May 2015

Prospect Heights Park District and PHNRC Classes off to a Great Start

The Prospect Heights Park District and the Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commission nature classes started last month with two excellent offerings. Both classes were highly informative and thoroughly enjoyable. The Nature Walk conducted on 4/22 by Restoration Ecologist Iza Redlinski and Birding Basics, held on 4/25 conducted by birding experts Lee Ramsey and Tim Joyce, were insightful, informative and a lot of fun.

Iza's nature walk began indoors at the Gary Morava center with a lecture about the various ecosystems and went through lakes, ponds, sedge meadows, wet prairie, prairie, savannah and oak woodland systems. She touched upon the importance of burning and how natural areas have become degraded with rampant urbanization that often results in channelization of waterways, drain tiles and the loss of wetlands and why native plants and ecosystems are so important to the health and wellbeing of our local environment.

 After the lecture, the class headed over to the Prospect Heights slough where they toured the north side of the slough looking at early spring natives and invasives. "Iza showed us native plant species that that are only here for a brief period of time in the spring and then spend the rest of the year getting ready for next spring," said Prospect Heights resident Nancy Sublette. "The Trilliums are absolutely amazing with their
camo like leaves and brilliant red flower. I was also impressed with the Marsh Marigolds. I would have never known they existed if I had not done this class."
Despite the rain and the cold, a hearty group of "birders" assembled at the Gary Morava picnic area which began with the basics. Lee and Tim discussed binoculars; which type are best, how to use them, how to calibrate them and the best techniques to find and locate birds in the binoculars. The conversation then switched to the migration patterns and schedules of birds coming through the area now and the rest of the summer.

The class concluded with a sighting tour starting at Isaak Walton Park and moving on to Willow Road in-between the north end of the slough and the south end of Hillcrest Lake where the group observed Shoveler ducks, Mallards, Wood ducks and Blue Winged Teal ducks as well as Egrets, Herons, Barn and Tree Swallows, a Yellow Rumped Warbler and others too numerous to mention. " This was fantastic today," noted Resident Dana Sievertson. I see these birds everyday and never knew what they were, Now I do and I know how to find and see them.

Spaces are still available for the rest of the summer classes being offered including  four more bird walks. Registration for the classes can be done on-line at  or by stopping by the park district between 6:30 am and 5:00 pm for walk in registration, fax your registration to (847) 394-7799 or phone in your registration to  (847) 394-2848.

Information for the remaining summer classes is listed below.

Bird Walks Explore our natural areas with an experienced birder, learn to identify birds found in Illinois, and discuss their behaviors and natural history. If you’ve always wanted to learn about birds and weren’t sure where to start, this is the program for you! Please dress for the weather and bring binoculars. F / May 22 #13847 / Sa / May 23 #13848 / F /May 29 #13849 / Sa / May 30. Time is 8:30-11:00 AM, 10.00.

Introduction to Plant Identification - Plant ecologist Christopher Benda will share a wealth of knowledge about how to positively identify plants, trees and shrubs. With hands-on activities, you’ll learn how to unlock the clues found in leaves, flowers, fruit, bark and more! This class spends a portion of the time outdoors. Please dress for the weather. #13855 / Th / Jun 4 5:30-8:30 PM $20.00

Tree and Shrub Identification - Get outside and learn to identify trees and shrubs by the details: bark, buds, leaves and form! Led by plant ecologist Christopher Benda, this 2 week class will cover over 20 trees and shrubs found in our local natural areas. This class spends a portion of the time outdoors. Please dress for the weather. #13828 / W / Jun 10 & Jun 17 5:30-8:30 PM $50.00

Local Flora - Summer Gain a greater knowledge and appreciation for the plants that are found in our local wetlands, woodlands and remnant prairies. Spend time outdoors with experts learning how to identify over 40 species of plants while learning about their habitats and plant communities. Sign up for one class or all three. This class spends most of the time outdoors. Please dress for the weather. #13827 / Th / Jul 9 #14031 / Th / Jul 16 #14035 / Th / Jul 23 5:30-8:30 PM $25.00

Summer Evening Wetland Walk - Have you ever wondered why the Slough is called a 'slough'? Do you want to know more about wetlands, their history, ecology, or what is important about the habitat that they provide? Spend an evening with restoration ecologist Izabella Redlinski, learning about the importance of wetlands. Formal instruction and discussion will be followed by a walk around the Slough during sunset, observing the fauna and flora, while discussing the ecology and restoration efforts of one of the last remaining natural wetlands in the Chicagoland area. #14036 / W / Jul 29 #14037 / F / Jul 31 6:00-8:00 PM $10.00

Summer Evening Prairie Walk - Join restoration ecologist Izabella Redlinski on a walk through the prairie, learning about the natural history of prairies and our remnant sites. Learn the names of important prairie plants and their historical and ecological significance. #13853 / Th / Aug 13 #13854 / Sa / Aug 15 6:00-8:00 PM $10.00

Boy Scouts Return for a Command Performance

Boys and parents from local area Scout Troop 468 once again joined forces with regular PHNRC volunteers this last weekend to lend a big helping hand in removing the last pockets of invasive buckthorn that remain in the Prospect Heights slough along Elmhurst Road. 

Work began at 9:00 with a reintroduction on safety issues before heading into the to work site. "Today was a very productive day," said PHNRC Commissioner Dana Sievertson. "With the experience of the last workday under their belts, the boys were even more productive today. A great deal of buckthorn went up in smoke."

It was also a day of learning. The Scouts learned how to to deal with a smolder ember in the top of a dead tree and more about habitat. Scout Matt Sabel constructed a brush pile habitat under the supervision of PHNRC commissioners. "Brush piles are an important part of what we do," said Commissioner Agnes Wojnarski. On one hand, it gives us options to burning and chipping invasives and dead wood but more importantly, it provides habitat for the the locals. This brush pile will become a home and food source for everything from micro bacteria to fungus, insects, birds, chipmunks and anything elses that decides to take up residency." The scouts were encouraged to return to the brush pile on their own to watch the transformations.
The day ended with everyone enjoyed roasting Kielbasa, hot dogs and chips.

PHNRC and Boy Scouts Plant the First Native Plugs at the Slough

Mothers Day saw the Boy Scouts and their Moms come out for Mother Earth and the first of three waves of native plug plantings at the slough and the ComEd Bike Path Prairie restorations. The conditions were perfect for the event with an overcast cool day and rain predicted for the afternoon. 
"Today we planted 900 plus plugs representing about 15 species," Said Commissioner Agnes Wojnarski. "This is very exciting for us and come fall, this will all look very different. A great deal of planning has gone into the process, there are so many things to consider, it is a real balancing act."

The plants were carefully placed based on soil conditions and moisture characteristics, light conditions, and height considerations for optimum landscape appeal. Four foot by eight foot quadrants were marked off in the four main sights at the slough. Each "cell" then contains thirty-two plugs of one species in that cell and each cell has a different species. "The goal here is to achieve biodiversity with a large variety of species," continue Wojnarski who also enlisted the expertise of Rick McAndless, former head of the Poplar Creek Prairie Stewards in Hoffman Estates and a Resource Conservationist for the North Cook County Soil and Water Conservation District, for the final review.
"We have a huge Carp problem here at the slough." said Commissioner Marcia Jendreas. The Carp are huge, 10 to 15 pounds and very destructive. They are one big reason why the slough is in such decline. As bottom feeders, they burrow into the sediment and keep it stirred up. The murky water prevents light from getting into the plants that would normally be growing." 

As a result, PHNRC has installed one hundred and twenty-five feet of fencing in the slough, six feet off shore to protect the aquatic plants that will be installed in the effort to restore the shoreline and prevent further erosion. More fencing will be placed in the coming days. "You can stand there and watch them try to get into the enclosure," notes Commissioner Dana Sievertson, "but it appears that it is holding. "It was also interesting to see that after only 3 days, the water inside of the barricade was clear and still murky on the other side of the fence. 

The next planting day will be Sunday, May 24th with and additional workday being added on Sunday, May 31st. We will be looking for volunteers on those dates. More complete information can be found on the PHNRC calendar  and in the workday email notices in the coming days." 
Copyright © 2015 Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commission, All rights reserved.

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