Counting Cranes

Have you seen the Sandhills yet this spring? Or more likely, have you heard them and their tell-tale tremolo? Few animals signal the change of seasons more decisively than these graceful birds. One day I counted 260 in four different flocks heading northwest over River Forest. They were probably moving up from the wildlife preservesContinue reading “Counting Cranes”

Bell Bowl Prairie remnant threatened by Rockford airport expansion

The Chicago Tribune reviews the situation of another remnant prairie under threat (we last posted on proposed development adjacent to Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Cook County, Illinois), but this case involves the potential destruction of an area that lacks protection and is of an even rarer type. The remnant is located on land belongingContinue reading “Bell Bowl Prairie remnant threatened by Rockford airport expansion”

Beyond ‘Beneficial Insects’ or ‘Pests’: Aiming for Diversity Instead

Chris Helzer writes at The Prairie Ecologist: Pollinators are getting a lot of deserved respect and attention these days, but that’s just one of many important roles played by insects. For example, herbivores eat the leaves and stems of plants, granivores feed on seeds, and predators, parasites, and parasitoids feed on those herbivores and granivores.Continue reading “Beyond ‘Beneficial Insects’ or ‘Pests’: Aiming for Diversity Instead”

Leave the Leaves: Pollinators need support year-round, even after flowers are gone

Getting people to plant flowering native vegetation is relatively easy, since so many of the species are hardy, self-perpetuating, and beautiful to look at – in addition to performing the various beneficial ecological services they seek. The hard part is getting people to let things get messy after the flowers have all died. We loveContinue reading “Leave the Leaves: Pollinators need support year-round, even after flowers are gone”

True Tallgrass Prairie: Visiting a Central Illinois Prairie Remnant

When was the last time you saw Downy gentian/(Gentiana puberulenta) flowering in the wild? Or Rough Rattlesnake Root/(Prenanthes aspera) and Button Blazing Star/(Liatris aspera) scattered among the Bluestem? Or an even carpeting of Carolina Rose/(Rosa carolina) gone to fruit in autumn? Countless moths jumping at your steps, and Orange Sulphur butterflies by the dozens circulatingContinue reading “True Tallgrass Prairie: Visiting a Central Illinois Prairie Remnant”

The Neighborhood Naturalist

The Red-Headed Woodpecker may be the most spectacular resident bird in our area. Spotting one in the woods is always a treat. On this occasion, I was lucky enough to observe a breeding pair with their offspring. They were clearly enjoying themselves on a fine September morning, the adults spiraling together from one snag toContinue reading “The Neighborhood Naturalist”

The Impact of Large Deer Populations on Local Woodland Ecosystems

Adrian Fisher lays out the complex and many-layered ways in which an over-abundance of white-tailed deer can alter local ecosystems beyond recognition and potentially beyond recovery. It is a worthy, science-based read. I first realized this in a direct, experiential way while birding at a large, protected woodland habitat in Central Illinois. Like the localContinue reading “The Impact of Large Deer Populations on Local Woodland Ecosystems”

If bugs aren’t eating your plants, you’re doing it wrong

Native gardening is about the beauty of plants adapted to the local environment, as well as creating a framework for the greatest possible diversity of life on your piece of land. Native plants are good for insects, which are good for birds, perform necessary ecosystem functions, and are beautiful in their own right. To supportContinue reading “If bugs aren’t eating your plants, you’re doing it wrong”