This past year we have been surveying Deer Run Forest Preserve in an attempt to categorize, in a systematic way, the bird diversity of this prairie/oak savanna habitat. While we started out strong, some bumps along the way led to not as many surveys as we had hoped but still some interesting results.
Prothonotary Warbler at Deer Run
We visited the preserve over 30 times, some trips ranging from a brief stop on a lunch break to a near full day of hiking. Weather was rough in the winter with an amazing amount of snow and ice and we did not bird at the preserve in November.
Over the year we identified 145 species of birds within the confines of the 593 acres that are Deer Run. We counted 6,646 individual birds, the 20 most numerous listed below:
- Canada Goose [1,103]
- Red-winged Blackbird 
- American Robin 
- American Goldfinch 
- Song Sparrow 
- Northern Cardinal 
- Brown-headed Cowbird 
- European Starling 
- Field Sparrow 
- Mallard 
- Black-capped Chickadee 
- Common Yellowthroat 
- Common Grackle 
- American Tree Sparrow 
- Tree Swallow 
- Eastern Bluebird 
- House Wren 
- American Crow 
- Dark-eyed Junco 
- Indigo Bunting 
One individual of each of the following were spotted (22 species in all): American Coot, American Pipit, American Woodcock, Bald Eagle, Bay-breasted Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Canada Warbler, Clay-colored Sparrow, Cliff Swallow, Eastern Screech-Owl, Fox Sparrow, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Green Heron, Le Conte’s Sparrow, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Red-headed Woodpecker, Rough-legged Hawk, Rusty Blackbird, Semipalmated Plover, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and Yellow-breasted Chat.
We found 23 species of warblers and 17 kinds of sparrows. Of the birds we suspected to see, the biggest miss was the Carolina Wren.
So what did we learn from this survey? For starters, bird surveys are hard when A) there are only two of us doing them and B) you have nearly no time to adequately cover the area. Second, we found more species than we originally expected considering the habitat is mostly prairie, oak savannah, and some mixed forest that isn’t that great. Wetland area is lacking so there weren’t many waterbirds other than some found along the river and creeks, and a couple flyovers.
Our recommendation to the Winnebago County Forest Preserve, which we aren’t sure will hold much weight, is the following:
- Purchase adjacent farm land or work with current landowners to convert some of the fields to prairie. Work on reducing the scragglier woodlands and convert them into savannah. Overall the habitat has proved well for declining birds such as Dickcissels, Bobolinks, Red-headed Woodpeckers, and Henslow’s Sparrows. If more of the habitat was prairie grassland and oak savannah, we suspect that these birds would be more prevalent and that birds such as Upland Sandpipers and Swainson’s Hawks would be attracted too.
3 thoughts on “Deer Run Bird Survey Completed (Sort of)”
Your recommendation reminds me of a recent meeting of people in my neighborhood. Charles & I love the Flatwoods Preserve right across the road from our neighborhood, but at the meeting, we learned that if everyone else had their way, it’d be razed to the ground & replaced by a strip mall. It was so depressing, to know that we truly are surrounded by idiots. I mean, there are 24 plants at the preserve that live no where else in the WORLD, & all these idiots had to say was “people are more important than stupid ferns!” I was literally compelled to walk out of the meeting, before I opened a verbal can of whoop @$$. <:(
Eddie, this survey is an impressive undertaking for only two people! Your steadfast devotion to the betterment of birds and therefore humankind is truly inspirational. Thank you for all you do for our environment!