McHenry County, Illinois is a favorite among midwestern birders because of the habitat diversity in the area. These include woodlands, prairies, oak savannas and wetlands and attract a wide variety of birds year-round. The high-traffic birding areas are on public lands and are easily accessible to the public.
A well-known birding hotspot is Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Moraine Hills State Park. With its peaceful water and extensive trails, this state park is a standout to hikers and birders alike. Some birds that call this oasis home include, Prothonatory Warblers, American Redstarts, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Friends of Moraine Hills State Park keep birds flocking ot the area by providing bird feeders at several locations throughout the park, attracting a variety of winter birds. If you are looking for more education about the birds in the area, McHenry Audobon members lead almost weekly public bird walks spring through autumn, and monthly in winter, between McHenry Dam and Volo Bog State Natural Area.
This area also encompasses McHenry Dam, where the famous Bald Eagle pair reside. They can be seen nesting in February and can be easily spotted from the parking lot. Other notable birds are the Herons and Egrets, who you can see fishing at the dam. In the middle of the dam, Double Crested Cormorants can be found making their home in the trees. The McHenry Dam has also arranged nesting boxed where Purple Martins are known to reside every year.
Birders have many choice destinations in the McHenry area. Marengo Ridge Conservation area stands out where bird photographers have to opportunity.;l to snap beautiful bird photos with stunning backgrounds. This 815 acres of land boasts more than 200 species of birds, including several rare and endangered species that find their way to this area. The best time to visit is in the Fall and Spring during migration and mild weather. You also can witness the beautiful foliage in the area during those times.
Owen visited McHenry County in August and September 2023.