A Day in the Life of a Hummingbird

Grab a passport and see the world through the eyes of our region’s tiniest bird.   Our annual Hummingbird Festival takes place Saturday, August 16 at Sagawau Environmental Learning Center near Lemont. The fest runs from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm and is packed with self-guided activities, games, arts and crafts and new learning experiences.   Upon arrival, you will receive a passport to migrate as a ruby-throated hummingbird (also called hummers). This passport will guide you through a total of seven stations, each one shedding light on the life and migration of your hummingbird.

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Surprise on the Line: Reeling in an Eel

On an ordinary morning, an ordinary fisherman (with an ordinary hook and line) caught an extraordinary fish. This approximately 30 inch, four to five pound American eel found in Orland Park’s Tampier Lake is only the third eel discovered in Forest Preserves waters in the last 30 years.   A rare find, but the truly amazing part of this story is how it may have traveled here.  

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Did You Know? That Orange Leafless Plant on the Prairie is Rope Dodder

Rope dodder, Cuscuta glomerata, is an unusual looking parasitic plant that will soon bloom in moist prairies throughout our preserve system. This plant develops roots as a seedling, but once its minute suckers attach to a host plant, the lower portion (including the roots) withers away.   Rope dodder looks like bright orange spaghetti; it is essentially leafless and completely reliant on its host plant for energy. It is frequently found in prairies, especially after a prescribed burn. Ecologists suspect that seed germination may be stimulated by fire.

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Centennial History Series: Truck Gardens and Tent Colonies — Early Uses of the Forest Preserves

Tents and firewood at Dam No. 2 on the Des Plaines River in the 1920s. by Natalie Bump Vena   In the Forest Preserve District of Cook County’s first decades, the preserves became a place where people supplemented their incomes and lived off the land. In the wintertime, they cut ice from ponds and purchased cheap firewood chopped from fallen trees. In the summertime, people harvested vegetables from gardens and even resided in the forest preserves. Officials increasingly realized that this intensive use damaged the natural resources they were mandated to protect. So by the late 1930s, they began curtailing long-term and extractive activities on forest preserve land.   Families facing hardship appear to have sought temporary shelter in the forest preserves—sometimes by invitation. In 1922, The Chicago Defender reported that thousands of Chicagoans “saved rent” over the summer by living in “tent colonies” located in the forest preserves.[i] In 1921, the District described these dwellings in romantic terms, writing, “there is a growing tendency on the part of many families to pitch week-end camps, while others remain during longer periods, some passing the entire summer under the shade of the great woods.”[ii] In 1920, District commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution to provide housing in the preserves for people affected by “a devastating tornado” that had swept through western and northwestern Cook County.[iii]  

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EnvironMENTORS Get Students Into Nature

This spring, Ms. Sharp’s seventh grade class at Albany Park Multicultural Academy had a unique opportunity to step out of the classroom and into nature to learn how their actions impact the world around them.   Thanks to EnvironMENTORS Chicago Outreach (ECO) founders—and recent college graduates—Jamie Herget and Christine Chung, these students embarked on a five-week journey covering environmental stewardship, native and invasive species, urban wildlife and outdoor recreation.

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Visit two of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County