Cook County - Cook County Forest Preserves

McClaughry Springs Forest Preserve

Located on Kean Ave between 11900 st and Rt 83, there is a small parking lot that holds about 12 cars. Mill Creek runs at the base of the large bluff. This area because of the creek which attracts insects and the bluff which blocks any westerly winds becomes a magnet for bird migrants. I have personally seen 33 species of warblers here.

The creek is Chicagoland’s best location for Louisiana Waterthrush which attempts to nest here every year. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher all breed here. All 5 expected species of woodpecker nest here also. There are many possibilities on how to bird this area depending on how long of a hike you are interested in. Check Cook County trail maps. Just south of the open area across the creek look for Marsh Marigolds and Virginia Bluebells in the early spring. The hike that I prefer is to walk from the parking lot NW to the bridge. This bridge which has overhanging trees is surreal in the spring. Eastern Phoebes nest under this bridge. Cross the bridge and walk along the edge of the creek northward and enjoy the many wildflowers. Cerulean Warbler nested here in 2009. This trail meets another trail that can take you either back to Kean Ave or you can hike west to the base of the old toboggan slides, now simply 124 steps used for serious exercise. Walking back towards Kean Ave you will cross another bridge where Ruby Throated Hummingbird is dependable.

This exits at the entrance to Palos Park Woods North. This parking lot is equally good for migrants plus nesting birds. You now have an option. You can either take Kean Ave south back to the parking lot about one block. Or you can proceed eastward through Palos Park Woods on a 45 minute hike that makes a loop that will eventually take you back to McClaughry Springs parking lot also. Besides birds mentioned, Broad-winged Hawk, American Redstart, Wood Thrush, Veery, Yellow Throated Vireo, Indigo Bunting are expected in this area. The area near the creek can be muddy depending on the weather. Otherwise the trail is the typical crushed limestone variety. Birding is naturally best here very early in the morning in May and where you will likely run into me.

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