Annual Spring Gathering

Registration Information ↓


May 18-20, 2018

Explore the historic Green River Lowlands area of Northwestern Illinois, Hosted by Birdsong Chapter

In the 1830s, local legend has it, the great swamps (Inlet and Winnebago), with their tall grasses that sprawled across the Green River Lowlands, were rendezvous spots for outlaws known as The Banditti of the Prairie. Over 200,000 acres of swamp and wet prairie nourished great crops of native rushes, wild rice and sedges and sustained millions of birds and other game. One historian recalled that Inlet Swamp alone had flocks of geese, ducks, swan, brant, sandhill cranes and others that “literally spotted the sky like flying clouds and filled the air with a noisy quack and cackle”.   

The birds attracted all predators including Native Americans, and later hunters from as far away as New York. Join us at Spring Gathering as we investigate what happened to the swamps, the birds and to Tyler Mapes, Swamp Man Extraordinaire. And how Illinois Audubon Society is preserving the remnants! 


This year’s Spring Gathering will be held at the Dixon Elks Lodge 779, 1279 Franklin Grove Rd, Dixon Illinois.

PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT AS OF FEBRUARY 8, THE QUALITY INN DIXON HAS NO VACANCIES.  We have set up a new block of rooms at the Quality Inn Mendota.  Call 815.538.3355 and mention the Illinois Audubon Society block of rooms. This block will expire on May 4.

Program and Schedule

Friday, May 18
3:00 to 9:00 p.m.Registration at Dixon Elks
5:00 p.m.Social, Raffle Opens (Cash Bar) at Dixon Elks Lodge 779
6:00 p.m.Buffet Dinner
7:00 p.m.Program: "A Little Bird Told Me," presented by Denis Kania. A personal perspective on ecological conservation both near and far away.
8:00 p.m."A Look at the Weekend," by Diana Rod, President, Birdsong Chapter
Saturday, May 19
6:00 a.m.Field Trips begin departing from Quality Inn and Suites Dixon
NoonLunch (on location depending on field trip chosen)
5:00 p.m.Social, Raffle Opens (Cash Bar) at Dixon Elks Lodge 779
6:00 p.m.Buffet Dinner, Dixon Elks Lodge
7:00 p.m.Program: "History and Mystery of the Green River Lowlands," presented by Randy Nyboer with special guest, the Ghost of Tyler Mapes
Sunday, May 20
6:00 a.m.Morning Field Trips begin departing from Quality Inn and Suites Dixon
11:30 a.m.Lunch at Amboy Marsh Nature Preserve. Bird compilation following lunch.

Field Trip Information

Choose from the following field trips. When purchasing your registration to the Spring Gathering, you will be able to choose your first and second choice of the following field trips.

Saturday Field Trips

Field Trip A: Lowden Miller/Castle Rock State Park, 6:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m. Lowden Miller State Park is a 2,291-acre wooded area that is one of Ogle County’s most beautiful and historic sites. Its scenic qualities come from 120-foot bluffs along 3.5 miles of riverfront. Frank O. Lowden (1861-1943) Illinois’ governor from 1917-1921, ardently embraced proper land use and since 1992, the tract has been known as Lowden-Miller State Forest. The woodland warblers are a draw for any birder. Castle Rock State Park is located along the west bank of the Rock River in Ogle County. The park is representative of the Rock River Hills area with rock formations, ravines and unique northern plant associations. A sandstone bluff, adjacent to the river, has given the park its name. Trip Leader: Bob Andrini. Trip Host: Teresa Smith. Easy to moderate walking on mowed trails. Trip is 15 miles from Dixon.

Field Trip B: Amboy Marsh Nature Preserve and Gremel Wildlife Sanctuary, 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Participants will be divided into two groups, switching locations after lunch. Both are easy to moderate walking on mowed trails. Trip is 12 miles from Dixon.

 Amboy Marsh Nature Preserve is 302 acres of oak savanna, sand prairie, woodlands and wetlands acquired in 2012. It is documented to provide habitat for 27 species listed as being in greatest need of conservation, as well as 1 state-threatened plant, pinweed. The site is an ideal breeding and nesting area for reptiles and amphibians. Examples include the smooth green snake , slender glass lizard and the eastern newt. Recent inventories list 144 avian species with 67 breeders. Trip Leaders: Jim Hampson and Randy Singleton. Hosts: Jan Williams and Diana Rod.

Gremel Wildlife Sanctuary is 395 acres of oak savanna, sand prairie, woodlands and wetlands and was acquired in 2016 through a generous donation from longtime IAS member Russ Gremel and a grant from Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. The site has significant ecological value, providing habitat for native species of flora and fauna (especially woodland/savanna/wetland birds) and offers opportunities for continued research and education with Augustana College. Partial inventories include 197 avian species and 432 floral species. Trip Leader: Jim Herkert and Bill Handel.

Field Trip C: Green River State Wildlife Area, 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Located in the Green River Lowland section of the Grand Prairie Natural Division, the site consists of Green River State Wildlife Area – 2,565 acres of sand prairie and wetlands. Trip Leader: Kelly McKay. Trip Host: Teresa Good. Easy to moderate walking on mowed trails. Trip is 18 miles from Dixon.

Sunday Field Trips

Field Trip D: Amboy Marsh Natural Area, 6:00 to 11:30 a.m. Trip Leader: Jim Herkert and Bill Handel. (see above)

Field Trip E: Gremel Wildlife Sanctuary, 6:00 to 11:30 a.m. Trip Leader: Kelly McKay and Randy Singleton. (see above)

Field Trip F: Franklin Creek Natural Area, 6:30 to 11:30 a.m. This area hosts over 900+ acres of upland and bottomland forests, savanna and small amount of prairie, rock outcroppings dating back 500 million years and several wetland ecosystems. The bottomland forest with creek is filled with warblers, thrushes, woodpeckers and a number of spring woodland flowers during May. Trip Leaders: Gene, Diana and Alyssa Rod. Easy to moderate walking on asphalt and mowed trails. Trip is 9 miles from Dixon.

Field Trip G: Lowell Park Nature Preserve, 6:30 to 11:30 a.m. A 50-acre nature preserve within the 200-acre historic Lowell Park. Mesic upland forest and limestone cliffs along Rock River provide excellent avian habitat with warblers and maybe a pileated woodpecker. Trip Leaders: Teresa Smith and Teresa Good. Easy to moderate walking on mowed trails. Trip is 2 miles from Dixon.

Hotel Information

Quality Inn at Mendota
1307Kailash Drive, Mendota Illlinois 61342
A block of rooms has been reserved under “Illinois Audubon Society.” Please mention this when making your reservation. The block will expire on May 4, 2018

Quality Inn and Suites Dixon (No Vacancy as of February 8, 2018)
136 Plaza Drive, Dixon Illinois 61021