August 2015

Last PHNRC Class of the Summer.

The Natural Resources Commission / Park District Summer classes will conclude with one last offering on Saturday, August 15th. Join us from 6:00 to 8:00 pm for  "A Summer Evening Prairie Walk". 

Restoration ecologist Izabella Redlinski will be taking us 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.

The class will meet and leave from the Gary Morava Recreation Center picnic shelter.

Class # 13854, Summer Evening Prairie Walk from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

The fee is $10.00 and registration may be done by calling the park district at 847.394.2848 or online at Walking registration may be done at the Park District office between 6:30 am and 5:00 pm.

This will be more Fun than you can have on a Saturday night.

Prospect Heights hosts Green Infrastructure Mapping Workshop

This past July, Prospect Heights hosted the Green Infrastructures mapping workshop at the Prospect Heights Public Library with representatives from Des Plaines, Glenview, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Prospect Heights, and Wheeling. The purpose of this one day workshop was to review and markup a large-scale map to help identify potential opportunity areas for site-based green infrastructure strategies in our sub-region of the Des Plaines River Basin.
The first phase of the project mapped regional “core green infrastructure,” which is the interconnected network of public and private open space and natural resources that conserves ecosystem functions, sustains clean air and water, and provides trails and greenways that benefit people and wildlife. This was done in consultation with the natural resource organizations and agencies familiar with the resources in your area, including Forest Preserves of Cook County, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, The Field Museum, Audubon–Chicago Region, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD), PHNRC and many others.
Working with Conservation Design Forum, Geosyntec and Chicago Wilderness, community representatives worked to identify and map “opportunity areas” based on their knowledge of conditions on the ground, across the subregion that that might benefit from localized green infrastructure strategies integrated into the built environment such as street ROW, parking lots, small parks or vacant parcels, and neighborhood areas.

The intent is to identify opportunity areas to implement practices such as native landscaping, bioretention basins and planters, and permeable paving that utilize natural processes to control runoff volumes and rates and filter pollutants. Use of these measures can help to address nuisance level neighborhood flooding and drainage problems as well as reduce watershed impacts to the Des Plaines River, its tributaries, and other aquatic resources.
At the completion of the project, communities will be provided with maps identifying their region’s network of open space and natural resources and opportunity areas for localized green infrastructure practices. In addition, there will be a full report with recommended strategies and potential funding avenues.  

PHNRC Update on the Slough and Hillcrest Lake

There is great concern on the part of the City, the Park District and the Natural Resources Commission about the apparent changes that the Slough and Hillcrest Lake have been experiencing over the last couple of years. With the recent dry spell, it appears that the water levels are much lower than they have historically been, perhaps affecting the increase in aquatic vegetation.
It doesn’t take an expert to see that the slough and the lake are experiencing these problems. The problems are not only visually disturbing, they are also impacting plants and wildlife. Residents around the lake are concerned about the lake and slough drying up and the impact on wildlife and property values.
“It is important for everyone to understand, the City, the Mayor, City Council, Public Works, the Park District and the Natural Resources Commission are taking this very seriously ,” said City Administrator Joe Wade. “We are working to understand the problem and apply the correct solution”
“The conditions we are experiencing are the result of several causes,” said PHNRC Chairperson Agnes Wojnarski. “It is a very complex problem and it needs to be dissected to understand the influences of each of them. Hydrology (accumulated storm water and outflow to the McDonald creek), nutrient runoff, fish populations, invasive species, pollution and sediment build up are just some of the potential causes. Residents have suggested herbicides, aerators, grass eating carp, microbes and a variety of other quick fixes. This is not a quick fix and what is of great importance is that the correct solution gets applied to this problem. The entire area is one organic ecosystem where all of the individual parts effect the whole and it must be treated that way.”
The City with the guidance of the PHNRC is in the process of engaging an environmental consulting firm to conduct the necessary studies and recommend the correct solutions that are both short term to get the wildlife through the winter and long term and sustainable. A prescribed plan for maintenance will be part of the process. Residents can visit the PHNRC website at or subscribe to the Resources Journal to get updates on the progress and can always come out and volunteer for our workdays for a chance to talk with PHNRC commissioners.


Rare Birds Make a Special Visit

This last month has been something special for the birds and the people who care about them at the Slough. In fact, our extraordinary guests are rarer than hen's teeth. The Black-crowned Night-Heron and the Orchard Oriole, made guest appearances at the slough this past July and August. "The Black-crowned Night-Heron is a state-endangered bird and a terrific sighting for the Slough", said Mary Lou Mellon, President of the Bird Conservation Network. "The Black-crowned Night-Heron is a level 2 bird of concern for us, one notch down from the greatest concern and is of particular interest if there is evidence of nesting", added Lee Ramsey also of the BCN.

"In addition to being rare, these birds are absolutely exquisite," said Dana Sievertson, PHNRC Commissioner. "It is very important that if you are lucky enough to encounter one of these guys at the Slough, you take every precaution not to disturb them."
Adult Black Crested Night Heron - Photo courtesy of Mary Lou Mellon
"The Orchard Oriole that was found is a big deal," says Lee Ramsey. "It nests in shrublands or edges; it's uncommon here (not rare), an indicator species of its habitat, and just the sort of thing we want to see nesting at the Slough. It's also really encouraging that it was a female and defending territory."
Orchard Oriole - photo by Erik Breden
Green Heron photo - courtesy of Mary Lou Mellon
Also of great interest is the sighting of the Green Heron "Green Herons have a dark rufous on the neck in all plumages and are reddish on the back of the neck unlike immature Black-crowned Night-Herons, said Mr. Ramsey. "We expected to find Green Herons at the Slough because it is such a great habitat for them. It's great that they have been seen and added to our bird list for the Slough. Green herons aren't as picky as the Black-crowned Night-Herons about their nesting sites, but they are also rather secretive and shy of people."

Mr. Ramsey has kindly shared his running list of birds compiled by BCN and friends that have been observed at the Slough this spring and summer. This is a list of birds believed to be nesting in the slough area. Bolded birds are birds of concern for the Bird Conservation Network.
Canada Goose
Green Heron
Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Mourning Dove
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
White-breasted Nuthatch (probably nests here though not observed this spring/summer)
House Wren
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Rough-winged Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Gray Catbird
Warbling Vireo
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Baltimore Oriole
Orchard Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow (nests at houses - near people)
Other birds that can be seen at the slough area but are believed to be nesting elsewhere are:
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Ring-billed Gull
Brown Creeper (migrant: early spring or late fall; winter)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (in migration: April-May, September-October)
To learn more about the Bird Conservation Network and the outstanding work they do, visit their website by clicking here.

PHNRC Launches New Speaking Series 

The Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commission is pleased to announce a new speaking series in partnership with the Prospect Heights Public Library. "Nature Speaks", will be a series of prominent national and regional speakers presenting topics of great interest and importance on matters of habitat, the environment, restoration and ecology.

Nature Speaks will feature four guest speakers per year, one each season with presentations taking place at the Prospect Heights Public Library. 

Information about the series and the upcoming speakers is available on the website at, and on the events calendar at, Registration to attend the events can be done on the Public Library website at


Mulch Mowing Produces the Best Organic Fertilizer 

Most of us recycle our garbage and trash as much as possible. Why not recycle your grass clippings as well?  Using a mulching mower to mow your lawn will produce the best organic fertilizer for your lawn that money can't buy. More importantly it keeps yard waste off the curb and reduces the amount of chemicals you need to dump on your lawn and turn in to runoff.

Grass clippings contain 4% Nitrogen, .5% Phosphorus and 2% Potassium.  These are the 3 major nutrients needed for turfgrass.  Most residents who mow their own yards mow at least once a week.  However, with all the rainfall this past spring and earlier this summer 2 mowings per week were probably necessary.  Rough figuring for a seven month mowing period leaves us with between 25 and 50 mowings.  This amounts to between 1 and 2 lbs. of Nitrogen that can be recycled and used as fertilizer for your lawn.

Average home lawns need between 2 to 4 lbs of Nitrogen per 1,000 sq.ft. per year.  It's easy to see that by mulching your grass clippings, most of the grass nutrient requirements are satisfied.  No phosphorus is needed unless a soil test shows otherwise. Four university studies have concluded that nitrogen fertilization rates should be reduced when clippings are returned to turfgrass managed as residential lawns.

Contrary to popular belief, thatch, a common problem consisting of a layering of dead and living shoots and stems between the soil and green vegetation is not increased by returning clippings to the turfgrass.  Thatch can be controlled by late summer and or fall aerations.  If fertilizer is still needed, generally, one fertilizer application in the fall is all that most residents need.  A slow release fertilizer supplying a 1 or 2 lb. Nitrogen  per 1,000 sq.ft. is adequate.  This application of fertilizer can be done just after aerification to help speed recovery and improve the fertilizer incorporation into the soil, which also prevents fertilizer loss due to runoff.

So how do you recycle or mulch your lawn clippings?  Most mowers are rotary mowers.  Some mowers are mulching mowers and or recycler mowers.  The idea behind mulching is to cut up the grass into smaller pieces and recycle the clippings back into the turf canopy.  Some mowers may need an improved mulching blade, and or a deck shield to prevent the clippings from escaping before being mulched.  All of this is done to cut the grass clippings into smaller pieces which do not smother the grass.  For the best results, mulch or mow when the grass is dry, and cut the grass at 2 to 3 inches height.  It is very important not to mow when the grass is wet, your mower will clog up, and you will make a mess.  You can also mulch your leaves into the grass this fall, which is good for your trees, soil and grass.  No more bags of grass clippings or leaves, it just makes $ense .  It is good for your yard, soil, environment, and your bottom line.  

At the End of the Day, Nature Prevails 

If you have had the opportunity to walk around the Slough, the Hillcrest Lake, the ComEd Bike Path Prairie, the Remnant Prairie or the Sedge Meadow in the solitude of of the morning, midday or on a late summer evening, you might have already witnessed the fantastic transformation that is going on right before our very eyes. 

In spite of the current problems at the Slough and the Lake, the over abundance of Clover at the ComEd Prairie and invasive Teasle at the remnant prairies, nature is prevailing and putting on its finest display. The hard work we put in to clear the Slough of invasive buckthorn and reed canary grass has turned into groves of native milkweed and other native offerings that now attract volumes of butterflies that we have not seen here in forever. Monarchs, Black Striped Yellow Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, Skippers and Viceroys to name a few.

Collecting sedge seeds at the sedge meadow and being bombarded by Monarchs, Bumble Bees, Honey Bees and other assorted pollinators as they work, rest and play is a rare and wonderful experience. Standing in complete amazement at the ComEd Prairie as a Monarch somehow picks out small 1/2" tall Milkweed seedlings with just a few leaves that came from seeds we sowed last December, from a forest of weeds to deposit an egg on the underside of a leaf is completely impossible. Rare bird are showing up and the Egrets and Herons are fishing in greater numbers.

As these unique and beautiful things make a return to our local environment, pause and allow time to enjoy them. This is a testimony to the strength and perseverance of nature and what humans can do to help it along.
Copyright © 2015 Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commission, All rights reserved.

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