intermittent small wetlands of Richland Creek which parallels trail. Larger “Orangeville Wetland” is a mitigation re-creation by the IDOT. Access from trailhead in Orangeville just east of BP gas station. Walk south to wetland areas – be sure to cross HWY 26 to smaller often more productive wetlands. Depending on water levels, variety of shorebirds can be present. Virginia Rail, Barred Owl, Sandhill Cranes also have been sighted there.
Jane Addams Trail – Duck’s Misery
Backwaters/wetlands/ponds (some recreated) near where Richland Creek empties into the Pecatonica River. Trail walking gives views to the west; road walking gives views to the south. Access trail from Winneshiek Rd. going west from HWY 26 about 2 miles north of Freeport. Songbirds on trail edges and in woods to the south. Reliable site for Sandhill Cranes (nests have been seen from the trail). NOTE ON JANE ADDAMS TRAIL: Above sites most diverse, but birds can be found entire length of trail, especially migrating songbirds.
Blair Road
Wetlands on both sides of road even into roadside ditches. About 7 miles east of Freeport on HWY 20, turn north on Farwell Bridge Rd. At about 3 miles turn east on Blair Rd. (west of this intersection road is called Maize Rd.). Immediately begin driving slowly. Reliable site for Wilson’s Snipe during first two weeks of April if water levels are good. Great close-up looks using vehicle as blind, sometimes other shorebirds. Continue on Blair for 3 miles until you reach Pecatonica Rd. Along the way are various wetlands and woodlands that you can bird from the road (most private property).
Lake Le-Aqua-Na State Park
North of Lena off Lake Rd. Man-made lake with woods/open woods/ pine plantings surrounding it. Best birding areas are below dam on east end and lake inlet/picnic area on west end. Have seen Common Loons, Osprey, a few shorebirds on swimming beach, songbirds such as Scarlet Tanager, many warblers, etc. Numerous parking areas.
Krape Park
Wooded park through which Yellow Creek flows, including dam creating wider creek above. This Freeport Park District property is on the southwest side of Freeport, on Park Blvd, south of Empire St. Best birding along Yellow Creek downstream from dam. Can be very good warbler area in early May. Often site for Eastern Bluebirds and American Robins in winter with open water below dam and berries on various trees and shrubs.
Oakdale Preserve
Dense woods, open woods and two areas of recreated prairie, with Crane’s Creek flowing through wooded areas. This Freeport Park District property is 3 miles south of Freeport off of Baileyville Rd. onto Crane’s Grove Rd. Don’t park in main lot (entrance) but continue on Crane’s Grove Rd. to the parking area on your right (Newell Tract). Best in early May for songbirds. Also a good spot for woodpeckers.
Evangeline Forest
Owned by, and located adjacent to, village of Davis; parking at 212 W McKimmy St (Faith Community Church); walking trail starts on south end of large parking lot at kiosk; area is former farm field which is being encouraged to return to a natural state; watch for spring and fall migrant passerines as well as summer nesting passerines.
Espenscheid Forest Preserve
Owned by Jane Addamsland Park Foundation; located at 8500 E Farm School Rd; parking lot is small fenced in grass area; trail starts at information sign; area contains a variety of habitat types including oak savanna and riparian; a good variety of summer nesting, as well as spring and fall migrant passerines can be seen here; waterfowl can also be observed along the creek that runs through the area; also a very scenic location.

Ogle County

Elkhorn Creek Biodiversity Preserve
A 43-acre preserve owned and managed by the Northwest Illinois Audubon Society. Diverse landscape with sandy hill prairies, small woods and numerous wetlands/seeps. Also small stream flows into Elkhorn Creek at center of property. Numerous trails. Three miles southwest of Forreston off of West Grove Rd, about 2 miles west of HWY 26. Parking lot in northeast corner. Primarily songbirds including less common species such as Willow Flycatcher, Sedge Wren, Dickcissel, and Bobolink. American Woodcocks usually present last half of March. Over 132 species have been sighted here.
Silver Creek Biodiversity Preserve
A 50 acre area that is mostly brushy woods, with 15 acres of recreated prairie plantings. A branch of Silver Creek flows through the north section. Off of Leaf River Rd. about 1 miles south of Leaf River. Park in (gravel) lot – some trails. One of the better birding areas is where trail goes north from west field down to the creek. Songbirds, especially warblers, attracted to streamside vegetation. Less common sightings include Red-headed Woodpeckers, Wood Thrush, Carolina Wren, Mourning Warbler. Over 102 species recorded. Be sure to observe boundary posts/signs to avoid 5-acre private property to the north of the parking area. Northwest Illinois Audubon Society preserve.
Castle Rock State Park
Diverse riparian habitat from high bluff to riverside. About 2 miles south of Oregon off of HWY 2. Park on the river side of the HWY in the lot by the “Castle Rock” boardwalk. Bird from boardwalk or trail going south from the parking lot. Can be very good for warblers, including the Cerulean Warbler; sometimes waterbirds in river.
Lowden-Miller State Forest
Mostly forested area including native hardwood species and pine plantings. East of Oregon take Daysville Rd. south about 1 mile then veer right onto Lowden Rd. for 1 mile then right on Nashua Rd. A series of parking lots and trails are accessed from Nashua Rd. Trails go to Rock River where waterbirds can sometimes be seen.
White Pines State Park
Mostly wooded area (some pine plantings) through which Pine Creek flows. Some mowed area. About 3 miles east of Polo on Pines R. Good birding along Pine Creek, especially at the north end (where road ends). Good for warblers in early May.
Nachusa Grasslands
Very large grassland area with remnant prairies and plantings – some open woodland and wetlands. East of Oregon take Daysville Rd. south about 1 mile then veer right onto Lowden Rd. and drive about 5 miles. Main entrance on right just south of Stone Barn Rd. This Nature Conservancy property has an abundance of grassland birds. Trail maps at site.

Along the Mississippi River (mostly Carroll County)

Lost Mound Unit – Upper Mississippi National Wildlife & Fish Refuge
Sand savanna and sand prairie over which some development from the former Savanna Army Depot is still evident. Wooded high banks along the Mississippi. Entrance off of HWY 84 at Blackhawk Rd. about 7 miles north of Savanna. Follow entrance Rd. until it T’s then go right past refuge office. Drive slowly on the different criss-crossing roads for looks at grassland birds, some unusual such as Northern Mockingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-breasted Chat, Western Meadowlark and various sparrows. Whip-poor-wills can be heard off of road that borders river going north from refuge office. This road ends in parking area with river lookout, good for Bald Eagles in winter, with an occasional Golden Eagle. No walking trails, road travel only. Vast majority of refuge closed to private road travel. Bird tours sponsored by refuge have access to closed area. Call (915) 273-2732 for information on tours.
Mississippi Palisades State Park
Heavily wooded riverside bluffs and sheltered valleys with stream flowing through some areas. South entrance about 1 mile north of Savanna, off of HWY 84. Park in first lot and walk roads and trails for great diversity of songbirds including unusual warblers such as Kentucky, Northern Parula, Cerulean, and Yellow-throated. Also Pileated Woodpecker, Scarlet Tanager, Louisana and Northern Waterthrush, and many more. Early May birding also provides brilliant wildflowers. Late September can get good Broad-Winged Hawk migration.
Spring Lake
Backwater on Pool 13, some diking. Also bike trail with brushy/woods habitat parallels backwater. Another section of the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, this site is about 2 miles south of Savanna off of HWY 84. Dike area good for waterfowl; bike trail going north provides good looks at songbirds and waterfowl, sometimes shorebirds and rails, American White Pelican, Tundra and Trumpeter Swans, Sandhill Cranes, waterthrushes and good variety of ducks.
Thomson Causeway
Bottomland forest interspersed with diked ponds, also borders Pool 13 of Mississippi River. To reach this Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Area, drive west out of Thomson about 1 mile, entrance on left. Access habitat from roads and a few trails, with two campground areas that are more open. Can view waterbirds in ponds and Pool 13. Depending upon water levels, shorebirds can be good on pond edges. Usually see Red-headed Woodpecker, Sandhill Cranes, American White Pelicans, warblers, Baltimore orioles and much more.
Lock and Dam #13
Site contains mostly Pool 13 at its widest, some bottomland forest and below dam, the Mississippi River. Army Corps of Engineers property about three miles south of Thomson off of HWY 84 onto Lock Rd. Stop in parking areas along Lock Rd. to view birds on Pool 13. Parking areas both north and south of dam give good river views. Excellent waterfowl diversity and nesting Bald eagles. Songbirds in bottomland forest by parking area below dam. Belted Kingfishers, Prothonotary Warbler, Horned Grebe, many swallow species. Large numbers of wintering Bald eagles, often hundreds.

Jo Daviess County

Casper Bluff Land & Water Reserve
A property owned by Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation ( ) This site has prairie re-creations and open woodlands. It sits on a bluff of the Mississippi River. Good birding for spring migrants, nesting Bluebirds, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Baltimore Orioles. A trail system goes through the site to give views of various habitats. A good spot for seeing Bald Eagles, American White Pelicans soaring along the bluffs and river. Can also see migrating hawks during fall migration. Three miles south of Galena on Pilot Knob Rd. Parking lot at site.
Apple River State Park
This state-owned park surrounds the Apple River, having woodland, riparian, and open picnic areas. Trails go through various parts of the park and offer viewings of woodland birds. Nice spot for spring migrants and wildflowers. This park is about 7 miles northwest of Stockton on Canyon Park Rd. There are two parking lots, with hiking trails by each.
Galena Biking/Walking Trail
This is an old railroad bed that has brushy woods on both sides and is next to the Galena River. A spot especially nice for spring migrants. Park in the Galena city lot on the east side of the Galena River on Bouthillier St. The trail goes both north which ends up at Bueller Reserve owned by the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation, which is a recreated wet prairie along the Galena River and offers a decent birding experiences. The north trail is also fun for listening to frog calls in spring. The trail to the south of the parking lot offers more brushy cover and is nice for spring migrants.
Wards Grover Nature Preserve
This is a very large tract of woodlands owned by the State of IL and is great for seeing spring migrants and woodland nesting birds such as Scarlet Tanagers, Ovenbird, Acadian Flycatcher, Black and White Warbler, and Pileated Woodpeckers. There are no trails through this large woodland, so be prepared to push through on your own. The preserve is one mile south of Rt. 20 on Willow Rd. and three miles east of Stockton. The parking lot is on the east side of the preserve on Willow Rd. This property is owned by IL Department of Natural Resources.

Winnebago County

Pecatonica River Forest Preserve
Owned by Winnebago County Forest Preserve District; located at 7260 Judd Rd; parking is available at several locations; a very large area with 9.8 miles of trails and several habitat types including prairie, bottomland forest, wetland and riparian, a wide variety of birds can be observed here at all times of the year including Scarlet Tanager, Prothonotary Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker and Sandhill Crane; contact WCFPD for site map.