Congratulations to the winners of Chicago Audubon's First Annual Photo Contest. We would like to thank all of you who entered for sharing your beautiful images with us. We also thank our judges for their valuable time and support. And many thanks to the Field Museum and the Chicago Botanic Garden for donating prizes.
1st Place: Steven Jner Palm Warbler
3rd Place: Jennifer Marshall Black-crowned Night Heron
We look forward to seeing even more entries for Chicago Audubon's
Second Annual Photo Contest in 2017.
"This network of pools, channels and islands winds between Winnetka, Northfield and Glencoe. With public boat access (boasting some of Cook County’s best fishing), biking and hiking trails and picnic areas, this well loved, wooded preserve offers peaceful retreats and activities around every bend. The Skokie Lagoons Forest Preserve covers 894 acres." Cook County Forest Preserve District fpdcc.com.
THE SKOKIE LAGOONS -- By John Elliott, Chicago Audubon Society Conservation Committee
Long before there was a forest preserve, before a settlement called Chicago was founded on the prairie, before Jean Baptiste DuSable built a trading post on the Chicago River, when explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet made the first recorded passage by Europeans over the Chicago Portage, a grand old bur oak much like the one pictured here would have already been a maturing tree. Known to relatively few, the original still stands today surrounded by a tangle of buckthorn on the western edge of Erickson Woods preserve of the Skokie Lagoons.
When the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the Skokie Lagoons during the great depression of the 1930’s, the region gained a fishing, boating, hiking and biking recreation area—at the cost of losing a diverse marshland home to many wild creatures. From Willow Road to Lake-Cook Road in Winnetka the only remnants of those original communities is a sedge meadow and the neighboring grand old oak that lie between the levee and drainage channel of the lagoons. Over the years much of the land was overrun by buckthorn and other invasive species of marginal value to wildlife. After the lakes of the lagoon system were dredged and rehabilitated in the 1990’s, some hardy volunteers took on the challenge of remedying at least a small portion of past neglect. Chicago Audubon’s Jerry Garden was the first volunteer steward to work on removing invasive species at a lagoon site along Tower Road in Winnetka, beginning at the shore just east of the parking area along Tower Road. After Jerry left us for Alaska, Dave Kosnik and Daniel Kielson took over as stewards. A few years later, Gary Morrissey also joined the stewardship team. In the past few years, work has been concentrated north of Tower, working east towards Forestway Drive. Buckthorn has been removed from much of the target area. While buckthorn removal remains a regular workday activity—and a favorite of many volunteers—there is a renewed emphasis on follow-up work. Even though “it’s not as much fun,” Dave says, follow up maintenance is defense against recolonization and is now a very important task. In spring, control of garlic mustard is also needed.
Quite a few years ago I put in my small bit of effort working with Mighty Acorns school groups removing buckthorn around that historic oak. In the past few years, responsibility for restoration there has fallen to Adam Kessel of the Cook County Forest Preserves. Unfortunately, he reports, the last school working there left the program two years ago, and the re-sprouting of buckthorn threatens to overwhelm what had been accomplished. Meanwhile, volunteers worked with district contractors to remove teasel from the sedge meadow. Dave Kosnik reports success. If all goes well the meadow will only need prescribed fire for maintenance. Teasel removal was spearheaded by the site’s bird monitors who then documented the return of shrubland birds like Willow Flycatchers. Daniel Kielsen is also president of an organization called the Backyard Nature Center (BYNC) which works with schools, turning the lagoons into something of an outdoor classroom. Their main focus of late has been on aquatics. The BYNC is a community organization in New Trier Township spanning Glencoe and Winnetka that works to connect children, youth, and adults with local natural areas. It is particularly active in bringing school groups to the Lagoons (and other preserves) for science lessons and service learning.
Prothonotary Warblers and Red-headed Woodpeckers that have nested here testify to the importance of restoration for habitat. Migrant birds are finding critical resting stops here now. Lake restoration greatly improved resources for wintering waterfowl, including a Barrow’s Goldeneye that was a winter visitor several years ago. Dave says, “The Skokie Lagoons is a special place, a big area with a lot of diverse habitat in the middle of suburbia. Many people use the lagoons for recreation, and the many native and migrant birds and other animals that live there make it a really important place.” Thanks Dave, Daniel, and Gary! Thanks volunteers! The reward is knowing you have contributed in a perhaps small but no doubt valuable way to the revival of habitat for birds and other creatures.
Workdays every second Saturday of the month welcome any and all volunteers. Contact Dave Kosnik at [email protected] for information.
Feeder Placement for Reducing Window Strikes—Placement of feeders within three feet of a window or more than 30 feet away from a window are the safest positions. When feeders are close to a window, a bird leaving the feeder cannot gain enough momentum to do itself harm if it strikes the window. And if feeders are more than 30 feet from a window, the birds are less likely to perceive windows as a pathway to other parts of your yard.Some other possibilities for hanging a feeder include hanging from the eaves at the corner of a house, or fixing it directly to a window. Also, periodically moving feeders to a different location helps to minimize the build up of waste on the ground. And placement near (but not over) a water feature, such as a bird bath, will almost ensure that birds will find your feeder.
Providing Safe Haven Near the Feeder—Birds are more often than not completely out in the open when at a feeder, making them targets for local predators. A brush pile or shrub within about 10 feet of the feeder will provide a place for birds to quickly fly into when a predator is within striking distant.The term “brush pile” describes a mound or heap of woody vegetative material, usually loosely constructed to furnish additional wildlife cover. Brush piles can be tidy or wild, large or small, and mostly made up of wood which can be alive or dead. Discarded Christmas trees (without the tinsel) can be used as a base for a brush pile—then build up from there. Our resident and migrating birds need the kind of cover that brush piles offer.
Three Seeds that Attract Many Birds:
Black Oil Sunflower: A favorite with many species—Cardinals, Woodpeckers, Blue jays, Goldfinches, Purple Finches, Chickadees, Titmice, Nuthatches and others. Because of raccoons and squirrels, it’s best to put most of your sunflower seeds in hanging feeders. The black sunflower seed, sometimes called oil seed is best rather than the grey-and-white-striped sunflower seed. It’s called black oil because they are higher in oil content and they also have softer shells.
Nyjer: Goldfinches adore Nyjer seed. It is also very popular with Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls and other small-billed seed-eating birds—Nuthatches, Chickadees, Doves, and Downy Woodpeckers—but no one loves it more than Goldfinches! And Nyjer doesn’t look large enough to have a shell, but it does! And because it’s so small, it’s easy to mistake ground debris under a Nyjer feeder for seed that has fallen, but take a closer look at what looks like fallen seed—it’s most likely tiny Nyjer seed shells on the ground. The birds eat the seeds and the shells drop. And, happily for the birds, squirrels typically ignore Nyjer seed (which is good for you as well because it is expensive). Do not mix the Nyjer with other seeds because you will have squirrels and Grackles sweeping through the mixture to get at what they want.
Safflower: Squirrels do not like Safflower, and Grackles may try it once but then generally leave it alone after the first encounter. Its thick shell is difficult for some birds to crack open, but it is loved by many species and high in protein. Put Safflower in tube feeders for House Finches, Chickadees, and Nuthatches. Use elevated feeders for Blue Jays, Cardinals, and other Grosbeaks, and put it in ground feeders for Doves. And, as with the Nyjer, be careful not to mix Safflower in with other seed.
Thank You for Feeding the Birds All Year Long!!
Book Review by Gail Goldberger
A CENTURY OF CHANGE
ILLINOIS BIRDS: A CENTURY OF CHANGE
is published by the Illinois Natural History
Survey Special Publication 31, 2010, and
can be found at
Commissioned by the Illinois Natural History Survey, data compiled from bird counts at three fifty-year intervals, and repeated at the same locations, make up the oldest standardized survey in the nation.
Ian Cheney’s 2011 award winning documentary – The City Dark – gives audiences an appreciation of what is being lost as we live in a world that is increasingly filled with light pollution. Besides no longer being able to enjoy stars in a night sky or inquire about the cosmos by peering deep into space – there are real dangers to human health and the well-being of the planet when we live in a 24-hour light cycle.
Migratory birds fatally attracted to urban lighting, baby turtles disoriented and confused by beach front lights are all victims of the rapid introduction of excessive outdoor lighting that has occurred in just the last generation. Changing light in the environment is altering habitat in a way that is not good for nature and humans.
National Audubon, among other organizations, co-sponsors Delta Dispatches, an online newsletter that keeps us abreast of current environmental updates regarding Coastal Louisiana. This website is a great resource for the latest information on the region: www.mississippiriverdelta.org/
Chicago Bird Collision Monitors is looking for volunteers to assist in their conservation and rescue efforts for migratory birds in downtown Chicago and outlying areas. Help rescue the birds! CBCM is a conservation project of the Chicago Audubon Society. For further information, please call (773) 988-1867.
For even more info go to www.birdmonitors.net
What to do if you find an entangled bird:
Migration season will soon be here again, and our our nationally-known program, Lights Out! will soon resume. With the cooperation and support of the Mayor's Nature and Wildlife Committee and the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago (BOMA), lights in many of downtown Chicago's tall buildings are turned out during the overnight hours in order to avoid attracting migratory birds, which can otherwise become disoriented and crash into the buildings. More information.
People have different approaches to bird watching and bird identification. Here are a few tips to help the new birder remember details before reaching for the guidebook. This information is meant to be a general guide.