Celebrate Local Nature

There’s so much more nature to appreciate than I ever realized. Growing up in a city, I really believed that nature and people should be kept separate. Little did I know that that is not only impossible but super duper wrong. If anything, we city dwellers need to appreciate the nature that fills our lives and the easiest way to do that is learn about the plants growing in vacant lots, the birds tweeting in trees and where the nearest wild spaces are to our homes.

I’m not much of an environmentalist. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m just a nerd that loves learning and I’m thrilled to have discovered a whole new world I’ve been overlooking all my life.

Barn Owl. Photographed by Carol Freeman

Photographing Endangered Species 

Ash-har Quraishi | January 26, 2012 10:00 am on Chicago Tonight
“Wildlife photographer Carol Freeman is on a quest to capture the images of Illinois’ most endangered species.”
I love the thoroughness of this project. There’s a list and she’s going to go through it. The list’s contents are precious and rare. The exploration of them is inherently valuable and time sensitive. I love it!
You’ll have to check out the Endangered Species Photography Project Photos link above to see more of Carol Freeman’s gorgeous photography. I can’t include them in my blog because it’s a Flicker page. But using her photos as a reference, and the list above as well, here’s some info on these species, from Wikipedia mainly.
Piping Plover
How cute is this guy? Wait till you see the photo of the chick below! Adorable.
Piping Plovers live on sandy beaches, with two populations on the east coast and in the mid-west on the shores of the Great Lakes.
Both of these photos are from Ontario, Canada. “Piping Plovers migrate north in the summer and winters to the south on the Gulf of Mexico, the southern Atlantic coast of the United States and theCaribbean. They begin migrating north beginning in mid-March. Their breeding grounds extend from southern Newfoundland south to the northern parts ofSouth Carolina. They begin mating and nesting on the beach in mid-April.”
“Like many other species of plovers, adult Piping Plovers will often feign a “broken wing display“, drawing attention to themselves and away from the chicks when a predator may be threatening the chicks’ safety. … A major defense mechanism in the chicks is their ability to blend in with the sand. It takes about 30 days before a chick achieves flight capability.”
“The piping plover has been listed by the United States as “endangered” in the Great Lakes region and “threatened” in the remainder of its breeding range.”
By the middle of the 20th century, the Piping Plover population in the Great Lakes region was down to a few dozen. But current conservation efforts have increased populations to over 6000, over 3000 of each populations. “Current conservation strategies include identification and preservation of known nesting sites, public education, limiting or preventing pedestrian and/or off-road vehicle traffic near nests and hatched chicks, limiting predation of free-ranging cats, dogs and other pets on breeding pairs, eggs and chicks, and removal of foxes, raccoons, skunks, and other predators.”
Least Bittern

“These birds nest in large marshes with dense vegetation from southern Canada to northern Argentina. … They migrate from the northern parts of their range in winter for the southernmost coasts of the United States and areas further south, traveling at night. They mainly eat fish and insects, which they capture with quick jabs of their bill while climbing through marsh plants.”
Forster’s Tern
“It breeds inland in North America and winters south to the Caribbeanand northern South America. … This species breeds in colonies in marshes. It nests in a ground scrape and lays three or more eggs. …The Forster’s Tern feeds by plunge-diving for fish, but will also hawk for insects in its breeding marshes. …
The offering of fish by the male to the female is part of the courtship display.”
It is most similar to the Common Tern.
Common Tern

“All populations of the
Common Tern are strongly migratory, wintering south of their breeding ranges in the temperate and subarctic Northern Hemisphere.”
Although the world population numbers in the millions, the Great Lakes region holds a declining population of less than 10,000 pairs.
“In the nineteenth century, the use of tern feathers and wings in the millinery trade cause large decreases in Common Tern populations in both Europe and North America, especially on the Atlantic coasts and inland. Sometimes entire stuffed birds were used to make hats.” That’s some crazy crap. A whole bird on your head. How big was the hat beneath it? Could the women get through doors? Ridiculous.
Black-Billed Cuckoo
“Their breeding habitat is edges of wooded areas across North America east of the Rockies. They nest in a low tree or shrub, sometimes on the ground. They sometimes lay eggs in the nests of other birds. They migrate to South America. … These birds forage in shrubs or trees. They mainly eat insects, especially tent caterpillars, but also some snails, eggs of other birds and berries.”
It’s a bit difficult to judge by this photo, but adults are about 12″ long.
Marsh Valerian
Highbush Blueberry

This one especially is a species’ whose photos by Carol Freeman are excellent and should be checked out. This photo doesn’t do it justice.

“This plant is also the most common commercially-grown blueberry in North America. In the wild, it is enjoyed by birds, bears and small mammals.”
I had no idea that blueberries were native to Illinois! Sweeeet… I wonder if I can procure some seeds so that my back yard may contribute to restoring this species to the state. And make some jam.
Horned Bladderwort
What a terrible name for such a cute flower!
According to Wikipedia, this plant is “probably  carnivorous”.
What the heck does that mean? Either it eats bugs or it doesn’t. Is it so rare that no one has observed it digesting bugs? It just looks like it would?
“It grows as a terrestrial or subaquatic plant in marshes, swamps, and pools in shallow waters, mostly at lower altitudes. It was originally described and published by André Michaux in 1803.”
Come on Michaux! Did you see it with digesting bugs inside the flowers or not?
Ill-scented Trillium

Again, Freeman’s photos are waaaay better.
I wonder how bad this smells to be named ‘ill-scented’ and is there a ‘well-scented’ trillium?
It’s also known as the Stinking Benjamin, so … pretty bad, I guess.
“The flowers have the smell of rotting meat, as they are pollinated by flies. The leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals and crystal raphide, and should not be consumed by humans.”
Star Flower

So lovely.
Not much else to be said, but it’s super cute.
Lakeside Daisy

Federally Threatened! Oh no! It’s so sweet looking.
“This wildflower is rare because of its restrictive habitat requirements and the limited distribution of its seeds. … The largest population in the United States exists in Marblehead Peninsula along Lake Erie in Ohio. Habitats consist of dry dolomite prairies and gravel prairies, gravelly hill prairies, sand-gravel terraces along major rivers, ledges along cliffs, and limestone quarries. This wildflower is found in rocky areas with sparse vegetation and can tolerate minor amounts of disturbance.”
“Lakeside Daisy is a rare native wildflower in Illinois, having been found in only Tazewell and Will counties.”
Yellow-lipped Ladies Tresses Orchid
I didn’t know there were orchids native to the midwest! I thought they were more exotic. Neat-o!
(I think this is actually a photo of a Wide-leaved Ladies’ tresses Orchid, but you get the idea. From the Connecticut Botanical Society.)
OK. This is getting messy and waaaaay tooooo long a post. But really neat-o! I knew so little.

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