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.
It was the calm before the storm. The pond was the calm, sheer and smooth. The bus that was due with over 100 middle school students for a field trip was the impending storm. Although students are always a good storm, filling the forest preserve with energy, it is inside these few moments of quiet before the bus arrives that nature seems to poke its head out to see if the coast is clear. This particular morning, the glassy water became rippled in V-shapes like geese migrating in the sky. A lone muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) slid through the water towards a clump of cattail, its snake-like tail slithering behind him.
My young sons and I recently read a library book together about the names of animal groups. I was struck by how many of the group names match the animals’ behavior or movement: a parliament of owls, a flutter of butterflies, a walk of snails. The boys and I agreed our favorite group name was an army of frogs. Continue reading →