CHICAGO — Josh Engel hopes 2016 is a big year for birders — literally.
For the rest of this year, Engel, a research assistant at Field Museum, is lead volunteer for consistent birding trips to Eggers Woods. The goal is for Engel and fellow birders to document the number of birds in the preserve on Chicago's Far Southeast Side, and is part of the "2016 Big Year Competition."
That event, which began this month and lasts until Dec. 31, is sponsored by the Forest Preserves of Cook County and is taking place in 19 county preserves and nature centers. That includes Eggers, Bunker Hill and LaBagh woods in Chicago.
"We want to see over 200 species for sure," said Engel, who lives near popular bird watching site Montrose Beach. "Montrose gets a ton of birders, so it will be interesting to see how these increased efforts of birders help impact these forest preserves."
LaBagh wildlife observers documented more than 150 bird species alone last year in the Northwest Side preserve. Engel said Eggers is just as diverse, especially since Field Museum personnel and volunteers started reintroducing native plants to the area. Engel is hoping to see two state endangered birds — the yellow headed blackbird and common gallinule — at Eggers.
"They used to nest there until recently," Engel said. "With restoration efforts, we're hoping they come back."
Engel said each birding opportunity at a preserve will be led by "experts." Big Year team leaders will each be hosting at least five birding field trips, with at least two on the weekends.
"It's great for birders because the people leading these trips are very knowledgeable," Engel said. "Most people don't appreciate how many birds we get in Chicago, so it's a great chance to learn about birds."
On May 7, each of the Forest Preserves’ six Nature Centers will be hosting The Big Sit. Visitors can join in at any time between 5:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. to see how many birds can be heard or spotted from within a 17-foot circle.
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