Cook County - Cook County Forest Preserves

Orland Grasslands

The Orland Grasslands is an area that is being restored to original habitat. It is bordered on the east by Lagrange Rd.,on the west by 104th ave, on the north by 16700, and on the south by 17900 st.Invasive species have been or are in the process of being eliminated by volunteers on a year long basis for over 10 years now.

Wetland plants are being reintroduced and the fight against phragmites etc is an ongoing battle. Recently drain tiles were blocked with the result in a change in hydrology. In spring 2012, I counted 14 ponds/wetlands all of which held some some bird migrants. I have had Virginia and Sora rails in these areas but all rails might be found here in the future. With the recent removal of useless species of trees such as poplars, the grasslands have been extended and the resulting breeding grounds for species such as Henslow Sparrows and Bobolinks have more than tripled. There is a formal stone covered parking lot on 16700 st just west of Lagrange Rd. There are maps at the kiosks. From here you can walk south on a work road till you get to a couple of ponds ( about 3-4 blocks) which usually make it through the summer. In the spring look for shorebirds,egrets and herons on these ponds. Coots, Pied Billed Grebes, Blue-winged Teal and one year a pair of Common Gallinules nested here. Before it gets too hot a series of ponds/wetlands runs westward from these ponds and merits checking for more shorebird activity. On both sides north and south of these ponds, summer prairie nesting birds will be found. Besides Bobolinks and Henslow Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks, look for Grasshopper and Savannah Sparrows. Dickcissel usually appears all through the grasslands in late June. Field Sparrows are everywhere.

Further west are Bluebird houses but many Tree Swallows usually occupy them. There are more successful Eastern Bluebird boxes south of the east-west path about 17500 st. In the middle of this path is an area that is called the “Chatroom” for obvious reasons. The area has been cleared somewhat and the attraction to Chats, Orchard Orioles ,and both Cuckoos has been reduced somewhat. But they still occur here. In the fall Short-eared Owl, Northern Harrier, Lapland Longspur all occur here. For wildflower enthusiasts, the grassland has been quite an attraction for summer color.

With that, butterfly surveys have been spectacular for an area in the middle of suburbia. Other areas of entrance are at 104 ave at about 175th st but only for a couple cars ( you can always park on the west side of 104th ave in the residential areas). Also there is parking on Lagrange Rd at some business areas. I am omitting many of the more common bird species that will add to your enjoyment. If you have not been at a grassland at 6-7am in June, you are missing an aspect of birding which is disappearing quickly in North America- prairie birding. Enjoy the Orland Grasslands.

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