Nygren Wetland Preserve news: Raccoon Creek

The Nygren Wetland Preserve is a wetland restoration project of the Natural Land Institute (NLI). The preserve is at 2810 W. Rockton Rd. about 1.5 miles west of Rockton.

Raccoon Creek restoration

Work to remove Raccoon Creek from the mile-long ditch where it was confined since the 1970s at the Nygren Wetland Preserve, wrapped up in mid-August. The creek now flows freely in its original, historic meanders for the entire length through the preserve, a distance of 2.3 miles.

A milestone in the latest phase of the creek restoration is re-connecting the historic location where Raccoon Creek flows into the Pecatonica River. The creek meets the river on the eastern border of the preserve, ending its travel from its origin west of Beloit, Wis.

Raccoon Creek fish survey

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources conducted a fish survey of Raccoon Creek at the preserve in July. The survey will allow biologists to measure the effectiveness of the creek restoration.

Based on the diversity of life found upstream in a natural segment of the creek, NLI was aware that ditching of the creek destroyed the diversity of animals, fish and other aquatic life. The July survey, however, will allow a comparison of the same section of the creek before and after restoration.

Wildlife rebounds

Throughout June and July, NLI had a flurry of sightings of least bitterns at the preserve. Due to loss of habitat, few of these birds have been seen in Winnebago County in recent years. Places where they formerly nested in the county have been destroyed. Least bitterns require fairly high-quality wetlands with water year-round and emergent vegetation, where they can nest and hide.

NLI’s sandhill crane pair successfully fledged a chick from their nest at the Nygren Wetland Preserve this year. The pair raised two chicks in 2004. Since no chicks were seen in 2005, this year’s hatch is especially great news.

The best place to observe the cranes is from the outlook structure. Park in the area opposite Hansberry Road. The overlook structure and the Dianne Nora Nature Trail are open to the public each day from sunrise to sunset.

From the Sept. 20-26, 2006, issue

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