Outdoor Report Dec. 5
Lichens may grow on tree trunks, rocks and even artificial surfaces.
With the arrival of December, it’s time to think about holiday events and gatherings. Two of the District’s most popular are taking place this weekend.
On Saturday, head to Willowbrook Wildlife Center for the “Talons and Claus” open house between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Visitors will get a chance to see Santa and purchase photos for $10, meet some of the center’s resident wildlife, make crafts and more. Admission is free and activities are ongoing.
On Saturday and Sunday, visit Kline Creek Farm in West Chicago for “Christmas on the Farm” between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Participants will join in caroling, sip hot cider, and can take their picture in an old-fashioned sleigh. The event is free and activities are ongoing.
For more information on these and other activities, visit the holiday event guide.
Wildlife sightings tend to slow down a bit this time of year. Many mammals become less active and may retreat to shelter from the elements. White-tailed deer have mostly gone through their breeding time, known as rut, and will not be moving around as much. They are easy to see this time of year, though, in the open forests. Blackwell, McDowell Grove and West DuPage Woods have all had recent sightings. Deer do stay active all winter and must continue to find food and water, though during times of intense cold and snow they may bed down in a sheltered area while the worst of conditions pass.
When watching for wildlife in the preserves, winter is a good time for bird-watching. In woodland areas we’ve had recent sightings of familiar winter sights such as northern cardinals, white-breasted nuthatches, black-capped chickadees, cedar waxwings and pine siskins. There have been birds of prey noted, too. Red-tailed hawks are our area’s most common hawk, and this time of year they can easily be seen on the tops of trees and even utility and light poles perching and watching for their next meal. Great horned owls are more often heard than seen, and this time of year they’re calling for mates and to establish territory. Listen for their hoots around dusk. Other raptor reports include rough-legged hawks and northern harriers at Springbrook Prairie.
This week’s snapshot is of the velvet apron moss, Anomodon rostratus. Mosses and lichens are often easier to spot in winter when other foliage has died back, making winter a good time for our plant ecologist to search for them. A lichen is not a single organism but rather a symbiotic partnership between a fungus and an alga or cyanobacterium. They can grow on tree trunks, rocks and even artificial structures and absorb water from their surroundings. Mosses typically grow in clumps or mats. They do not have roots and must absorb water and nutrients through rootlike appendages. Both mosses and lichens can help judge environmental conditions because they are sensitive to the presence of pollution. Approximately 200 species of lichens and 225 species of mosses have been identified in the forest preserves.
Mosses tend to prefer damp environments.