LaBagh Woods is an urban preserve and popular birding hotspot in Chicago, located at the intersection of Cicero and Foster Avenue on Chicago’s Northwest side. The North Branch of the Chicago River runs through the woods from the Northwest to the Southeast, along with the popular North Branch Trail bisecting the preserve. LaBagh encompasses over 160 acres with 80 acres of diverse natural habitats including sedge meadows, savannas, wetlands, and wooded landscapes and houses rare flora and fauna. It is a home and a migration stopover site for over 200 species of birds.
Over the last 6+ years, LaBagh Woods has been transformed through numerous restoration initiatives that have brought back critical habitats for migrating birds, making it one of Chicago’s premier birding hotspots away from the lakefront.
The North Branch Restoration Project, Cook County Forest Preserve, and other organizations and grants have provided a stepping stone for further restoration by the Chicago Ornithological Society, along with numerous conservation partners in 2015, 2017, and 2019. Throughout this time, over 3,314 native shrubs and trees have been planted at LaBagh and have flourished since. These restorations have focused on four primary levels of vegetation: canopy forest, understory trees, shrubs, and herbaceous layers. Invasive species like Buckthorn have been removed and replaced with over 40 species of approved, locally sourced, and grown native shrubs. These native shrubs provide a healthy layer for the flood plain woods and provide an ideal habitat for migrating birds.
Owen continues to photograph at LaBagh Woods today and has photographed many warblers during spring migration including the Blackburnian Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, and more. He was even lucky enough to see and get some wonderful shots of LaBagh’s most recent rare visitor, a vagrant Broad-billed Hummingbird, normally found in the Southwestern US and Mexico.