Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Two Weekends, Four Forest Preserves, Lots of Memories

Over the past two weekends, I visited four more Forest Preserves, added several birds to my life list and lots of new to me wildflowers.  I list the preserves in the order that I visited them, starting with Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve on May 24th.  Springbrook has a split personality, with two thirds of it being prairie, intersected by Spring Brook and containing several water features, including a marsh and a slough.  Spring Brook also runs through the remaining third of the Preserve, but this section contains prairie areas broken up by riparian areas along the banks of the brook.  Both areas have their own flora and fauna and that makes them equally worth visiting.  The highlights of this trip were watching model airplane enthusiasts flying remote controlled planes, a Monarch butterfly, Boblinks, which were very abundant, a Common Yellowthroat, finally getting a decent photo of a Song Sparrow and a bale of turtles (now there's a term you don't hear every day).

Danaus plexippus, Monarch Butterfly, battered but still carrying on.

Dolichonyx oryzivorus, Bobolink, male

Dolichonyx oryzivorus, Bobolink, female

Geothlypis trichas, Common Yellowthroat

Melospiza melodia, Song Sparrow

A bale of turtles, most likely Chrysemys picta, Painted Turtles

There were also several new wildflowers in the section of the Preserve that was mixed prairie and wooded groves, including Balsam Ragwort, Philadelphia Fleabane and Common Elderberry.

Senecio pauperculus, Balsam Ragwort

Erigeron philadelphicus, Philadelphia Fleabane

Sambucus canadensis, Common Elderberry

On the 25th, I revisited McDowell Grove Forest Preserve and spent an hour or so birdwatching, then spent the remainder of my time there fly fishing, first in the West Branch of the DuPage River, then at Mud Lake.  While I didn't spend a lot of time birding, I did see my first Ruby-throated Hummingbird and a raccoon wading along the bank of a small creek, then crossing over the creek on a fallen tree.  I also came across a small glen with a couple of dozen spiderwebs glowing in the early morning light, and several large fields of Dames Rocket putting on an impressive display.

Archilochus colubris, Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Procyon lotor, Raccoon

Spider web in the morning sun

A field of Dames Rocket on the banks of the West Branch of The DuPage.

I had the 26th off, it being Memorial Day, so I headed out to St. James Farm Forest Preserve, which is the former home of the McCormick family, of International Harvester fame.  The Preserve includes several original barns, immaculately maintained grounds and 3.5 miles of paths through the woods.  It also includes a small pond where I spent a few enjoyable hours fly fishing for blue gill and bass after I completed my trek along the trails.  Birding was difficult, as the trees provided lots of cover for the many birds that were heard but not seen, including a wild turkey, but I did manage to get a picture of a Baltimore Oriole, even though it's not the best one ever taken.  I also shot a picture of a dragonfly and a bullfrog.

Icterus galbula, Baltimore Oriole

Plathemis lydia, Common Whitetail, female

Lithobates catesbeiana, Bullfrog

On the flora side, I found Wild Columbine, Ohio Buckeye, Virgina Waterleaf, Virginia Bluebells, Yellow Wood Sorrel and Yellow Iris.

Aquilegia canadensis, Wild Columbine

Aesculus glabra, Ohio Buckeye

Hydrophyllum virginianum, Virginia Waterleaf

Mertensia virginica, Virginia Bluebells

Oxalis fontana, Yellow Wood Sorrel

Iris pseudacorus, Yellow Iris

This past Saturday, June 1st, I visited Blackwell Forest Preserve and it is a mix of wooded areas and open prairie srrounding McKee Marsh.  There is also a more developed area surrounding Silver Lake that I didn't take in on this trip since the portion I did involved a trek of about 7 miles.  I saw quite a diversity of wildlife, with the most notable being several Wood Thrushes and a Yellow Warbler, both additions to my life list.

Butorides virescens, Green Heron, one of several I saw.

Setophaga petechia, Yellow Warbler

Hylocichla mustelina, Wood Thrush

Apolone mutica, Smooth Softshell

Beaver Den and dam

Calopteryx maculata, Ebony Jewelwing


Tachycineta bicolor, Tree Swallow, nesting in a Bluebird box.

Wildflowers were in abundance, but I haven't identified them all yet, so I'll only post those I've identified.

Iris virginica shrevei, Blue Flag Iris

Nuphar advena, Spatterdock

Wild grape flowers

I'll try to identify more of the wildflowers so I can include them in my next post.

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