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Southern Illinois wetland is a bird-watching haven
By CINDY LADAGE
Illinois Correspondent

CACHE WETLANDS, Ill. — Although spring weather hasn’t always been obvious this year, a trip to the Cache wetlands in 11 counties in southern Illinois to go bird-watching will smooth the feathers of even the most disgruntled winter hermit.

This year’s Birding Fest of Southernmost Illinois is April 28-30.

“South of Illinois Route 13, offers birding possibilities that are truly remarkable,” said Rhonda Rothrock, newsletter editor for the Southern Illinois Audubon Society. “This area is comprised of six natural divisions, physiographically distinct regions, (the Southern Till Plain, the Ozarks, the Lower Mississippi River Bottoms, the Shawnee Hills, the Coastal Plain, and the Wabash Border) each supporting distinctly different flora and fauna.”

In this area where the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers meet, bird species not common to inland regions of southern Illinois can be found.

“Each river serves as a road map for migratory birds, seasonally funneling migratory species to and through the area,” Rothrock said. “Some 104 state-listed endangered and threatened species have been found in the Cache River Watershed. Here exist trees over 1,000 years old.”

South of Route 13, there are more than 370,000 acres of public land. At the southern tip of Illinois is the Cache River Watershed. Rothrock said that this area is said to look more like Louisiana than Illinois.

“The Cache River Watershed supported an estimated 250,000 acres of mature swampy cypress-tupelo forests in pre-settlement times,” she said. “Historic records note the ceaseless cries and chatter of tremendous numbers of woodpeckers present near the old mouth of the Cache River.”

In 1990, groups organized to curb the environmental effects on the watershed and created the Cache River Wetlands Joint Venture.

“This group has been working since 1990 to protect and restore approximately 60,000 acres within the watershed to pre-settlement conditions,” Rothrock said.

While efforts are helping to save the area, several smaller areas have evaded assistance prompting a program titled Adopt-A-Swamp, which is administered by the Illinois Conservation Foundation.

The Birding Fest of Southernmost Illinois is one of the foundation’s projects.

“Initially started as the Birding Blitz of Southernmost Illinois, a birding contest in which competing teams went out to locate as many bird species as they could in one day, the Blitz and the Birding Fest offers more to all,” Rothrock stated.

“The Birding Fest of Southernmost Illinois has grown into three days of activities focusing on the Cache River Watershed.

“Informational programs, live bird demonstrations, and outings that deliver hands-on learning are all designed to educate the public on the uniqueness of the watershed’s ecosystem and its importance as habitat for rare plants and animals and, more specifically, migratory and resident bird species.”

Details about the Adopt-A-Swamp program can be found at the Illinois Conservation Foundation website at www.ilcf.org

Tax-deductible donations can be sent: to Adopt-A-Swamp c/o the Illinois Conservation Foundation, 100 W. Randolph, Suite 4-3000, Chicago, IL 60601.

For more details on the Birding Fest, visit www.birdingblitz.org

This farm news was published in the April 5, 2006 issue of Farm World.

4/5/2006