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Naturalist Notebook

Reviews and journal entries inspired by nature in West Central Illinois.
Journal Entry
AFrogsLife

A Frog's Life

Over the years, I have tried to provide good habitats for the animals that live alongside me on this land. Despite my efforts though it seems that some of these creatures prefer to dwell in or on the house that I built for myself! They must find it as comfortable as I do. For the past couple of years, the tree frog population has seemed to be on the uptick here. Their...

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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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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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Fireflies - by HBee

Fireflies

This season has been a rather extraordinary one for the glowing bugs. I am treated nightly to quite a show. It seems there is more this year than before. A good thing for a species that has seen numbers decline. The firefly is not actually a fly but a nocturnal member of the beetle family. In the order Coleoptera, the family name Lampyridae comes from the Greek lampesin or "to shine."...

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A Spring Walk

A Spring Walk

It is now approaching the end of May, and the trees have filled out, and the nests have been built and new life born this spring is emerging to explore the world. I will never tire of watching this story unfold year after year. In fact, it is why I choose to live in this part of the world where seasonal changes are more dramatic. There is joy in anticipating the changes to come from season to seas...

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Earth Day

Today, on this Earth Day, I planted a forest. One Hundred and Eighty tree seedlings is a tiny bit of what it is going to take to re-forest these acres, but it's a start. The land I live on was once a forested along Henderson Creek on rolling terrain with breaks where prairie appeared, and bottom lands were rich in a diversity of plants. This is the western edge of The Grand Prairie Divi...

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Sugar Maple

Sugar'n Tyme

Every year about this time, Argyle Lake State Park holds it's Maple Syrup Festival. I had the opportunity to attend the event about two weeks ago on a fine Saturday morning. The park has good stands of sugar maple trees(Acer saccharinum) well suited for tapping and collecting sap for boiling down for syrup or sugar. They have developed a great festival to display to the public how this old time...

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coyote

The Wild Things Conference

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Wild Things Conference at the University of Illinois Chicago. The event happened to fall on one of those rare winter days that fooled everyone into believing it was spring. Warm, sunny and with crystal clear air, Chicago was at it's finest. The mood of the day was friendly all around the city and at the conference. The crowd was impr...

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Winter Wonders

Winter Wonders

My lofty dreams of a snowy winter, where I could walk along frozen paths and enjoy the glistening sunshine have all been dashed and I find myself scraping mud from my boots at the end of the day. Tracking wildlife in the snow had been an enjoyable pastime for me. Sometimes I could follow an animal's activities for quite a distance on frozen ground. This winter has been more of a challen...

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otter

Wildlife Adventures

It is late fall and a frosty morning as I take my first walk of the day. The heavy frost reveals the drama of the night before. Many creatures ventured out in the brilliant light of the "super moon". Their tracks crisscross the path and disappear in the tall grass. I come across a fresh kill. Not much left of the critter but by the looks of the fuzzy little tail I can tell it was one of the cot...

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Wildflower Treasures

Wildflower Treasures

I have always loved a treasure hunt. Finding something new or never seen before is always a thrill. Searching for wildflowers that I have not seen before or perhaps that are just beginning to make an appearance is one of the greatest pleasures that I have experienced on my daily walks around my home. I have lived on a parcel of land along the north branch of Henderson Creek in K...

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