Woods of Wisdom
"All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants and animals, or collectively, the land ... a land ethic changes the role of Homo Sapiens from conqueror of the land � community to plain member and citizen of it ... it implies respect for his fellow members, and so also respect for the community as such."
--- Aldo Leopold, "Sand County Almanac"
New additions to our Forest Preserve
The past year and a half has been a busy year for the Kankakee River Valley Forest Preserve District when it comes to land acquisition.
In the summer of 2007, the District entered into negotiations with the landowners of land immediately south of the 30-acre Waldron Arboretum. The land has been primarily in agriculture for decades. After months of negotiations a price was agreed upon and the District closed on the property during the winter of 2008.
The 56-acre parcel is located between the East Shores Subdivision and the Arboretum, and is fronted by Waldron Road.
Currently the property is under a farm lease for a minimum of two more years. Future development plans are pending based on the districts needs and funds available through federal and state grants.
During the winter of early 2007, District staff and board members applied for an Illinois Department of Natural Resources C-2000 Grant. C-2000 Grants can be used for land acquisition, major equipment, and habitat management and/or restoration.
Illinois DNR staff reviewed the applications and in December of2007, the District was notified it had been selected as a recipient of funds to be used toward the purchase of a 30-acre piece of property adjacent to the Aroma Land and Water Reserve (Aroma LWR). The Aroma LWR is a 53 acre parcel of land the district has owned nearly since its inception. It contains high quality forest, prairie, and wetland ecosystems. It also has nearly ¼ mile of Kankakee River frontage, and the associated floodplain forest. The Aroma LWR is located approximately 2 miles south of Highway 17 on Heiland Road. There is ample parking in the parking lot on Heiland Road, and a playground, maintained by the Kankakee River Valley Park District, for children.
The land will eventually be seeded back to prairie species indicative of the dry sand prairie found within the current preserve. Native trees and shrubs will be kept, but invasive tree and shrub species will be removed. Eventually a loop trail will be constructed, branching off the existing 1 ¼ mile trail that meanders through the main body of the Aroma LWR.
---Doug Short, Site Development Manager
Forest Preserve Participates in the Kankakee Riverfront Trail Project
The trail at the Gar Creek site will connect to the Kankakee Riverfront Trail Project at the river’s edge. The Kankakee Riverfront Trail Project began Phase I this summer, beginning construction of a multi-use trail that is designed to extend a bicycle/walking trail from the River Road Splash Valley location all the way to Kankakee State Park. Eventually the trail will extend through and west of the state park to connect to the Wauponsee Glacial Trial in Will County and Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. A ribbon cutting event will celebrate the completion of Phase I of the trail.
The Community Foundation and the Kankakee City Council are program partners for the project, which is sponsored by cooperating local governments which are providing site access and contributing towards funding the inter-agency project. The west end will start at the Aqua Illinois property at Hawkins and Water Streets, go through Shapiro Developmental Center, Kankakee River Valley Forest Preserve, by Kankakee Community College, and connect with River Road Park and Splash Valley, of the Kankakee Valley Park District. The groundbreaking ceremony for the project was July 10, 2009 at the boat ramp at the Kankakee Valley Park District on the south side of the river. This event was a “Green Legacy” Burnham Plan Centennial event celebrating the 100th anniversary of the publication of Daniel Burnham’s and Edward Bennett’s “Plan of Chicago”, one of the world’s first and most visible comprehensive regional plans. To find out more about this project, link to the following websites:
Chicago Wilderness Supports Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights
The Chicago Wilderness Leave No Child Inside initiative promotes a culture in which children enjoy and are encouraged to be outside in nature, and as a result are healthier, have a sense of connection to their place, and become supporters and stewards of local nature. All Leave No Child Inside programs strive to nourish children’s curiosity, growth, and creativity through unstructured play time outside in nature and other outdoor recreation activities.
The Illinois General Assembly recently passed a joint resolution supporting the Chicago Wilderness Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights and officially designating June as "Leave No Child Inside" month in the State of Illinois. Illinois Senate sponsors of the resolution are Sen. Michael W. Frerichs (D-Champaign) and Heather Steans (D-Chicago). Illinois House sponsors are: Rep. Monique D. Davis (D-Chicago), Emily McAsey (D-Crest Hill), Elizabeth Coulson (R-Glenview), and Greg Harris (D-Chicago).
The passage of this resolution is an invaluable opportunity for increasing public awareness of the importance of unstructured outdoor play and exploration and promoting members' sites and youth-and-nature programs.
Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights
The Kankakee River Valley Forest Preserve District supports the Chicago Wilderness Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights and we believe every child should have the opportunity to:
1. Discover wilderness – prairies, dunes, forests, savannas, and wetlands
2. Camp under the stars
3. Follow a trail
4. Catch and release fish, frogs, and insects
5. Climb a tree
6. Explore nature in neighborhoods and cities
7. Celebrate heritage
8. Plant a flower
9. Play in the mud or a stream
10. Learn to swim
You can help promote the Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights!
A special thanks to the members of the Government Relations Committee for their hard work and guidance.
A recent study found that 6-to-12-year-old American children spend, on average, 30 minutes per week, in unstructured outdoor activities such as gardening, camping, picnicking, or hiking. This figure contrasts with the six hours per day that the average American child spends in front of a TV or computer screen.
Getting more kids outside and increasing the amount and quality of time that they spend there can help to address this imbalance. A recent American Medical Association publication concluded that outdoor activities, particularly in the form of unstructured play and exploration, contribute not only to children’s physical development, but also to their psychological well-being.
Participation in outdoor activities in natural settings has been shown to increase self-esteem, decrease Attention-Deficit Disorder symptoms, and contribute to emotional growth in children across the U.S. Outdoor play and exploration of the natural world can yield long-term benefits to the environment, as well as to the child. An increasing body of evidence shows that positive childhood experiences in the outdoors, coupled with the presence of an adult role-model, are important contributing factors to a lifelong concern with the health of the environment.
Tips for parents
Enjoying the outdoors with your children is a fun, healthy way to spend quality time with your family. Experts also believe giving children unstructured playtime outside fosters creativity and healthy childhood development, while helping prevent childhood obesity, attention deficit disorder and emotional stress. Don’t know what to do? It’s easy – here are some tips to get you started:
§ Give your children unstructured time outside. Children benefit from casual playtime in nature, when they can interact freely with the natural world. These experiences build their curiosity and confidence.
§ Explore Chicago’s wilderness. Our region is full of unique natural areas, including woodlands, prairies, savannas, and wetlands. Discover someplace new today!
§ Enjoy nature in your neighborhood. You don’t have to go far. Planting a garden, watching birds and climbing trees with your kids can launch a life-long love of plants, insects and animals.
§ Let your children take the lead. Instincts can be a child’s most valuable guide when discovering nature. With their natural curiosity, your kids will quickly find something for the family to explore.
§ Hold a scavenger hunt in the backyard. Ask kids to find flowers, bird tracks, squirrels, something that makes noise, colors in nature, worms and insects in the soil.
§ Play games to encourage looking, such as “I see something you don’t see and its color is….” Use yes-and-no questions to give your kids clues.
§ Direct your children’s attention -- and join in their fun. Research shows that children learn more when someone participates in an experience with them. It’s as simple as pointing out trees or touching a leaf with your child; encouraging her or him listen for birds, smell the flowers, or feel the wind or soil.
§ Don’t be afraid of not knowing the answers. You don’t have to know everything about plants and animals to help your children enjoy them; half the fun is asking questions and building a sense of curiosity and wonder together.
§ Go online to www.KidsOutside.info to learn more about how to enjoy nature with your family.
Leave No Child Inside:
Enjoying the outdoors with your children is fun, healthy and a great way to spend quality time with your family. Visit www.kidsoutside.info/ for more information, ideas on where to go and what to do outside with your kids.
The Survival of Blanding’s Turtle is Threatened in Illinois
Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) is a native of the North American Great Lakes region, a shy, long as most of the other states in its range, Blanding’s turtle is listed as threatened – the most critical category for species that are at high risk of extinction. What has lead to the alarming decline in the population of one of our native reptiles? First, a brief summary of the terms “threatened”, “endangered”, and “subsidized predators”:
Threatened species are any species (including animals, plants, fungi, etc.) which are vulnerable to extinction in the near future. Under the Endangered Species Act in the United States, "threatened" is defined as "any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range". Threatened species are also referred to as a red-listed species, as they are on the Red List of Threatened Species compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters. The Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources estimates that as much as 40 percent of Earth’s species are endangered.
A subsidized predator is one that benefits from resources either directly or indirectly provided by human activities. Examples of subsidized predators are skunks and raccoons which have benefited from human-provided resources to increase in population, and are enthusiastic predators on young turtles. Other examples of subsidized predators include free-roaming or once-domestic animals such as feral dogs and cats. Because human-provided resources are more stable and predictable than those in a natural environment, animals that subsist on them are able to increase in numbers and expand their range, much to the detriment of their competitors and the species they prey upon.
Conservation biologists use the acronym HIPPO to communicate the various factors that interact to cause extinctions:
Conservation biologists have determined that a principle threat to the Blanding’s turtle as well as many other wetland species is the H in Hippo – habitat loss. In the past one hundred and fifty years in Illinois, most of the landscape has been altered; only 11% of the original vegetation remains. Between 1830 and 1900, - in a single generation - the landscape was steadily transformed to farmland. Today, less than 1% of the native prairie remains, and almost 90 percent of the state’s wetlands have been drained. The extensive alteration of the landscape has had a significant impact on the native plant and animal communities, resulting in the loss of many species, and many of the remaining species are endangered or threatened.
Blanding’s turtle is listed as a threatened species in the states of Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Wisconsin. It is listed as endangered in Maine, South Dakota, Missouri and Nova Scotia. The greatest threat to the Blanding’s turtle is habitat fragmentation and destruction, as well as nest predation. Blanding’s turtle’s range is in the Great Lakes region, extending from central Nebraska and Minnesota eastward through southern Ontario and the south shore of Lake Erie, and extending as far east as northern New York, with small disconnected populations in southeastern New York, and New England.
Full grown at about 24 cm (91/2”), Blanding’s turtle is medium size having a high, rounded shell. Blanding’s may be mistaken for a box turtle or spotted turtle; however there are several distinctive features that make it relatively easy to recognize. The chin and throat are a bright yellow; it has a dark shell with the carapace and head marked with light spots and dashes; and a notched upper jaw and a hinged plastron.
Blanding’s turtles need habitat that includes clean, quiet waters in shallow weedy ponds and vegetated portions of lakes, marshes and wet sedge meadows, swamps and lake inlets and coves most of the year. They prefer slow-moving, shallow water and a soft, muddy bottom with plenty of vegetation. The Blanding’s turtles will range long distances overland in search of nesting sites; the females may travel as far as a kilometer from water to nest. As these turtles will use isolated and temporary wetlands – wetlands that hold water in the wet season and shrink or dry out in the late summer - they often move between wetland areas. Although they prefer quiet waters, they may use slow moving streams to move between wetland areas. In winter, the turtles will often hibernate underwater, partly buried in soft mud. Blanding’s turtle is primarily carnivorous diet of snails, insects, crayfish and vertebrates.
Blanding’s turtles lay one clutch of 8-12 eggs in sandy, loamy soils in upland areas in Illinois in late May and June. Nesting sites may include pastures, powerline corridors, roadsides and yards. The young need very shallow water with safe access from their upland hatching site, as well as protection from predators. Blanding’s turtles are long lived, with a natural life span of over70 years of age.
Because the Blanding’s turtle needs consistent habitat that includes relatively shallow areas of clean water, well vegetated with a soft organic muddy base, and access to upland nesting areas, the threats to the Blanding’s turtle are the filling and draining of wetlands, fragmentation and isolation of habitat sites due to roads and development, road mortality, lack of access to upland areas for nesting, and exposure to subsidized predators.
Encyclopedia of Life http://www.eol.org
Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Illinois by Christopher A. Phillips, Ronald A. Brandon, and Edward O. Moll. Published August 1999 by the Illinois Natural History Survey
The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources: http://www.iucnredlist.org/static/introduction
Illinois Department of Natural Resources: http://dnr.state.il.us/education/
The Center for Reptile and Amphibian Conservation and Management (located at Indiana-Purdue University Fort Wayne): http://hercenter.ipfw.edu
Links to more information on the Blanding's Turtle:
http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/caer/ce/eek/critter/reptile/blandingturtle.htm A simplified but nevertheless informative page on Blanding's Turtles
http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/er/factsheets/herps/Bldtur.htm A comprehensive page on the Blanding's Turtle
http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/emydoidea/e._blandingii$narrative.html The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology - detailed information, and nice photographs under the 'media' section
http://www.herpnet.net/Iowa-Herpetology/reptiles/turtles/blandings_turtle.html Iowa Herpetology – a site containing a detailed text and photography
photo courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Life website
Look to the Sky this August
I’ve always been amazed to think that we are literally made of star-dust, the elements fused in the primordial supernovae explosion of massive stars. The entrancing sight of a shooting star never fails to make me stop a moment and wonder about these visitors from outer space. Once of the most beautiful sights in the night sky are the meteor showers that visit our skies, often missed because they show at their best after midnight and into the wee hours of the morning. Summer nights, warm and pleasant, are a wonderful time to view the summer meteor showers. Check the dates for the Perseid meteor showers on your calendar, and sit back and relax under the stars till dawn washes away the night sky. In mid August, look to the northeastern sky to view one of the most brilliant, the Perseid meteor shower.
The Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower
Southern Radiant from July 21 to August 30
Northern Radiant from July 18 to September 10
The Northern Delta Aquarids can be seen best in the pre-dawn hours to the east, close to the horizon and just north of the star Formalhaut. Most of the meteoroids of this shower are faint, so your best chance for viewing is well away from urban light sources.
The Southern Delta Aquarids will rise about 10:00 p.m., are at their height in the southern sky at 3:00 a.m. which will be the best viewing time. They will be to the east just east of the star Formalhaut.The meteors will fan out towards the east, north (up) and west horizons. You will want to view these well away from light pollution, and select a night when the moon is not up in the wee hours of the morning.
The August full moon on the 6th interferes with the show to an extent, as with the August Perseid meteor shower. To check out moonrise and moonset times, look on the weather page of your newspaper, or for the yearly chart of moonrise and moonset times, go to The U.S. Naval Observatory site at:
The Perseid Meteor Shower
Begins about July 23 - Peak on August 12 & 13th – ending about August 22nd
In the night sky in August, look to the northeastern sky to see the Perseid meteor shower, one of the highlights of the summer. This annual meteor shower gets its name because it appears to radiate from the constellation Perseus in our northeastern sky during late July to mid-August. As early as July 23, one can often see Perseid meteors every hour or so. During the next three weeks, there is a slow build-up. It is possible to spot five Perseids per hour at the beginning of August and perhaps 15 per hour by August 10.
This year’s peak of 50-80 meteors per hour occurs on the nights of August 12 &13. Unfortunately, this year’s moon is not totally out of the way during the Perseids. The slightly waning gibbous moon rises around midnight – just as the Perseids begin to reach the height of their display. Nonetheless, you should be able to catch some Perseid meteors before moonrise, and even after. A good time for viewing Perseid activity this year would be to observe during the last few dark hours before dawn on the morning of August 12, when there will be up to 30 Perseids per hour when the radiant (the point in the sky from which the meteoroids radiate) is at its zenith in the sky. If August 12 is cloudy, decent counts may still be seen on the 11th and 13th. During the morning hours the Perseid radiant rises higher into the sky, allowing more activity to be seen. This year it will be important to make sure to keep the bright moon out of your line of sight. The Perseids tend to strengthen in number from midnight towards dawn. Although moonlight may interfere, these meteors are often bright and frequently have the appearance of a lingering trail of light as they streak across the sky.
After the 13th, the show then rapidly declines to about 10 per hour by August 15th with the last night meteors likely to be seen about August 22, when an observer might see a Perseid every hour or so.
Although the shower can be seen before midnight, especially if you find a viewing place with low light pollution, the best time to view the Perseid shower is after midnight until the pre-dawn hours.
What is the source of this annual display? Meteor showers, or meteor streams, are groups of meteoroids (small chunks of material typically from a comet, asteroid, or ejecta material from planetary impact). When a meteoroid enters Earth’s orbit, it becomes a meteor, which becomes visible as a sudden streak of light – a “shooting star” - in the night sky caused by friction between molecules in Earth’s atmosphere and the incoming meteoroid. Each of the meteor showers is named by the constellation from which it appears to radiate. They do not really originate from the constellation; they simply appear with that constellation in the background and serve to locate the object against the background of the stars.
The Perseid shower is understood to be fragments of a comet which breaks up as it rounds the Sun. As the comet orbits the Sun, it distributes meteors throughout its orbit. Should the orbit of a comet intersect that of the Earth, the result is a meteor shower each time Earth passes through the debris trail left in by the comet in its journey around the Sun.
Between1864 and 1866 by G. V. Schiaparelli (Italy) found a very strong correlation to the periodic comet Swift-Tuttle, which had been discovered in 1862, and the annual appearance of the Perseid meteor shower. This was the first time a meteor shower had been positively identified with a comet
During 1973, the astronomer Brian G. Marsden examined the orbit of periodic comet Swift-Tuttle to determine when it was likely to return. Marsden predicted the comet would return in 1981. His prediction generated a great deal of excitement among meteor observers as the average rate of 65 per hour suddenly jumped to over 90 per hour during 1976-1983---with the high being 187 in the latter year. Multiple returns of the comet would be responsible for the distribution of the meteors throughout the orbit, but meteors should be denser in the region closest to the comet, so that meteor activity should increase when the comet is near perihelion, the point of a planet’s or comet’s orbit nearest to the Sun.
Other meteor showers during the year are also associated with the orbit of a comet. For instance, the intersect of Earth with a stream of meteoric debris left along the orbit of Comet Halley produces two annual meteor showers - the Eta Aquarids in May, and the Orionids in October. The meteor showers known as the “Leonids” appear every November, as Earth’s orbit crosses the dust trail left along the orbit of the comet Tempel-Tuttle.
This year December13th & 14th is the date of the most reliable meteor shower of the year, the Gemenids, from the asteroid 3200 Phaethon. Mid July to Mid August brings the Delta Aquarid meteor shower to the southern sky. While the Delta Aquarids meteor shower has not been definitely associated with a parent comet, it may have originated from the breakup of what are now the Marsden and Kracht Sungrazing comet groups. These were discovered by the SOHO (Solar and Heleospheric Observatory) satellite in 2002. The Marsden and Kracht comet groups appear to be related to Comet 96P/Machholz, which is also the parent of two meteor streams, the Quadrantids and the Arietids.
Preparations for Star-Gazing
To prepare for star gazing any time of the year, check out this very nice web site which has lots of great tips for a great experience, and a Sky Tour for each season of the year: http://www.rocketmime.com/astronomy/index.html
The beauty of observing meteors is that it is the one branch of astronomy that requires virtually no equipment, or at least no expensive optical equipment. The only equipment you will need are your eyes and the only other equipment you really need is a reclining chair, bug spray, some food and drink, and perhaps a star chart and a flashlight with a red lens. You might also consider a pillow for that chair!
To increase your chances of seeing as many meteors as possible, find a location with as little light pollution as possible from which to observe. The Forest Preserve site on Heiland Road is a good choice. Another great location is the Iroquois County State Wildlife Area. From St. Anne, take Highway 1 south two miles, then turn and go east 9 miles to Iroquois County State Wildlife Area parking lot. The Hooper Branch Savanna Nature Preserve is just northwest of the parking lot.
Going out to the country just a few miles will reduce the light from urban structures and greatly increase your ability to see stars. Shield yourself from any stray light sources and continually scan the sky. If you use a flashlight to get oriented, or to refer to a field guide or star chart, bring along a red LED flashlight, which will not interfere with your night vision. Don't just stare at one area of the sky. If you can see the cloud-like milky gauze of the Milky Way, then you can be confident of a decent display of shooting stars.
You’ll want to prepare to be very comfortable for the entire length of time you wish to observe. Some observers will spend several hours outside – the Perseids offer five or more hours of spectacular observing in mid-August and the Leonids in mid-November. You can count on chilly temperatures in November, but it is surprising how chilly it can be in mid-August. The combination of being still for a length of time, and the fact that dew is common on summer nights can result in feeling too cold to relax and enjoy the show! Add to this the fact that dew is very common during summer nights. Remember that cotton will increase your loss of body heat if it gets wet; dress in layers that will keep you warm even when damp, such as wool, silk or fleece. The best recommendation is a blanket or a space blanket. These are a thin, laminated, plastic film – designed and developed by our own NASA for our astronauts - with a metallic coating, which can conserve up to 80% of your body heat. These are light and easy to pack along, and they do not let the dew through to your clothing. You can find these online at numerous stores in the camping department, and on the internet - they should cost no more than $5.
Astronomy; A Beginner’s Guide to the Universe by Eric Chaisson & Steve McMillan Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ. 2004
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last updated on August 26, 2013