Local Birders Choose Their Favorites.
Jefferson County Park.
Jefferson County Park is 228 acres in size and is the nucleus of the Jefferson County Conservation Board program. It is located just southwest of Fairfield; 1.3 miles west of Highway 1 on Libertyville Road. Although some of the areas in Jefferson County Park are developed, other parts remain untouched.
Local birders like the park's varied habitats with prairie, woodland and ponds found along its seven miles of trails. One birder, who walks the park everyday, specified that she sees and hears more birds along the 1/2 mile entrance road than on any other trails.
Parking areas can be found at the north access off 32nd Street, in the park by the nature center and in the picnic area. A bird blind, located behind the nature center, is maintained from mid-October to May. The 3.5 acre pond near shelter #3 is a good location for spring warblers in May. Over 130 species of birds have been recorded in the park.
Cedar Creek Wetlands and Cedar View Trail.
Cedar Creek Wetlands is a great location for migrating waterfowl and pelicans in March and April but you'll have to do a bit of walking along the Cedar View Trail to get there. The trail parking lot is west of Fairfield off 32nd street. A half mile amble west and you'll see a trail that drops down into the wetland. Please note that there are no manicured trails in the wetland area itself although the Jefferson County Conservation staff usually brush mows some trails to provide access for maintenance vehicles and to be used as fire breaks.
On wetter than usual years it is not possible to get tractors in the area to mow and you may find yourself blazing your own trail. (Note: Cedar View Wetlands is open for hunting so please be aware of waterfowl hunting seasons.)
If you've got a spotting scope and you just want to see the wetland without getting your feet wet, there is a waterfowl observation deck, constructed by the Jefferson County Trails Council, that sits up on Cedar View Trail. If you happen to be in the area during the first two weeks in May, when warbler migration is at its peak, consider heading a bit farther west down Cedar View Trail to Cedar View Bridge. The bridge spans 400 feet and because of its height (65 feet high over Cedar Creek) it can often put you at eye level with those warblers that are feeding in the canopy along the tree-lined creek.
Neff Wetlands and Lamson Woods.
If you love wetlands but don't want to walk a long ways to get to one, then the Neff Wetland is a great birding spot for you. Local birders love the easy accessibility of this 35 acre area with Fairfield's Loop Trail running right through the center. Over 100 species of birds have been counted here including the pied-billed grebe in the photo above. It is also adjacent to Lamson Woods, a 43-acre state preserve which gives visitors an additional location for woodland birding.
Parking for both the Neff Wetlands and Lamson Woods can be found at the intersection of East Fillmore Ave and Mint Blvd. From the Fairfield square head south on Highway 1. When you reach Fillmore take a left. You'll stay on Fillmore until you come to Mint, which is a t-intersection. Ahead and to your right you'll see the entrance to the parking lot.
Woodthrush Woods State Preserve.
This small 25-acre wooded area was originally owned by Hiram Heaton, a naturalist who loved birds. It is a bit of a hidden gem and is considered a favorite by one of the local birders solely because it is a good place to locate American Woodcock in mid to late March.
To get to the park you'll want to head east out of Fairfield on Highway 34 until you reach Tamarack Ave. Turn south (right) and go 1 mile to 225th Street, which curves to the east. Park on the shoulder of 225th Street slightly before its intersection with Teak Avenue. The preserve is on the north (left) side of the road. Currently, it is not well marked. You'll have to walk down into the ditch to get into the preserve. The area once had a walking trail but it is mostly overgrown at this time. You'll need to work your way around the area by following deer trails.
Pleasant Plain Lake.
There are three local birders that regularly bird Pleasant Plain Lake, but not from the Loop Trail that is adjacent to it or from the small walking trails on its east and west sides but from ON the lake. According to these birders this area is best birded by kayak.
This former city reservoir covers over 40 acres so a slow paddle around its perimeter, with lots of stops to look at birds, is easily done in a few hours. To find this site head north of Fairfield's town square until you reach Kirkwood Ave. Head east (right) and Kirkwood will eventually become Pleasant Plain Road as it heads northeast out of town. The lake will be on your left.
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