Sugar River Forest Preserve

Dakota’s birthday wish was to go on a big camping trip. So we decided to spend five nights at Sugar River Forest Preserve here in Winnebago County, Illinois.
Dakota at Sugar River Forest Preserve
During our stay, the Sugar River was still cresting from all the rain we had and by Saturday it had spilled over into the main preserve. We walked into the park to check it out. Some of the park roads were completely covered in water and most trails were inaccessible.

Part of the main forest preserve road.
Sugar River Forest Preserve Flooding
Even though our main “big hikes” were out, we still found plenty of birds and Dakota found additional turtles and frogs as well. Our total bird list was less than 40 species, most likely because we were so limited on where we could go.

This turtle was happily sunning despite all the water.
Turtle at Sugar River Forest Preserve
We were able to see quite an aerial show by the water. There were Eastern Bluebirds, Cedar Waxwings, and Eastern Wood-Pewees having a bug feast. The Cedar Waxwings were doing crazy insect-catching displays that would make a flycatcher jealous. It was incredible to watch them. We also saw some shorebirds enjoying the flooded grass.

Shorebirds
Our campsite was more birdy than any I can remember. It was a good site with many pine trees, a small field nearby, and not many camping neighbors. We heard Barred Owls and Great Horned Owls at night, as well as some raucous Coyotes. During the day we saw Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, Common Yellowthroats, a Cooper’s Hawk, American Crows, Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, Cedar Waxwings, Eastern Phoebes, Song Sparrows and Chipping Sparrows. All this, without leaving the camp chair!
Sugar River Forest Preserve
The average trip weather was hot, humid, and buggy. Most of the trails were closed due to flooding and we had two storms, one on Saturday night and one on Monday night. Despite it all we had a great time birding for Dakota’s birthday.

5 thoughts on “Sugar River Forest Preserve

  1. It looks like the water has been slow to subside. Is it because it continues to storm before the preceding waters get a chance to diminish? I’m so glad everyone, especially Dakota, still enjoyed the outing.

  2. Mary – We were surprised at how long it took for the rivers to crest. It has been raining every other day which kept the waterlogged areas wet, but by the end of our trip the water was going down noticeably in the river itself. Maybe we will finally dry out soon!

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