Wild Beauty in Winter Dark

Prairie Dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum (detail), © Heeyoung Kim
Prairie Dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum (detail), © Heeyoung Kim

I used to be a happy camper when I was painting a Shooting Star in spring, but soon I realized that I could paint only one plant during that time, missing all others, because I only had limited time. After agonizing over the issue, I came up with a solution: just drawing and keeping color notes in blooming seasons, and finishing up the paintings in winter. How perfect with Chicago’s long winter!  At this point, more than 70 finished and unfinished drawings are waiting for their turn. New ones are added whenever opportunities arise. Even exotic plants like Ginseng and Titan Arum have found their place in my flat file. Of course, I should paint Ginseng, an Asian cure-all, to honor my father who was an herbal medicine practitioner.

image of sketches

Often people ask me what I do in winter.  Continue reading Wild Beauty in Winter Dark

Upcoming Training Workshops

Tracks in the snow, 1/20/16, DuPage County © Stacy Constantelos
Tracks in the snow, 1/20/16, DuPage County © Stacy Constantelos

Want to monitor frogs, butterflies, dragonflies or plants?  Want to learn about herbicides, brush cutting or burns? Need certification to do what you love? Late winter/early spring is a great time to consider what you’ll be up to in 2016’s warmer days! You can track down upcoming training workshops on our classes page.

Observing Odonates

white faced meadowhawk-mayslake dupage
White-Faced Meadowhawk, DuPage County, IL © Linda Padera

Are you an insect fan looking for a monitoring opportunity? A frequenter of a local wetland? Maybe a birder looking for creatures to track between migration seasons? Just want to level up your binocular and observation skills? Monitoring Odonates (Order Odonata, encompassing dragonflies and damselflies) may be just the thing for you.

The Illinois Odonate Survey has six workshops scheduled for 2016.  They are listed below.  Please RSVP for your selected workshop by email.  Cook and Will County volunteers should also be able to RSVP via their Volunteer Resources page.

Will County Forest Preserve
Sugar Creek Administration Center February 27th 8am – 10am
17540 W. Laraway Road, west of Route 52, Joliet, IL 60433
Sandra McNicholas

Notebaert Nature Museum March 12th 10am – Noon
2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614
Melissa Drozd

DuPage County Forest Preserve
Blackwell Forest Preserve March 15th 6pm – 8pm
29 W 220 Mack Road, West Chicago, IL 60185
Gareth Blakesley

Cook County Forest Preserve
Volunteer Resource Center March 19th 9am – Noon
6100 N. Central Avenue, Chicago, IL 60646
James Philips

Little Red Schoolhouse March 20th 9am – Noon
9800 Willow Springs Road, Willow Springs, IL 60480
James Philips

Lake County Forest Preserve
Ryerson Woods March 26th 10am – Noon
21950 N. Riverwoods Road, Deerfield, IL 60015

azure bluet-elsen's hill dupage
Azure Bluet, DuPage County, IL © Linda Padera

Learn more about these amazing insects!
—Stephen Constantelos

Updated Singing Insects Guide

In 2015, I completed my 10th year of studying the singing insects of the Chicago region, and have begun to distribute the species guide that is the project’s main product. The Chicago region for this project includes 22 counties from southeastern Wisconsin around to Berrien County, Michigan. Singing insects are defined here as the cicadas, crickets, katydids, and members of two grasshopper subfamilies with sound displays that people can hear (though the songs of some are so high pitched that only young people can hear them unaided). There are around 100 species, though some I haven’t found outside historical records. I update the guide each year, and this year’s version just reached 100 pages.

Title page 2016

The guide is available for free as a highly compressed PDF document that nevertheless occupies over 5MB, thanks to the many photos. (See Online Resources—Insects  for the 2016 guide.) There are maps showing current and historical county records, graphical devices indicating seasonal and time-of-day information, and descriptions of the insects and their songs. Information is presented as well on conservation concerns and ongoing range expansions. To get on the mailing list for future updates, send your request to me at wildlifer@aol.com.

Those who wish to follow the in-season progress of this research, or with more general interests in natural history, can check out my blog, https://natureinquiries.wordpress.com/

—Carl Strang (previous Wild Things presenter)

Joining The Chicago Bird Collision Monitors

Braum Magnolia Warbler
Magnolia Warbler, Chicago, IL © Anna Braum

One morning in downtown Chicago, standing near Calder’s Flamingo sculpture waiting for the post office to open, a gray-haired woman strode up to me holding out one of her gently clenched fists. Thinking I was a bird monitor (I was carrying a bag and wearing a backpack, but had no net), she offered me the bird she held, and I replied, “That’s a Black-and-White Warbler, but I’m not a bird monitor.” We chatted for a moment and she walked away toward the lake to release the bird. I posted my package and headed toward my office. En route I found a grounded warbler, still alive, by one of the buildings. I put it in my cloth shopping bag and decided to also go to the park to release the bird. As I headed east, lo and behold, another living (oven)bird lying stunned in the middle of the sunny sidewalk. I added that one to the bag and soon released them under some trees in the relative quiet of morning.

I thought it was too early for birds to be passing through, but I knew the Loop, with its walls of glass and lights everywhere was a trap for many migratory birds. I knew the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (CBCM) group existed and that I should have contacted them at their hotline number, 773-988-1867. At Wild Things, I used to walk by their table, peering sidelong with interest; I would see volunteers in the streetlight shadows as I left my train and walked to my office. I had thought I didn’t have time to be involved, but now I was seeing birds everywhere and I decided to do something.

Continue reading Joining The Chicago Bird Collision Monitors

Remembering Margo Milde

Margo Milde, Allegheny River, PA, © Donna Yates
Margo Milde, Allegheny River, PA, © Donna Yates

In Memoriam

Margo Milde

4/10/1956 – 9/26/2015

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

Many botanists and birders in the Chicago region have seen Margo Milde in the field. She was generous in sharing her knowledge of natural areas with others. Margo was particularly gifted in recognizing bird song and sounds, a skill she attributed to the many years of arduous classical piano lessons she was forced to endure as a child. Musical training gave her ability to appreciate the subtle nuances of tone, pitch, timbre, and rhythm, just as important in identifying bird songs as they are in appreciating and performing classical works of music.

In addition to the study of piano, Margo dedicated herself to studying the plant and bird life of the Chicago region, and its interrelated human history as well. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Northeastern Illinois University (Chicago) in Biology-Environmental Studies in 1993.

In 1994 she had obtained her first professional survey contract for an updated plant inventory of Pistakee Bog Nature Preserve (Ingleside, IL). In an article she authored of her bog adventures for the Friends of Volo Bog, Bog Log in 1995, she wrote that her small stature—being less likely to sink in treacherous areas of the bog, and affording her ease of crawling through thick brush—as well as owning a functional washer and drier at home were essential attributes to her success in bog field surveys. Her work at Pistakee Bog led to numerous other botanical and bird surveys professionally for both various governmental and private agencies until her move to Pennsylvania in 2014. Continue reading Remembering Margo Milde