Woods of Wisdom
If You Sit Still Long Enough
If you sit still long enough,
Owls are back in the south suburbs
Clearing of grassland brings out rodents - and their predators
------------ by Gary Wisby, Environmental Reporter
You may not know what voles are, but short-eared owls and northern harriers do: They're dinner.
A population explosion of the mouselike animals has lured the two endangered raptors back to a forest preserve in south suburban Matteson.
Why did the voles return? Because the plot of forest preserve known as the Bartel Grassland -- between Ridgeland and Central south of Flossmoor Read -- has been restored to a more natural state.
Workers tore out seven miles of hedgerows, which gave cover to predators such as raccoons and opossums that eat the eggs of ground-nesting birds. They removed drainage tiles laid by farmers, allowing the return of natural water flow. They sowed seeds of prairie plants.
In addition, haying by farmers was ended and prescribed burning was reintroduced.
Birders first noticed increased numbers of nesting bobolinks and Henslow's sparrows, a threatened species.
"But no one was prepared for the bird bonanza this winter," said Judy Pollock of Chicago Audubon, a partner in the project along with the Cook County Forest Preserve District, CorLands, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bartel Grassland Volunteers.
The Thorn Creek Audubon Society suggested the work. Its president, Marianne Hahn, reported on a birders' Web site, "Penny Kneisler and I watched as a coyote pounced on, caught and ate a rodent in the mowed area close to Central. Paying no attention in the same area were two northern harriers roosting on the ground. As we watched, short-ears came to the edge of the taller grasses.
Mowing fire breaks, planting seeds and burning, a restoration crew from Landscape Resources Inc. thought the owls and harriers were harassing them. But then they realized what was really going on.
Project leader Doug Wilford explained, "Whenever we are around, there is a steady stampede of startled voles that haphazardly scramble out into areas that have suddenly cleared of vegetative cover. We are the dinner bell."
On a recent visit, birder Bryan Zvolanek of Downers Grove spotted a rough-legged hawk.
"I watched the bird take off when out of the pines burst a very angry owl, which started to give chase across the field where tow short-eared owls joined in," he said. "In the same field of view I could see two northern harriers rocking their way across the grassland in the distance. Four birds of prey in the same field of view -- terrific."
Bring binoculars if you visit the site. "The owls roost on the ground and can waste valuable energy if visitors startle them into flight," Pollock said.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
--- By Mary Oliver, From "New and Selected Poems"
Windy & white
Tracks that bite
Rivers frozen under ice
. By Amy Ciaccio-Jarvis
Full Moon Fascination
Full Moon names date back to Native Americans, of what is now the northern and eastern United States. The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full Moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. There was some variation in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior. European settlers followed that custom and created some of their own names. Since the lunar month is only 29 days long on the average, the full Moon dates shift from year to year. Here is the Farmers Almanac's list of the full Moon names.
Full Wolf Moon - January Amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the
wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. Thus, the name for January's
full Moon. Sometimes it was also referred to as the Old Moon, or the Moon After
Yule. Some called it the Full Snow Moon, but most tribes applied that name to
the next Moon.
Full Strawberry Moon - June This name was universal to every Algonquin
tribe. However, in Europe they called it the Rose Moon. Also because the
relatively short season for harvesting strawberries comes each year during the
month of June . . . so the full Moon that occurs during that month was
christened for the strawberry!
Full Sturgeon Moon - July The fishing tribes are given credit for the
naming of this Moon, since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other
major bodies of water, were most readily caught during this month. A few tribes
knew it as the Full Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish
through any sultry haze. It was also called the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.
TO LOOK AT ANYTHING
The World of Lichens
By Diane Nelson & John Wall
*putting on professor's hat*
Researchers are also starting to realize that lichens are complete little
ecosystems, not just a partnership between two or three organisms. A lichen in
the wild also houses many xenobionts, organisms that are not part of the
I studied mites that live almost exclusively in lichens. They're very
cool.....they look like little turtles, with big, heavy shells to protect them
No I Can't Go Back Yet
by Nirav Sumati
I need to lie here.
I need to immerse myself.
I need to see nothing but green
for a little while.
RECIPES FOR BIRD TREATS
In this non-suet recipe, the shortening has no nutritional value, but a little is added for consistency. This mix does not have the high energy value of suet, but the ingredients are enjoyed by many species. The cornmeal is *IMPORTANT* to prevent the sticky consistency of peanut butter from choking the birds.
1 C peanut butter (crunchy)
2 C quick oats
2 C cornmeal
1 C shortening
1 C white or whole wheat flour
1/4 C sugar
Melt the peanut butter and shortening, mix in everything else. Pour into containers about 1 1/2 " thick and freeze. Cut to fit suet feeder basket.
The suet in these next two recipes provides winter fuel for the birds and is especially favored by woodpeckers and nuthatches. Shortening is NOT a substitute as it lacks the energy-packed nutritional value of suet. Suet can be gotten from your local meat market, rendered from fat trimmed from meat cuts, or simply buy the suet cakes already made up at the wild bird food section in the store. Be aware that some mixes add dyes and flavorings that have no nutritional value; you and the birds are better off just putting out the real stuff, however unsophisticated!!
1 1/2 C peanut butter
1 1/2 C cornmeal
3 - 4 C wild bird seed
3 C rendered suet*
Freeze in a cake or pie pan; cut into pieces to fit suet basket.
*to render suet, melt suet (fat trimmed from beef ) in a heavy pan over low heat; cool, reheat and cool again, adding other ingredients while melted. Cool or freeze until placed out in suet baskets in the yard.
1/2 C chopped rendered suet
1/2 C peanut butter
2 1/2 C cornmeal
1 C wild birdseed
Combine, press into a pan. Freeze until firm enough to crumble. Put crumbles in a bowl with peanuts, birdseed, chopped apples, raisins or more chunks of suet. Mix well, divide into single serve containers and freeze. You can also add oatmeal, bran or pumpkin seeds.
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last updated on August 26, 2013