Wild Kane County — A Trip Through Gunnar Anderson Forest Preserve

Wild Kane County — A Trip Through Gunnar Anderson Forest Preserve

  • Editor’s Note: The following is a republished blog from Brendon Lake’s “The Lake View on Nature” blog, which includes spectacular photos (you’ve got to check out the coyote photo at the top of his blog) and stories about Kane County wildlife. To get the blog directly, visit lakeviewonnature.blogspot.com.

In eastern Kane County, along the west bank of the Fox River, the town of Geneva holds a secret. It’s a hidden treasure of sorts, and a very well-kept secret. That is, until now.

Wildlife enthusiasts everywhere take note, a wonderland has been right in front of everyone for a long time. Something so small, and so simple has so much to offer. I suppose by now everyone should really know, big things come in small packages. Gunnar Anderson Forest Preserve, is one you should know.

Gunnar Anderson Forest Preserve lies behind the Kane County government center in Geneva, along the west bank of the Fox River. It is just upstream from Fabyan Forest Preserve, and downstream from Island Park. It is a very modest forest preserve, and first impressions upon arrival to this 20-acre preserve are relatively underwhelming. What catches your eye immediately here is a picnic shelter and a wide-open grassy area used as a soccer practice field. But pay more attention, and you shall discover all this wonderful little spot has to offer.

 Lincoln's Sparrow at Gunnar Anderson 1WILD
Lincoln’s Sparrow at Gunnar Anderson FP

The Fox River is a migration path for many species of birds, and often these birds wind up spending the day at one of the many parks and preserves along the Fox, fueling up for the next leg of their migration north in the spring, and back south in the fall. Gunnar Anderson’s shoreline along the river is wooded with scrubby areas, and plenty of undergrowth. This makes it great habitat for sparrows, warblers, thrushes and songbirds of all sorts. Not to mention this section of the river hosted White-Winged Scoters in the winter of 2013-2014, so it is worthwhile to check for waterfowl. But the best is yet to come!

 WILD2 Winter Wren at Gunnar
Winter Wren at Gunnar Anderson FP

The trail along the shoreline will bring you to an inlet at the southern end of the preserve, and the trail will turn west along a small creek. This is the treasure of the preserve, known as “the ravine”. The ravine continues west along the creek, and many songbirds consider this area to be their own version of paradise. The creek is prime habitat for Winter Wrens, who like to skulk about the tree roots jutting from the banks. Other birds I’ve personally seen in the ravine include Gray-Cheeked Thrush, Canada Warbler, Philadelphia Vireo, Least Flycatcher, Pine Siskin and Northern Waterthrush. Just about any warbler species is very possible to find here, it is wonderful wooded habitat full of undergrowth, leaf litter, and has the creek as a source of running water. The trail continues west along the ravine for a while, or when it forks and shows the option to go back north, you can head back to the parking lot by going north.

Wild3 Least Flycatcher in the Ravine
Least Flycatcher in the Ravine

Talking statistically about Gunnar Anderson, I personally have recorded 98 species of bird at this forest preserve alone! Ebird.org has Gunnar Anderson at 139 species recorded among all observers. That is very good diversity for such a small preserve. The bonus is that Gunnar Anderson is far from physically demanding or challenging when it comes to accessibility and walking around. The only time it may be challenging is in the winter after a big snowfall.

 Wild 4 Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher at GA Fox River Shoreline
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher along the GA Fox River Shoreline

Perhaps the moment that put Gunnar Anderson Forest Preserve on the map so to speak, was when local birders and brothers Chris and Mark Bowman crossed paths with Illinois’ second record of Fork-Tailed Flycatcher among the many Eastern Kingbirds hawking insects over the river there on May 12th, 2014. Fork-Tailed Flycatchers are native to South America, making them not only a state rarity, but a rarity for the country as a whole! Many birders from all over the state made it to Gunnar Anderson that day for the rarity, and I would hope they also took the time to appreciate the rest of the preserve.

 WILD 5 Fork-Tailed Flaycatcher
Fork-Tailed Flycatcher (top) with Eastern Kingbirds

This preserve is one that doesn’t look like much at first, but it holds plenty of beauty within for those who are willing to look. Maybe on a nice spring day, you will remember this article and think of Gunnar Anderson Forest Preserve, which is in my opinion, a can’t miss birding opportunity in the peaks of spring and fall migrations. Take a walk, and you just may be surprised at what you find.

— Brendon Lake


Go Here for Brendon’s Blog!

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