If you’re a beginning bird-watcher looking for tips or an experienced birder looking for avian adventures, consider participating in the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s new "Big Day – Bird Hike Challenge."
The program kicked off April 3 and runs through Aug. 17 at six preserves located in Crete Township, Homer Glen, Mokena and Monee Township.
Participants can pick up checklists at Plum Creek Nature Center or Monee Reservoir Visitor Center. Everyone who submits a 24-hour bird-watching checklist is entered into a drawing for a chance to win a pair of high-quality binoculars valued at more than $200. Submitting additional checklists increases the chances of winning.
The prize winner's name will be drawn at the "Hummingbird Festival & Nature Celebration" on Aug. 18 at Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve. The free program is for ages 18 and older.
"Through spring and summer, there will be more than 100 species that you should be able to find in these six preserves," said Bob Bryerton, an interpretive naturalist for the Forest Preserve, said in a news release. "The hope is that birders will be able to set personal bests in the process."
To help birders get started, all six preserves featured in the "Big Day" program will host "Morning Bird Hikes" from 8-10 a.m. on these dates: Sunday, April 8, Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve, Monee Township; Saturday, April 14, Monee Reservoir, Monee Township; Saturday, May 19, Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve, Crete Township; Sunday, May 20, Messenger Woods Nature Preserve, Homer Glen; Saturday, June 16, Hickory Creek Preserve – LaPorte Road Access, Mokena; and Sunday, June 17, Messenger Marsh, Homer Glen.
"During these guided hikes, we will give tips and tricks for identifying birds in a group setting," Bryerton said in a news release. "Going in a group is always fun, and you usually see more species together than individually."
In addition to submitting checklists to the Forest Preserve, program participants can act as citizen scientists by submitting their birding data to the ebird.org website.
For information on this program and other Forest Preserve offerings, visit ReconnectWithNature.org.