One of the best things about my work this Summer has been getting to know all of the diverse creatures in my own backyard. The field site in DuPage is very close to my hometown – my family and I used to ride our bikes right past a marsh that has lots of Blanding’s and other great wildlife! The Lake county spot has even more diversity because it is so close to Lake Michigan that it has shorebirds and other species that depend on the lake. Sometimes, when I’ve been so focused on Blanding’s turtles all day, I can’t help but stop and enjoy all of the non-turtle nature surrounding me.
Forest preserve employees work hard to manage the land so that it is as natural as possible and fosters the recovery of endangered species. Beavers are another animal that tries to manage the land, but their goals are a little more beaver-centric. Beavers create dams to slow water flow so that they can build a home, or lodge, in the middle of a body of water. Sometimes these high water levels can be dangerous to humans. For example, one group of beavers built a dam close to a bridge that threatened to flood the bridge if heavy rains pushed the water levels even higher. Forest preserve employees are constantly working to manage beaver dams, control invasive plant species, and limit other habitat destruction.
My favorite creature to spot is a sandhill crane. Their long legs, dirty gray/brown feathers, and stubby tail resemble an emu, but they are much more graceful. Up close, they have a beautiful mask of red feathers and white cheeks. When they take flight, I am often shocked that such a large bird can get off the ground. Their honking call reminds me of a dinosaur. In fact, the earliest fossil of a sandhill crane dates back before most bird species alive today.
Below are pictures of some the beautiful things I’ve seen on my walks through the forest preserves. I hope you enjoy them and get outside to discover some of your favorite creatures!
A Chicago garter snake dances across a road
A pair of white-tail deer passing through
A beaver dam that has been breached to allow the water level to decline before it floods a bridge
This sandhill crane wandered too close to a nest and is pestered by a red-winged blackbird