Natural areas can be found on Heartland College campus

Posted4/3/2021 7:00 AM

NORMAL, Ill. -- A noisy Canada goose squawked its way across Birky Pond as it chased a possible competitor on a recent Friday in March.

'Someone got up on the wrong side of the nest this morning,' observed Janet Beach Davis of the Heartland Community College earth and environmental sciences faculty.


Beach Davis has been working on the greenspace at Heartland since construction began on the campus along Raab Road 20 years ago.

How many people drive by without noticing the 13-acre lake? Birds certainly notice it, especially during migration, when it attracts a large variety of waterfowl.

In addition to Canada geese and mallards, in recent weeks Birky Pond has hosted hooded mergansers, bufflehead, redhead ducks, canvasbacks, northern shovelers, scaup and ring-necked ducks, to name a few.

The calls of red-winged blackbirds, which Beach Davis considers a sign of spring, nearly drowned out sounds from nearby Interstate 55. A cardinal sang from the top of a tree and other birds joined the concert.

There are about two miles of walking trails. Bicycles are prohibited, but leashed pets are permitted.

'Please be mindful and leave nothing but footprints,' said Beach Davis.

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The pond was built as a water retention basin to slow runoff from the campus, explained Beach Davis, but it is also a centerpiece to greenspace that includes a 15-acre tallgrass prairie, a 4-acre forb prairie, wetlands, a birdhouse trail and Heartland Gardens.

'We've worked so hard to build diversity,' said Beach Davis. 'We started work on this before the buildings.'

The work continues. Volunteers recently planted more trees and helped with cleanup projects. The greenspace is also used for educational purposes with not only classes from Heartland but also Illinois State and Illinois Wesleyan universities.

The pond is stocked with fish, including largemouth bass, bluegill and catfish. Daily limits are posted. Swimming and boating are prohibited.

Birds aren't the only wildlife using the greenspace. At least one eager beaver frequents the lake, as evidenced by a number of trees it has taken out. Mink, coyotes and deer are also present.

From Heartland Gardens, you can go north along the tree line that separates the campus from the farm, then follow the trees along the interstate. This portion of the trail gives wonderful views of the prairie and is also the location of a bluebird trail.


Master naturalists Carol and Clarence Josefson have been monitoring the birdhouses along the trail. Although the houses are designed for bluebirds, they also provide nesting spots for tree swallows and house wrens. Last year, 44 young birds 'fledged,' meaning they survived and left the nest, according to a report by the Josefsons.

A little walking along an access road will take you to the trail at Birky Pond. From there your options include circling the pond and returning the way you came or linking with Constitution Trail and returning through the main campus area.


Source: The (Bloomington) Pantagraph,

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