CPS Students Restore Dan Ryan Woods

While many Chicagoans stayed indoors on Saturday, December 10, a group of CPS students bundled up in warm layers and rolled up their sleeves to restore a natural habitat. Iyanna Hayden, a participating student from Whitney Young High School said, “This is important to me because there are a lot of things that aren’t the way they should be as far as how we treat our environment. I’m here to make a difference.”

Covan Cox, Senior at Simeon Career Academy – 12/10/2016, © Maryam Salem
Covan Cox, Senior at Simeon Career Academy. – 12/10/2016, © Maryam Salem

Students were part of a Calumet Is My Back Yard (CIMBY) Senior Service Day at Dan Ryan Woods. CIMBY is a service learning program of the Chicago Public School’s Department of Social Science and Civic Engagement which helps students reconnect with nature and learn about the local environment. Students engage in outdoor science learning activities and stewardship to benefit the Calumet region. “CIMBY’s program offers interactive activities that allow our students to learn in a unique outdoor setting about their natural environment,” explains Lauren Woods, CPS Service Learning Coordinator.

Students worked alongside Benjamin Cox and Larry Unruh, Forest Preserve District site stewards, to remove invasive plants including buckthorn and honeysuckle. Introduced from overseas and able to grow in low quality soil, these invasive plants don’t give native plants and trees an opportunity to grow, negatively impacting the health of the local ecosystem. After two hours of stewardship work, the students were guided on a nature hike with Field Museum staff. Students learned about a variety of native plant and animal species and the importance of preserving species like the White Oak tree, a keystone species of Illinois.

CPS students on a nature hike at Dan Ryan Woods during Senior Service Day. – 12/10/2016, © Maryam Salem
CPS students on a nature hike at Dan Ryan Woods during Senior Service Day. – 12/10/2016, © Maryam Salem

The conservation efforts undertaken by CIMBY promote native trees and wildflowers to grow in places like Dan Ryan Woods, one of the very few preserves left in the city of Chicago. “Cook County has 69,000 acres of forest preserve, but only about 3,000 of them are in the city of Chicago—and this is one of them,” explained Benjamin Cox.

Dan Ryan Woods is home to dense forests, old oak woodlands and colorful ephemeral wildflowers. Much of the stunning natural preserve sits on an elevation, once an island of the ancient Lake Chicago over 10,000 years ago. Volunteer groups have been working to restore this beautiful landscape for over 10 years. As they work on projects like these, we hope the preserves will continue to see an increase in bird species and native animal habitats. For more information about volunteering with the Forest Preserves of Cook County please visit:  http://fpdcc.com/volunteer/.

Maryam Salem, Stewardship Coordinator for Calumet Is My Back Yard

Editor’s note. Learn a lot more about Calumet, the Forest Preserves of Cook County, and getting students outdoors at Wild Things 2017.

Stephen Constantelos

Save the Date for Wild Things!

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Save the date for the next Wild Things Conference!

Saturday, February 18, 2017 at University of Illinois Chicago Forum.

Join us for the seventh biennial Wild Things Conference, bringing together volunteers, advocates, citizen scientists, researchers, and nature enthusiasts from across the Chicago region. We look forward to welcoming you to our new conference space at the UIC Forum for an inspiring day of presentations, workshops, and networking opportunities designed for the conservation community.

Wondering about the latest efforts to save the rusty-patched bumblebee? Curious to hear about the Kankakee mallow’s triumphant comeback on Langham Island? The Wild Things 2017 Conference is the place to be for the latest updates on these and other regional conservation issues.

Important upcoming dates:

  • August 27 – Call for presentations on our website
  • November 15 – Registration opens

Can’t wait for the conference? We encourage you to explore our new website and follow our Facebook page.

Fall Migration Is Coming Fast

Downtown bird monitors are often treated to beautiful morning skies as they start their rounds. – 8/15/2016, © Stephen Constantelos
Downtown bird monitors are often treated to beautiful morning skies as they start their rounds. – 8/15/2016, © Stephen Constantelos

I previously posted about how I came to join the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (CBCM) and mission they pursue—rescuing birds in trouble throughout the year. It’s a rare day the hotline (773-988-1867) doesn’t get a call about a Chicagoland bird—only one day in 2015 came and went without a call for help.

Training Sessions

And now fall is coming. Birds and their fledglings are preparing to take wing en masse, to head south to the comforts such climes offer. Now is a great time to join the CBCM as a downtown monitor, rescuer in the city or suburbs, advocate for bird-safe building practices, or transporter of rescued birds to one of CBCM’s wildlife rehabilitation center partners.  Take a look at the training session schedule and sign up today. One session and you’ll be winging your way to a multifaceted, humane experience.

Stephen Constantelos

Summertime: Our Wild Things Website

Among the milkweeds and walnuts, Veterans Park, Naperville – 6/3/16, © Stephen Constantelos
Morning sky over burgeoning milkweeds and walnut trees, Veterans Park, Naperville – 6/3/16, © Stephen Constantelos

Summer is just about here, so why not spend a little of your cooling-off time with Wild Things? I encourage you to explore this website, created by and for our community. You can “Find Your Spot” for volunteering as well as learn about upcoming training classes. Wander down the growing list of resources, including local artists, advocate organizations, and books. And you can re-live the glories of past Wild Things and even download past conference materials. We hope to see a lot of traffic back and forth between here and the Wild Things Facebook page.

What’s more, you can contribute to this website, enhancing the above sections or this blog. So, if you have any tales of local volunteering, ecological success stories or restoration techniques, philosophic ruminations on what Wild Things is all about, or natural history notes from our part of IL, WI, or IN, please contact us. By the way, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog, if you’re up for an occasional email about a new post.

As we prepare for next year’s conference, I’m especially keen to hear from previous presenters or those who may be presenting for the first time. What’s new with your research? It only takes a few paragraphs and an image or two to get something posted.

—Stephen Constantelos, Wild Things Blog Editor

Lurie Garden, Millennium Park, Chicago – 5/31/16, © Stephen Constantelos
Lurie Garden, Millennium Park, Chicago – 5/31/16, © Stephen Constantelos

Hazelnut and Plum: Shrub Restoration at Orland Grassland

Shrub Day volunteer group shot, Orland Grassland – 5/6/2016 © Pat Hayes
Shrub Propagation Day volunteer group shot, Orland Grassland – 5/6/2016 © Pat Hayes

It’s the first time this has been done and a lot of eyes are watching.

A unique collaborative effort by Victor J. Andrew High School (VJA) AP Environmental Science students, Illinois Master Naturalists (ILMNs), Orland Grassland Volunteers (OGVs), and the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC) launched a pilot project to set up a shrub nursery at Orland Grassland from shrubs propagated on site.

With expansive prairie views, hilly, open Orland Grassland is a 960-acre wild destination for nature lovers. The area was once farmland, but since 2002 has been undergoing loving restoration as a grassland complex with prairie, wetlands, open ponds, oak savannas, shrublands, and woodlands.

The shrub project began when Laura Kirby, an AP Environmental Science teacher at VJA, contacted Pat Hayes, Orland Grassland Site Steward, asking if there was a project her students could do. Almost at the same time, Annette Pletcher, OGV and ILMN, came to Pat and asked if there was a project the ILMNs could do at Orland Grassland. Hmmm. Shrub propagation?

Enter Brigit Anne Holt, the Extension Program Coordinator, Master Naturalist, University of Illinois Extension. The question was posed: “Is it possible to take cuttings of our native American plum and hazelnut shrubs, and possibly others when timely, so that the VJA students can plant them?”  The answer: “Yes, what a great project.”

After much preparation and help from many parties, “Propagation Day” was May 5, 2016.

Continue reading Hazelnut and Plum: Shrub Restoration at Orland Grassland

Moraine Valley CC Partnership Pilot

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MVCC Bird Monitoring – 3/30/2016, © Pat Hayes

A series of field study classes, honors program social media support, and year round, non-wage intern positions in several disciplines resulted when Pat Hayes, site steward from Orland Grassland, reached out to Dr. Sylvia Jenkins, President of Moraine Valley Community College and member of the Conservation and Policy Committee of the Next Century Conservation Plan Commission. The question raised was, “Is there a college partnership opportunity at Orland Grassland for students to participate in broad restoration activity for their learning enrichment and Orland Grassland’s restoration benefit?”  After a series of meetings with school staff and other key stakeholders, the answer was a resounding, enthusiastic, “Yes!”

The Moraine Valley Community College Partnership Pilot was born.

All agreed to go slow with hopes of expansion over time. Better to go slow, acquire successes upon which to build, and identify that which can be improved. As a result, a multi-faceted plan emerged…

Continue reading Moraine Valley CC Partnership Pilot

Featured by The Smithsonian

Cypripedium parviflorum (Yellow lady's slipper) complex, © Kathleen M. Garness
Cypripedium parviflorum (Yellow lady’s slipper) complex, © Kathleen Marie Garness

Wild Things’ own Kathleen Garness was the first featured scientific illustrator on The Smithsonian’s Environmental Research Center’s new website, Go Orchids! The page displays a collection of her drawings and finished paintings of a variety of beautiful orchids, many from the Chicago area. Note that each image features a little leaf “Go” link in the bottom corner taking you to more information about the orchid depicted.

View them and learn more about Kathleen and her work on the Smithsonian’s site and here on the Wild Things Community local artists profiles page. And check out the entire Go Orchids site from its homepage.

Congratulations, Kathleen!

Sweet Home, Wild Things Style

Tiger Swallowtail on Milkweed - Naperville Backyard, 7/20/2015, © Marilyn L. Schweitzer.
Tiger Swallowtail on Common Milkweed – Naperville, 7/20/2015, © Marilyn L. Schweitzer.

My interest in environmentally friendly landscaping began when my husband and I moved near Denver. Being from the Midwest, I had prepared myself to live in a far more arid area, (Denver gets about 1/3 the rainfall of Chicago). I discovered instead that over 50% of the residential water use went to maintaining landscapes, primarily bluegrass lawns. Being a bit of a lazy and frugal sort, I decided to invest in native and other drought resistant plants rather than watering a lawn or installing a sprinkler system. I found this venture both challenging and rewarding in terms of the success of the plantings and my neighbors’ approval.

When we moved to the Chicago area in 1987, I looked forward to a new urban landscaping adventure—one starting afresh with the general principles I had learned in Colorado. Over the last 28 years I have found people to be much more accepting of environmentally friendly landscaping. While weeding dandelions from my parkway it’s gone from being told, “You can’t control those without herbicides!” to “Don’t pull those—those are early pollinators for bees!”

My approach may not be for everyone, however, here are my tips towards going native in an urban/suburban environment:
Continue reading Sweet Home, Wild Things Style

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