Bird Fest

Adventure Awaits

on Mother’s Day Weekend

Time Until Bird Fest 2019!








Check out our Facebook Event for updates on Bird Fest

What is Bird Fest?

Bring family and friends to see Sand Bluff’s all volunteer bird banding program. No need for binoculars when you learn about the colorful birds visiting the Colored Sands Forest Preserve during peak migration. But Bird Fest is so much more than bird banding. Come enjoy presentations from other organizations like Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab where you will learn and see some of our largest and most spectacular raptor species. Browse several vendors, booths, and our gift shop and silent auction. Come and have a great time, be amazed by the birds you see, and help support the research our all volunteer non-profit organization loves doing right here in Northern Illinois.

When Is Bird Fest?

Saturday May 11 from 8 am to 4 pm

Sunday May 12 from 8 am to 3 pm

What Happens At Bird Fest?

All Day Events

  • Watch live bird banding research and learn about the birds that visit Illinois from Sand Bluff volunteers
  • Kids crafts, owl pellet dissection, face painting, and photo opportunities
  • Explore nature with Severson Dells Nature Center
  • Browse our gift shop, silent auction, and several vendors including Wild Ones native plant sale
  • Learn about restoration work from Natural Land Institute staff and volunteers
  • Learn about research at the station and from from biology graduate students from NIU
  • Eat lunch with us as Eickman Meats provides concessions including a delicious, marinated pork chop sandwich

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

  • 8 am – 10 am:  Bird Banding Rush.  Come early to see the largest variety of birds!
  • 10 am – 11 am:  
  • 11 am – 2 pm:  Enjoy a presentation from Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab including several members of their raptor family.
  • 2 pm – 3 pm:  Explore the forest preserve with a nature hike led by Eric Bednar of Winnebago County Forest Preserves Natural Resource Department
  • 4 pm – 7 pm: Kayaking and Birding on the Sugar River with Rocktown Adventures and a Sand Bluff guide. Call 815-636-9066 to reserve your spot!

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

  • 8 am – 10 am:  Bird Banding Rush.  Come early to see the largest variety of birds!
  • 10 am – 1 pm:  Enjoy a presentation from Northern Illinois Raptor Rehab including several members of their raptor family.
  • 1 pm: Bidding closes on silent auction
  • 1 – 2 pm:  Learn about Illinois’s only native feline from Jennifer Kuroda of the Illinois Bobcat Foundation.


How Much Does Bird Fest Cost?

Price Includes All Activities Except Kayaking:

$4 for 13 +

$2 for 4-12 years

3 and under are free

All proceeds support Sand Bluff’s research efforts on bird species in Northern Illinois

Where is Bird Fest?

Bird Fest happens at our bird banding station located at 10602 Haas Road, Rockton, IL 61072 on the beautiful Colored Sand Forest Preserve.  Click here for a map.

What is Sand Bluff Bird Observatory?

Sand Bluff Bird Observatory is one of the largest and oldest bird banding stations in the country.  We catch birds in mist nets, identify and collect information, place a metal band with a unique 9-digit number, and release them to carry on life as normal.  Since 1967, this station has been run by a dedicated group of volunteers who put in countless hours for birds.  Bird Fest is our largest event of the year and we appreciate so many coming out and experiencing the natural world with us.

What is this Kayak Trip All About?

Kayak Trip Information:

Come join Rocktown Adventures at the Sand Bluff Bird Observatory for an evening paddle on the Sugar River (Saturday, May 11 at 4:00 pm). While enjoying the rustic beauty of the Sugar River, experts from the Sand Bluff Bird Observatory will guide you to locate multiple species. You may come across a Tree Swallow, Eastern Phoebe, Cedar Waxwing, Great Blue Heron, Gray Catbird, Baltimore Oriole, and possibly a Prothonotary Warbler.


This 6.5 mile paddle will launch from Sugar River Park in Rock County, WI and paddle 2.5 hours down to Colored Sands Forest Preserve. We will meet at Colored Sands at 9:00 AM, then shuttle everyone up to the launch. After some paddling instruction and outfitting, we will hit the water, where we have multiple areas for us to stop and get out watch birds. The location of the paddle is subject to change due to conditions, specifically if there is an abundance of deadfall in the river. We will do a scout paddle preceding this event. Nonetheless, while this is an entry level paddle, this paddle is not for first time paddlers. You need to have paddled before to participate.


What to wear or bring:

Dress to get wet. Water will dribble off your paddle onto your lap. Avoid cotton if possible as it retains water and does not insulate. Wear shoes that can get wet as your feet will enter the water at some point! Bring along something to drink and a light snack. Binoculars if you have them. Strongly suggest a waterproof bag to store anything that you do not want to get wet. Our kayaks do have hatches for storage, but water can seep into these areas.



$60 which includes kayak, paddle, PFD, instruction, guide, shuttle, and a great time on the water!



Please call 815-636-9066 to reserve your spot. Don’t delay as capacity is limited to 16 participants. Numbers 1-10 will meet us at Colored Sands for the shuttle to Sugar River Park. Numbers 11 – 16 will meet us at Sugar River Park and after the paddle we will run the shuttle back up to Sugar River to take you to your vehicles.

Share a Bird Fest Flyer

Have a place to put up a flyer?  We’d love you to display ours.  Here is the Bird Fest Flyer 2019 

Translate »