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Naturalist Notebook

Reviews and journal entries inspired by nature in West Central Illinois.
ANativeGem

A Native Gem

Tucked into a corner of my house on a gravelly hill, is a small shrub planted several years ago when I first arrived in Knox County. This shrub is known as Clove Current or Ribes odoratum and it certainly lives up to its description! About this time every spring, it's spicy fragrance becomes quite noticeable. Bearing yellow tubular flowers along the length of its stems, it perfumes the...

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A Fish Tale

A Fish Tale

As a child, I was very fortunate to have grown up near a creek. The small stream known as Springbrook Creek that flowed by my house and through rural DuPage County was a child's paradise! Little did I know then that it would prepare me for becoming a naturalist and that I would be living alongside another creek later in my life. The headwaters of Henderson Creek intersect my property as...

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The Early Birds

The Early Birds

Just about this time every winter, subtle changes begin to occur in the natural world. There still may be snow on the ground and in the air but that doesn't seem to affect the invisible clocks of the creatures around us. Every morning as winter gradually lessons it's grip, these changes become more noticeable to me. On this late February day, I immediately heard the noisy chatter of bla...

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Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles

Since moving to western Illinois, in close proximity to the Mississippi River, I have been amazed to witness the fantastic comeback of the Bald Eagle. Growing up in rural DuPage County and being an outdoor child, I had dreamed of one day seeing a Bald Eagle in the wild. At that time eagle populations were declining across the North American continent. Science eventually revealed the pri...

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Big River State Park

Big River State Park

On an unusually warm and sunny December day, I had the pleasure of accompanying a small group of local girl scouts on their outing to Big River State Park. The objective of the day was to learn about trees and identify at least 5 different trees on our hike. Big River State Park, along the Mississippi River, is primarily an old pine plantation, established for the demonstration...

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Fall Day

Fall Day

Fall arrived this year rather late. The warm temps continued past the official start of the season and our area remained very dry for a time. The beautiful colors that Sugar Maples typically display were missing. Now, moving into late fall, a different kind of beauty has taken the place of Sugar Maple leaf color. Oaks will sometimes hold their leaves all winter but before it get...

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Last Drink of Summer; A hummingbird feeding from orange jewelweed. Painting by Rose Moore, Knox County Master Naturalist

Jewelweed

About this time of year, a tiny flash of orange begins to appear along trails and paths through woodland borders and along meandering streams. This lovely little gem is Impatiens capensis also known as Orange Jewelweed, Spotted Jewelweed or Touch-Me-Not. From its Latin name you can guess what familiar garden plants it is related to. Native to North America, it is certainly a familiar b...

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