Wonderful news reached JDCF and the Friends of Valley of Eden Bird Sanctuary in January 2020. After an intense 2 year project by JDCF volunteers (and a lot of paperwork), the property has received the designation of an Important Bird Area (IBA) in the State of Illinois. The Important Bird Areas program is a worldwide effort by Birdlife International to identify, conserve, and monitor a network of sites that provide essential habitat for bird populations. In the United States, Birdlife partners with Audubon to identify and preserve notable sites within each state. The Valley of Eden Bird Sanctuary (VOE) was recognized specifically for providing critical breeding habitat for grassland bird species in Greatest Need of Conservation by Illinois Audubon. IBA status was achieved specifically from the documented abundance of the Henslow’s sparrow at VOE, a breeding population ranking in the top ten in the state.
The birds found at VOE represent typical species iconic to the prairies and grasslands that once covered eastern and central North America. The bobolink, with its striking black and white plumage and bubbly song, is a stunning bird and easily spotted at VOE during its early summer breeding season. The Henslow’s sparrow is another story. From a distance it appears as just a “little brown bird” and its song is a dry unremarkable “tsslick”. A closer look however, reveals a beautiful streaked feather pattern of buff, brown, rust, and black with a wash of olive green on its head. The males sing from taller stems above the grass, but the rest of the time they spend hiding down in the grasses, making them difficult to spot. Since the 1960s, they have suffered a dramatic decline in numbers throughout their range, In the VOE grassland however, they seem to be thriving! It is truly a great recognition for our “little brown bird!”
Valley of Eden is open dawn to dusk year round and is located at 5559 E Rush Creek Rd, Stockton, IL.