Date: 11/1/17 11:43 am
From: 'Bailey, Steven D' <sdbailey...> [ILbirds] <ILbirds-noreply...>
Subject: IBET Fall guided bird hikes into the IBSP closed area
This post is to inform interested birders that there will be a series of guided hikes into the pines and area immediately to the south of them in the area just south of the Dead River at the South Unit of Illinois Beach State Park in Lake County, over the next several weekends. I tried to get these started at the end of October, but November the 11th was the earliest that we could get them started due to the permit process for state nature preserves. The trips will leave at 8:00 AM from the Nature Center parking lot, which is just before you get to the park lodge, in the South Unit. RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED, to ensure that group limits are not exceeded and to make the trips more enjoyable for all participants. A waiting list of names will be kept for trips that fill up, in case there are cancelations, for folks that can only go on specific dates. To make reservations, PLEASE CALL THE PARK headquarters at 847-662-4811 and ask to be added to the Dead River hike list. THERESA HAHL will be compiling and managing the list of participants. Participants will be limited to only 15 people per trip, plus leaders. At this time, please limit your reservations to no more than two trips/dates. The current dates that hikes will occur include:


NOVEMBER 11 (Saturday):
NOVEMBER 19 (Sunday):
NOVEMBER 25 (Saturday):
DECEMBER 3 (Sunday):
DECEMBER 9 (Saturday):

Other important information:

The hike out and back is at least a FOUR MILE walk, with much of it off-trail and in areas that are difficult to hike. It is probably best to wear waterproof footwear, or at least a good hiking boot. Further, participants may have to cross flooded swales and traverse uneven ground. Due to the very real threats of plant theft (especially orchids), exotic species introductions, nesting birds (including piping plovers), damage from foot traffic to federally and state-listed rare plants, and conflicts with ongoing research projects, the area south of the Dead River that we will be hiking in, is otherwise closed to the general public. Access is by permit only. However, during the dormant season and after plants have set seed, human impacts are minimized. To minimize the danger of introducing non-native plants into this botanically important area, participants will be asked to WASH THEIR SHOES (especially lug boots) in the river or lake before entering the preserve. There also is the likelihood that some trips may encounter times when the Dead River is open (i.e., flowing into the lake) and the trip will need to be cancelled due to unsafe conditions. Currently, the natural sand "dam" is ~ 15 feet from the lake allowing access to the pines by walking the beach. All entry is through a group permit issued through the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, so please be sure to comply with the requirements outlined above. More specifics will be provided the day of the trip. I would like to thank Brad Semel for taking the time out of his busy schedule for completing the permit process and hurrying it along. Thanks also to Al Stokie and Dave Johnson for agreeing to help me lead these walks into this unique and bird-rich area. I will be leading the first hike, November 11th, and Al will be leading the 2nd, Nov. 19th. Look for more posts on the later hikes.

The reason I chose to have these hikes this fall/winter was because of the predicted RED CROSSBILL irruption for Illinois (which is currently in the process of occurring), as well as a record irruptive flight of BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKERS which occurred recently at Hawk Ridge and elsewhere in northern Minnesota. I have found the area south of the Dead River to be one of the best places to attract Red Crossbills regularly, in all of Illinois. Black-backed Woodpecker flights have made it to Illinois, mostly in the Greater Chicagoland area, several times in the past, with the largest irruption in the winter of 1920-21 (15 Illinois records), with other flights in 1965 as well as several other occurrences. The last Black-backed Woodpecker in Illinois occurred in a pine plantation in Thorn Creek F.P. in Will County. I was lucky enough to see that bird, which hung around from January through March of 1986. The Dead River pine area has produced an amazing number and variety of rarities and vagrants including Northern Goshawk, Barn Owl, Scrub Jay, Clark's Nutcracker, Brown-headed Nuthatch and Red-cockaded Woodpecker over the past 25 years or so. The walk out and back in the dunes and along the beach also often produces a Northern Shrike or one or more of the scoters and/or Long-tailed Duck in the large Greater Scaup flock that usually winters just offshore there. There have often been one or more good birds seen (besides the vagrants) on many of the past years hikes into this interesting and ecologically significant area.

BTW, for those that aren't familiar with the Illinois Beach S.P. and the Dead River area and its history, including the many rare birds that have been found there, I wrote an interesting article about the site and such things, with some historic photos and a few of the rare birds that were photographed there, in a 2009 Meadowlark journal (Volume 18, No. 1), pp 2-7. It also explains how the introduced, non-native pines that attract many of the rare & vagrant species, got there. You can access that issue through the Illinois Ornithological Society's webpage and archive of back issues, here: ( ). Good birding!

Steve Bailey

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