Spring 2002
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Spring 2002]



“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.”

        ------- Albert Einstein



Notes From the Urban Forest


            If you haven’t mulched your trees yet, now is the time to do it.  If it has been dry it is a good idea to water your trees well with a soaker hose before mulching.  If there has been plenty of rain, mulch before the summer dry season.

            Incidentally, it is possible to mulch too much.  If mulch is more than 6 inches thick it may have a tendency to suffocate the fine absorbing roots.  As a rule of thumb, no more than 5 inches and no less than 3 inches is the ideal.  Be sure to pull the mulch an inch or two away from the bark of the tree, because constant contact can cause bark rot.  The mulch is for the benefit of the roots and should not be in contact with above ground parts of the tree. 

            You may think that mid-spring, when the weather is pleasant for outside work, is the perfect time to prune trees – WRONG!  In spring, as the flush of new growth is occurring, the trees are very sensitive to pruning cuts, especially if the cuts aren’t’ absolutely perfect.  Wait until June or later when leaves have reached maturity and the metabolism has slowed down.

            NEVER TOP TREES!  This once common practice is finally fading out, as professional and educational organizations become better at getting the word out.  Severe top cuts on major structural limbs cause irreparable damage and contribute to rapid rotting and decline.  The “bushing out” that comes with this type of trimming is the tree’s desperate attempt to replace the leaf producing limbs that have been lost.

            Though we sometimes refer to “feeding trees”, we can’t really feed them.  Tree food is produced in the leaves through photosynthesis.  However, it is quite helpful of us to make sure that the full range of essential nutrients is available in the soil.  This is best accomplished by the use of organic based fertilizers.  If you use a synthetic chemical fertilizer, be sure to read the instructions carefully.  Too much fertilizer can cause burning, especially if applied in the heat of the summer.

            In summary, it’s better not to prune at all than to prune wrong, it’s better not to fertilize than to fertilize wrong, and mulch is always a good thing if it is done according to above recommendations.


                        -- Rob Frothingham

                        Certified Arborist

                        Landscape Architect






 “Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous.  That has more of an effect on economic well being than any other single factor.”

          -- Paul Hawkin



Planting for Birds and Butterflies



            The first two weeks in May are a peak time for migrants to fly over Kankakee County.  With insects on flowing trees and bushes, the timing is just right to provide forage for winged travelers.

            The best way to invite wildlife into your yard is to make certain there is good habitat for them.  You may be lucky and already have a good supply of food, shelter, and water available for our winged friends.  However, for most backyards, bird and butterfly habitat must be created.  It can be as simple or extravagant as you wish.

            Many enjoy setting out feeders to attract birds to the yard; but seed will only attract some birds.   Many birds are insect and fruit-eating birds that will visit seed or suet feeders rarely if at all.   Semi-dwarf trees like apple and sweet cherry bloom in May and bring in insects to sweet blossoms.  Black Locust, Lilac bushes and raspberry canes give different heights at which birds can feed in your backyard canopy.   

            The benefits of landscaping for birds and butterflies are many.  Landscaping to provide food and habitat for birds contributes to a beautiful, natural setting around your home that is pleasing to people as well as feathered friends.  You can probably double the number of bird species visiting your property with a good landscaping plan.  By carefully arranging your trees, you can lower winter heating and summer cooling bills for your house.  Three or four shade trees around the house will lower summer cooling bills by 10-50%.  Planting conifer trees as a windbreak (cedar is native to the Kankakee County area) will lower heating bills.  Certain landscaping plants can prevent erosion; for instance, Dogwood is excellent on banks to prevent soil loss.  Native plants are beautiful and do very well in their native range, and do not require pampering once they are re-established.  Birdwatching and wildlife photography are wonderful hobbies for people of all ages, activities the whole family can share. Many birds are natural insect controls.  Birds such as tree swallows, house wrens, brown thrashers and orioles eat a variety of insects.  Many seed eating birds will feed their young plenty insects to help keep up with the needs of quickly growing young bodies. Many plants that attract wildlife are also appealing to humans.  People and wildlife can share cherries, chokecherries and strawberries.  Beautiful landscaping can greatly increase the value of your property by adding natural beauty and an abundance of wildlife.  Some of the best wildlife habitats are the best habitats for young people to discover the wonders of nature.  A backyard bird and butterfly habitat can stimulate young people to develop a lifelong interest in wildlife and conservation.

            Landscaping for birds & butterflies can be planned with these nine key components in mind.
            Shelter: one of the greatest loses to wildlife from development is the loss of shelter.  Not only nesting areas are destroyed, but frequently any protection from predators and severe weather.  Trees (including dead ones), tall grass, and birdhouses provide excellent shelter. 

            Water: clean water is essential for birds, and will attract many to the yard.  In the winter, heated birdbath will assure a cold weather supply.  Moving water such as a fountain or pond is most attractive to wildlife.

            Food: every bird species has its own unique food requirements, which may change as the seasons change.  Learn the food habits of the birds you wish to attract, and plant the appropriate trees, shrubs and flowers to provide the fruits, berries, seeds, acorns, nuts and nectar.  In many cases trees will attract insects which insect-eating birds are attracted to.

            Diversity: the best landscaping plan is one that includes a variety of native plants.  This helps attract the most species of birds and butterflies.

            Four Seasons: provide wildlife with food and shelter throughout the year by planting a variety of trees, shrubs and flowers that provide year-round benefits.

            Arrangement:  arrange the different habitat areas in your yard, considering the effects of prevailing winds (and snow drifting) so your yard will be protected from harsh winter weather.

            Protection:  Birds should be protected from unnecessary mortality.  When choosing the placement of bird feeders and nest boxes, consider their accessibility to predators.  Picture windows can also be dangerous to birds that fly directly at windows when they see reflections of trees and shrubs.  A network of parallel & vertical strings spaced 4' apart can be placed on the outside of widows to prevent this problem. Gardening and lawn care without using pesticides and herbicides is safest for humans, wildlife and waterways.  Gardening books, local organic growers associations and university extension offices can provide valuable information on toxin-free management.

            Hardiness zones:  Native plants have adapted to their native area for millennia and do very well despite harsh conditions once they are established.  Most garden catalogues rate plants for their hardiness zone if you are considering plants not native to your area.

            Soils and Topography: consult your local garden center, university or county extension office to have your soil tested.  Plant species are often adapted to certain types of soils.  If you know what type of soil you have, you can identify the types of plants that will grow best in your yard.   In our area, which has a wide variety of habitat types, some plants prefer  a wetland environment, others are adapted to dryer woodlands, some do well in open clay soil areas, and others prefer dry, sunny, sandy soil conditions.

            Seven types of plants are important as bird habitat:

            Conifers are the evergreen trees and shrubs that include pines, spruces, firs, arborvitae, junipers, cedars, and yews.  These plants are important as escape cover, winter shelter and summer nesting sites.  Some also provide sap, fruits and seeds.

            Grasses and Legumes provide cover for ground nesting birds - but only if the area is not mowed during the nesting season.  Some grasses and legumes provide seeds as well.  Native prairie grasses are becoming increasingly popular for landscaping purposes.

            Nectar-producing plants are very popular for attracting butterflies,

hummingbirds and orioles.  Flowers with tubular red corollas are especially attractive to hummingbirds.  Native flowers that attract butterflies are Blanketflower, Coneflower,  Butterfly Bush, Painted Daisy, Geranium and Phlox.  Hummingbirds like Painted Daisy, Phlox and Bee Balm.

            Summer fruiting plants  which produce berries or fruits from May through August.  These plants can attract brown thrashers, catbirds, robins, thrushes, waxwings, woodpeckers, orioles, cardinals, towhees and grosbeaks.  Examples of summer-fruiting plants are various species of cherry, chokecherry, honeysuckle, raspberry, servciceberry, blackberry, blueberry, cranberry, grape, mulberry, plum and elderberry. 

            Fall fruiting plants whose fruits ripen in the fall.  These foods are essential both for migratory birds which build up fat reserves before migration and as a food source for non-migratory species that need to enter the winter season in good physical condition.  Many fall-seeding grasses, shrubs, vines and trees will provide winter forage.  Fall-fruiting plants include dogwoods, mountain ash, winterberries, cottoneasters and buffalo berries.

            Winter  fruiting plants produce fruits which remain attached to the plants long after they first become ripe in the fall.  Many are not palatable until they have frozen and thawed many times.  Examples are glossy black chokecherry, Nannyberry, Siberian and "red splendor" crabapple, snowberry, bittersweet, sumacs, American highbush cranberry, eastern Wahoo, Virginia Creeper, and Chinaberry.

            Nut and Acorn plants include oaks, hickories, chestnuts, butternuts, walnuts and hazels.  A variety of birds, such as jays, woodpeckers and titmice, eat the meats of broken nuts and acorns. These plants also provide excellent nesting habitat.

Other native woody plants that provide food for wildlife are  Holly, Vibernum,  black willow, and native wild rose.

            For information on Partners in Flight, a consortium of groups dedicating to finding reasonable ways to maintain the health of bird populations in the Western Hemisphere, contact U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Office of Migratory Bird Management, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22203.

            The Kankakee Library has a collection of books on gardening, native plants donated by the Kankakee Cultivators Club. Other good books that will provide more information:

            A complete Guide to Bird Feeding. John V. Dennis, Alfred A. Knopf, 1994

            30 Birds That Will Nest in Birdhouses. R.B. Layton. Nature Book Publishing Company, 1977.

            American Wildlife and Plants: A Guide to Wildlife and Food Habits.  A.C. Martin, H.S. Zim and A.L. Nelson.  Dover Publications, 1988.

            A Field Guide to the Nests, Eggs, and Nestings of North American Birds.  Colin Harrison.  Viking Press, 1984.

            The Wildlife Gardener.  John V. Dennis.  Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.

            Trees, Shrubs and Vines for Attracting Birds.  Richard De Graff and Gretchen Wit. University of Massachusetts Press, 1979.

            Natural Landscaping: Designing with native plant communities.  J. and C. Diekelman.  McGraw Hill, 1982.

            How to Attract Birds.  Michael McKinley.  Ortho Books, 1983.

            Nature's Design.  Carol A. Smyser.  Rodale Press, 1982

            The Natural History of wild Shrubs and Vines.  Donald W. Stokes.  The Globe Pequot Press, 1989

            Songbirds in Your Garden.  John K. Terres.  Harper and Row, 1987.  


            source material: For the Birds.  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service





 God bless the roots!  Body and soul are one.

---- Theodore Roethke






The forest of the Galien

goes deep into Pleistocene


through concentric rings


virgin cells divide                                                           

             in the shade of giants

             whose boughs encompass time

                        as celebrated

                        by understory plants

                                         throughout the seasons.           


Layer upon layer

of blossoms and leaves,

sweet smells, textures

          of endless variety,

move in the windless gloom

as does the unseen bloom –

                                  Blood Trillium.



Mindless culture

            etched into tender silver bark,

decades of romance

           documented on the boles of ancient beach.



All else is as wild

as the downy bird

and the multi-colored fungi.

Don’t get lost

Keep to the high


Remember every tree

          as if it were yours

Beneath canopies of species

too numerous to mention

                        in this poem

meet me at the spring.


          -- Rob Frothingham

              September  ’88




The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.

          -- Henry David Thoreau



Global Warming and Birds


Sandhill Cranes migrate through this area heading to points south, to Florida and several other southern states.  In the BBC program on public television, “Warnings From the Wild”, it is pointed out that Sandhill Cranes have been arriving later and leaving earlier from their wintering grounds because of a warmer climate.  Data collected by an amateur bird watcher was used to make this observation.  Sandhill Cranes stop at Jasper-Pulaski SWA in Indiana on the trip south, but his year, as of February 1st, 10,000 cranes didn't go south.

            Why should we be concerned about this fact?  Changes in climate could affect humans as much as birds.  To think we are above the other creatures of this planet, and don’t need to be concerned for their needs is a serious mistake.  Evidence exists for the cause of global warming to be greenhouse gasses such as CO2.  Data collected from all over the earth by professionals and amateurs points to warming as a fact. 

            What can we do about this trend?  Here are some suggestions.

            1.  Keep a list of birds sighted.  Amateurs can make a difference. 

            2.  Be informed and be political.  Join a conservation organization.

            3.  Stand up for the weaker species of this world.  This may be humans someday.

            4.  Ask the question, “how much is enough?”  The answers will conserve the Earth’s resources.

            5.  Spend more time outdoors enjoying the natural world.

            6.  Add five more points to this list that you know are important, and send them into this newsletter (e-mail is forest@krvfpd.org). 

            Will birds that were once considered southern species start moving north to our area?  Mockingbirds, common in the south, may start coming here to nest.  Painted Buntings, ScissorTail Flycatchers, and Barn Owls also have a niche that favors warmer spots; sightings do occur in Illinois now. 

            Why is this bad?  Not all species gain from this change in climate, including us.  Agricultural failure keyed to climate changes is a real possibility.  Doing nothing will be our downfall.  We must look at our way of life and question “business as usual”.  The musical group Alabama sings that the world is “........only ours to borrow, lets save some for tomorrow.”  Our descendants are counting on it.


            -- John Baxter

            Kankakee Valley Audubon           Society




Free Fire Shows...Early matinee or evenings daily                           


To and fro, with kids in tow

It's either the job, school, or shopping


Richer, faster, time's the master

.......Stop, right now, or on your deathbed

You'll ask, "Life???Was I mislead?"


Let's start by catching

the spectacular display of reds, greens

and blues,

Meditate, speculate, while nature

provides the hues


You may have to fight for a good

seat due to all the sprawl on all

the streets

But it's worth it to remind us to

slow down ... can't catch this show




            -- Amy Ciaccio-Jarvis


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last updated on August 26, 2013