Outdoor Report

Read the Outdoor Report for the latest fishing conditions, wildlife sightings and nature news.

Outdoor Report Aug. 22

Rangers have been busy in the preserves cleaning up from the various storms, notably a big rainfall Thursday night. The eastern portion of the county was hit particularly hard, and as of Friday afternoon some trails remain flooded and are posted as closed. As water recedes, staff will power wash structures and repair trail washouts. When you’re out in the preserves this weekend, please heed any closures and be cautious of trail ruts and wet conditions. Paddlers should also remember that the area’s rivers have absorbed a lot of water and are running high and fast, presenting unsafe conditions for canoeists and kayakers. 

Though it’s been a quiet week for wildlife sightings, even in hot stormy weather there are still animals to be seen. Goldfinches continue to fly through prairies and woodland edges, picking seeds from tall flowers and gathering nesting material. At Danada, a bright red northern cardinal was heard singing among the trees during a recent rainy afternoon. And thanks to visitor Steve for sending in a sighting of five wild turkeys, a hen and four young, at St. James Farm.

New plants continue to bloom at our area’s prairies. This week ecologists spotted New England asters in bloom, and goldenrods and starting to show their namesake yellow. The next few weeks may see the prairies at their peak of color. Read more on plants to watch for and locations to see here.

It’s been a quiet week for fishing reports as well, and rainy weather may challenge anglers to vary their presentations. Two upcoming programs will give tips for success in area lakes. “Fishing for Bass” meets on Tuesday, Aug. 26 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Maple Lake at Meacham Grove and on Friday, Aug. 29 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Harrier Lake at Pratt’s Wayne Woods. The program is free and is open to those ages 12 and up, though children under 18 must be with an adult. Registration is required by call Visitor Services on weekdays at 630-933-7248.
This week's snapshot is of wild turkeys at St. James Farm. They are also known to visit Herrick Lake, Springbrook Prairie and Churchill Woods. Wild turkeys eat acorns, nuts, seeds, berries, grubs and insects. They walk more often than they fly, and can run quite swiftly. They may roost in trees for protection from predators. Groups of turkeys usually consist of females or of a male and his harem. Males compete for females with displays of their fanned tails and “gobble gobble” calls. In DuPage County, many of today’s wild turkeys may be descendants of those raised on area farms.

Outdoor Report August 15

The namesake coloration of the rusty-patched bumblebee can be seen on its back.
Image © Caroline Hlohowskyj

District researchers recently discovered a rusty-patched bumblebee at a forest preserve wetland. The insect is a native species that has in recent years become rare throughout much of its range in the Upper Midwest and East Coast. It has been placed on Canada’s federal endangered species list, and a conservation group has petitioned to have the species included on the U.S. list. They insects have the same fuzzy appearance as most bumblebees and sport a rust-colored patch on their second abdominal segment. They feed on nectar and are excellent pollinators of wildflowers. The recent sighting was in a healthy natural area and points to the importance of open space and natural habitats to provide food and shelter for wildlife of all kinds. That a sighting of a rusty-patched bumblebee in 2012 took place in a small wildflower garden at a Downers Grove home points to the fact that individuals can make a difference for wildlife, too.

To see a brief video of the bee in the wild taken by a District ecologist, click here.

Staff members continue to report sightings of monarch butterflies in the preserves and note that the species seems to be more abundant than last summer, when distressingly few were seen. A mating pair was spotted at Mayslake, while at Churchill Woods a visitor reported seeing adult butterflies as well as a caterpillar munching on a milkweed plant. Other recent butterfly sightings include a viceroy at Mayslake and a red-spotted purple at Churchill Woods.  

Summer’s still in full bloom on the prairies. There are a few plants typical of fall starting to open up, though, so look for goldenrods and asters here and there. Some late-summer species of the woodlands are opening up, too, including white snakeroot and tall bellflower. Obedient plant, purple Joe Pye weed, cardinal flower, great blue lobelia and nodding wild onion, which can occur in prairies or woodlands, have also been seen in bloom.

Animals sightings reported this week include two white-tailed does at St. James Farm and a doe with two fawns at Danada. Also at Danada, a few tree swallows were seen perching on a small tree and goldfinches continue to zip between prairie flowers and trees.

This week's snapshot is a viceroy butterfly. The viceroy closely resembles the monarch, another DuPage County native butterfly. These two species are often regarded as a classic illustration of mimicry, a defense where one species gains an advantage due to its resemblance to another. Monarchs feed on milkweed plants, and the mild toxins present in the plants in turn make these butterflies distasteful to hungry birds and other predators. Though viceroys do not eat milkweeds and are not toxic, their similar orange, black and white coloring still signals “stay away” to potential predators.

viceroy butterfly

Outdoor Report Aug. 8

Male American goldfinces display the contrasting black and yellow coloration pictured here. Females are a more dull yellow with brownish wings.

As a reminder to outdoor explorers, August is typically the time of year with the highest likelihood for West Nile virus. The generally cooler weather patterns we’ve had so far this summer are not been conducive for Culex mosquitoes, the species that transmits the disease to humans. But it’s still important to keep up a habit of protecting yourself from mosquito bites. Culex mosquitoes hatch from stagnant pools of warm water, so if the dog days of summer do arrive this month there may be higher potential to encounter the insects. Learn about the District’s efforts to combat West Nile virus and how to protect yourself outdoors, click here.

Anglers have had some success lately. Silver Lake at Blackwell continues to be a good location for largemouth bass. One person reeled in three fish recently using rubber worms. At Mallard Lake, a visitor caught a 25-pound flathead catfish using chicken liver. Those looking to catch a big catfish should try their skills at St. James Farm. A District ranger recently hooked a big one at the preserve’s catch-and release pond while leading a clinic for beginners.

Flowers on prairies, and a few woodland varieties, continue to create some colorful sights.  Orange jewelweed is in bloom throughout Fullersburg Woods. This unusually shaped and brightly colored flower needs moist soils but may grow in shaded or sunny spots. Blazing star is a recent bloomer on the prairies, and big bluestem grass is nearing its full height. Members of the Silphium plant group are blooming now. Look for the yellow flowers of prairie dock, compass plant and rosin weed to tower over their prairie neighbors of yellow coneflowers, false sunflower, pale purple coneflower and black-eyed Susan.

For a guided prairie exploration, join “Field Exploration” on Saturday, August 9 from 8 to 11 a.m. at West Chicago Prairie. The program is free and is open to ages 8 and up, though those under 14 must be with an adult. Participants will take a guided hike through this Illinois nature preserve to see what’s in bloom and what’s flying by.

Prairie flowers are providing food for butterflies, and a District ecologist recently noted a pipevine swallowtail in the field. Monarchs continue to be seen at several locations. American goldfinches have been spotted zipping through prairie areas that are on woodland edges. They eat seeds from several prairie plants and pull downy seeds out of a few thistles. These brightly colored birds build nests and breed much later in the year than many others. They wait until the fluffy seed of thistle, milkweed and similar plants are available and use them in building their nests. Nests are usually built in shrubs or small trees in a fairly open area.

Goldfinches are easy to see as they flit between plants picking seeds.

Outdoor Report Aug. 1

monarch caterpillar

Prairies continue to display beautiful flowers. Look for bright colors of wild bergamot, purple prairie clover, black-eyed Susan, yellow and purple coneflowers and much more. A few wetland plants are blooming now, too. Look for the purple of pickerel weed, the red of cardinal flower and the delicate white flowers on arrow head.

Sightings of butterflies continue, too, including red-spotted purple, silver-spotted skipper, and black swallowtail. Monarchs have been very active as well. Caterpillars have been seen munching on milkweed plants at Willowbrook Wildlife Center and Herrick Lake, and adults have been seen flying at Springbrook Prairie and Danada.

For dragonflies, active species include blue dasher, eastern amberwing, widow skimmers, common whitetail and Halloween pennant.
Other recent wildlife sightings include a group of white-tailed deer at McDowell Grove near the picnic area and at Waterfall Glen in Kettle Woods. A green heron was seen at Pratt’s Wayne Woods at Brewster Creek and an egret at McDowell Grove along the river near the bridge. Migrating shorebirds are starting to pass through. Watch for sandpipers at areas such as the wetland at Greene Valley along the Greene Trail near 83rd Street.

Anglers have had some success at Silver Lake at Blackwell. A 32-inch northern pike was caught there on a spinner. And thanks to visitor Joe for passing along the note that largemouth bass have been biting. He reeled in five bass at Silver Lake on a recent weekday morning.

This week’s snapshot is a cicada killer wasp. These insects are large, reaching almost 2 inches, but are not aggressive to people. It’s easy to confuse them for bees because of their size and appearance. They dig burrows in the ground and may be found in around soft or sandy soils or areas of disturbed earth like construction sites. The species name is a descriptive one, as these insects catch and capture cicadas to feed their young. An adult wasp will paralyze the captured cicada and bury it in the burrow with its eggs so that the young wasps have a waiting food source when they hatch.

cicada killer wasp
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