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Penny Road Pond Big Year Birding Field Trip

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sat, 06/11/2016 - 6:30am

Highlights: osprey, shrublands, woodlands and grasslands. Wear long pants, hat. Updates: chicagoaudubon.org. Register with Craig Stettner: cstettne@harpercollege.edu, 847-925-6214.

The post Penny Road Pond Big Year Birding Field Trip appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Farming for Phacelia

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 06/10/2016 - 11:36am

Dear readers,

Greetings!

Wow, what a week. For two of my fellow interns, Monique and Alec, it was their last week here in Carson City. It seems pretty unreal that they’re both already gone, and I’m gonna miss ’em like crazy. Fortunately, I have the excitement and beauty of botany to ease me through this sad time! :'(

When I was about four years old, I was completely convinced that I was gonna grow up to be a farmer. I was young and innocent and looking forward to a lifetime of growing crops. I remember, as a youngster, opening up an ear of corn one day to find an enormous, grimy slug, slithering and writhing before my very eyes. Disgusted, I threw the corn as far as I could and ran back to the house screaming, and that was when my aspirations of becoming a farmer died.

Little did I know what the future would hold. If four-year-old Sam could see me now, I’m sure he’d be proud. As the weather warms here in Carson City, I have become increasingly involved with the Seeds of Success program. Last week we collected seeds from populations of Phacelia glandulifera and Amsinckia tessellata. We were blessed with heavy rains this growing season; harvest was bountiful. (Side note: Did you know that skin contact with Phacelia can cause dermatitis? Yeah, sure enough, it totally does!) Anyways, we collected over 10,000 seeds of each species, and made preparations to have them shipped north to Bend, Oregon, where they will be processed and distributed. Just like four-year-old farmer Sam planned it. Never give up on your dreams, kids.

Another species we will focus on collecting this year is Poa secunda. This is a great species to collect, because although it is native, it is found commonly throughout the western U.S., and can be planted just about anywhere. In the area surrounding Carson City, we often find it growing on north-facing slopes in communities with pinyons and junipers. As we have spent time scouting out locations where we will be able to collect seeds from Poa secunda, we also have stumbled across some other cool plants that we might be able to make collections from. I’ll keep ya updated and let you know how it goes!

Until next time,

Farmer Sam

I tried to take a picture of a Phacelia flower through a microscope.

I tried to take a picture of a Phacelia flower through a microscope.

One site where we potentially might collect Poa. I wouldn't mind coming back here...

One site where we potentially might collect Poa. I wouldn’t mind coming back here…

Lewisia rediviva is one of the cooler wildflowers I've come across so far. We've seen it a few times during our Poa-scouting trips.

Lewisia rediviva is one of the cooler wildflowers I’ve come across so far. We’ve seen it a few times during our Poa-scouting trips.

Hot on the Trail

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 06/10/2016 - 11:34am

We met up with Fish and Wildlife Service’s bighorn sheep crew at six in the morning. It was a beautiful day— the sun had yet to break over the Marble Mountains, and there was a chill in the air. We were there to help with (or, let’s be honest— tag along with) the May bighorn sheep survey in the Marbles. Each Needles BLM intern paired off with a bighorn sheep crew member, and we dispersed into the mountains.

Sunrise breaking over the Marble Mountains

Sunlight breaking over the Marble Mountains

I was incredibly lucky to be paired with Dr. John Wehausen, who has extensively studied bighorn sheep populations in California since the 1970’s. As we began our ascent, John gave me a rundown of the population dynamics in the Marbles and the surrounding area. As we worked our route through the range, we stopped at each vantage point to search the landscape for the bighorn sheep. At one point, we turned a corner, and John literally sniffed the air and said, “Sheep were here.” The man knows his sheep.

Dr. John Wehausen glassing for bighorn sheep.

Dr. John Wehausen glassing for bighorn sheep.

John also has a great deal of botanical knowledge, and we talked about the plants we were seeing throughout the day. Although I have been studying these plants for the past three months, I began to see them in a new light as their importance was explained in terms of bighorn sheep nutrition.

Blue flax (Linum lewisii) south of Clark Mountain

Blue flax (Linum lewisii) south of Clark Mountain

By doing the survey, we learned how to identify bighorn sheep and lamb pellets. This is a skill we will continue to use throughout the rest of our internship. Because we spend so much time in the field, we can help gather information on bighorn sheep activities for researchers that may not get over to those areas as frequently.

Mescal Range getting busy with the blooming

A beautiful lunch spot in the Mescal Range.

In other news, Jessica and I have been very busy! We have been following the blooms and have identified populations of several sensitive species, including Sphaeralcea rusbyi var. eremicola, Grusonia parishii, (lots of) Coryphantha chlorantha, Mentzelia tricuspis, Senna covesii, and Penstemon utahensis.

Jessica in Picture Canyon, where we found a population of Mentzelia tricuspis and got caught in a thunderstorm!

Jessica in Picture Canyon, where we found a population of Mentzelia tricuspis and got caught in a thunderstorm!

Also, we have recently been spending more time surveying for invasive plants. Our positions are funded by an Off-Highway Vehicle grant, so we have been driving primary OHV roads and documenting populations of invasive plants. Along the way, we also document populations of Asclepias spp. for data on Monarch butterfly habitats. See Jessica’s blog post for more on that!

Asclepias erosa in a wash near the Cadiz Dunes.

Asclepias erosa in a wash near the Cadiz Dunes.

Happy trails,

Kate Sinnott

Sensitive and Invasive Plant Monitoring Intern

BLM – Needles Field Office

Journeying Out West!

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 06/10/2016 - 11:32am

After driving 3 days and 1,775 miles, I was greeted by Sky Country! Coming from the corn and soybean fields of Ohio, I was in awe of the snow peak mountains that enveloped me in every direction. Montana is the definition of beauty. From its towering peaks, to brimming hills of conifers above and sages below, to winding rivers and the allure of catching a glimpse of mountain lions, grizzly bears and wolves; this is a land that is flowing with biological and cultural treasures. Treasures that I, as a Conservation and Land Management Intern, can not wait to discover.

My first week in Dillon, MT partnering with the BLM proved to be an adventure. In addition to journeying to remote field sites, using 4×4 trucks following dirt paths up steep mountains, I was trained in several range management techniques. I learned how to take aerial cover using the Dauben-mire method, how to check exclosures and allotments, and most excitedly I started expanding my Montana floral knowledge, learning the forbs and grasses native to this unique Intermountain Region.

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Field site near Dillon, MT.

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Abandoned gold mine near the ghost town of Rochester, MT.

I am excited to see what this summer field season has in store. It has always been a professional and a personal goal of mine to work in the Western United States, and I am thrilled to embrace this opportunity to the fullest.

Until next time!

Steph Smith, BLM- Dillon, MT

The fungus among us

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 06/10/2016 - 11:32am
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Delicious morrell mushrooms

Spring has sprung here in Baker City, OR. Mountain flowers are blooming, snow melt is flowing, and I saw my first fawn of the year while surveying Sawmill Creek in Harney County yesterday. Not to mention theses forest treasures.

I have been collecting morels nonstop for weeks and using my food dehydrator to prep them for storage. Something about mushroom hunting taps into my inner hunter-gatherer and it is one of my favorite after work activities. However summer is right around the corner and as cool and rainy conditions yield to hot arid summers, the morel season will end.

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Loading up the car for some backcountry fly fishing in the Wallowa-Whitman Nation Forest.

My stream surveys at the BLM have been changing with the season as well. In addition to water quality analyses I have begun conducting riparian vegetation surveys focusing on desirable grasses and woody plants. A “desirable” species is one that can both anchor the stream bank as well as provide palatable forage for grazing livestock. I also measure the disturbance cattle has made to the stream bed. Often riparian areas are trampled and reduced to muddy sinkholes ready to suck off my boot. Next week is short due to the holiday and I have some awesome backcountry fishing to do over this long weekend. Looking forward to seeing all the interns in two weeks.

Herding rabbits! (and other various adventures)

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 06/10/2016 - 11:30am

I often ask myself how I got so lucky when I’m out in the field hiking the canyons and foothills of central Washington. After all, how many people can say that the work they do for a living is exactly what they’d want to be doing in their leisure time? Observing the landscape, exploring wild places, and (of course) learning all the plants I can get my hands on…none of this even feels like work to me. Out in the field, there are days when I can’t keep a cheesy grin off my face, simply because I’m in awe of my own luck at having found my passion. However, that giddy feeling was never so strong as it was these past two days, when I was introduced to the cutest endangered species there ever was…the unforgettable pygmy rabbit!

Pygmy rabbits are the most critically endangered species in Washington, due mainly to habitat loss. The Department of Fish and Wildlife is trying to help boost their population by keeping rabbits in protected enclosures to breed, then trapping them, taking data on them, and releasing the young into the wild. Luckily for us CLM interns, our supervisor Erik volunteered us to help out with the trapping. The result was the most fun two days of work I’ve ever had!

The smallest rabbit we captured! The young ones were incredibly docile.

The smallest rabbit we captured! The young ones were incredibly docile.

We used two methods to capture the rabbits. The first was setting live traps in the enclosures at the entrances of burrows, and plugging the other exits. Pretty straightforward, but also time-consuming. The second, more exciting method was the herding–it was like a cattle drive, but with bunnies! It was also the most comical thing I’ve ever had to do for work. The enclosure was divided into “funnels” with traps at the narrow end, and the burrows were all plugged. Then, everyone took two pillow cases, lined up at the wide end, and slowly started walking forward, flapping our pillow cases wildly as we went. Each time we saw a rabbit, we had to keep it moving forward, towards the trap. The best thing about this method was the escalating excitement as more rabbits appeared, and then the final push at the end to get them safely into the trap. I won’t even try to describe how goofy we all looked flapping and yelling, since words can’t possibly do it justice. Once the bunnies were captured, we weighed them, sexed them, took tissue samples, and gave them a flea treatment. This meant lots of rabbit handling time–yay!!! Finally, we took the young ones out of the enclosure to pre-determined release points, and set them free!

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Helping collect data meant bunny snuggling time!

 

Katherine releases a rabbit!

Katherine releases a rabbit!

Although the pygmy rabbits were the highlight of the past two weeks, our ESR work also continues to be fun and rewarding. We did recon of post-fire treatment at some really incredible sites, and I continued to geek out as I saw new plants beginning to flower (the penstemon is starting now, woohoo!) As June rolls around, I’m preparing myself for hotter temperatures, dustier conditions, and the threat of wildfire. But for now, I’m just enjoying the beauty of Central Washington in the spring, and all of the amazing things I get to do here.

A gorgeous site near Salmon Creek

A site near Salmon Creek

My first horned lizard! I had no idea how tiny they were.

My first horned lizard! I had no idea how tiny they were.

Katherine Schneider, BLM, Wenatchee WA Field Office

Hunting for seeds in the steppe

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 06/10/2016 - 11:26am

I’m finally here!

For months, I have daydreamed about getting out of the Southeast and once again exploring the West. Now, at long last, I have packed up my things and driven the 1,500 miles separating the Appalachians from the Rockies.

One thing is for sure: I’m not in Tennessee anymore. The Wyoming Central Basin is just the sort of alien landscape I’ve been longing for – somewhere completely different, where I can take my next steps toward a career in conservation.

 

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View of the Wind River Range from the Sagebrush Steppe.

After a first week filled with paperwork, training, and navigating a few unexpected developments, I’m finally out in the field, learning about an entirely new ecosystem, the Sagebrush Steppe. My mission: to identify suitable populations of selected species, collect seeds for use in reclamation, and to go where no Tennessean has gone before. The Rawlins field office has had an unusually cool, wet spring this year, presenting me with a unique opportunity to learn more about the early spring flowering species than I would have during a normal year. However, even under these unusual circumstances, many of my target species will be gone before I know it. The hunt for suitable populations is on!

Last Friday I collected voucher specimens and preliminary data from my first site – an old lakebed in the “Gas Patch”, a landscape now dotted with natural gas wells. While digging up Lomatium foeniculaceum and Cymopterus bulbosus, I quickly learned that the copious spring rains had done me another favor by softening the ground, making for relatively easy collection of these tough desert species!  

 

CLMLomatium

Lomatium foeniculaceum (that taproot though!)

This week, my search took me past the Gas Patch, down to the Colorado border. In order to look for shrub species, I tagged along with an interdisciplinary team whose mission was to provide input to a proposed gas well site. Even amongst modern energy development, the vast rangelands and rough roads, set against a backdrop of the Sierra Madre mountains, made me wonder just how much has changed since the days of the western frontier.

The highlight of my week was a trip to the scenic Ferris Mountain Range (fun fact: the Ferris Mountains are the smallest east-to-west range in the world!). There, my mentor introduced me to some of Wyoming’s loveliest and most emblematic fora. To put icing on the cake, along the way we discovered suitable populations of Astragalus pectinatus and Viola nuttallii.  

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Whiskey Gap in the Ferris Range.

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Castilleja, the state flower of Wyoming.

Faced with a wilderness full of species yet unknown, armed with my dichotomous key and trusty hand lens, I feel up to the challenges Wyoming has to offer me, and lucky to have this landscape be the setting of my development as a botanist and a conservationist.

Something to remember that bloom

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 06/10/2016 - 11:21am

I am a bit astonished by how much the landscape has changed since my last blog post, less than a month ago. Some seed collections have been successful, while some populations which I had targeted have disappeared. Nonetheless, as species go to seed, some to never be seen again, at least until next year when some other intern attempts to capture a portion of their progeny, a different cast of later blooming species has taken the stage. I am pleased to have this new cast of characters to see and learn, and some of these relatively late bloomers may be prospects for future collections. As for those species to whose release party I showed up late, I wish a future intern luck and hopefully we will learn from these mistakes. When there was not a seed left to collect at a location, I was able to remove some invasive species before they released their seeds. That feels good, as I am removing native seeds from a location for conservation, to also remove some non-native competition.

Those seed collections that have been successful have been rewarding. The Delphinium and Sidalcea blooming in concert was one of my favorite sights this last month, and today I have seed collections to remember them by.

Delphinium and Sidalcea at Kanaka Valley

Delphinium and Sidalcea at Kanaka Valley

I revisited the Butte Fire burn area in time to collect seeds of Calochortus monophyllus and Toxicoscordion exaltatum, before camping along the Merced River for more collections. As I collected Lupinus microcarpus along the Merced River, I could hear the legumes splitting a few steps ahead of me, sending seeds flying but not into my bag. It gave me a sense of urgency. There were weekend visitors all around, quite curious about my apparently peculiar activity, so I was able to explain the nature of my work to lots of curious, friendly folks, many of whom want to know the common names of whichever species they have recently enjoyed seeing. I know from experience, they’re much more interested in a common name than the Latin. I heard from them a lot about “what a terrible job I have!” remarked sarcastically. I agree, sarcastically!

John Woodruff from the BLM Mother Lode Field Office in California

Calochortus monophyllus seeds at the Butte Fire burn area near Mokeluemne Hill, CA.

Calochortus monophyllus seeds at the Butte Fire burn area near Mokeluemne Hill, CA.

Calochortus monophyllus seeds released before my arrival to the Butte Fire burn area.

Calochortus monophyllus seeds released before my arrival to the Butte Fire burn area.

Roaming Wyoming

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 06/10/2016 - 11:17am

As a newbie to the West, coming to Wyoming has been quite the adventure. The mountains! The badlands! Fossils! More cows than people! My time as a CLM intern has been rather short so far, roughly about a week. During this time, I have been a part of AIM training in Rocksprings, a hefty 5-6 hour drive from our Buffalo BLM office. This training emphasizes a protocol for collecting data that will be useful to certain projects that the BLM has going on and was a great way to learn new skills and techniques that will be put into practice once our team gets back to Buffalo. I’m looking forward to the work I’ll be doing through this internship and also to exploring the lovely state of Wyoming!

 

Corinne Schroeder

Buffalo BLM Field Office

Seed seekers

CLM Internship Blog - Fri, 06/10/2016 - 11:16am

Seeds of Success is only sometimes successful.

This is what it feels like lately! With summer edging towards us here in Ridgecrest the seeds are going FAST! The seeds are often gone faster than we expect them to. For example, upon seeing a flowering population and imagining that in a couple of weeks it will be ready and then one goes back to find that its almost all gone! This happened to us yesterday. I wondered if any other interns had troubles like this. I felt as if it was still a valiant effort but with a taste of failure. However, it seems there’s always more to collect. Perhaps not at the same location, but with 1.8 million acres surely there is somewhere else to go, right?

Last week I went to the Owens peak wilderness and after doing some monitoring in short canyon decided to go higher. Upon going higher I found a suitable population of Chylismia claviformis for collection that really excited me considering how it had eluded me the first time I had seen it. Senescing too quickly for me to realize what it was and that I should be focusing on it as a target. I almost wish the internship would have begun sooner to allow for more research time before the initial field season had truly began. But so it goes.

Last week we went to conglomerate mesa with our office’s wilderness coordinator. Conglomerate mesa is part of The Inyo Mountains across from The Sierra Nevada creating Owens valley. This is such a beautiful place.

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We were in conglomerate mesa doing some monitoring for vegetation in a reclaimed mining area. Wilderness Areas is an interesting aspect of the BLM and its management plan. The Wilderness designation provides a lot of protection to the land, yet a Land with wilderness characteristics (LWC) has much less protection. As I witnessed with conglomerate mesa. Conglomerate mesa is adjacent to Malpais mesa, a wilderness area.  However, since it’s not technically a wilderness area, it is open for public use. Including mining. This is a surprising aspect of land management to me. As an ecologist/botanist I typically find mining unnecessarily destructive, yet the computer and my cell phone and countless other devices would be impossible without mining so perhaps my labeling of mining as something “bad” is hypocritical of me. This is a moral dilemma I have yet to solve.

We spent the next few days in Owens valley making our way up to Independence to work with an actual BLM botanist! Mr. Martin Oliver. We began a Blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima) collection but as it’s a small producer and we were a little early it didn’t seem to be working out so we switched targets to a needle grass (Stipa speciosa). A much easier plant to collect. I was glad to see that I’m not the only one who inaccurately predicts seed the seed ripeness window. It’s truly a difficult factor to determine.

As the summer goes on I’m learning more and more about populations, their productivity rates and the conditions in which create a good habitat for an individual species. It’s important to note these differences when assessing whether the population will be of large enough size for a suitable collection.

Exciting stuff!

  • Robbie Wood

An Insider’s Story from The Hidden Art of Trees

Garden Blog - Thu, 06/09/2016 - 9:41am

When a massive weeping willow tree fell in the woods near master crafter Mike Jarvi’s studio, he studied it for many weeks before making a first cut.

Then he got out the chain saw.

The tree had stood astride an intermittent stream for nearly 70 years before falling in a storm. As Jarvi hewed into an especially thick area of the trunk, its remarkable grain and age rings were revealed. The fast-growing willow had recorded both floods and ebbs of water in its rings—some remarkably wide, indicating flood years when the tree grew in great leaps, others quite slim, marking years of drought for the water-loving species.

Willow desk and chair by Mike Jarvi.

Willow desk and chair by Mike Jarvi.

The front view of this massive desk, created from a single willow trunk.

The front view of this massive desk, created from a single willow trunk.

Jarvi cut one massive section from the trunk, envisioning a desk, then cut into that piece for a matching chair that fits neatly into the desk “slot.” Both pieces were hoisted into his shop’s loft to dry…for four years. The chair slab weighed in at 230 pounds when it arrived; four years later, is was down to 130 pounds, having lost 100 pounds of moisture.

On view in The Hidden Art of Trees as desk and chair, the willow and its tree rings—and their recorded history—are visible now for all to see.

The Hidden Art of Trees is on view at the Regenstein Center through August 21, 2016. Admission is free; parking fees apply for nonmembers.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Paddling through Eden

Garden Blog - Wed, 06/08/2016 - 9:22am

A great blue heron watched as I glided past. Dragonflies tumbled and hovered just above the water, which was throwing reflections of sunlight onto the tree trunks along the shore. And the air was filled with a characteristic sound of kayaking in the Skokie Lagoons—the roar of traffic on the Edens Expressway.

But so what? The Edens does nothing to detract from this little Garden of Eden, where paddling a kayak through narrow waterways ringed with trees or across wind-swept open water is a magical way to spend part of a sunny day.

And, once a year, you can paddle at the Chicago Botanic Garden. On June 18 to 19, you can canoe the lakes of the Garden in the annual Father’s Day Canoe Adventure. Held in conjunction with Friends of the Chicago River, the hour-long paddles regularly sell out.

Still, there are plenty of other opportunities to get on the water. Canoe and kayak rentals are available from the Garden’s partner, the Forest Preserves of Cook County: Busse Lake in Elk Grove Village, Maple Lake and Tampier Lake in the Palos Preserves, and here at the Skokie Lagoons.

 Kayaking the Skokie Lagoons.

Kayaking the Skokie Lagoons

At the Skokie Lagoons site, you rent your boat from Chicago River Canoe & Kayak, which operates a trailer on Tower Road, just south of the Garden. No experience necessary; kayaking is easy, and the staffers will give you a quick lesson and offer suggestions on a route.

You can paddle around the island in the middle of one of the lagoons, right across from the launch spot, which takes about 45 minutes. Or you can head under the Tower Road overpass and into the long system of lagoons to the north.

“A family of badgers has been seen there,” said Angela Williams, who helps run the Chicago River Canoe & Kayak rental station, as she picked out a paddle for me.

That was tempting, but the island looked plenty inviting. And John Hage, the outfitter’s manager here, said he recommends the island because the narrow waterways keep you closer to shorelines where you see birds.

Grab your camera and a paddle to #birdthepreserves from the water this summer.

 A great blue heron fishes from the shoreline.

A great blue heron fishes from the shoreline

Williams assigned me a kayak—there are three kinds, with different levels of speed, maneuverability, and tippiness—and I lowered myself in and put my feet on the foot rests. She handed me the paddle, pushed me into the water, and I was off.

And immediately having a grand time. Gliding swiftly—you can go pretty fast with just a little effort—and skimming along only inches above the lagoon’s surface, you feel like some kind of water creature, as comfortable paddling as the Canada geese you see.

In fact, you can paddle faster than the geese. I came upon a line of Canada goslings following one parent at the front of the line and followed by another at the back. I caught up and glided alongside, so we were a double line paddling quietly beneath the overhanging trees, the little goslings’ heads bobbing. Even for one who despises the park-fouling birds, I thought it was sweet.

I rounded the island, the highway hum fading enough that I could hear the plops of fishing lines being cast by guys fishing from kayaks. A deer wandered through the woods on the island. A great blue heron soared overhead, its shadow crossing over my kayak. And then, after flushing one last great blue heron along the shore, I crossed the water back to the launch.

Back at the trailer, Hage recommended the Maple Lake location too; Chicago River Canoe & Kayak rents the boats there and at the Busse Lake launch. And for those who would like to paddle but would like company, the outfitter is planning to organize monthly networking paddles.

 Kayaks on the shoreline of Rosewood Beach in Highland Park.

Parking at Rosewood Beach in Highland Park for a quick breather during a paddle

Bring dry shorts to change into; in a kayak, the water drips off the paddle and into your lap as you paddle.

But go. The waterways are lovely to explore the preserves—and once a year, the Garden. Out here, it’s just you, the herons, and your swift path through the water, and you haven’t left Cook County. 

Photos by Amy Spungen and Bill Bishoff.
©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Live Healthy, Discover Nature

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Tue, 06/07/2016 - 10:00am

The Forest Preserves comes to the city for a fun-filled day of nature-related activities and live animal demonstrations.

This year’s theme is #BirdThePreserves. Learn about birding, try on bird wings, interact with local birds of prey (and reptiles) and much more. Sign up for our newsletter at the event to draw for free camping, aquatic center passes or Forest Preserves gear.

12 pm performance:
Sisai: Exploring the Andes through Music
Through Sisai’s music, the audience will follow the Andean condor flying through the mountains, while touching on the rich cultures of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.

We’ll also be joined by many of our partners:

  • Chicago Botanic Garden
  • U of I Extension
  • Brookfield Zoo
  • Wild Indigo
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Field Museum
  • Chicago Bird Collision Monitors
  • Billy Casper Golf / Billy Casper Camp
  • Palos RC Club
  • Suburban AeroClub of Chicago
  • The Great Outdoor Show
  • Friends of the Forest Preserves
  • Sweet Beginnings
  • REI
  • CAMBr

U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceChicago Wilderness

Support for Bird the Preserves was generously provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through Chicago Wilderness.

The post Live Healthy, Discover Nature appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Great Egret: Graceful White Wader

Birding - Mon, 06/06/2016 - 8:48am

The elegant flight and bright white plumage of the great egret (Ardea alba) belie its harsh croak when it takes off from a marsh. It was this bird’s beauty that nearly led to its demise at the turn of the twentieth century, when these and other waders were hunted for their feathery plumes that women wore in their hats.

Since then, the great egret, standing more than 3 feet tall with a nearly 5-foot wing span, has become the symbol for the National Audubon Society, founded in part to stop these birds from being killed to extinction.

Great egrets spend winter as far south as the West Indies, Central America, and South America. In spring, they migrate in small flocks during the day, eventually choosing a place farther north to raise young in nests close to trees and shrubs called colonies, often with other large waders including the great blue heron.

 Great egret (Ardea alba).

A great egret (Ardea alba) fishes; in the background is a great blue heron. Photo © Carol Freeman

During breeding season, a patch of skin on the bird’s face turns green, contrasting with the bright yellow bill. Males perform fancy courtship displays, opening up and fluffing their white plumes that grow to extend beyond their backs.

Both male and female build a platform-style nest of sticks in a tree or shrub often toward the top and above or near water. The female lays three to four greenish-blue eggs and gets help from her mate during incubation. 

When the young hatch in about 24 days, the nestlings begin their incessant croaking—getting louder as they grow older—and beg for regurgitated food from their parents.

 Great egret (Ardea alba).

A great egret in flight over the lagoons. Photo © Carol Freeman

The great egret mostly eats fish, but it also dines on frogs, snakes, and aquatic insects such as dragonflies, and even grasshoppers and rodents in fields near their nesting territories.

The egret wades slowly through the water up to its belly looking for prey. Suddenly, it will stop and stand still, its motionless legs likely looking like branches to a fish, which will come closer, and then get snatched up by the hungry wader. The bird swallows the prey head first, sometimes having to flip it up in the air and catch it so it will be in the right direction to go down smoothly.

Come late summer and autumn, great egrets gather in loose feeding flocks, sometimes creating a sea of white in a wetland and a stunning spectacle for observers.

 Great egret (Ardea alba).

A great egret wades in the Skokie Lagoons. Photo © Carol Freeman

Once on the state endangered species list, the great egret is doing well in Illinois; however, habitat loss and water pollution may threaten its future. Visit Baker’s Lake in Barrington to watch the great egret during breeding season and McGinnis Slough in Palos Park late summer to watch large feeding flocks as they head south for the winter.

The great egret is the June bird species highlighted by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Come #birdthepreserves with the FPDCC; view the list of upcoming events for free events near you.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Great Egret: Graceful White Wader

Garden Blog - Mon, 06/06/2016 - 8:48am

The elegant flight and bright white plumage of the great egret (Ardea alba) belie its harsh croak when it takes off from a marsh. It was this bird’s beauty that nearly led to its demise at the turn of the twentieth century, when these and other waders were hunted for their feathery plumes that women wore in their hats.

Since then, the great egret, standing more than 3 feet tall with a nearly 5-foot wing span, has become the symbol for the National Audubon Society, founded in part to stop these birds from being killed to extinction.

Great egrets spend winter as far south as the West Indies, Central America, and South America. In spring, they migrate in small flocks during the day, eventually choosing a place farther north to raise young in nests close to trees and shrubs called colonies, often with other large waders including the great blue heron.

 Great egret (Ardea alba).

A great egret (Ardea alba) fishes; in the background is a great blue heron. Photo © Carol Freeman

During breeding season, a patch of skin on the bird’s face turns green, contrasting with the bright yellow bill. Males perform fancy courtship displays, opening up and fluffing their white plumes that grow to extend beyond their backs.

Both male and female build a platform-style nest of sticks in a tree or shrub often toward the top and above or near water. The female lays three to four greenish-blue eggs and gets help from her mate during incubation. 

When the young hatch in about 24 days, the nestlings begin their incessant croaking—getting louder as they grow older—and beg for regurgitated food from their parents.

 Great egret (Ardea alba).

A great egret in flight over the lagoons. Photo © Carol Freeman

The great egret mostly eats fish, but it also dines on frogs, snakes, and aquatic insects such as dragonflies, and even grasshoppers and rodents in fields near their nesting territories.

The egret wades slowly through the water up to its belly looking for prey. Suddenly, it will stop and stand still, its motionless legs likely looking like branches to a fish, which will come closer, and then get snatched up by the hungry wader. The bird swallows the prey head first, sometimes having to flip it up in the air and catch it so it will be in the right direction to go down smoothly.

Come late summer and autumn, great egrets gather in loose feeding flocks, sometimes creating a sea of white in a wetland and a stunning spectacle for observers.

 Great egret (Ardea alba).

A great egret wades in the Skokie Lagoons. Photo © Carol Freeman

Once on the state endangered species list, the great egret is doing well in Illinois; however, habitat loss and water pollution may threaten its future. Visit Baker’s Lake in Barrington to watch the great egret during breeding season and McGinnis Slough in Palos Park late summer to watch large feeding flocks as they head south for the winter.

The great egret is the June bird species highlighted by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Come #birdthepreserves with the FPDCC; view the list of upcoming events for free events near you.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

A 20-Year Legacy of Conservation Conversations

Plant Science and Conservation - Sun, 06/05/2016 - 11:26am

For more than two decades, leaders in conservation science have come to the Chicago Botanic Garden each summer to discuss timely topics from monarch butterflies to assisted plant migration.

Butterfly on Liatris

Butterfly on Liatris

Seeds will be planted again on Monday, June 13, when regional stewardship professionals, academics, restoration volunteers, and interns gather for the Janet Meakin Poor Research Symposium. The annual day of lectures and discussions covers the latest findings in conservation research and best practices in restoration, while inspiring conversations and new partnerships.

“I think the science that pertains to land management is always evolving, and therefore best practices are always evolving,” said Kay Havens, Ph.D., Medard and Elizabeth Welch senior director, Ecology and Conservation, and the moderator of the symposium.

The 2015 symposium focused on restoration solutions for large-scale implementation, and this year’s theme, Seed Sourcing for Restoration in a Changing Climate, builds on the concept of seed management. “It focuses on conservation research and restoration and tries to make links with the land management community—so not just reporting the science but also reporting how that could influence land management,” explained Dr. Havens. This subject is especially timely, according to Havens, as it follows the first year of the National Seed Strategy for Rehabilitation and Restoration. The Garden has played a key role in establishing the seed strategy, which will create a network to ensure native seeds are available in restoration efforts, especially in fire-ravaged western rangelands.

The Dixon Prairie in July

The Dixon Prairie in July

“I think the need for restoration increases annually,” said Havens. “We are facing a more and more degraded planet every year, and as the climate changes and natural disasters like hurricanes and floods increase, the need for restoration increases.”

Read more about the symposium or register online for Seed Sourcing for Restoration in a Changing Climate today.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

A 20-Year Legacy of Conservation Conversations

Garden Blog - Sun, 06/05/2016 - 11:26am

For more than two decades, leaders in conservation science have come to the Chicago Botanic Garden each summer to discuss timely topics from monarch butterflies to assisted plant migration.

Butterfly on Liatris

Butterfly on Liatris

Seeds will be planted again on Monday, June 13, when regional stewardship professionals, academics, restoration volunteers, and interns gather for the Janet Meakin Poor Research Symposium. The annual day of lectures and discussions covers the latest findings in conservation research and best practices in restoration, while inspiring conversations and new partnerships.

“I think the science that pertains to land management is always evolving, and therefore best practices are always evolving,” said Kay Havens, Ph.D., Medard and Elizabeth Welch senior director, Ecology and Conservation, and the moderator of the symposium.

The 2015 symposium focused on restoration solutions for large-scale implementation, and this year’s theme, Seed Sourcing for Restoration in a Changing Climate, builds on the concept of seed management. “It focuses on conservation research and restoration and tries to make links with the land management community—so not just reporting the science but also reporting how that could influence land management,” explained Dr. Havens. This subject is especially timely, according to Havens, as it follows the first year of the National Seed Strategy for Rehabilitation and Restoration. The Garden has played a key role in establishing the seed strategy, which will create a network to ensure native seeds are available in restoration efforts, especially in fire-ravaged western rangelands.

The Dixon Prairie in July

The Dixon Prairie in July

“I think the need for restoration increases annually,” said Havens. “We are facing a more and more degraded planet every year, and as the climate changes and natural disasters like hurricanes and floods increase, the need for restoration increases.”

Read more about the symposium or register online for Seed Sourcing for Restoration in a Changing Climate today.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Orland Grassland Volunteers Welcome Back Bobolinks

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sat, 06/04/2016 - 9:00am

Bring your family. Binoculars will be available. Wear long pants, hat. Updates: orlandgrassland.org. Register with Mike McNamee: 773-573-5158.

The post Orland Grassland Volunteers Welcome Back Bobolinks appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Summer Breeding Birds

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sat, 06/04/2016 - 8:30am

Help Wild Birds Unlimited compete in the Big Year competition. Limited amount of walking. All ages. Contact Mel Tracy to register: 708-361-8726.

The post Summer Breeding Birds appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Deer Grove Birding Field Trip

Birding Events at the Forest Preserves - Sat, 06/04/2016 - 8:00am

Explore the unique birds of the grasslands, woodlands and wetlands. See chicagobirder.org for updates. For information: chicagobirder@gmail.com.

The post Deer Grove Birding Field Trip appeared first on Forest Preserves of Cook County.

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