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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog
Environmental Stewardship
Snowy Owl

Winter has Arrived

I feel like it has been a very long time since we have had a truly cold winter. Last winter was so mild I think we all forgot what a real winter feels like in Illinois. And the way that November and most of December felt like I think we all thought that we were going to get away with a second mild winter. However, winter is here and it feels like it is making up for the past couple of years....

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A Better Choice

We have been hearing about how Monarch Butterflies are in trouble. The question is "what to do to help the Monarch's?" The common answer has been to plant more milkweed, but is this the best advice to give? Is the answer to the Monarch question much more complicated than just planting more milkweed? Monarch Butterflies are amazing creatures. I cannot think of any other creature that beg...

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Natives are the Best

The past few years have seen an increase in concern for helping pollinators and other insects. To me, this is the top concern for anyone who is gardening. When I go back and look at the questions that I received over the past year or so, the majority of them have to do with creating habitat for butterflies, bumblebees and other pollinators. Creating habitat is not a bad thing, far from it, but...

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The Alternative Energy Run Down

Alternative energy gets a lot of time in many of the discussions I have had recently. Many of them are extensions of other topics, but somehow the conversation is moved to some form of alternative energy. Several of them start out with "But how does this type of energy affect (fill in the blank)?" With this in mind, here are the most popular forms of alternative energy production with some pros...

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Feeding Wildlife

How many of us have gone to feed the ducks at a local park or pond near our homes? I would guess that most if not all people have done this at some point in our lives. Whoever it was that took you to the pond to feed the ducks more than likely it was done with a bag of white bread or bread heels, and those ducks went nuts for that bread. However, have you stopped to think about what feeding wil...

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The Need for Hunting

All creatures modify their habitats to better meet their needs. Some make major modifications, like beavers, and some make minor changes like moles. Humans are no exception to this they fall under the type of creature that makes major changes to their habitats. Humans replace forests and prairies with cities and agriculture fields; displacing different animal species because they pose a threat...

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The Mind Mending Power of Nature

I am sure that no one will deny that nature is exceptionally beneficial. Trees and other plants provide oxygen; nature provides recreational opportunities and food for some. Access to water without rivers, streams, and lakes would be much more difficult. However, there are some much less tangible benefits to nature as well. Nature provides mental renewal, reduces healing time for patients in ho...

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Bird Bees and Wild Things: Float Like a Butterfly

If you read the first part of Birds Bees and Wild Things, you will remember that to attract birds to your yard; insects are an essential element of a bird's diet for part of the year. Attracting wildlife to your yard is an interconnected effort, and to attract all types of wildlife, you need to look at your yard as a habitat you have food, water, shelter, and space. When you are looking...

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Birds Bees and Wild Things: Feathered Friends

Attracting wildlife to your yard is something in which everyone seems to be interested. But knowing how to do this is what many people lack.  As you think about attracting wildlife to your yard, the first step is to start looking at your yard as a habitat. All habitats have four elements: water, shelter, food, and space. To attract and keep wildlife coming back all four elements must be readily...

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Trench Composting

Trench, Keyhole and Mound Gardening reuses plant materials. By Kelly Allsup

Guest author Kelly Allsup   Start your gardening endeavors this fall by using plant materials (organic matter) that you would normally put on the curb for pick-up. Whether you use the trench, keyhole, mound (also known as Hugelkultur) gardening methods, you will be creating a growing environment that requires no fertilizer, little irrigation and ideal for root growth. Fr...

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Happy Halloween

Historically nature was a dangerous place. The wild areas were where "evil" lived. Just take a look at the many fairy tales. The witch lived in the deep woods, the wolf was the bad guy and the vampire turns into a bat. So often the unknown turns into the aspects that need to be feared. But as I have written before, much of the "scary" parts of nature are also some of the most interesting....

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Perilous Pears

In recent years, one of the most popular trees planted in yards and by cities has been Callery Pear. These trees are cultivars of the Bradford Pear ( Pyrus calleryana) . They cannot self-pollinate, so it was thought this would be a good thing, preventing the rapid spread of these trees. This was meant to prevent them from becoming a problem like some of the other trees and shrubs that ha...

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Controlling the Uncontrolled- Bush Honeysuckle

If you have read some of my previous article or blogs, you will know that invasive species pose a problem in Illinois, particularly in restoration projects. I have given a lot of information about different species in the past, but have given very little information on some of the control methods for some of the most pervasive species that are found in Illinois. Today, I am going to focus on Bu...

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Beautiful Bats

One of the most misunderstood animals found in Illinois is the bat. There are many persistent, false rumors and legends that have given bats a bad name. Many of these stories have been created out of a lack of understanding and outright fear. But bats are far from being something to be feared. They are highly beneficial. If you are sitting out on your porch, patio, or deck at dusk, you might ju...

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Getting to the root of “it”

Plants are amazing organisms. They can turn sunlight into food; they have developed some amazing defenses against their predators; and many of them are simply beautiful. But one of the most amazing things about plants is the parts that you never see. The roots are just as amazing as the flowers, leaves, and stems. On the surface you cannot see the roots, and they may seem a little boring and in...

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Digging In: Secret Soil Stuff

There is a whole world under our feet. It is more than just "dirt" that you are standing on. In fact, it is not even dirt, it is soil. The soil beneath your feet is teeming with life. It is a world that is alien to us, but is just as amazing as the world that is around us. Soil has so much life in it, ranging from the earthworms that you see to things that are not visible unless you look at it...

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Natures Nightly Number

If you are like me, you enjoy sitting in your back yard on nice spring and summer evenings. But even in the small town that I live in it is far from quiet. Sitting on my porch or patio, I can hear a number of noises and most of them are not man made. In the spring and early summer, there are lots of noises to listen to, and it is pleasant to sit on a cool night and just listen to the mu...

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There are lots of reasons to hate mosquitoes. For most people it is the itching that accompanies the bite, but there are health reasons to hate them too. In February of this year the news began to talk about the Zika virus and its dangers. Although Zika is in the news, mosquitoes carry a number of other diseases that should be considered. Illinois has had very few cases of Zika and none of them...

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Animal of the Week: Rat Snake

If you have read some of my other blogs or articles, you are well aware of my stance on snakes. I believe that the only good snake is a hungry snake. Snakes have many benefits in the ecosystems where they are found. One of the most common snakes in Illinois is the Rat Snake and it is a beautiful example of the snakes found in Illinois. There are two Rat Snakes found in Illinois - the Gr...

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Saving the Rain for Later

The past few weeks have been very wet. We seem to have a lot more rain in the spring, and this year is no exception to that rule. We have had an average of approximately four inches of rain over the last 30 days. This is a lot of water that could be used during the summer months when there is less rain. Rain barrels are an excellent way to save that rain for a not-so-rainy day. There ar...

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Jumping Worm

Every year there seems to be a new invasive species that we need to take into consideration, and this year will not be a disappointment. The Jumping Worm is a new invasive species that you need to keep an eye out for this year. It is new to Illinois though not to the US. Although it has only been identified in three counties (Cook, DuPage, and McHenry), it poses a threat to the entire state if...

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Animal of the Week: White-breasted Nuthatch

A small bird that is found in parks, yards, and seen at bird feeders throughout the year is this week's animal of the week. The White-breasted Nuthatch is a small agile bird that is often seen going down a tree head first. The White-breasted Nuthatch is the largest of the nuthatch family. Though it is the biggest in its family, the nuthatches are small birds. They have a large head, sho...

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Animal of the Week: River Otter

Everyone loves a comeback story, and going from nearly extirpated in Illinois and on the state endangered species list to being delisted in 2004 is the ultimate comeback story. Fun-loving, playful, and cute are just a few of the descriptions that are used to describe the River Otter. The River Otter is among the most recognizable mammal in Illinois because of its apparent playfulness, and its l...

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Getting Ready for Your Friends

The weather is getting nicer; the rain is falling, even if it is not April yet; and the birds are singing in the morning. This means that it is time to start thinking about attracting some of the more colorful friends to your yard. Hummingbirds are fun and exciting to watch. Seeing a bird come to a complete stop in mid-air is so much fun. The Ruby-throated hummingbird has begun its migration an...

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Animal of the Week: Ruby-throated Hummingbird

As the weather is changing we are hearing more birds in the morning and we are beginning to see more birds. One bird that is always fun and exciting to see each year is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The Ruby-throated Humming is found throughout Eastern North America. It is only found in Eastern North America and its habitat does not overlap with any other species of hummingbird except the Blac...

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