Environmental Almanac - June 15, 2017

Mystery of the Tiny Bouncing Spheres

What’s shaped like a ball and white, less than a millimeter in diameter, and bounces like a Mexican jumping bean?. Jumping oak galls; they form around the larvae of tiny wasps as they feed on leaves. As the larvae mature, the galls fall to the ground, where they overwinter and the stingless wasps emerge as adults the following spring.

A turkey vulture with wings open perched on a rock

Rob Kanter

Environmental Almanac - June 08, 2017

Appreciating Turkey Vultures

If you watch the sky in warm weather, you’re likely to see large, soaring birds from time to time. In our part of the country, most of those large soaring birds you’ll see are turkey vultures, which you can recognize from a long way off without help from binoculars or a field guide.

Eastern Cottontail on hind legs in a field

Rob Kanter

Environmental Almanac - June 01, 2017

Coexisting with Cottontails

Some people love rabbits. “Soooo cute!!! More bunnies please,” was the response from one friend when I posted a rabbit picture online recently. More people, perhaps, have mixed feelings about them. “Love bunnies, but baby just ate a large butterfly milkweed I bought a few days ago,” added another friend. There are also among us plenty of people who look at rabbits pretty much the same way Elmer Fudd looks at Bugs Bunny; some 60,000 Illinois residents hunt rabbits.

A red fox on a snowpile

Rob Kanter

Environmental Almanac - January 19, 2017

Appreciating an adaptable urban carnivore

While the population of red foxes has recently declined in rural parts of east central Illinois, the same foxes have thrived in urban areas, where predators are scarce and prey is more abundant

Sandhill Cranes in Flight against a sunset

Rob Kanter

Environmental Almanac - October 20, 2016

November brings sandhill crane spectacle to northwest Indiana

Sandhill cranes that breed in the upper Midwest and central Canada begin gathering in Indiana near the end of September, and their numbers grow until mid- to late November, when they peak at about 20,000. Imagine 20,000 of these majestic birds together in the same place less than half a day’s drive from Champaign-Urbana.

A gray squirrel eats an acorn in a Chinkapin oak tree

Rob Kanter

Environmental Almanac - September 08, 2016

An Ecological Look at Acorns

Acorns are everywhere in the fall, as anyone who bicycles where there are oaks can attest. While these seeds may be a minor annoyance on the road, they’re much more interesting and important from an ecological perspective.

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