Party on the Prairie

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Middlefork Savanna Forest Preserve. Photo by Nick Bothfeld.

 

PARTY ON THE PRAIRIE

Saturday, June 21

6:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Join us for a celebration of the Summer Solstice. Watch the sun set over beautiful Middlefork Savanna while mingling with like-minded nature lovers on the patio of a private Lake Forest home with a truly breathtaking view. The evening will include a presentation by Jim Anderson, manager of the Natural Resources Division of the Lake County Forest Preserves. He’ll share information on the extensive work being done to restore this incredibly rare and beautiful tallgrass savanna – a gem in our community! Beer, wine, refreshments and hors d’oeuvres will be served.

$50 per person. Only 50 tickets will be sold. Visit www.brushwoodcenter.org to register, or call 847.968.3346. 

Joel Oppenheimer to present new “The Birds of America” by John James Audubon at Ryerson Woods

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Joel Oppenheimer in his Chicago gallery with an original double-elephant folio edition of Audubon’s “The Birds of America.”

Wednesday, June 18

7:30 – 8:30 p.m.         

BOOK TALK

The Birds of America: The Bien Chromolithographic Edition

 

When Joel Oppenheimer recognizes a bird, it’s not because he’s a birder, but rather because the renowned art dealer has been intimately acquainted with the quintessential avian paintings of John James Audubon for decades.

Now, Oppenheimer, one of the country’s foremost authorities on Audubon, has produced and written “The Birds of America: The Bien Chromolithographic Edition.” Oppenheimer has written text to complement the first complete reproduction of the Bien chromolithographs: 150 full-color illustrations in facsimile form of “The Birds of America,” which Audubon painted more than 150 years ago.

Oppenheimer, a Chicago-based art dealer and art conservator, will give a free talk about this seminal project at 7:30 p.m., June 18 at Brushwood Center, 21850 Riverwoods Road, Riverwoods, Illinois.

"Pileated Woodpecker" by John James Audubon.
“Pileated Woodpecker” by John James Audubon.

Through his seven years of research and working with publisher, W.W. Norton and Co., Oppenheimer discovered some intriguing information, not so much about John James Audubon himself, but about his wife, Lucy, and their son, John Woodhouse Audubon.

After Audubon’s death, his son commissioned Julius Bien in 1858 to produce a new edition of his father’s works with a revolutionary chromolithographic process that omitted the painstaking steps of hand coloring each piece as had been done previously.

The family still owned the original paintings and all the original copper plates.

“The family put everything into this,” Oppenheimer said. “Lucy Audubon mortgaged their estate to finance the project. When the Civil War came, however, the project could not be completed and the family suffered a devastating bankruptcy.” Audubon’s original watercolors were sold to the New-York Historical Society in 1863.

Only 150 plates were produced in the Bien collection. They are among the rarest and most sought-after Audubon prints. When Oppenheimer secured a complete folio of the Bien collection about eight years ago, he was inspired to produce the new book.

book_image_-_the_birds_of_america_-_the_bien_chromolithographic_edition“There was something about the quality of this printing that captured my imagination,” he said. “In previous writings, the Bien edition had been cast aside and much maligned as being a poor quality reproduction. I bought this set and it was an exquisite example of chromolithography and Audubon’s work.”

Oppenheimer said his new book “is a very specific treatment of one particular edition of Audubon’s work that had never been examined in depth at a scholarly level. There’s a lot of new information in the book, a lot of discovery from original research.”

The June 18 event is presented through a partnership between Brushwood Center and Lake County Forest Preserves. A limited number of books will be available for purchase ($350) and signing. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Brushwood Center. To reserve your copy in advance, call 847.968.3308. Registration is required. To register, call 847.968.3321.

WHEN:     7:30pm, Wednesday, June 18

WHERE:   Brushwood Center, 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods, IL

COST:       Free

Registration required.  To register, call 847.968.3321.

 

David Sibley Returns to Ryerson Woods!

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On the heels of the release of his highly anticipated second edition of The Sibley Guide to Birds, David Sibley will speak and sign books from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m., April 9 at Ryerson Woods.  The book talk will take place in the Welcome Center, 21950 Riverwoods Road, Riverwoods, IL. The event is free and open to the public. Registration is required.

978-0-307-95790-0Sibley, preeminent birder, author and illustrator, will talk about his work to expand and update his bird guide published in 2000. The second edition, just released, offers new paintings, new and rare species and copious updated information sure to astound bird lovers of all levels. The second edition also includes nearly 7,000 paintings, and all illustrations reproduced 15 to 20 percent larger for better detail.

Sibley will talk about his research out in the field and in museums to gather information he said has made his second edition more accurate and more useful to birders. The cover features the Magnolia Warbler, a bird Sibley recalls seeing first when his father, ornithologist Fred Sibley, banded it near the Point Reyes Bird Observatory in California. It’s one of many birds that will be migrating through the Chicago and suburban area in May.

David Sibley leading a workshop at Ryerson Woods in 2003.
David Sibley was the keynote speaker at the Smith Nature Symposium at Ryerson Woods in May 2003. Here he led a workshop on bird illustration.

Sibley’s book has been called “the finest guide to North American birds.” He is a contributing editor to BirdWatching Magazine and author and illustrator of many other books about birds. He last visited Ryerson Woods as keynote speaker of the 2003 Smith Nature Symposium. He spoke to a sold-out crowd.

David Sibley with his illustration of a yellow-rumped warbler at Ryerson Woods in 2003.
David Sibley with his illustration of a yellow-rumped warbler at Ryerson Woods in 2003.

This event is presented in partnership with Lake County Forest Preserves and Lake Forest Book Store. Books will be available for purchase and signing.  Registration is required. Call 847.968.3321 to register. For more information, visit www.brushwoodcenter.org.

WHEN:      7:00 – 8:00 p.m.                                                    Wednesday, April 9

WHERE:   Welcome Center, Ryerson Woods                        21950 N. Riverwoods Rd.                                      Riverwoods, IL

COST:       FREE

Registration required. Space is limited. Call 847.968.3321 to reserve your spot.

This program is SOLD OUT. To add your name to the wait list, please call 847.968.3321.  If you have a spot and won’t be able to attend, please let us know so someone else can have it.  Thank you!

Project Passenger Pigeon – From Billions to None

Artists conception of mural being installed in downtown Cincinnati that features John Ruthven’s mural of passenger pigeons flying over the Cincinnati Zoo in the 1870s.
Artists conception of mural being installed in downtown Cincinnati as part of P3 that features John Ruthven’s mural of passenger pigeons flying over the Cincinnati Zoo in the 1870s.

Do you know about Project Passenger Pigeon (P3)?  It is an international effort to mark the 100th anniversary of the passenger pigeon’s extinction in 2014. Friends of Ryerson Woods is a P3 partner.

The passenger pigeon was once the most abundant bird in North America and likely the world, with a population that likely exceeded a billion as late as 1860. But because it was the cheapest terrestrial protein, it was subjected to unrelenting exploitation that drove it to near extinction by the first few years of the twentieth century when the last wild birds were shot. All that remained were a handful of individuals in captivity, the last of which (Martha) keeled over in her cage at the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914.

Passenger pigeon specimens from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum's collections.
Passenger pigeon specimens from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s collections.

The story of the passenger pigeon has great relevance to us today. There is no better cautionary tale to the proposition that no matter how abundant something is, be it inanimate ―water, oil, etc.―or alive, it can be lost if we are not circumspect in our use. P3 seeks to familiarize the public with the story of the passenger pigeon and then to make the connections with current issues related to extinction and our place in nature. P3 intends to do this through its web-site, social media, curriculum, a book, and a variety of exhibits and programs.  Friends of Ryerson Woods has adopted the centenary as its 2014 theme, and we are developing a rich slate of public programs for 2014 that explore the themes of extinction and species survival.  We are partnering with other Lake County organizations to present a wide range of activities, exhibitions and presentations for you to enjoy throughout the year.

One program you won’t want to miss is a book talk by natural history historian and author Joel Greenberg. Joel has written the first comprehensive book on the passenger pigeon in 50 years.  It is being published by Bloomsbury USA and will be released early in 2014.  We’ve secured Joel for an author event on Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 7pm.  This event will be held at the Greenbelt Cultural Center and is being presented in partnership with Lake County Forest Preserves, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest Open Lands and the Wildlife Discovery Center.  Copies of Joel’s forthcoming book, Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction, will be available for sale and signing.

Filming for the documentary with author Joel Greenberg and senior curator of urban ecology Steve Sullivan of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in the museum collections.
Filming for the documentary with author Joel Greenberg and senior curator of urban ecology Steve Sullivan of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in the museum collections.

The single element that can reach the most people is the documentary being made by director David Mrazek, “From Billions to None.” It is also the most expensive element. As such, P3 recently launched an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign and has already raised $22,000 of its $65,000 goal. These funds will allow for additional animation, trips to significant sites, production assistance, and other important tasks.  We’d love to be able to screen this film for you in 2014.  Would you be interested in supporting the production of this important film?

Here is the link:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/from-billions-to-none-the-passenger-pigeon-s-flight-to-extinction

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

5 Tips for Planning Your Spring Garden

What are you planting in your garden this year? Whether you are growing herbs, flowers, vegetables or fruit, here are five tips to help you with your green thumb this spring.

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  1. Timing is everything. Plug your zip code into Sprout Robot to make sure you are planting the right thing at the right time. This easy to use website gives you step-by-step instructions with illustrations to help you get started.
  2. Use native plants and flowers when you can. Attend our free Midwestern Native Garden workshop in partnership with the Lake County Forest Preserves to find out how you can makeover your garden with native plants on Thursday, April 18 from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the Welcome Center at Ryerson Woods.
  3. Be creative! You can recycle almost anything to use as a planter. Subscribe to our Pinterest gardening page to get inspired by tips and ideas. Garden Pins1
  4. Protect your plants and trees. Mulching helps to maintain soil moisture, control weeds and improve soil fertility. Take a look at many organic options available at The Mulch Center in Deerfield, a Friends of Ryerson Woods sponsor.
  5.  Enjoy the outdoors with children. Nurture your garden and pass along your knowledge to a young person to help them appreciate nature. Show them how to collect vegetables from the garden or watch flowers grow. Use the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights from Chicago Wilderness’ Leave No Child Inside initiative as a guide.

Adriana McClintock
Director of Development and Communications

Coyotes in the Neighborhood

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Coyote illustration by Gretchen Baker.

Friends of Ryerson Woods hosted a panel discussion on “The Hidden World of Wolves and Coyotes” in November 2012.  Afterwards, our executive director, Sophie Twichell, was invited to write an article on misconceptions about coyotes for the Lake Bluff Open Lands Association’s newsletter. We thought our readers might be interested in this information as well.  Let us know if you learned something new after reading the article. Enjoy! 

by Sophie Twichell

Do you hear coyotes howling at night? See them trotting down the sidewalk or crossing streets? Without a doubt, coyotes are active members of our North Shore communities.  But, how much do we really understand this medium-sized member of the dog family (along with wolves and foxes)?  Coyotes are often misunderstood, as well as underappreciated for the valuable role they are playing.  Learning more about these elusive creatures is the best way for us to live harmoniously with coyotes.

Coyotes, Canis latrans, are native to North America and currently occur throughout most of the continent. Their historical range prior to 1700 was restricted to the prairies and desert areas of Mexico and central North America. But over the past few centuries, coyotes have dramatically expanded their range across North America and now are found in an increasing number of cities in the United States and Canada. In addition to occurring in natural areas, coyotes are also found in a range of human-populated areas, including rural farms, suburbs and cities.

Stan Gehrt, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University, has been leading a team of researchers studying urban coyotes in the Chicago metropolitan region since 2000.  Gehrt’s team has caught and marked 661 coyotes, including radio collaring 379.  He recently shared fascinating facts about coyotes with 200 curious community members at the Greenbelt Cultural Center in North Chicago at an event sponsored by Friends of Ryerson Woods and Conserve Lake County.

Stan Gehrt has been studying urban coyotes in Chicago since 2000. Photo courtesy of S. Gehrt.

Here is a sampling of what Gehrt’s team has discovered about coyotes on our region:

–          Most adults weigh between 25-35 lbs. A few big ones weigh in the 42-43 lbs. range. There are no 50 lb. coyotes.

–          They have individual personalities. Some are shy, others aggressive. Some howl often, others hardly at all.  Individual variation is tremendous.

–          Packs are made of family members and are very territorial.

–          Howling is a way to bring family members together, as well as to establish territory; it is not a sign of aggression or hunting.

–          Coyotes are monogamous for life; pairs only split upon the death of a mate.

–          The average litter size is 4-7 pups, although can range from 3-15.

–          Male coyotes help raise the young just as much as females.

–          February is the peak of mating season for coyotes; litters are born in April.

–          During mating and gestation is the only time coyotes will voluntarily use a den (a burrow in the ground or hollowed out tree); otherwise, coyotes usually sleep above ground in the open or in cover.

–          In captivity, coyotes can live 13 to 15 years, but in the wild, most die before they reach three years of age. Gehrt’s study found that coyotes generally have a 60 percent chance of surviving one year.

–          Coyotes inhabit virtually every green space of any significant size throughout the Chicago metropolitan region; if they are removed, new ones will move right in.

–          Coyotes in the Chicago metropolitan area confine most of their activity to nocturnal hours, whereas in natural areas, coyotes tend to be diurnal (active during the day) or crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk). This reduces the likelihood of interacting with humans.

–          Coyotes are incredibly adaptable. Gehrt showed video of coyotes crossing city streets and even interstates safely, apparently looking both ways before crossing the street and following green lights.

Over 200 people came out to the Greenbelt Cultural Center in November 2012 to learn more about coyotes. Photo courtesy of Conserve Lake County.
Over 200 people joined us at the Greenbelt Cultural Center in November 2012 to learn more about coyotes. Photo courtesy of Conserve Lake County.

Much controversy revolves around what coyotes eat.  Gehrt’s study has provided fascinating information, including some unexpected results.  A study of coyote scat (poop) revealed that the most common food items are small rodents (42 percent), fruit (23 percent), deer (22 percent), and rabbit (18 percent). They also will eat birds, frogs, skunks, insects and the occasional beaver or muskrat. Apparently the majority of coyotes in the region do not, in fact, rely on our pets (1%) or garbage (2%) for their diets.  (Scats often have more than one diet item; therefore, frequencies do not necessarily add up to 100 percent). As coyotes need to eat about 10% of their body weight each day, this preference for rodents can result in a diet of 3,000 rodents per year!  Further, coyotes serve as the primary predators on fawns. One surprising find was that coyotes control Canada Geese populations by eating the eggs. Geese parents can fight off raccoons but not coyotes. 97% of goose nest predation is carried out by coyotes. Geese and deer are often overabundant and difficult to manage. Thus, coyotes play a key role in naturally controlling rodent, deer and geese populations.

But, what about our pets? There are a few things to consider. It is natural canid (dog family) behavior to kill smaller canids. This is about instinct and survival. Given the opportunity, wolves will kill coyotes, coyotes will kill fox, and so on. This is less about getting a meal, but instead about eliminating competition. So, you want to keep an eye on your small dogs. Coyotes also may kill domestic cats for food or again to eliminate competition, but Gehrt’s study reveals that cats make up a very small part of their diet. Also, other predators eat cats, including Great Horned Owls. If coyotes live nearby, do not let pets run loose, especially domestic cats. When hiking in preserves, keep dogs on leashes.

Attendees enjoyed viewing the mounted coyotes, pelts and information provided by the Wildlife Discovery Center and the Lake County Forest Preserves.
Attendees enjoyed viewing the mounted coyotes, pelts and information provided by the Wildlife Discovery Center and the Lake County Forest Preserves.

In general, coyotes will avoid humans. Considering how many live around us and how few incidents we actually have with coyotes, it is clear they are staying out of our way. But, there are many ways we can minimize the possibility of conflicts with coyotes.  Most important is not to feed them. Many people unintentionally feed coyotes by leaving pet food or garbage out at night or by having large bird feeders. Coyotes are generally not interested in bird food, but bird feeders often attract rodents, especially squirrels, which then attract coyotes. Although coyotes seem to have a natural inclination to avoid human-related food, this can change when prey populations are low, or if the coyotes are young and haven’t yet learned to hunt effectively. If you encounter one or more coyotes on a trail, do not run away. It is part of canid (dog family) instinct to chase something that flees. That is how they chase down prey. Instead, you should make a lot of noise, as well as throw something at them.“Coyotes in the Chicago area are successful in spite of us, not because of us,” Gehrt contends. “They eat their own food, not ours.  They hunt as if we weren’t even here. They do their best to avoid us.”

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A close up of the Wildlife Discovery Center’s mounted coyote.

FIVE EASY STEPS TO AVOID CONFLICTS WITH COYOTES

Conflicts with coyotes can be avoided by taking simple precautions or by altering behaviors to avoid confrontation:

1. Do not feed the coyotes.

2. Do not let pets run loose.

3. Do not run from a coyote.

4. Repellents or fencing may help.

5. Report aggressive, fearless coyotes immediately.

To learn more about the Cook County Coyote Project, visit www.urbancoyoteresearch.com.