Hundreds of species of birds call Evanston home, or at least a stop along the way during migration season. With the development of a new bird sanctuary at Clark Street Beach, it will finally be official.
“I knew that the place where we had birded was a kind of sanctuary. We never considered it a sanctuary, we just considered it a great birding spot,” said Libby Hill of the Evanston North Shore Bird Club. She has joined other community members in the push to create a natural area for local and migrating birds.
When Northwestern University decided in 2012 to build a new visitor center, about 70 trees were destroyed to create an easement for emergency vehicles. Construction also severely damaged natural areas on both University and City property. Evanston’s Tree Preservation Ordinance required Northwestern University to pay $173,850 in tree replacement fees, money that would soon go towards the creation of the Clark Street Beach Bird Sanctuary.
“We just want it to be a useful place for [migrating] birds to stop and refuel as they’re traveling up the lake,” said Ms. Hill.
Judy Pollock, bird conservationist and consultant on the design of the sanctuary, says the sanctuary should be a home for Evanston’s resident birds and the many species that migrate across the lake each year.
“We’ve seen close to 100 [bird species] already. Many people don’t know how important Evanston is for migratory birds,” said Ms. Pollock. “When they land, they are really in need of food and shelter, that’s why these areas along the lake front are important. We took a good hard look at how birds use plants and what they need when we designed the bird sanctuary,” Ms. Pollock said.
Many factors are taken into consideration in the building of the sanctuary. Having layers of vegetation including trees, shrubs and ground cover is important, as well as planting native plants.
“Because insects evolved with native plants, you’re more likely to get a variety of insects if you’re planting native plants,” said Ms. Pollock. Insects, of course, are excellent food for birds.
“I hope that the design that Kettelcamp and Kettelcamp presented and the planting that’s done by the contractor will actually develop, as it grows, into an area that is attractive to birds as they’re migrate up the lake or down the lake in fall or spring. That it’s a good stopping point, that’s what I hope for. That we’ve created a habitat that will be appealing to them and that will help them on their journey North or South.”
The recent “Bird’s and Bagels” event at the sanctuary site on Sept. 26 offered an introduction into what the sanctuary will become, as well as spread awareness of how people can get involved both as volunteers and as bird walk participants.
“I like to get my hands in the dirt,” said Melissa Siavelis, a member of Citizen’s Greener Evanston, who said she plans to volunteer at the sanctuary. She says she believes that her motivation to volunteer was a common theme among those at the Birds and Bagels event. She added that, despite the damage done to the area during the recent construction, the plans for the sanctuary will bring the area back to an important habitat for birds and insects alike.
“They know that we’ve stripped the landing areas for birds and bees and we’ve figured out how important it is to keep the pollination. We all want to eat vegetables in some years, don’t we?” said Ms. Siavelis. “So, that’s why I’m doing it.”
The dedication of the Clark Street Beach Bird Sanctuary will take place on Oct. 17 during Oaktober, a celebration of many of Evanston’s natural areas. “The great thing is, once you get turned onto it, birds are great ambassadors for nature, they’ll draw you right in,” said Ms. Pollock.