Other than the quick trip down to Starved Rock State Park for a few days, I spent the month of May living in my 2 suburban Chicago “homes” – Burnidge Forest Preserve (Paul Wolff CG) in Elgin, and Big Rock Forest Preserve just west of Aurora.
Burnidge is the closest campground to my old house (and my family’s houses), so it’s always my first choice park. I love being able to park in one of the big RV sites along the edge of the prairie and watch nature’s show every day.
An early May thunderstorm provided quite a great sunset one night--
I arrived to Burnidge just as the trees were beginning to leaf out, so had the great experience of getting to watch Spring bloom twice this year (first in New Mexico, and then here in Illinois!). The forest at Burnidge has many old Oak trees that were just spectacular to watch in Spring--
The Mayapples were growing quickly too. A sure sign that Spring had finally arrived in the Midwest!
I loved the mix of trails at Burnidge—some just mowed grass trails through the prairie field!
But more exciting this year, was to hike the trails with my binoculars and camera to practice my budding bird-watching skills. Lots of “new-to-me” birds to see (most who only stay east in the Eastern half of the U.S, so not a lot of repeats from Bosque in New Mexico). But there was one repeat customer--
I’m now convinced the Red-winged Blackbird is the most common bird in America, East or West! These guys were all over Bosque, and all over Burnidge (and Big Rock) too.
Once I got away from the open fields and into the forest, I started spotting some new birds, like this Eastern Towhee--
and this Rose-breasted Grosbeak--
One evening, I started my hike from the open field behind the RV and discovered this Bobolink with its distinctive yellow cap--
The rolling south loop was a nice hike through forests and fields—great for birding! Of those I could capture photographs of, I enjoyed seeing my first Eastern Kingbird. Quite a difference from the bright yellow Western Kingbirds I saw at Bosque!
This Orchard Oriole was quite pretty perched on its pine branch--
and this American Goldfinch sat at the very top of a tall pine tree glowing like a bright Christmas tree bulb!
Parked next to the large open field, I would often hear a loud “TOOT! TOOT!!!” in the mornings or evenings. It sounded like a steam engine locomotive train whistle! What in the heck could it be? After a few weeks of wondering, I finally got my answer one morning when I heard the tooting right outside my RV window —a Ring-necked Pheasant!
This goofball would very slowly stick his brightly-colored head up above the prairie grasses and scan around the field for a minute or so looking for his mate (or perhaps he was just showing off!). When his “periscope” time was done, he’d scream out his “Toot! Toot!”, flutter his wings loudly, and then slowly sink down into the grass again.
He’d repeat this display every 5 minutes, and once, I was finally lucky enough to catch the little loud mouth while screaming one of his ear-splitting “Toots!”
What a nut!
I sure would have loved to see this bird’s full body, but alas, they spend most of their time hidden in the tall grass. Best I could settle for was this quick tail shot (wouldn’t Travels With Emma Judy love this “The End” shot!)
Burnidge and Big Rock are owned by Kane County and have 14-day stay limits, with a 7-day wait before you can return. Fortunately, you can stay at the other park during your 7-day “out” period, so that’s exactly what I did in late May when I tried out Big Rock Forest Preserve for the first time.
Big Rock is newer and not as well-known yet with local campers, so even on the weekends, it’s usually easy to get a spot (no reservations are taken at either campground). The trails & birding here are pretty good. Not as good as Burnidge, but perfectly enjoyable.
I didn’t see any new bird species at Big Rock, but did see a few old favorites like this Northern Cardinal--
and this Blue Jay--
I also spotted this Northern Flicker headed into its nest about mid-way up a tree--
and this brilliant, tiny Indigo Bunting--
Returning to my campsite, I enjoyed watching (and listening to) this Song Sparrow--
But soon another thunderstorm was rolling in, so no time to linger!
I’m looking forward to spending more time at these two campgrounds soon when my post-op surgery restrictions are over and I can again lift grocery bags, lawn chairs, etc (to return to living in my rolling home).
It will be interesting to see how these parks have changed over the season!