August 07, 2020

Goodenow Grove Forest Preserve - More than Simply a "Good" Learning Experience.

I had been eager to visit Goodenow Grove Forest Preserve in the Crete/Beecher area for quite some time now, especially since my experiences with many of the Will County Forest Preserves have yielded positive experiences with plenty of learning opportunities. But the distance had always kept me from pursuing exploration at the preserve and nature center, and there was always the fear in the back of my mind that I would make the drive only to be met with disappointment. But the truth couldn’t have been further from it.

Plum Creek Nature Center alone is surrounded by several plants mostly native to Illinois, attracting several pollinators that include a variety of butterflies and their larvae. When I paid a visit to the Nature Center, they were offering free bookmarks that helped aid in the identification of some of the pollinator-friendly plants, which is perfect for a “budding botanist” like me, and the lady at that service desk was incredibly encouraging when I told her I was planning on cultivating weeds of my own to study.

But it’s not just the people that are friendly here. That atmosphere alone is very inviting, and the easy-to-navigate trails offer plenty of opportunities to study not only native plants, but grants herpetologists an opportunity to encounter plenty of frogs, turtles, and even snakes. As a matter of fact, when I paid my first visit to Snapper Pond Trail, I was fortunate enough to observe two water snakes sunbathing together atop a fallen log, and I was able to see one of the same snakes the very next day, sunbathing atop the very same log. Several turtles of varying species and sizes can also be found sunbathing on nearby logs (though they will flee to the waters if you happen to stand too close).

There are several trails to explore ranging from beginner to intermediate. The High Trail will require quite a bit of hiking ability, but offers a chance to view several birdhouses and native flora. I am certain the preserve serves as home to several bird species that more advanced iNaturalists will be able to encounter (I even witnessed a domesticated cat roaming the trails as if this was familiar territory, no doubt stalking for an easy meal. Sadly, I was unable to safely approach the cat).

Among just some of the sites among the various trails were several flowers of yellow varieties (including sunflowers, Susans, and coneflowers), milkweeds, amphibians and reptiles, and several bird species that I was unable to record during my two trips. But I hope to change that on a future visit, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Posted on August 07, 2020 01:20 by alexandradestria alexandradestria | 11 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 03, 2020

Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area on New River Road (Vole-ing for Vantage Points)

Knowing that I will be returning to the workforce next week should put my mind at ease, and yet dare I say there are several pangs of regrets that I'm feeling having only recently discovered this app when I've been exploring preserves, parks, and trails actively since 2018 now? I've frequented Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area over the years, but it is evident that Covid has not been kind to this park thanks to the accumulation of human carelessness and trash that is prominent especially on the "Wilmington" side of the park, which is a shame considering just how diverse the natural landscape can be.

There is some allure to the Milliken Lake area, especially where the along the road where the waters clash and form miniature waterfalls that crash along the rocks littered with mollusk shells. Unfortunately, right now it is also littered with beer bottles and cans, plastic waste, and glass. Thankfully, there does not seem to be much disturbances as far as the local plants and wildlife are concerned, and I was able to witness several water striders and green frogs, especially along the creek that runs near the front entrance.

But it is the lands across the railroad tracks, the land that sits out of sight from busy highways and truck traffic that offers numerous chances to experience so much of what nature has to offer at a comforting and quiet pace. There is a boat launch area for fishing or on-the-water viewing and studying, but just around the boat launch area alone are several species of plants growing alongside a large cornfield. Sadly, I have only recently begun studying Botany, so there are still some that I was not positively able to identify, only apply my best guess. I believe I have observed several flowers within the loosestrife, phlox, and nightshade family, but I was able to note that Cup Plants, Yellow Coneflowers, and milkweed surrounding the fields. Sadly, I also noted several Foxtails growing near the cornfield, which could pose a threat to the majority of the bordering crop.

I also made a new little friend today by accident while searching for snakes along the several trails (I did observe a large, friendly water snake living near the waters with all the lily pads, but I was unable to record/photograph their presence before the reptile returned to their safe haven among the leaves.) I almost missed the tiny, panting ball of fluff, no bigger than a key lime, staring up at me with tiny black, beady eyes. Those eyes are what told me this was no mole, despite what the app originally tried to tell me, but I am still not certain about the exact breed of my new little friend. The critter I believe to be a vole was generous enough to pose for two photographs, then slipped away quickly back into the woods. I do not recall observing a tail nor ears, just a slender, fast-moving skitter, and my smile as I concluded it was the perfect way to conclude today's trip.

Posted on August 03, 2020 23:57 by alexandradestria alexandradestria | 8 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment