Barrington Hills preserve named critical bird area

Area "birders" and conservationists gathered at the Penny Road Pond in Barrington Hills Thursday to hear that the preserve surrounding it and 25 other areas in Illinois have been named "Important Bird Areas" by the Audubon Society

The designation, which recognizes the areas for their abundant wildlife, was announced before representatives from the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Audubon Chicago Region and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

"It is moving and heartening to be a part of this legacy," said Justin Pepper, deputy director of the Chicago Audubon Region.

Spring Creek Preserve, which includes Penny Road Pond, was one of several Chicago-area sites to receive the Important Bird Area designation, joining Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, Salt Creek Woods near LaGrange and Plum Creek Forest Preserve in Chicago Heights.

Stephen Packard, director of the Chicago Audubon Region, said the designation makes a site globally significant in terms of its wildlife habitat. Similar sites exist in South America, he said, providing recognition for many of the bird inhabitants' summer and winter homes.

Judy Pollack, director of bird conservation of the Chicago Audubon Region, joked there is also a 27th new important bird area, the United Center, home to the Chicago Blackhawk.

Steve Bylina, general superintendent of the Cook County Forest Preserve, said conservation is "one of the most important of all endeavors."

The Spring Creek Preserves was the site of a habitat restoration project that started six years ago and has helped improve the area for birds to flourish. The site is important for the Henslow's Sparrows, Blue-winged Warblers, Black-billed Cuckoos and the Willow Flycatchers that call it home, officials said.

After the announcement, visitors took a guided bird walk around the preserve. There will be additional walks Saturday at 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., beginning at the Penny Road Pond.

For more information about the Spring Creek Preserves, visit

Stephen Packard, director of the Audubon Chicago Region, right, leads a tour for local birders at Spring Creek Preserves in Barrington Hills, a new Important Bird Area. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer