As with “No Child Left Inside,” welcome to a new series of articles in partnership with Four Rivers Environmental Coalition (FREC) and The Rock River Times. In recognition of the United Nations designation of 2010 as the Year of Biodiversity, the FREC presents this bi-weekly series to help readers discover the amazing array of plants and animals in the rivers, prairies and woodlands “in our own back yard.” FREC is an alliance of 35 member organizations “dedicated to educating and advocating for the plants, animals, natural resources and ecosystems of the Four Rivers Region.” Please visit www.fourriver.org.
By Jamie B. Johannsen
Winnebago County Forest Preserve District
J. Norman Jensen Forest Preserve is one of the newest additions to the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District. This 112-acre site is on the Rock River, north of the millrace dam, just outside of Rockton. Original prairie, restored prairie, oak savanna and a mile of riverfront make Jensen a great place for viewing wildlife. It is a popular spot for fishing.
The 10-acre remnant dry prairie is on a gravel bluff above the river, where it makes a sharp bend below the dam. This vestige of our native grassland was identified 50 years ago by Dr. Egbert Fell, author of Flora of Winnebago County. Fell documented several rare plants at the prairie, including one of Illinois’ only known populations of the state endangered dragon wormwood.
Bring binoculars for your visit to these forests and wetlands that harbor many species of migratory birds, ducks and other waterfowl. This is a favorite roosting area for bald eagles and osprey that fish along the river. Other common sightings are great blue herons, great egrets red-shouldered hawks, red-tailed hawks and sandhill cranes.
From the July 7-13, 2010 isssue