Where Trail Tales at Ryerson Woods begins, just steps from Brushwood Center!

Brushwood Center Updates: Trail Tales!

It’s been awhile–let’s get caught up!

We’ll start with Trail Tales!                                                                                                   Brushwood Center has a fantastic program that connects families and children to nature and each other through literature and physical activity. Unveiled in 2014 in partnership with Lake County Forest Preserves, Brushwood Center has developed Trail Tales/Caminando con Cuentos as a way for families to get outside and explore the many benefits of observing and exploring nature.

What is Trail Tales?                                                                                                                             Trail Tales is a bilingual program that takes the pages from a nature-themed storybook and reproduces them onto large panels placed along a hiking trail. The panels include ‘Trail Time’ activities that offer fun ways for families to interact with the nature around them. “We want to offer an experience that draws on the power of story to help kids and families develop a stronger sense of place,” says Brushwood Center board member, Emilian Geczi: “The narrative and artwork of Trail Tales make us more mindful of our surroundings. They help us observe the changes in the land in the contexts of our own lives.”
The latest Trail Tales book at Ryerson Woods, Winter is Coming by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Jim La Marche, is a beautiful depiction of a young girl documenting changes from Fall to Winter. As you walk the trail, following along with the story, it is exciting–especially for little ones–to make the connections from the book to the natural world. The story, very truly, comes to life!
Brushwood Center is going further than a tale on the trails and is creating youth programming around Trail Tales, says program director, Jackie Rockwell: “We are developing a bilingual nature journaling program that combines nature appreciation, literacy, science, and creativity to encourage young people to develop their curiosity in our natural world and give them a voice for expressing themselves.”


Where is Trail Tales?                                                                                                                   There are currently two different Trail Tales books installed in two different Lake County Forest Preserves. Visit Ryerson Woods to read along with Winter is Coming, or Greenbelt  and Nippersink Forest Preserve to experience the fun of reading Miss Maple Seeds as you walk.



Little Free Library                                                                    At the end of the Trail Tale’s hike is a Little Free Library where you can “take a book, leave a book.” Ryerson Wood’s Little Free Library resembles a large bird house and, thanks to Waukegan Public Library, is filled with nature books for all ages. Share a little bit of your interests by leaving a book in our Little Free Library for other Trail Tales visitors to read and take a book home to enjoy with your friends and family!

Trail Tales is an invitation into nature and the imagination—an activity that inspires children and families to explore the outdoors through art, literature, and science.

Trail Tales is free and open to the public during Ryerson Woods operating hours.

To learn about our Trail Tales guided programs for groups and schools or other Brushwood Center programs, contact Jackie Rockwell by phone at 847-968-3343, by email at jrockwell@brushwoodcenter.org, or visit BrushwoodCenter.Org. Trail Tales at Ryerson Woods is located at 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods, IL 60015.

It’s woodcock dancing time

Stand near the entrance to Ryerson Woods at dusk in March, April and May and you might hear the unusual courtship and flight song of an unusual shorebird, the American woodcock. It’s called a shorebird because of and habit of probing into the earth with a long bill to capture its food, as other shorebirds do.

But the woodcock doesn’t live or nest along the shoreline.  It chooses habitat that includes an open field with short grasses next to a wooded area that can be wet in spring.

And, compared with other shorebirds, its legs are quite short, especially in relation to its rotund body.

Woodcocks will stay in the woods during the day, but come nightfall, the males emerge onto a short grassy area to show their dancing and singing skills to females and competing males.

First, the male utters a nasal-sounding, “Peent,” lifting its open bill to the sky. He continues his “peenting” for up to a dozen or more times before spiraling into the sky as high as 100 or more yards, the size of a football field.

As he flies into the air, his wings give a whistling twitter – until he’s so high, you can’t see or hear him. Seconds after you’ve lost him, you’ll hear a chirpy,chirpy,chirpy or kissing sound  he utters as he returns to nearly the exact same place he started peenting. Minutes later, he starts peenting again, then taking off to the sky again.

Sometimes, he’ll peent in all directions, turning after each peent, to broadcast his vocals as far as possible.

Watching woodcocks can strain the eyes – they begin their displays when it is almost dark – just after the last American robin has quit singing for the night and when the spring peepers begin their chorus.  Stand quietly and listen for the unusual sounds and hope for a glimpse of the bird against a moonlit sky.

Here’s a better look at a woodcock:

You can find more videos here.

You’ll notice it has large eyes  on the side of its head – this gives it the chance to look out for predators, while inserting its long bill into the earth searching for a meal of worms.

Woodcocks visit other Lake County Forest Preserves to mate in spring, including Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest and Almond Marsh near Grayslake. You’ll need to enter those preserves to hear the woodcocks. At Ryerson Woods, you can turn into the entrance, then immediately park alongside the road, turn off your car, get out and listen.  If you’re lucky you’ll get to hear and see the birds before the preserve is closed for the night. Or come first thing in the morning before the sun has risen – woodcocks peent and display at dawn as well.

For a special program on woodcocks and a guided tour to hear and see them, you might consider signing up for a class at Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest on  March 27. Click here for more information.

Sheryl DeVore

Magical Evening at Ryerson Woods

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Model Allison Saum wears an original dress designed by Friends of Ryerson Woods Administrative Coordinator Julia Kemerer.
(Photo credit: Adriana McClintock)

Ryerson Woods is a magical, natural wonderland in the spring – full of native flowers covering the forest bed, trees as far as the eye can see and a host of beautiful creatures living inside. This past Saturday at the 30th annual Smith Nature Symposium, a new and delightful figure appeared in the woods. “Bird Girl” welcomed guests to the symposium in a dress made of moss, hand-painted birds, butterflies and flowers.

Celebrating 30 years is a special occasion and we knew we needed something equally special to dazzle our guests. I thought about a garden dress I came across some time ago. Cascading rows of planters made up an elaborate and dramatic piece of art and nature, the very intersection we cross with our mission at Friends. Many of the events I have done in the past have had a performance artist or some artistic feature to wow guests so I approached our group to see if we could do something similar.

With a passion for design, the project sparked the interest of Friends of Ryerson Woods administrative coordinator and multi-media artist Julia Kemerer. She quickly came up with a concept and got to work.

The hardest part was manipulating chicken wire to form the lower half of the dress and covering it with natural materials, such as Spanish moss, green mountain moss and Black Lichen. Poor Julia was covered in cuts and scratches, as well as the materials and glue. It was a labor of love, though, because it ignited her creative spirit and she was able to focus her energy into a project close to her heart.

Guests were tickled to see the finished product and enjoyed taking pictures with “Bird Girl” throughout the night. Her hat, adorned in hand-painted eggs atop a gorgeous nest, balanced delicately on her head as she made her way through the party interacting with guests. She then rallied the crowd to raise their paddles for fundraising.

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Photo Credit: Adriana McClintock

It was an incredible evening, made possible by so many great moments and helping hands. Kenn Kaufman delivered an informative and funny keynote address. Sophie Twichell, executive director at Friends, lovingly honored longtime friend and former colleague Doug Stotz, the 2013 conservation award winner. Last, and certainly not least, the Lake County Forest Preserve District worked tirelessly to take care of setting up, providing staff and volunteers, chauffeuring guests to the front door and so much more. We couldn’t do it without you!

Thank you to all involved to help make this a memorable year!

Adriana McClintock
Director of Development and Communications

The Hidden World of Wolves and Coyotes

Did you know that coyotes live in almost every green space of any size in the Chicago metropolitan area? Did you know that their cousins, the wolves, are also thriving across the state line in Wisconsin? Explore the hidden world of these fascinating predators and what their presence in our region means for people. Join us for an intimate look at these animals.

The Hidden Word of Wolves and Coyotes 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Greenbelt Cultural Center

Adrian Wydeven and Stan Gehrt, two of the country’s leading experts, will lead this discussion. Wydeven studies wolves for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Gehrt is the leading researcher of urban coyotes in the Chicago region. This program is presented in partnership with Conserve Lake County, Lake Forest Open Lands, Wildlife Discovery Center and the Lake County Forest Preserve District.

Tickets are $15 ($10 for members of Friends of Ryerson Woods, Conserve Lake County, Lake Forest Open Lands or Wild Ones). Register here.