Outdoor Report

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

Outdoor Report Sept. 12

Fall migration is underway in the forest preserves. Warblers, those highly anticipated migratory species, have already been passing through. At Fullersburg Woods, species seen recently include northern waterthrush, magnolia warbler, Blackburnian warbler, blackpoll warbler, black-throated green warbler and black-and-white warbler. Other good places to see warblers are in mature forests such as those at Waterfall Glen, West DuPage Woods, Greene Valley, Salt Creek Park and Willowbrook Wildlife Center in the Back 40 nature area. The cold front that recently came through with northern winds has brought a lot of migrants, so this should be a good weekend for bird-watching.

Other birds on the move include lots of Swainson’s thrushes at Fullersburg Woods and great horned owls at Herrick Lake and St. James Farm. At Blackwell, two Cooper’s hawks were seen near the main parking lot and a red-tailed hawk was spotted near the youth group campground. A bird-savvy naturalist also notes that common grackles, red-winged blackbirds and brown-headed cowbirds are all flocking together. Sharp-eyed bird-watchers may notice a few odd-looking individuals in these flocks. These are most likely young birds born earlier in the year and now in the middle of molting.

Deer have been on the move as well. A naturalist at Fullersburg noted a group of nine individuals moving through an open area there. At this time of year, moms may still have their young born this year with them and they’re eating what they can to put on fat for the winter. Acorns are a favorite food for deer.

Our plant communities are looking like fall these days. Blooming now are New England asters, which are blue and purple in color, and hairy asters, which are white. Also look for the purple of blazing stars and sawtooth sunflowers. Cottonwood and walnut trees are starting to turn and drop their leaves. The peak of fall colors is still a few weeks away, though.


Outdoor Report Sept. 5

Off-leash dog area users, the area Springbrook Prairie is open once again following a short closure for some improvements to the trails. And if you haven’t been out to see it yet, the newly remodeled dog area at Mayslake has been a hit with pups since it opened earlier this summer. Permits are required for these and the other four off-leash areas. Fees for a single dog are prorated for the remainder of the year, making a 2014 permit just $20 for DuPage residents. Read more about the off-leash areas on the dogs page, or call Visitor Services on weekdays at 630-933-7248.

Have you been camping this year at the family campground at Blackwell? There are just a few weekends left this season for camping adventures, which are available Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights through September. Advance reservations are available but must be made three business days in advance. Onsite reservations are also available for any unreserved spaces. Get more details on the camping page

A few fall programs for adults are beginning for the season. The “Forest Fitness Walk” series takes visitors to a variety of locations for a brisk weekly walk and views of the changing seasons. These walks take place on Mondays through Dec. 8 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. and are $6 per person per hike. The “FullersBird Fridays” series offers birdwatchers a chance to join a naturalist on the search for the many species that pass through the forest preserves during fall migration. New this fall, the programs will explore not only Fullersburg Woods in addition to a few other prime birding spots. These walks take place on Fridays through Oct. 17 from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and are $6 per person per hike. For more information or to make a reservation for either series, call Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center at 630-850-8110. And, find more outdoor opportunities on the calendar of events.  

Speaking of birds, a naturalist at Fullersburg reports that migration is beginning at this perennial favorite location. Just a few of the species seen there recently include wood duck, green heron, black-crowned night heron, common nighthawk, belted kingfisher, ruby-throated hummingbird, eastern wood-pewee, gray catbird, white-breasted nuthatch, black-throated green warbler, northern waterthrush and scarlet tanager. 

This week's snapshot is an ailanthus webworm moth. Due to its bright coloration and habit of keeping its wings folded, it may resemble a beetle on first glance. These moths are active during the day and visit many types of flowers. Adult moths migrate through much of the continental United States and even into parts of Canada, though they do not survive cold winters. In its caterpillar stage, it builds webbed group nests and feeds on the paradise tree, which is native to Florida. The caterpillars’ range may have expanded, though, as the tree of heaven has become a more common ornamental plant.

Outdoor Report Aug. 29

It’s Labor Day weekend, a time to get out and enjoy some summer fun before the fall season arrives.

The headquarters office and education centers will be closed on Monday, Sept. 1 for Labor Day, but forest preserves and recreational amenities like trails and off-leash dog areas will be open regular operating hours on the holiday and throughout the weekend.

Boat rentals at Herrick and Silver lakes return to weekends only after Labor Day and close for the season after September, so hit the waters in a canoe, kayak or rowboat soon. Rentals start at $10 per hour.

Planning a bit of fishing time? Remember, anglers ages 16 and over must have valid Illinois fishing licenses in their possession. If you’re visiting the preserves with a group and not everyone has gear, head to the boat rental areas at Blackwell and Herrick Lake for to borrow a rod and reel.

Anglers have been busy at Silver Lake at Blackwell this week. Highlights include a 30-inch northern pike caught on a slip bobber and a 15-inch largemouth bass caught on a rubber worm.

In wildlife notes, Silver Lake at Blackwell has had a busy beaver active along the northwest shoreline. At Bass Lake at West Branch, rangers spotted 10 cormorants and two kingfishers. At Kline Creek Farm, two sandhill cranes were seen in one of the farm fields.

Kline Creek Farm will be bustling with visitors from far and wide over the weekend during the annual Country Fair, one of its most popular programs. The event is free for all ages on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors will see displays of daring, wondrous exhibits from across the globe, a flea circus and much more. The event is free for all ages. 

Snapshot: This is one of the more than 20 species of goldenrods that grow in the Chicago region. Goldenrods may be found in many places, from high-quality prairies to areas along roadsides and on the edges of parking lots. Most species bloom from late summer into fall and are often blamed for hay fever and fall allergies. However, ragweed is the real hayfever culprit. Ragweed pollen can be carried long distances by wind, and allergy sufferers may encounter the tiny grains just about anywhere outdoors. Goldenrod pollen’s large sticky grains cannot be carried by wind. The plants are instead pollinated by insects such as bees.

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.

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