A full moon rises, a screen door slams shut, a katydid’s creaking calls echo, and a Luna moth (Actias luna) flutters in circles around the back porch light. We’re captivated by this green ghost of summer, concealed by broad leaves and seen rarely during the day, emerging at night only to mate for its few fleeting days of adulthood. How lucky it is that Luna moths live in the Lake County Forest Preserves in northern Illinois.
When most adults hear someone mention crayfish, what most likely comes to mind is a culinary dish rooted in the South. However, mention crayfish to a group of Summer Campers at the Lake County Forest Preserves, and you will see eyes light up and hands reach for pond-scooping nets and buckets while their minds contemplate questions of “how big?” and “how many?” During our hikes to the edge of a pond the campers exchange crayfish stories about the best techniques for catching these crustaceans, the size of earlier catches growing the closer we get to the water.
This time of the year brings dazzling firework shows high in the sky. But, look closer to the ground in grassy yards and woodlands, and you will catch that same sense of awe as a myriad of lights burst, creating nature’s very own fireworks display. Watching and catching fireflies is one of the most quintessential summer experiences in the Midwest. There is a giddiness in holding a creature in your hand and watching it glow before it flies away to join the show. Continue reading →
Amazing. Fascinating. Adorable. Essential. These are the first words that come to mind when I think about bats. Would you use the same descriptors?
Bats are highly beneficial and play a vital role in maintaining the balance of nature. They help control insect pests and are vital pollinators and seed-dispersers for countless plants worldwide. Yet the world’s only flying mammal is still among the most feared and misunderstood of animal groups. Continue reading →
It was a cloudy morning just before dawn. As the sky lightened in the east, threatening storms became even more illuminated. I began to wonder if getting up this early for a bird count was going to be worthwhile. Still groggy with sleep, I crept out of the car and heard the distinctive “peenting” of American woodcocks (Scolopax minor) calling throughout Middlefork Savanna. The storms held off as a fellow naturalist and I headed down the trail, our eyes adjusting to the dim light of dawn. As we approached the craggy branches of an oak tree, we spotted the stocky body and characteristic “ear” tufts of a great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) hunched over its breakfast. If we heard or saw nothing else on this hike, I knew at that moment, getting up early was worth it. Continue reading →