Blog

Did You Know? Dead Trees Play an Important Role

“Why don’t you clean up the dead trees in the forest?” is one of the most frequent questions residents ask the Forest Preserves’ Resource Management staff. While dead trees may not be the most attractive part of a forest, they are essential to its health. As dead wood is decomposed (by fungi, bacteria and other life forms) it aids new plant growth by returning important nutrients to the ecosystem.

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Counting Down to 100 Years, 100 Events

By President Toni Preckwinkle   Summer is in full swing, and the Forest Preserves of Cook County offer numerous activities as a way to get warmed up for our signature centennial, “100 Years, 100 Events.”

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How to Band an Osprey in 10 Photos (and a Video)

With 16 osprey platforms and about a dozen active nests each year, the Forest Preserves can claim the most successful urban osprey program of its kind in North America. Programs like the one started at the Forest Preserves in the 1980s have helped osprey populations recover from major declines due in part to the agricultural use of DDT from the 1950s to early 1970s. Click here to learn more about the Forest Preserves osprey program.   Forest Preserves biologists monitor these active nests, visiting each one in early summer to band and check on the health of the osprey chicks inside. See how the process works with these photos (and video) from this year’s first banding at Saganashkee Slough.

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New Garden Blooms at Little Red Schoolhouse

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center has long been a favorite spot for both Cook County residents and out-of-town visitors to appreciate nature. But when the new visitor’s center was being constructed a few years ago, one of the highlights of the grounds had to be moved—the popular Multipurpose Garden.   This relocation provided a can’t-miss opportunity to incorporate public feedback and create an improved and expanded garden that better addressed the needs of visitors of all abilities.

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Win Free Camping: All Ages Coloring Contest

All ages! Complete a camping themed coloring page for a chance to camp for free September 25 to 27. Entries due by August 1.

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New Condos (with River Views) Help Bats Bounce Back

Each time a mosquito buzzes by your ear this summer, consider the plight of our local bats. In Cook County all bats are insect eaters—a single half-ounce little brown bat can eat half its body weight in insects each night. Nursing females can consume their full body weight or more.   Unfortunately, bat populations throughout the world have been hit hard by habitat loss, pesticide use and white nose syndrome. That’s why last month Friends of the Chicago River, in coordination with the Forest Preserves, installed two bat “condos” (also known as maternity colonies) along the North Branch of the Chicago River to help our local bats. The project is part of a grant from an anonymous donor that will allow Friends to install four Osprey nesting platforms, restore 50 acres of turtle nesting habitat and install a total of six bat colonies over the next three years on Forest Preserves land.  

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Explore the Preserves in New Ways This Summer

By President Toni Preckwinkle   Summer is finally upon us and there are a number of activities ready for you to enjoy in the Forest Preserves. In the May issue of the Forest Way, we prepared you for camping which kicked off at Camp Shabbona Woods on Memorial Day Weekend. And this month, we have exciting news about our trails to share.  

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Did You Know? Those Baby Rabbits Aren’t Abandoned

It’s something you’ve probably seen in your yard or local forest preserve—a litter of eastern cottontail young without an adult rabbit in sight. But what appears to be a group of orphaned baby rabbits is usually evidence of a successful strategy to protect them. To keep potential predators from discovering the nest, female cottontails typically only visit twice a day to nurse, often at night. When they aren’t with the young, they camouflage the shallow nest by covering it with grass and leaves.  

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“Films in the Forest” Series Delivers Outdoor Movies with a Nature Education

“Frozen,” “Little Shop of Horrors” headline 2015 Films in the Forest series   Spreading out a blanket in the grass and catching an outdoor flick is a popular summertime activity, and movie screens are popping up everywhere—including your local forest preserve. But our Films in the Forest series delivers more than your average outdoor movie.   From cult classics to modern blockbusters, films are chosen for their (not always obvious) nature themes. Each film is preceded by a variety of natural and cultural activities, displays and games related to that theme—appropriate for both children and adults.  

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VIDEO: Fish Implanted with Tracking Chips Provide Valuable Data

Fish and chips often show up on restaurant menus together, but this pairing also works well for Forest Preserves biologists interested in the lives of our local fish.   In May, six fish from the Busse Reservoir in Elk Grove Village were surgically implanted with radio transmitter chips so biologists can better understand their movements and habitat usage. Staff from the Forest Preserves’ Wildlife and Fisheries sections and veterinary staff of the Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) worked together to perform the surgical procedure on the fish—four muskies, a walleye and a largemouth bass—at McGinnis Field Station in Orland Park.  

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Camping Update: Shabbona Woods Now Open, Support Camping Programs

Camp Shabbona Woods welcomed its first campers Memorial Day Weekend, marking the return of individual and family camping to the Forest Preserves. Stay tuned throughout June and July—we will be announcing the openings of Camp Bullfrog Lake, Camp Dan Beard, Camp Reinberg and Camp Sullivan. Click here for more information on camping, , or check out recent news coverage of the new campgrounds:

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A Partner in Camping

As part of their commitment to get people active in the outdoors, Columbia Sportswear is providing gear and funds to support the Forest Preserves’ Camping Leadership Immersion Course (CLIC), which trains group leaders to organize and lead camping and nature outings.

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Did You Know? The forest preserves has a long tradition of camping

Almost since the forest preserves’ founding, people have camped there in some form or another. In the preserves’ early years, it was virtually anything goes. People camped wherever and whenever they pleased, and were even encouraged to do so, as described in this blog post by Natalie Bump Vena:   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. 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.”   That intensive use had negative effects on the land, though, and in the 1930s, the Forest Preserve District began to restrict camping to several established youth camps, including some operated by outside organizations.  

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Why We Camp

This summer, as we head into the final stretch of our centennial celebration, we’re extremely proud to reintroduce camping to Cook County residents and visitors for the first time in more than half a century.   The first site to open, Camp Shabbona Woods in South Holland, will welcome campers beginning Memorial Day Weekend, Friday May 22, 2015. Additional sites in Willow Springs, Northbrook, Oak Forest and Palatine will open throughout the summer, offering tent campsites, RV campsites, small and large cabins for families, groups and couples of all ages and interests.

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Meet Our Skunk

Skunks are wild animals and an important part of our local ecosystem. They're best appreciated from a distance, but there is one good place to see this species up close: River Trail Nature Center in Northbrook. Watch our video, then come meet one of the forest preserves’ resident ambassadors in person!

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