American White Pelicans and American Coots near the overlook at Nygren Wetland Preserve, Photo: Rob Clark

Nygren Wetland Preserve

Since 1991 our nation has celebrated American Wetlands Month in May as a way to bring attention to the important role they play in our everyday lives. There are wetlands in every state of the U.S. You don’t need to travel far to see one, wherever you are. For example, Natural Land Institute owns Nygren Wetland Preserve, just west of Rockton, in northern Illinois. This 721-acre wildlife refuge includes approximately 400 acres of wetlands habitat.

Benefits of wetlands can be seen locally with the 20-year restoration at Nygren Wetland Preserve and these benefits extend to area communities. Hundreds of acres of functioning floodplain preserved in perpetuity store large amounts of flood water during periods of high rainfall keeping that floodwater out of downstream basements along the Rock River. Wetlands increase our ability to maintain clean water for local communities by filtering pollutants and excess nutrients out of the water. Natural areas with wetlands also increase the livability of our communities through increased economic, aesthetic and recreational opportunities.

White-faced Ibis, Photo: Trip Thienemann

Throughout the 20-year restoration of Nygren Wetland it has been very rewarding to see wildlife return to live there and visit during their migration. Beaver, river otter, muskrat, deer, turtles, frogs, all kinds of aquatic creatures, dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, and birds. So many different kinds of birds.

Nygren Wetland Preserve is a bird haven and has become a premier location for bird watching in northern Illinois. Water birds, shore birds, wading birds, songbirds, grassland birds, woodland birds, raptors. Who knew there were so many different kinds of birds and that their behavior could be so different – divers and dabblers, soaring and perching?

NLI is fortunate to have many birders and photographers share their photos with us by emailing them to us and by posting them on Facebook and tagging Nygren Wetland Preserve.

This spring there has been an increased number of visitors to the preserve and we have enjoyed seeing their photographs with all of the different creatures, animals and humans! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.We’re always thrilled to hear about what’s happening there, especially when we hear about or see species there that are on the State or Federal Threatened and Endangered Species Lists. It shows us that this very special place is important to providing a home or safe space during migration for species that depend on wetlands habitat.

Next time you visit Nygren Wetland and post your photos from there on social media please tag us on Facebook @NygrenWetlandPreserve, on Twitter @NLI1958 and on Instagram @NLI1958. Use hashtags: #naturallandinstitute and #nygrenwetlandpreserve.  We love seeing how you spend your time there and for those who can’t visit the preserve these postings provide a wonderful virtual birding experience.

We also encourage you to post any bird sightings there on the eBird app. This helps our stewardship staff with data collection and land management decisions for the preserve.

Blue-winged Teal ducks, Photo: Dave Watts

Here is a list of some of the birds that have been seen at the preserve this spring:

American Coot
American White Pelican
Baird’s Sandpiper
Bald Eagle
Belted Kingfisher
Black-necked Stilt
Blue-winged Teal
Bonaparte’s Gull
Cardinal
Double-crested Cormorant
Green Heron

Double-crested Cormorant, Photo: Rob Clark

Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Mallard
Northern Waterthrush
Palm Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-necked Grebe
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Sandhill Crane and a nesting pair
Sora

Red-headed Woodpecker, Photo: Alan Mohring

Tree Swallow
White-faced Ibis
Willet
Yellow warbler
Yellow-rumped warbler

State Endangered List:

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Black Tern
Common Gallinule (Moorhen)
Forster’s Tern
Osprey
Yellow-headed Blackbird

Sandhill Cranes, Photo: Dave Watts

We invite you to explore the beauties, secrets, and wonders of this incredible preserve on the overlook deck or the trails.

Admission is free. Access to the 2.5 mile Dianne Nora Nature Trail, parking lot and Jack Cook Pavilion (wildlife overlook) is at 3714 W. Rockton Rd. (Rockton, IL). This trail is open daily from sunrise to sunset for birding, hiking and jogging and is a pet free preserve. You can find the trail in the Prairie State Hike App (99¢), which includes information about the preserve and Natural Land Institute.