Outdoor Report Feb. 28
This might be one of the last weekends of snowy winter conditions. Weather forecasts as of Friday afternoon are calling for possible snowfall, and if enough falls on the tubing hill at Mount Hoy at Blackwell it might welcome tubers to get their kicks sliding down the 800-foot run on Saturday and Sunday, March 1 and 2. The hill requires at least three inches of snow cover to operate, so call the Outdoor Report at 630-871-6422 to find out if conditions are right for tubing.
A snowfall could provide opportunities for cross-country skiers and snowshoers, too. Cold weather has kept ice on the lakes, so anglers will be able to enjoy hard-water fishing into March this year. As a reminder, at least 4 inches of ice are recommended for any activity. Rangers do not monitor conditions, and all ice activity is at the visitor’s own risk. Anglers should be sure to check conditions as they move around, as rain last week may have weakened ice in some areas.
But if you’re ready to be done with winter and want to think spring, take heart. Rangers and naturalists have reported a few signs of that season’s pending arrival in the preserves lately. A few reports have come in of northern cardinals singing their territorial songs. The most recent was at Blackwell in the woods near where the Regional Trail crosses Springbrook Creek. And though we haven’t spotted any in DuPage County just yet, a bird-watcher in neighboring Cook County has heard some first-of-the-year calls of the red-winged blackbird.
Other wildlife on the move include coyotes sighted at Blackwell and Pratt’s Wayne Woods and a bald eagle flying over the West Brach of the DuPage River at Hawk Hollow. Common mergansers have been noted diving into the open water of the marsh near the Egret Trail at Blackwell and perching along the bridge over the West Branch or the DuPage River at McDowell Grove. And, a forest preserve neighbor near Belleau Woods reports finding evidence of a great horned owl feasting on a meal of cottontail rabbit.
Sharp-eyed nature explorers should be on the lookout for skunk cabbage, the earliest-blooming plant in DuPage County. It may emerge even when snow covers the ground in late February and early March. Skunk cabbage produces its own heat as it grows, protecting the buds from cold weather. The plant’s common name comes from its fetid odor. The heat produced may help spread the insect-attracting scent and provide a warm place to welcome for the carrion flies that are the plant’s pollinators. Skunk cabbage grows primarily in fens, making the White Pine and Red Oak trails at West DuPage Woods ideal places to look for the plant.