Digiscoping Among Ghost Trains at Lost Mound

Lost Mound is located where the once vibrant Savanna Army Depot once was (still there, just not operational). It is part of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge and is a birder’s paradise, yet still fairly unknown.

Smallest of all the Informational SignsThe signs and sights tell you otherwise, but Lost Mound is unbelievable when it comes to birds. Nestled along the Mississippi River and forested palisades, this crumbling munitions mecca provides habitat for birds not normally thought of in northwestern Illinois. Birds like Blue Grosbeak and Upland Sandpiper nest, Eastern and Western Meadowlarks mix, and Henslow’s Sparrows are relatively easy to find.

Lost Mound is grossly underbirded and much of the prime habitat is unaccessible, so there are more hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.

Typical habitat of Lost Mound: strange decaying building among intriguing foliage
Lost Mound

While there are miles and miles of roads, only a few are open to the public. Much of Lost Mound is blocked with barbed wire and strict signs. Much of the explosive ordinances are still unaccounted for, making hiking out of the question. Train tracks run every which way and you are free to explore the open areas.

Lost Mound

I brought Bella along to walk some of the roads with me and of course, did a bunch of digiscoping.

Dickcissels are extremely abundant yet I kept on getting them posed in poor lighting.
Digiscoped Dickcissel

This Northern Mockingbird was vigorously defending his territory with variations of Western Meadowlark, Dickcissel, and even a bit of train sound effects.
Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Grasshopper Sparrow letting loose
Grasshopper Sparrow

Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark

Lost Mound has a lot of history as an artillery firing site and was only officially closed in March of 2000. There is over 9,400 acres of land being managed, some four thousand (!) of which is sand prairie/savanna. These rare habitats are why this is such an intriguing place.

Over time the goal is to fully clean up the area to better manage and allow more public access. However, the price tag of $350 million has considerably slowed the process. We hope over time the land will be improved greatly and more birders can lose themselves at the Lost Mound.

Lost Mound

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