Two boys in rubber boots holding nets stand in a woodland pool .

Rob Kanter

April 11, 2019 - Environmental Almanac

Spring in My Step

Spring at last, and suddenly there’s so much to do the challenge is to choose among activities! 

Bicycling is far easier and more enjoyable than it was a month ago, despite the occasional breeze out of the north. If you’ve been getting from here to there in a car, maybe it’s time to put some air in your tires and see what you’ve been missing. 

Over the past week I’ve been watching the emergence of bluebells, trillium and other native woodland plants, both in my yard at home and in the oases where they’ve been established on the U of I campus. But it sure would be nice to get out to Allerton Park or Busey Woods to see them in a more natural setting. In all of these places the delicate, bright green flowers on spicebush provide and extra pop of color. And the spectacle of redbud trees in bloom will follow before you know it.

At the same time, I’d also like to get out and roll logs to look for salamanders, and to see and hear some of the frogs that are now congregating in local wetlands to breed. Thanks to friends on social media, I know the spring peepers, western chorus frogs, and others are celebrating the change in season. 

Birding has really picked up, too. A month ago it seems I was hearing only cardinals and Carolina wrens when I was out running in the morning, but now the chorus include eastern towhees, white-throated sparrows, phoebes and more. 

On top of that, the oddities that come along with spring migration are out there now, too. One friend has been posting pictures of a common loon that stopped over at a local detention pond, and on a recent evening as I walked my dogs in central Champaign, I saw an osprey perch on top of a neighbor’s television antenna. How weird is that?

Along these lines, maybe a Sunday morning walk with the Champaign County Audubon Society at Busey Woods is in order.

In addition to everyday opportunities, this Saturday, April 13, is the occasion for two participatory events that might be of interest to you.

Boneyard Creek Community Day will run from 9:00 a.m. until noon, followed immediately by a free lunch for volunteers. Walk up registration is available at Scott Park in Champaign at the time of the event, which is billed as a way to celebrate and protect our lakes and streams by engaging volunteers to pitch in and clean. As organizers put it, “Litter looks bad and leads to more litter. It clogs storm drains causing local flooding and ends up in receiving streams harming aquatic life. This event helps remind us all to be responsible citizens and put trash in its place.”

Saturday night from 7:30 to 10:00 p.m. the Champaign County Forest Preserve District invites you to “Discover the Night Sky” at the Middle Fork River Forest Preserve. You may or may not remember it, but late last year, the preserve became the first location in Illinois accredited as an International Dark Sky Park. You’re invited there to learn about the night sky and light pollution, participate in hands-on activities, speak with astronomy experts, and peer through telescopes for yourself.

Alex Wild Photography (with permission)

February 21, 2019 - Environmental Almanac

Termites are much more than just pests

Wondering if termites are more than just pests that destroy the foundation of your home? Stop by the Insect Fear Film Festival on February 23 to learn more about these amazing creatures! 

December 20, 2018 - Environmental Almanac

Dark skies benefit people and wildlife

Most people understand that various products of human activity have the potential to harm wildlife when they’re released into the world, and we routinely call these products “pollutants.” Fewer people are accustomed to thinking of carelessly spread artificial light that way, but a growing body of evidence makes it clear we should.

Rob Kanter

October 12, 2018 - Environmental Almanac

Birding with my brother

In late winter of 1984 my younger (and only) brother, John, assigned me little bit of reading, the section called “Sky Dance” from the April entry in Aldo Leopold’s book, A Sand County Almanac. This was a bit of a switch in our relationship, since at the time I was a college senior majoring in English at Xavier University in our hometown of Cincinnati, and he was a junior majoring in wildlife management at Ohio State in Columbus—I was the one who assigned any mutual reading.

Sketch of chimney swifts from a 1913 publication for teachers in New York giving them material for "nature study."


September 21, 2018 - Environmental Almanac

An appreciation for chimney swifts

One of the easiest birds for many people to see also attracts the least attention, and that's too bad because chimney swifts are fascinating creatures.

Chimney swifts dropping in to roost for the night.

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