In May, a group of young bird-watchers and botanists visited Grigsby Prairie to celebrate spring's arrival. Armed with binoculars and the newly published field guide for Grigsby, parents and young people walked the trail searching for spring plants and birds.
Plant sightings included Indian Paintbrush, Jacob's Ladder, Marsh Marigolds Marsh Violets, Toadflax, Prairie Lousewort, Dropseed, Porcupine Grass, Orange Puccoon, Rattlesnake Master, White-eyed Grass, Shooting Stars and Compass plants. They learned that even walking on the trail they must tread lightly because the Shooting Stars like to grow on the path.
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Afternoon birds were scarcer than the many plants, but included Kingbirds, Savanna Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, Tree Swallows and a Turkey Vulture.
The kids were excited to record their discoveries on the lists in the front of their booklets. They enjoyed comparing the colored photos to the real specimens. They also discovered crayfish holes, a possible coyote den and a few butterflies.
A big part of the lesson of the day was differences. They observed the unburned part of the prairie filled with tall yellow and rust-colored grasses and then the low green area which had been burned in March. All of the children and their parents had seen a prairie in summer and fall, but seeing the smaller spring blooming plants made quite an impression. Discussed was the reasons for burning the prairie and how it makes the plants grow faster. Also talked about was that the plants and flowers should be taller and more in bloom, but that the long winter and cold spring had slowed their growth. The last difference that Youth Education chairman Gail Vanderpoel had to offer was how many more birds were active when she had done a scouting trip at 8 a.m. that morning. She had seen at least seven more species of birds at the earlier hour.
Students received three plants; a Rough Blazing Star, Pale Purple Coneflower and Swamp Milkweed. Each child also got a packet of common Milkweed seeds and an "Illinois Prairie" poster printed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. They proudly took their Grigsby field guides home to show off their days' observations and could review how each looked.
Special thanks goes out to the Garden Club of Barrington for their grant which funded the native flowers students received and the printing of the Grigsby Prairie booklet complete with color photos to make plant and bird identification much easier. It was a beautiful class on a beautiful day, and all appreciated Grigsby Prairie in May!
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