Area Birders Invited to State Audubon Society’s Local Gathering

April 3, 2015 clifftop CliffNotes

dickcissel, D. Jacobsen

This Dickcissel is calling all birders to the Illinois Audubon Society Spring Gathering. Photo courtesy Dennis Jacobsen, Clifftop

Founded in 1897, the Illinois Audubon Society is the oldest conservation land trust and nature education organization in the state. The society now has 20 chapters located throughout Illinois, including our local chapter, the Kaskaskia Valley Audubon Society.

The Illinois Audubon Society owns ten natural area sanctuaries in the state, comprising nearly 1400 total acres, most of which are open to public visitation. In addition, the society has brokered nearly $9 million in grant and donation monies to protect an additional 3000 acres of natural areas throughout Illinois.

Among these projects, one is of particular public benefit to the residents of Monroe County. In 2004, the Illinois Audubon Society garnered an $850,000 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation to purchase a conservation easement on 450 acres from the Village of Valmeyer and establish what is now known as the Salt Lick Point Land and Water Reserve. The Reserve is now a wildly popular public hiking spot in the county.

In an effort to highlight the Salt Lick Point Reserve and equally beautiful unique neighboring natural areas in our bluff lands corridor, the Kaskaskia Valley Audubon Society, the Salt Lick Point Stewardship Committee and Clifftop are co-hosting the annual state-wide gathering of the Illinois Audubon Society on May 1-3, 2015.

The beautiful cardinal is our state bird and the symbol of Illinois Audubon Society. The statewide spring gathering of Illinois Audubon will be held in Monroe County from May 1-3. Photo courtesy Tom Rollins,

Birding and nature field trips will be conducted at the Salt Lick Point Reserve, White Rock Nature Preserve and Land & Water Reserve, Kidd Lake Marsh State Natural Area, Conner Lake Reserve, the Illinois Ozark Nature Preserve, and Buettner Glades Natural Area on Saturday, May 2nd, and Sunday morning, May 3rd.

The flocks of Illinois Auduboners hope to see some wildlife species found in our area, but uncommon to rare in other parts of the state. Beautiful bright red Summer Tanagers delight us as they return to breeding sites here each year, but their range doesn’t extend to the northernmost reaches of Illinois. While local birders can readily hear and see Worm-eating Warblers each spring and summer as these small birds take up territories in our healthy and extensive forested areas, the species’ range doesn’t extend through north-central Illinois. And for birders who look down as well as squinting at the treetops, our area offers them the opportunity to discover a wealth of herps: snakes, frogs, and toads found here but not much further north. And, of course, the sheer beauty of springtime in Southwestern Illinois – tapestries of wildflowers along forested paths, patchwork quilts of flowers and grasses clinging to hill prairies, and symphonies of birdsong to lift spirits – will make bright memories for all.

Pileated woodpeckers, T. Rollins

Illinois Audubon Society members attending the spring gathering will no doubt thrill if they're lucky enough to encounter nesting Pileated Woodpeckers. Photo courtesy Tom Rollins,

Attendees also have the opportunity to learn about the host organizations and how they collaborate to protect, steward and enhance wildlife habitat in our area. During the social kickoff, held at the St. Mary Parish Center in Valmeyer on Friday evening May 1st, Carl DauBach, Clifftop’s Executive Director and member of the Illinois Audubon Society’s Board of Directors, will present a program on “Humanscapes and Landscapes,” a discussion of the unique private-public partnerships developed in our bluff lands.

The wildlife residents of our area are the focus of a talk on Saturday evening May 2nd, at Acorns, near Waterloo. Following a banquet dinner, Debbie Newman, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission and President of the Kaskaskia Valley Audubon Soceity, will present the program “Welcome to the Illinois Ozarks: Exploring Southwestern Illinois’ Unusual Plants, Wildlife and Natural Areas.” The evening banquet also features silent and oral auctions of artwork, books, birding and outdoor gear.

oriole, P. Feldker

Our summer resident Baltimore Orioles also will delight. Photo courtesy Paul Feldker, Clifftop

We’re delighted that our local motels already have registered lots of folks for this special weekend of activities, field trips and socializing. The “bird people” from around Illinois will enjoy our beautiful area and our hospitable folks.

All events are open to the public, but registration is required. The cost of meals and a $15 registration fee must be made by April 15th. For more information see or call 935-2542.

CLIFFTOP, a local nonprofit organization, is focused on preserving and protecting area bluff lands.

A version of this article appeared in the 3 April 2015 edition of the Monroe County Independent.

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