Outdoor Report

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

Outdoor Report Oct. 24

Our fall colors season is rapidly coming to a close, so get out and enjoy the trees before the leaves tumble down. Oaks, hickories and some maples are showing colors now, while most ashes and some maples have all dropped their leaves already. Our field staff recommends Fullersburg Woods, Maple Grove, Meacham Grove, Blackwell and Herrick Lake. Download trail maps for these and other locations on the hiking page

Deer are becoming more active these days as they move around in search of mates and have been spotted at several forest preserves. Be careful on roadways at areas marked with deer crossing signs. Learn more on ways to avoid collisions here.

Other wildlife on the move include a mink crossing a stream at Blackwell near the ranger shop and a coyote trotting along a trail at Mallard Lake and then ducking into the brush when it saw the staff member.

Great horned owls have been hear hooting at Fullersburg Woods and Mayslake. A Cooper’s hawk and a red-tailed hawk were noted at Blackwell. Migratory waterfowl sightings are increasing. Of course watch for numbers of Canada geese and mallards. Pied-billed grebes have been visiting Grove Lake at Wood Dale Grove, and large numbers of double-crested cormorants have been seen at the Wood Dale-Itasca Reservoir and Spring Creek Reservoir.

The three trout-fishing lakes were busy over opening weekend. And while the action has slowed, there are still fish to be caught. Anglers have been having success using powerbait fished along the bottom and minnows suspended under a float. Those using minnows for trout have hooked the occasional largemouth bass and crappie. During the warmer weather we’ve had lately, anglers have been catching largemouth bass at several locations using several different baits in areas adjacent to deep water.

This week’s snapshot is a great horned owl. This time of year they are establishing their territories and will soon be searching for mates. They are one of the earliest species to breed in North America, and are often incubating a clutch of eggs by late January. A breeding pair may call out to each other through a forest, often around dusk. Males are a bit smaller in size than females, but have a deeper, lower-pitched voice for the familiar “whooo, hoo, hoo” calls.

Outdoor Report Oct. 17

Visitors to the Greene Valley Hill can see the treetops for miles around. 

This weekend is time for trout fishing. The season opens Saturday, Oct. 18 at 6 a.m. at three locations: Silver Lake at Blackwell, Pickerel Lake at Pratt’s Wayne Woods and Grove Lake at Wood Dale Grove. Though opening weekend is often the busiest, there will still be fish to catch in the coming weeks. Remember, anglers ages 16 or older who are not legally disabled must have valid Illinois fishing licenses with inland trout stamps in their possession. The creel limit is five fish per day with no length restriction.

The other highlight of the weekend? Fall colors! The combination of sunny days and cool nights develops intense hues, and many of the area’s forests are in full swing right now. Our rangers report that Herrick Lake is lovely right now, particularly around the lake where the maples and oaks along the Lake Trail are reflected in the water. Blackwell has some beautiful views from along the main drive and from the top of Mount Hoy. Visitors can walk to the top of the hill whenever the preserve is open to see the trees from above for miles around. 

Just a few of the other great locations for fall colors are Waterfall Glen, Meacham Grove, West DuPage Woods, Fullersburg Woods, Maple Grove and Greene Valley. Greene Valley is a great place for a birds-eye view from the scenic overlook. An access drive leads to the top of the hill, which is the highest open ground in DuPage County. It’s open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. through October, so make your visit soon. 

The Greene Valley Hill is a great place to watch for migrating birds. Many larger birds like hawks make use of the wind currents around the hill. Volunteers with the Hawk Watch organization monitor passing birds and see everything from common residents such as red-tailed hawks to less-frequent visitors like merlins and bald eagles.

A few other recent animal sightings from the field include two white-tailed deer does walking near the main drive at Mallard Lake, a red-tailed hawk swooping overhead near Silver Lake at Blackwell and a skunk scurrying away from a parking lot at St. James Farm. Cedar waxwings have been flocking up lately, and sandhill cranes should be in the skies in the coming weeks. 

This week’s snapshot is of the trout stocking activity from earlier this month at Silver Lake at Blackwell. Silver Lake is stocked by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the District funds the stockings at Grove and Pickerel lakes. These fish are stocked at a much larger size than other species since they are intended to be caught and kept by anglers. For other species, the District generally bolsters populations with much younger fish that will grow over several years. 

Staff from the IDNR's hatcheries stocked Silver Lake at Blackwell with about 3,100 fish as part of the state's spring and fall catchable trout program.   

Outdoor Report Oct. 10

It’s time for two of the District’s most-visited fall events. Join “Corn Harvest” at Kline Creek Farm on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Oct. 11 – 13, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to help the farm with their annual crop. Visitors will take to the fields and can also join activities and crafts. “Corn Harvest” is free and open to all ages. To learn more, click here or call Kline Creek Farm at 630-933-7248.

Danada Equestrian Center will offer its annual Fall Festival on Sunday, Oct. 12 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. With shooting cowboys, trick riders, a parade of horses, pony rides, live music, face painting, hayrides, crafts and food, it’s no wonder the festival is a favorite for thousands and the District’s largest special event of the year. All ages are welcome, and admission is free. To learn more, click here or call Danada at 630-668-6012.

Not into crowds, but want to enjoy the outdoors this weekend? Head out for a fall colors walk. Though ashes, some maples and some smaller oaks have turned, many large oak and maple trees are mostly green. We may have another week until the most dramatic colors reach the forests, which makes this weekend a great time to appreciate the colors on the prairies. Asters such as New England are still offering blue and purple flowers. A few goldenrods still have bright gold while others are fading to light brown as they go to seed. Indian grass and big bluestem often have golden stems topped with light feathery plumes. Little bluestem can have a striking reddish brown or bronze hue to its stems. Visitors can see a large stand of little bluestem at Springbrook Prairie near Book Road. Other good prairie views are along the Green Heron Trail at Herrick Lake, the Regional Trail at Churchill Woods and anywhere at West Chicago Prairie.
Be sure to watch for birds this weekend, too. Staff members have reported an influx of warblers this week. During a walk at Oldfield Oaks, birders spotted a large number of yellow-rumped warblers as well as Tennessee, magnolia, Nashville, blackpoll and black-throated green warblers. A few of the other species they saw are ruby-crowned kinglets, Swainson’s thrush, white-breasted nuthatch, brown creeper, American tree sparrow and American goldfinch.
Silver Lake at Blackwell has been visited by a few eye-catching birds recently. This week staff members reported two pied-billed grebes, two separate osprey sightings and a visit from a bald eagle.

This week’s snapshot is of another water-loving bird, a great egret, in Salt Creek at Fullersburg Woods. The species is common in DuPage County during spring, summer and fall and can be seen along the shorelines of lakes and rivers standing quietly and watching for prey including fish, frogs and other small aquatic animals. Thanks to Eric Schwister for sharing his photo.

Image © Eric Schwister

Outdoor Report Oct. 3

Virginia creeper makes for a dramatic contrast early in the fall colors season.

We’re just two weeks away from opening day for the fall rainbow trout season. Three lakes are now closed to all fishing in order to accommodate the stocking time and to allow the fish to disperse through the lakes. The season opens on Oct. 18 at 6 a.m. at Silver Lake at Blackwell, Pickerel Lake at Pratt’s Wayne Woods and Grove Lake at Woods Dale Grove forest preserves. As a reminder, anglers ages 16 and over who are not disabled must have valid Illinois fishing licenses with inland trout stamps. Get more details here.

Another sure sign of fall? Tickets go on sale for the annual Halloween Night Walks at Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center! Sales begin at Fullersburg on Saturday, Oct. 4 at 9 a.m. for these family-friendly walks on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 24 and 25 between 6 and 9 p.m. Get more details here.

Fall colors continue to develop. Virginia creepers are making bold splashes of red on tree trunks at a few locations, including Fullersburg Woods and Herrick Lake. This climbing vine is in the same family as poison ivy but has five leaves instead of three. Learn more about fall colors and good places to see them here.

Fall bird migration is still under way, but warbler sightings are slowing down. White-throated sparrows and brown creepers have been moving through. During a recent birding walk, participants saw downy, hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers, northern flicker, eastern phoebe, red-eyed vireo, blue jay, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, Carolina wren and Swainson’s thrush. Watch for sandhill cranes to be moving through soon. Bright, sunny days when the air is cool and crisp but also warm in the sunshine are ideal for large flocks to take to the skies. Two sandhills were recently seen at Timber Ridge near the northeast pasture.

This week’s snapshot is a bottle gentian. This richly colored flower also called the closed gentian because of the unusual nature of the mature blooms. They never fully open and are pollinated by bumblebees, some of the only insects large and strong enough to enter the flowers. This arrangement may be of benefit to both species. The bees have sole access to a nectar supply, and the plants have “loyal” pollinators. Bottle gentian favors moist rich soils in sun or partial shade. Look for bottle gentians in bloom now in the McKee Marsh area of Blackwell or the state nature preserve prairie at Churchill Woods.

Bottle gentians have unusual petals that require a large pollinator such as a bumblebee to break through.
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