Environmental Almanac

Spring in My Step

The change of season means a dramatic uptick in outdoor opportunities.
Two boys in rubber boots holding nets stand in a woodland pool .

It's a great time to explore what's happening in vernal pools. Rob Kanter

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.