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Great Swamp Sanctuary, Walterboro SC

Posted on November 29th 2009 by Arthur in Birds, Forest Preserves, Nature

On our drive back from Florida we spent the night at a Days Inn in Walterboro, South Carolina. We learned that just 3 minutes from the hotel and the I-95 is a nature preserve called the Great Swamp Sanctuary. We checked it out the next morning and had a great walk.

Great Swamp Sanctuary in Walterboro South Carolina

At the end of a long straight trail is a swampy area with lots of bird-filled snags. We saw four different woodpeckers, including several Pileated Woodpeckers (picture below), Carolina Chickadee, Red-shouldered Hawk, Bluebird, Hermit Thrush and several other birds. The longer we stood there looking at the swamp, the more birds flew in from all around us.

Pileated Woodpecker at Great Swamp Sanctuary
Pileated Woodpecker

When walking back to the car we saw something fly across the way in front of us and land in a tree right next to the path. It was a Barred Owl … the first Barred Owl we had ever seen in the wild!

Barred Owl at Great Swamp Sanctuary

We had seen a few Barred Owls this year from Bird Rehabilitation centers, so we recognized it immediately. It’s also Amy’s favorite owl, so it was a thrill to see it in the wild. We watched it for a while. When we walked further and approached it, the owl calmly flew a bit further into the woods and landed on another tree, where we could look at it again. We had seen about 85 bird species on our trip to Florida, but this one was our favorite! What a great sighting. 🙂

Barred Owl at Great Swamp Sanctuary

Na na na na na na na na Batfest!

Posted on August 6th 2009 by Amy in Events, Forest Preserves, Nature

Last Saturday we attended Batfest, a celebration of bats by the Lake County Forest Preserve District held at Lakewood Forest Preserve.

Quiet Please. Bats Sleeping!

Years ago two large picnic shelters were built at the preserve, which local Little Brown Bats found to be great places to roost. Picnicking humans were not happy to find guano on their picnic tables and dropping into their food, so the district decided to rezone the shelters – one for people and one for the bats. The picnic shelter was modified to be less appealing to bats and the bat shelter was cordoned off so people would not disturb the roosting bats.

Bat Shelter

The large colony of Little Brown Bats at Lakewood made it a perfect spot for Batfest. There were several tables set up at the preserve with exhibits about the bats of Illinois, making bat houses and other neat bat information. There were also two presentations by bat experts, one of whom brought a couple of her rehabilitation and education bats to show to attendees. During these presentations we learned a lot of neat facts about bats, including:

  • There are over 1000 species of bat
  • A bat’s claws are naturally in a curled state. They use their muscles to uncurl the claws in order to grab onto a perch, and then relax to remain clamped on
  • All bats can see
  • Vampire bats’ saliva contains a substance which prevents clotting
  • Vampire bats will share their food with other bats who are hungry and unable to get food for themselves
  • Bats are an important pollinator for one of the ingredients used to make tequila (when this was mentioned, the crowd murmured ‘thank you, bats’)

After the two informative presentations, darkness began to fall and it was time to look for bats. Everyone gathered around the shelter. It was a huge crowd: bats are popular here in Lake County!

Huge crowd at Batfest

Researchers set up a mist net to capture bats as they left the shelter for the evening. Since the crowd was so large they had live camera which was projected onto a huge screen to capture the action in case a bat was caught. Soon after the first bat was spotted leaving the roost, another bat was caught in the net. She was brought in front of the camera and the brief examination was shown on the screen. It was neat to see the bat expert show features of the animal that helped her determine the age and sex of the bat. The exam reminded me of the bird ringing we observed recently, but the image on the screen reminded me of MST3K:

MST3K Bat

Batfest was another great program put on by our Lake County Forest Preserve District. If you want to learn more about bats, visit Bat Conservation International.

Foto Friday: Waiting for a band

Posted on July 24th 2009 by Arthur in Birds, Forest Preserves, Foto Friday, Illinois, Nature

Can you guess what’s in the bags hanging in this tree?

Bird bags hanging in a tree

Those bags have different birds inside them, ready to be banded. There’s Common Yellowthroat, Bluebirds, Song Sparrows and Red-bellied Woodpecker. Doesn’t it look a little surreal?

We visited a group of bird banders last Tuesday morning at Rollins Savanna Forest Preserve and observed their work for a couple of hours. They told us about bird banding and showed us how they handle and band the birds. They had ten mist nets set up that they use to catch birds and every half hour they walked past all the nets to take out the birds that got caught. After carefully removing each bird from the net it was put in a little bag and then hung in this tree until they were ready for banding. It was an interesting experience.

Common Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroat

Field Sparrow
Field Sparrow

Bird banders at work
Bird banders at work

Biking to our local forest preserve

Posted on June 1st 2009 by Amy in Forest Preserves, Life in America

Last Saturday was a beautiful day. In the afternoon we decided to try and bike to Rollins Savanna from our house here in Round Lake Beach.

First I checked Google Maps to see how we could cycle and avoid busy roads. The Google Streetview feature works for a lot of our area, so I could follow parts of the route online. I was surprised to see that there was actually bike path along one of the main roads we’d take!

The Drury Lane entrance to Rollins is closest to us, so that’s where we normally drive. On Google Maps I saw that there was a spur to the main trail from a small city park, so we wouldn’t have to cycle all the way to our usual parking lot, which was good news. The bad news was that Drury Lane is a torn up muddy mudville from construction.

bike1

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Baby Sandhill Crane

Posted on May 27th 2009 by Arthur in Birds, Forest Preserves, Illinois

Sunday morning we made a walk at our nearest forest preserve, Rollins Savanna, and saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes and their young foraging through shallow water. We’ve been seeing a lot of cranes around here, but we hadn’t seen a baby crane yet. The two adults were picking out food and carefully giving it to the chick. It was very cute. Here are some pictures and a video we took:

Sandhill Cranes with baby at Rollins Savanna

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Eager Beavers

Posted on May 17th 2009 by Amy in Birds, Environment, Forest Preserves, Nature

We went out birding with the Lake-Cook Chapter of the Illinois Audubon Society this morning. We had a great time, saw lots of birds and met some really nice people.

While walking near the Des Plaines River at Ryerson Woods, we saw this tree.

Eager Beaver (1/2)

Eager Beaver (2/2)

Now that’s one eager beaver! The tree looks about ready to fall, don’t you think?

Maple Syrup Hike at Ryerson LCFP

Posted on March 15th 2009 by Arthur in Forest Preserves, Illinois, Nature

Today we participated in one of the Maple Syrup Hikes at Ryerson Conservation Area. On the one-hour program we learned about the Sugar Maple trees that make sweet sap and how they tap them to make syrup. I love maple syrup on my pancakes and waffles and have always wanted to see this.

Ryerson Woods 038 (15-Mar)

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Short Visit to Nippersink Forest Preserve

Posted on March 2nd 2009 by Arthur in Forest Preserves, Illinois, Nature

Yesterday we went to Nippersink Forest Preserve for a walk, which was rather unpleasant because of the freezing wind. We saw only two other people there that were crazy enough to be outside in the cold. We made only a quick walk around the lake before our faces froze off but did see most of the area and trails. It seems like a nice place that we’ll need to check out further in the spring, when it’s warmer.

Here’s a panorama photo (16 pictures stitched together with Windows Live Photo Gallery) from a lookout point at the south side of the park:

Nippersink Panorama Photo

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Old School Skiing

Posted on January 23rd 2009 by Arthur in Forest Preserves

Today we went cross-country skiing at Old School Lake County Forest Preserve. They have some great skiing trails there and we had a lot of fun. Amy posted an article and some pictures on our birding blog Magnificent Frigatebird.

IMG_0868

 

Environmental Foto Friday: Hybrid Vehicle Parking

Posted on January 23rd 2009 by Arthur in Environment, Forest Preserves, Foto Friday, Illinois

I love the Lake County Forest Preserves. They are doing such an excellent job, with 125 miles of trails, 26,800 acres of nature preserves, informative visitor centers and great facilities. We’re new residents here in Illinois’ Lake County, and with all the snow and cold weather we haven’t been able to enjoy the forest preserves so much yet these last few months. But come spring and summer I’m sure we’ll explore as many trails as we can. We’ve even got a canoe here, so we can try out some of the canoe launches.

The other day we were at Ryerson Woods Welcome Center, which is just 4 miles from where we live. The parking lot at the new Welcome Center had several parking spaces for hybrid vehicles only! Isn’t that cool? I had never seen this before. Next to the usual handicapped spaces they had some with signs that said “Hybrid Vehicles Parking”. Here’s a picture if you don’t believe me:

IMG_6191

And a close-up if you can’t read the sign:

Hybrid Vehicle Parking

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