Look up! In partnership with Friends of the Chicago River (FOCR) and the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC), an osprey nesting platform was installed along the North Branch Trail at the south end of the Chicago Botanic Garden near Dundee Road.
The flowers are gone, the trees are bare, now what to photograph? Birds, of course! Winter is a great time to get some fabulous shots of winter birds. One huge bonus is that there are no leaves on the trees and the birds are much easier to see!
I am sure that most of you know what I am referring to when I say “leap year.” Although this is not a leap year, I am suggesting that we unofficially call 2015 “Lep Year”—“lep” being short for Lepidoptera (from the Latin “scaly wing”), the order of insects that includes butterflies and moths. It has probably been a decade or more since I have seen the diversity and abundance of butterflies and moths that I have seen this past spring and summer.
A lot of birds migrate through the area this time of year, but I have to say warblers are my favorites. The other day, when the rain cleared and the sun came out, I found myself in warbler heaven! Yellow-rumped warblers (Setophaga coronata) are some of the most common warblers to be seen at the Garden. You can spot them almost anywhere! Photo © Carol Freeman
Fellow Lepidoptera enthusiasts, the Chicago Botanic Garden's Butterflies & Blooms exhibition features a huge variety of live butterflies. One interesting example is Caligo atreus, also known as the yellow-edged owl, or our favorite: the magnificent owl. When the butterfly is resting, the eyespots of Caligo atreus are clearly visible. Photo by Stuart Seeger via Wikimedia Commons
A few years ago, in early spring, I was traveling through the McDonald Woods at the Chicago Botanic Garden, searching for some of the flat-bodied crab spiders (Philodromus) that typically spend the winter in communal groupings under the loose bark of dead trees. Upon reaching a small stand of dead American elm trees, I began to lift the loose remaining bark away from one of the trees to see if any spiders were present.
One of our favorite insects at the Chicago Botanic Garden is the praying mantis. So we were very excited to obtain an egg case earlier this spring. We decided to keep it indoors so we could watch it hatch, and then release the newly hatched insects into the Garden.
Most people recognize a squirrel nest, called a drey, when they see one. The eastern gray squirrels in our region build dreys in trees for shelter and protection from the elements. What you see as a messy clump of leaves is actually a structure formed from sticks and then lined with leaves and other materials to make it a dry and cozy home.
They’re all over the Learning Center and maybe around your house, too. They are boxelder bugs, and although they are a nuisance, they are harmless. So while they are bugging us, let’s find some things to admire about them. First let’s answer the question: Why are they all here right now?