Outdoor Report

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

Outdoor Report April 18

Male redheads display the namesake coloration.
Image © George Kalinka

District crews have been out whenever they could in recent weeks conducting prescription burns. They have likely done most of the work they can in woodland areas since spring ephemeral wildlflowers are beginning to sprout for the season. If weather conditions allow next week, staff members may get to a few more burns at prairie habitats that haven’t started growing for the season. 

Though rangers have been busy burning, they’ve been noting the visits of many migrating birds, too. Waterfowl sightings include buffleheads on Maple Lake at Meacham Grove, American coots on Round Meadow Lake at Hidden Lake Forest Preserve and the Wood Dale/Itasca Reservoir. Redheads and pied-billed grebes have also been seen at the Wood Dale/Itasca Reservoir. This area can be viewed along the Salt Creek Regional Trail and has a parking lot off School Street.

A naturalist at Fullersburg Woods passes along that northern flickers, ruby-crowned kinglets, great egrets and eastern towhees have been seen there this week. She also spotted a few other spring arrivals around the District, including a savannah sparrow and some ruby-crowned kinglets at St. James Farm and a snow goose and a common loon on Silver Lake at Blackwell. 

In fishing notes, anglers continue to reel in rainbow trout at Grove Lake at Wood Dale Grove. Largemouth bass are hitting at a few locations including Round Meadow Lake at Hidden Lake, Songbird Slough and Rush Lake at East Branch. Spinner baits, crank baits and jigs have all been successful, and the best time to fish has been late afternoon has been best after the sun has had a chance to warm the water up a bit. A few northern pike have also been caught at Songbird Slough, and minnows suspended under a bobber or spinner baits have been most successful.

This week’s snapshot is of spring beauty flowers, one of the earlier bloomers in our woodlands. Look for it in places like Waterfall Glen, Greene Valley, Fullersburg Woods, Meacham Grove and Maple Grove. Other flowers to keep an eye out for in the coming weeks are bloodroot, toothwort, May apple, trout lily and trillium.

The petals of spring beauties are white with some pink coloration.

Outdoor Report April 11

Forest preserve visitors have spotted the season’s first mourning cloak butterflies.

Spring seems to have finally sprung. Chorus frogs are active, and their trilling calls can be heard at several ponds. Forest preserve visitors have even spotted the season’s first mourning cloak butterflies. Each dark brownish red wing is edged with a wide yellow band that’s outlined with a line of blue spots. Unlike monarchs, adult mourning cloaks do not migrate. Instead, they spend winter hibernating in hollow logs and trees and emerge in spring to look for mates. Now that the weather’s warming, you’ll see them feeding on nectar, sap and overripe fruit.

April means spring, but April also means Earth Day, and this year, the District is celebrating throughout the entire month during “Eco 30” at Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center. Young forest preserve fans can join the “Kids Happy Hour” on April 12 at 1 p.m. for earth-friendly activities and crafts, and everyone’s invited to “Bike Your Preserve” on April 27 at noon for bicycle safety checks and plenty of fresh air along 5 miles of beautiful trails. And on April 26 between 9 a.m. and noon the center will host its “Recycling Extravaganza.” For a list of recyclable items and more “Eco 30” fun, call the center at 630-850-8110, or visit dupageforest.org/eco30.

This week’s snapshots are of a prescription burn that took place this week at Dunham Woods Forest Preserve in Wayne. It’s one of several that Forest Preserve District crews will be conducting this spring. Unlike a wildfire, a prescription burn is a deliberately set, controlled, natural-resource-management tool that specially trained crews have used for over 35 years. These fires not only remove invasive, exotic plants but also break down organic materials, returning valuable nutrients to the soil. They also prevent a buildup of plant debris, which can stunt new growth and keep rainwater from filtering through the soil.

Unlike a wildfire, a prescription burn is a deliberately set, controlled, natural-resource-management tool that specially trained crews have used for over 35 years.

Outdoor Report April 4

Common mergansers have been seen in large numbers at Waterfall Glen.

Anglers, get ready for the annual spring trout season, which opens on Saturday, April 5 at 6 a.m. Silver Lake at Blackwell, Pickerel Lake at Pratt’s Wayne Woods and Grove Lake at Wood Dale Grove forest preserves have been stocked with rainbow trout at an average of 1 – 1.25 pounds. When fishing for trout, anglers 16 and older who are not legally disabled or Illinois residents on leave from active duty in the armed forces must have in their possession valid Illinois fishing licenses with inland trout stamps. The creel limit is five trout per day with no length restriction.

And just in time for trout season, the ice has receded at Silver Lake and boating access is now available. Rental canoes, kayaks and rowboats will be available on weekends through May, and privately owned boats with permits may be launched any time. Visit the boating page for more details.

If you’re not into fishing, a District lake is a good place to watch for migrating waterfowl. Rangers report buffleheads at Meacham Grove and a common loon and some great blue herons stopping by Silver Lake at Blackwell. Rivers are busting with birds, too. At Waterfall Glen, large numbers of common and red-breasted mergansers have been seen at the Old Barrow Pit. Lesser scaup, ring-necked ducks and white-winged scoters have been seen along that corridor, too.  

At Fullersburg Woods, a naturalist reported seeing a pied-billed grebe fishing in Salt Creek. Eastern phoebes, golden-crowned kinglets and tree swallows have also been spotted there among the trees.

This week’s snapshot is of two blue herons in the rookery at Danada taken in spring of 2013 by visitor Mark Barthelt. This area may support over 100 active nests and is easy to see from the regional trail. Birds have been seen reestablishing their nests once again this year and are often fly between the nesting site and Rice Lake. Churchill Woods has also been home to a rookery over the years, but staff members have not yet seen herons returning there this year. The large trees they favor have been damaged by storms in recent years, so perhaps the birds have found a new location. 

An important reminder, though, is to observe these birds and all other wildlife from a distance. This is especially critical during breeding season, when wildlife is particularly sensitive to disturbance. When a visitor is close enough that an animal changes its behavior, that visitor is too close.

Image © Mark Barthelt

Outdoor Report March 28

Flockes of American robins are passing through several locations.

Waterfowl continue to lead the way of spring migration. At Fullersburg Woods, a naturalist recently spotted common mergansers, common goldeneyes, ring-necked ducks, wood ducks and blue-winged teals. An ecologist also spotted some wood ducks at some of the kettle ponds undergoing restoration at Waterfall Glen. Willowbrook Wildlife Center staff even released some rehabilitated waterfowl, including a couple of mergansers and a scoter, along the Des Plaines River.

Other birding activity includes kingfishers active at Willowbrook and along the Des Plaines River near Waterfall Glen. Great blue herons have been seen returning to their rookeries at Danada and Churchill Woods. At Fullersburg Woods, sightings include killdeer, sandhill cranes, song sparrows singing and a pileated woodpecker popping in and out. A northern cardinal was seen at Harrier Lake near Pratt’s Wayne Woods, and an eastern bluebird was spotted along the main road at Blackwell.

A great horned owl was also heard hooting near the ranger shop at Blackwell. Many great horned owl chicks have already hatched. Great horned owls often use stick nests originally built by red-tailed hawks or crows, and may build their own nests in evergreen trees that provide protection from the weather. These nests are rather rickety constructions, and owlets have been known to tumble out of the nests. District staff members from Willowbrook Wildlife Center and the forestry team often work together to reinforce nests with platforms and reunite young owls with parents. 

If you’re watching for mammal activity, head to Blackwell where a beaver was seen plodding along near Mount Hoy and looks for muskrats  becoming active again in bank dens.

Due to ice cover and concerns for visitor safety, the “Trout Fishing for Kids” program on Saturday, March 29 at Wood Dale Grove has been cancelled and will not be rescheduled. However, we look forward to the spring rainbow trout season carrying on as scheduled on April 5 at 6 a.m. at Grove Lake at Wood Dale Grove, Pickerel Lake at Pratt’s Wayne Woods and Silver Lake at Blackwell forest preserves.

This week’s snapshot is of a Morrison’s sallow moth, Eupsilia morrisoni, seen by a District ecologist in recent weeks. This insect spends winters in the moth stage, and may be active on warmer days from September through May. It may be tough to see, as its wingspan reaches only about 1.5 inches and its coloration certainly blends in well to the bark on trees in its habitat of deciduous forests. Watch around exterior lighting on warm days this time of year, though, because like most moths species it could be drawn to the light.

Image © Scott Kobal
The Morrison's sallow moth may be active throughout winter and into spring.
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