Learn and Play at Rockton Pelican Fest

The annual Rockton Pelican Fest celebrates the annual return of the American White Pelican, one of the largest North American birds migrating through the area this time of year.

The free event is 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, May 20 in downtown Rockton and at nearby Nygren Wetland Preserve, starting at the wildlife overlook, 3714 W. Rockton Road, where knowledgeable volunteers will talk about birds and other wildlife and answer questions.

Natural Land Institute, Sinnissippi Audubon Society, the Village of Rockton, and JR Finally Art Studio and Gallery presents a day filled with fun activities, bird viewings, educational and informational lectures and booths, nature hikes, nature art and more.

Kim Johnsen, director of NLI marketing and membership, says pelicans migrate through this area from early spring to mid-summer, usually travel in groups, and can be seen feeding and resting by waterways in the early morning and late afternoon. Nygren Wetlands and along the Rock River, north of the Morgan Street Bridge, are two good places to view pelicans when they are around, she says.

“People don’t know we have pelicans in the area and when they find out we do, they are interested, fascinated, and want to know more,” she says.

New this year is a Traveling Science Center, a mobile classroom featuring informative, engaging exhibits on biodiversity and natural resources for the whole family. It will be located near Main and Prairie streets.

An Early Bird Walk at 7:30 a.m. meets at the Nygren Wetland Overlook and is presented by Sinnissippi Audubon Society and led by bird expert Joel Neylen.

Three free guided walking tours of the wetlands will start at the overlook at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. NLI Trustee Rob Clark will lead the first two walks and Zach Grycan, NLI’s Director of Stewardship, will lead the last walk. Rob has been a part of the Nygren Wetland bluebird monitoring team for more than 20 years.

Free lectures and presentations include “Hoo Haven” with a live pelican at 11 a.m., an opportunity to visit with a pelican from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., and tips for recycling at home with Corinne Sosso of Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful at 2:30 p.m., all at Rockton Village Hall, 110 E. Main St.

Talcott Free Library, 101 E. Main St., is the site for a noon lecture on Peregrine Falcons by Jen Kuroda, president of the Sinnissippi Audubon Society. Burpee Museum of Natural History Paleo artist Ryan Dewey shows how pelicans help reconstruct extinct animals at 1 p.m., and John Longhenry will talk about Sand Bluff Bird Observatory and share his bird photography at 2 p.m.

Artist Melinda Cook leads a sidewalk chalk drawing session 11 a.m.-2 p.m. in various locations around West Main and Prairie streets.

Stateline Mass Transit District provides free shuttle bus service from Rockton to the overlook.