The Best Bird-Watching Spots
Download the GardenGuide App when you visit to use this tour on your phone
Distance: 2 milesTime: 1 hour 30 min to 2 hours
Stop 1: Barbara Brown Nature Reserve
Where are the best spots for spotting birds? We turned to senior ecologist Jim Steffen (our go-to guy for all things "bird") for his advice ("Look around, be still, be patient,") and top recommendations.
Birds love the quiet as much as visitors do in this off-the-beaten-path natural area. Beneath the trees is a sunny, open understory that appeals to wood-pewees, great crested flycatchers, and indigo buntings. Watch the flycatcher's insect-catching strategy: Spot an insect in the air. Dart out from perch. Grab insect mid-flight. Return to perch.
A pond attracts cormorants, which rest on fallen trees, plus green, great blue, and night herons. Nesting boxes for wood ducks dot the reserve.
Stop 2: Dixon Prairie Part 1
The wide-angle view of the sky lets you track sandhill cranes, shorebirds, raptors, herons, and egrets as they fly by.
Stop 3: Dixon Prairie Part 2
Stop 4: Dixon Prairie Part 3
Stop 5: Waterfall Garden Part 1
Stop 6: Waterfall Garden Part 2
On cool spring and fall mornings, the east-facing slope warms up early - a boon for birds and birdwatchers alike.
Stop 7: McDonald Woods Part 1
In spring and summer: Winter wrens, warblers, and woodland thrushes signal spring migration. Follow the calls of red-bellied, downy, and hairy woodpeckers in summer (red-eyed vireos and eastern wood-pewees, too). Indigo buntings frequent the woodland-bordered outer road in summer: watch for a flash of blue and listen for a twice-repeated note.
Stop 8: McDonald Woods Part 2
Stop 9: On the Fly: Purple Martins
Purple martins migrate north from Argentina every spring, arriving year after year here around April 14. They're communal nesters, so we've placed three multi-compartment bird houses on the outer west road; two more are near the golf course just past McDonald Woods. Male martins are dark purple; females are lighter in color.
Stop 10: On the Fly: Gulls
Black-headed Franklin's gulls may show up in small flocks during migrations—also, on occasion, a similar-looking visitor from the south, the laughing gull.
Stop 11: On the Fly: Rare Sightings
Spotted a bird of interest? Record your sighting in our daily record book located at the Visitor Center front desk.