A former agricultural field divided by hedgerows, Bartel Grassland is now home to an increasing variety of native plant and bird species as restoration efforts open up the landscape and encourage natural processes. The 585-acre prairie is located at the far south end of the larger complex known as the Tinley or South Green Belt Preserves.
Bird and nature enthusiasts will enjoy walking through the open grasslands, listening and looking for a host of birds unique to this region. A mowed trail leads from the parking lot to an observation area with a mound that visitors can climb to survey the surrounding plain. From here, visitors can continue west on a trail adjacent to Flossmoor Road that follows the perimeter of the grassland.
Participating in volunteer restoration is one of the best ways to enjoy and develop a deeper understanding of Bartel Grassland. Volunteers with a range of experience can learn about invasive plant control, seed harvesting, hydrological restoration and more, while gaining an insight into the rich ecological history at Bartel. The citizen-led Bartel Grassland Volunteers hosts workshops and volunteer sessions throughout the year.
To make a day of it, throw in a picnic. A few picnic tables are available at the Bartel parking lot. The Killdeer Wetland parking lot is across Flossmoor Road on the north side of the street and the Bobolink family picnic area is about a half-mile north on Central Avenue.
Nature at Bartel
Spread across a low, flat plain, this land once attracted scores of species of breeding grassland and wetland birds. Decades of agricultural use, however, including the planting of Osage orange trees to create hedgerows and the draining of wet areas, divided the site and reduced its usefulness as a breeding site. (Grassland birds need large, treeless expanses to nest.) Restoration work has encouraged many species to return, however, and it is now recognized by Audubon as an Important Bird Area for bobolink. Bartel once again serves as breeding habitat for grassland birds, many of which migrate here from South and Central America every summer. Birders may see bobolink, eastern meadowlark, grasshopper sparrow, Henslow’s sparrow, savannah sparrow, sedge wren, and dickcissel. Look for short-eared owl and northern harriers in the winter.
Scan the wide expanse with binoculars to spot coyotes and deer in the distance.