Pre-fest Events- Wednesday, May 13

Each day consists of tour options and afternoon sessions at our various festival locations. Events and presentations labeled “FREE” are included
with the price of general registration. Additional fees apply for select tours, workshops, and the Saturday night keynote event. Please remember, all times are Central Daylight Time (Chicago time).



 Wes Homoya’s Big Day of Birding!

$48/ 6:00am – 4:00pm / Leader: Wes Homoya

It’s a birding-blitz van tour with state birding expert Wes Homoya. Wes 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.

Lincoln Park Birds and Beyond

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

In the heart of Chicago lies one of the nation’s oldest zoos. Their diverse wildlife collection includes several birds that this van tour will explore behind the scenes with zookeepers from Lincoln Park. After a quick lunch, we’ll explore the nesting night-herons and other migrating birds on the grounds, as well as a stop or two along the way back as time allows.

The Field Museum Birds Behind the Scenes

$48/ 6:15am – 4:00pm / Leader: Kim Ehn

A limited number of participants will meet at festival headquarters for a day-long excursion into Chicago to explore a behind-the-scenes look at the birds of the Chicago Field Museum. We’ll explore many extinct species (Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Carolina Parakeet, etc.) and have close-up looks at the thousands of bird specimens in the museum’s collection. After a traditional Chicago dog box lunch, we’ll do some birding in the nearby traps created by the city.

Birds and Bison: Kankakee Sands Behind the Scenes

$48/ 6:30am – 4:00pm / Leader: Matt Beatty

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. TNC staff member and birding expert Matt Beatty will guide this tour by van. 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

$53/ 6:30am – 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.


Dunes Birds in Art Exhibition Opening Reception

PUBLIC/ 6:00 – 8:00pm /Visitor Center

Join us at festival headquarters from 6-8pm for the opening reception of the annual Dunes Birds in Art Exhibition. This exhibit features local and regional artists showcasing native bird species in a diversity of art mediums, including 2D and 3D work. Artists will be on hand to discuss their work during this special reception. The exhibit will be available to view every day of the festival. Live birds of prey from Humane Indiana Wildlife will also be present tonight.

Monty and Rose: Chicago's Endangered Plovers

PUBLIC/ 7:00 – 8:00pm / Visitor Center

"Monty and Rose" tells the story of a pair of endangered Piping Plovers that successfully nested at Chicago's Montrose Beach in the summer of 2019, the first of the species to nest in Chicago in 64 years. The short, independent documentary chronicles these special birds and an unpredictable series of events including a proposed music festival that propelled the birds to national headlines. Come see this special screening on our opening night.

Woodcock Sky Dance Tour

$15/ 7:30 – 9:00pm / Leader: Amy Kearns

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.

Owl Prowl Tour

$15 / 7:45 – 9:00pm / 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.

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.