Bird watching and wildlife viewing are popular recreational activities in Illinois and Carroll County is no exception! Extensive opportunities to do just that can be found here. A leisurely stroll through our many wildlife reserve areas or a guided tour is an excellent way to experience, enjoy, and explore our precious nature areas.
Carroll County hosts more than 190 species of birds. This region is known to be a perfect breeding area for nearly 100 species, including the bald eagle, double-crested cormorant, American white pelican, great blue heron, cattle egret, great egret, and ring-billed gull.
Although birding is a year-round event, the fall and winter are especially exciting. In the fall, the air and water are filled with dozens of varieties of migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and warblers.
Up to 2,500 bald eagles winter along the Mississippi River near the locks and dams. Turbulence created below the dams provides open water and a smorgasbord of stunned fish for eagles to feast upon. In addition, the wooded bluffs that overlook the Mississippi River are excellent habitat for roosting eagles, and increasingly for nesting.
Bald eagle watches occur throughout January and February along the Mississippi River, but eagles can be seen in large numbers from mid-December through mid-March in any area of open water. It all depends on the winter’s weather conditions. As warm weather arrives, most bald eagles will begin their journey back north to prepare for the nesting season. However, there are an increasing number of bald eagles that reside in the area year-round.
Guided Bird Tours
Travel through the tranquil Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and experience the beauty that only the refuge can bring. Participants will be able to view various species of migratory birds, native plants, and various other wildlife. Be sure to bring your camera and binoculars! Detailed information on tours and events can be found on their website and monthly newsletter, “The Peleican Scoop“.
Bird Watching & Wildlife Viewing Areas
Ayers Sand Prairie is a relatively large preserve containing dry sand prairie, sand dune and blowout communities typical of the Mississippi River Section of the Illinois and Mississippi River Sand Areas Natural Division. An inventory of the plants revealed 39 species of grasses and sedges, 16 species of woody plants and 96 forbs. The dominant herbaceous species are little bluestem, June grass and hairy gramma grass. Carolina anemone, sandcress, puccoon and sand primrose are typical sand prairie species. Black oak and cottonwood occur in the blowouts along with scattered clones of aromatic sumac. Resident mammals include deer, skunk, rabbit, mole, shrew and western harvest mice. Summer resident birds occurring here include upland sandpiper, loggerhead shrike, western meadowlark, grasshopper sparrow and dickcissel. A number of the characteristic reptiles found in sand prairies occur at Ayers Sand Prairie.
French bluff is characterized by steep hillsides, ridge tops, and terrace benches that are almost entirely covered by forest. Located east of Thomson, IL and just north of Argo Fay Road, this large contiguous forest tract is the southern most forest area in the Driftless Area. You can hike on unmarked trails through the site. An excellent birding site for interior forest birds as well as a good site to view spring wildflowers. Hiking, hunting, and birding.
Frog Pond is a small recreational area situated along Plum River. Located just south of Savanna, IL and immediately off Route 84, one of its big features is a wheel chair accessible fishing platform. Not only good for fishing, but an excellent place to view floodplain forest birds during spring and fall migration. Birding, canoeing, fishing, and picnicking.
55,000 acres: biking, birding, boat launches, canoeing, fishing, gift shop, hiking, hunting, picnicking, wildlife observation.
Lost Mound is a 7,000-acre tract on the Mississippi River located on an old munitions testing army base that closed in 2000. Unique features of this site include sand prairie remnants, forests, backwater wetlands, old military buildings, Indian burial mounds and the largest sand dune in Illinois. Biking, birding, hiking, Prickly Pear and Black Oak Dune scenic overlook area.
As its name suggests, this 2,400-acre park sits on lofty steep bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, with river access below. The park offers beautiful scenery, biking, birding, boat launches, camping, canoeing, fishing, hiking, scenic overlooks, and seasonal cross-country skiing.
This site provides scenic views of both Spring Lake as well as the Mississippi River. Most notable is the 8.7 mile gravel path that runs along the edges of Spring Lake with two observation decks. Biking, birding, fishing, hiking, picnicking.
Mississippi River boat launching, canoe access, fishing, restrooms, and parking.
64 acres. Restrooms, parking, boat launches.