Crabtree Nature Center is a small parcel of preserve in South Barrington with a large bird and mammal population. Owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, hiking and birding are the main draws for those who visit Crabtree.
Variety of ecosystems
Despite its small size, it has a large variety of ecosystems including a lake, wetlands, hardwood forest, meadows, and tallgrass prairie. This variety accounts for the a plethora of bird and wildlife species that call the preserve a home
Four miles of hiking trails
Four miles of trails wind their way through Crabtree giving visitors great opportunities for viewing nature. The Burr Edge Trail and the Phantom Prairie Trail are the main two trails covering one and two-thirds miles and two miles respectively. The Burr Edge circles the slough and ends at the observation booth at Crabtree Lake. Phantom Prairie circles the tallgrass prairie sector of the preserve and is a great place for spotting pheasant and deer.
Unfriendly closing time
The only problem with Crabtree Nature Center is its unfriendly and inconvenient closing time. The park closes at 5 p.m. daily, which is the best time to start viewing wildlife. It also makes it impossible to enjoy the park on weekdays for the working stiffs. It sure would be nice to visit the park from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. and unwind after a stressful day at work, but nature lovers who work will need to find a park that stays open until sunset.
Spring bird migtration not yet in full force
Even though this spring has been incredibly mild by Chicago standards, the main bird migration has yet to get going. It appears birds rely more on the time of year than the temperature to start their annual return north. A walk through Crabtree did not result in a large bird count as the warblers, herons, and egrets have yet to arrive.
This does not mean there are no birds to be found at Crabtree. Even on a quiet day the preserve did not disappoint. Birds that were spotted this weekend included two great blue herons, two eastern bluebirds, a turkey vulture, a red-tailed hawk, and several hooded mergansers. Check out the slideshow for a view of the bird highlights. In the coming weeks the amount of bird species coming through Crabtree and the area should expand.
Great for kids and families
The park is a great place to introduce kids to the outdoors and nature. The short trails are easy for them to complete and there is even a shorter trail called the Giant’s Hollow trail which is about a half mile. The nature center created a little set of displays on a little obstacle course and at the end of the trail there are several large raptors on display in cages including a great horned owl and a red-tailed hawk, so they have wisely set up the park with families and kids in mind.
At the end of the trail is an observation booth at Lake Crabtree. They have a powerful set of binoculars that can scan the lake. Looking through them a great blue heron was spotted across the lake pulling branches in order to make a nest.
Take a hike at Crabtree Nature Center. You are almost guaranteed to spot something interesting each time you visit.
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