Pre-fest Events

Each day consists of tour options and afternoon sessions at our various festival locations as well as live stream. Events and presentations labeled “FREE” are included with the price of general registration. PUBLIC events do not require registration.  Additional fees apply for select tours, workshops, and the Friday and Saturday night events. Please remember, all times are Central Daylight Time (Chicago time).

WEDNESDAY, MAY 12, 2021 

A Big Day in the Dunes!

$48/ 6:00 – 4:00pm / Leader: Richard Garrett

It’s a birding-blitz car pool tour with state birding expert Richard Garrett. Richard will navigate you through the best birding locations in the dunes to log as many bird species as possible in a single day. The goal: over 100 species of waterfowl, raptors, warblers, vireos, tanagers, and more! This pre-festival tour fills fast each year and is a good chance to preview what’s to come this weekend.

Birding Chicago’s Migrant Hotspots

$48/ 6:00 – 4:00pm / Leader: Matt Igleski

On this tour we will visit some of the hottest migrant hotspots along the Chicago Lakefront. We’ll plan to visit locations like Montrose Point—which boasts a site list of nearly 350 species. After lunch, we’ll stop by the nesting night-heron colony in Lincoln Park. The rest of the agenda we’ll keep flexible so that we can go to where birds are being reported.  All attendees will meet on site at Montrose Point at 6am. 

Birds and Bison: Kankakee Sands Behind the Scenes

$46/ 6:15 – 4:00pm / Leader: Kim Ehn

The Nature Conservancy’s Kankakee Sands is a birders and wildflower enthusiasts paradise. More than 7,000 acres host an amazing array of birds, plants, and animals that fill the prairie. Recent reintroduction of bison is reinvigorating the ecosystems that support Henslow’s and Lark Sparrows, Blue Grosbeaks, Dickcissels, Northern Bobwhites, and more. Dunes Calumet Audubon president, Kim Ehn, will guide this tour via carpool caravan. After a box lunch, we’ll explore the behind-the-scenes restoration of prairies, wetlands, and bison with the TNC staff. Extra time will be spent exploring the rest of the property and nearby Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area.

Berrien County Canopy Tower Birding

$46/ 6:30 – 4:00pm / Leader: Cookie Ferguson

Join Michiana birding expert Cookie Ferguson for an adventure to nearby Berrien County, Michigan, where a series of new trails feature canopy birding for eye-level warblers, orioles, and more. The group will visit the new Galien Canopy Tower, the Sarrett Canopy Tower trail, New Buffalo harbor, and more. Each site can produce a great diversity of migrants and occasional rarities. A box lunch is included.

Woodcock Sky Dance Tour

$15/ 7:30 – 9:00pm / Leader: Dan Barriball

The bird with many names! Whether you call it the timberdoodle, bog sucker, Labrador twister, or more simply the woodcock, its spring dance is a sight to behold. Join us for a short drive to watch the evening curtain rise on this quite punctual performer. Limited spots, so register early.  Meet: Indiana Dunes Visitor Center

Owl Prowl Tour

$15 / 7:45 – 9:15pm / Leader: Matt Igleski

Finding popular birds of the twilight is the goal this evening. Matt will carpool a select group to target the amazing and stealthy world of owls. Based on local observations, we’ll try to find a few species and look at the adaptations they need to survive. Limited spots, so register early. Meet: Indiana Dunes Visitor Center

Whip-poor-will Wander Tour

$15 / 8:00 – 9:00pm / Leader: Libby Keyes

To find the most vociferous bird of the dunes, you need not set your alarm early. Meet Libby for a carpool tour to seek out the loud Eastern Whip-poor-wills of the dune forests. If we’re lucky, we’ll have close looks at this highly territorial forest-floor dweller. Meet: Indiana Dunes Visitor Center