A cicada on a tree trunk

Rob Kanter

Environmental Almanac - July 23, 2015

Annual cicadas enliven dog days with love song

Even if the summer heat has limited your time outdoors, I bet you’re still hearing a familiar insect song. It’s the mating call of dog day cicadas, loud enough to rise above the drone of air conditioners and so persistent and widespread that it's almost unmissable

Rob Kanter holding a small garter snake

Photo by Rob Kanter

Environmental Almanac - July 16, 2015

A love of life—even snakes

Thanks to a friend who’s more observant than me, I recently discovered a new species of reptile in my own backyard, a plains garter snake. Maybe I should clarify by saying I mean the plains garter snake was “new” to me, not new to science or the wider world.

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar on a branch

Rob Kanter

Environmental Almanac - May 07, 2015

Landscaping for wildlife with native plants

At last year’s plant sale by the conservation group Grand Prairie Friends, nearly 1,400 milkweed seedlings were sold. Why all the milkweed?  It’s the only genus of plants on which the caterpillars of monarch butterflies feed and develop. Knowing that monarch populations are in trouble, people here and across the country are doing what they can to create monarch havens in their own back yards.

Hooded Warbler singing on a tree branch

Rob Kanter

Environmental Almanac - May 01, 2015

Embrace Your Inner Birder and Enjoy Spring Migration in Illinois

A variety of birds have been migrating through central Illinois since February. During the late winter and early spring something like 240 species of birds belonging to 39 families pass this way. But for most birders, the highlight of spring is songbird migration, and that becomes most intense over the next few of weeks.

Symplocarpus foetidus, or Skunk Cabbage, growing out of snow

Rob Kanter

Environmental Almanac - March 05, 2015

Get out soon to find the first flower of spring

People who go looking for beauty in the woodlands of central Illinois tend to get excited about the months of April and May, when showy beauties like Virginia bluebells carpet the woodland floor. But if you wait until April to get out, you may already be a month late for the emergence of the first flower of spring.

Environmental Almanac - February 19, 2015

Urbana Park District: Balancing Needs of People and Wildlife

The ideal landscape for Canada geese includes a pond with an island in the middle, surrounded by a level monoculture of turf grass that slopes gently to the water’s edge. But such a landscape supports very little other native wildlife. Not that the geese would care much.

Participants at the Allerton Winter Tree Identification Hike looking up at a state champion 
swamp white oak

Rob Kanter

Environmental Almanac - February 05, 2015

Learning to See Trees Through “New Eyes” at Allerton

Most people who can tell the difference between tree species in the summer have difficulty in winter because they’re naked — the trees, that is, not the people. The goal of the winter tree identification hike at Allerton Park goal was to teach participants other cues to tell them apart.

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