2014 readers choice results

Articles filed under Blaine, Valerie

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  • Songs of Illinois’ state bird, the cardinal, herald the coming of spring.

    On pelicans, pests and leaves: Answers to some recently asked questionsMar 29, 2014 12:00 AM
    From birds to oak trees and beetles, anything goes in the FAQ department here at the Forest Preserve District of Kane County nature center. Finding answers to questions is one of the most fun parts of being a naturalist. Here naturalist Valerie Blaine offers answers to some of the questions recently asked.

  • After a hike to teach visitors how to distinguish maples from other hardwood species, naturalist Valerie Blaine drills a hole in an adult maple tree to put a tap in it to collect sap during a maple sugaring demonstration in St. Charles. The Forest Preserve District of Kane County will hold its annual Maple Sugaring Days Saturday and Sunday, March 15-16.

    Maple sugaring heralds spring’s arrivalMar 5, 2014 12:00 AM
    The best things in life are worth waiting for. Spring, for example. The initiation of spring for many folks is maple sugaring. Both spring and maple sugaring are a long time coming this year. But they are coming.

  • The last passenger pigeon, famously known as Martha of the Cincinnati Zoo, died in 1914. At one time, passenger pigeon populations ranged from 3 billion to 5 billion.

    100 years later: Lessons we can learn from the passenger pigeonJan 20, 2014 12:00 AM
    In today’s world, the passenger pigeon, which became extinct in 1914, could be branded an “extreme” bird. Some ornithologists refer to this species as a “biological storm.” By all accounts, it was extraordinary. The story of its demise is extraordinary as well.

  •  Naturalist Jack Pomatto leads a group of Kane County Certified Naturalists on a birding class at Fermilab in Batavia. From left are graduates Kim Haag, Barb McKittrick and student Alan Roberston.

    Register now for Kane County Certified Naturalist program Dec 13, 2013 12:00 AM
    It's never too late to learn more about nature -- and yourself. Classes for the 2014 Kane County Certified Naturalist program begin in January, and include lectures and discussions on local ecology, and field trips to natural areas.

  •  A brown bat is one of the types found in the Chicago suburbs.

    Creepy creatures: Myths and truths about spiders, bats and snakes Oct 4, 2013 12:00 AM
    Spiders, snakes, bats and other animals of ill-repute are everywhere this month. In real life, they’re way cooler than their Halloween personas, and their presence is a plus in our lives. The autumn holiday will come and go, yet these silent creatures will continue to creep and crawl and slither and flutter all year long.

  •  Pin oak leaves are highlighted by the sun at Dick Young Forest Preserve in Batavia.

    Red oaks: Where and how they grow Sep 15, 2013 12:00 AM
    Did you know that black oaks are part of the red oak group? In this column we’ll take a look at the red oak group — who they are, where they grow, and what the future holds for islands of oak groves in a sea of suburbia.

  •  The top sides of a swamp oak leaves, left, and white oak leaves are much darker compared to their undersides. The underside of the swamp white oak leaves are also soft and fuzzy to the touch.

    Leaf peepers: Clues to help identify white oaks Aug 19, 2013 12:00 AM
    “There were many splendid oaks,” wrote John S. Wilcox in 1906, describing Kane County at the time of European settlement. These magnificent trees included white oaks, red oaks, black oaks and bur oaks. There were swamp white oaks and chinkapin oaks, Hill’s oaks and shingle oaks, too. Although oaks are in serious decline, these species can still be found in Kane County.

  • Burr Oak leaf at Dick Young Forest Preserve in Batavia.

    Find out why oaks are endangered and how to help preserve them Jul 29, 2013 12:00 AM
    The oak tree was once hailed as king of the forest. People called it magnificent, majestic and mighty. But that was then. Now, the oak no longer reigns supreme. As a group, oaks are in serious decline. As ecological communities, oak woodlands are imperiled.

  •  Ducklings are cute, but don’t play amateur wildlife rescuer and remove them from where you find them, cautions Valerie Blaine.

    Rescue me - or not? Why you should leave wild animals be May 31, 2013 12:00 AM
    What should you do if you have a chipmunk in your chimney, or a skunk in your cellar? What if you find a baby bird that seems to be abandoned? People may think that releasing animals into wild places is in the best interests of the animal but, in fact, it is not an easy or pleasant end for the misplaced creature. “Letting animals loose in preserves seems like the most humane approach but in reality that isn't often the case,” explained Bill Graser, Wildlife Biologist for the Forest Preserve District of Kane County.

  •  Spring beauty wildflowers in the front yard of St. Charles naturalist Valerie Blaine’s home.

    Spring beauty wildflowers live up to their nameApr 24, 2013 12:00 AM
    There are some things in life that you just have to see for yourself. Photographs are pretty, but they're not as good as being there. Spring beauty, one of the first wildflowers to bloom in spring, is one of the world's wonders that you have to see "for real."

  •  Silver Maple like this one in Tekakwitha Woods in St. Charles flourish in the flood plains along rivers.

    Soft maples deserve respect, too Mar 25, 2013 12:00 AM
    Sugar maples and black maples are the attention-getters of the maple family. But there are two other types of maples in our area that are not so blessed with glamour and charm. These are the soft maples — silver maple and boxelder. They get no accolades, and they're often overlooked.

  •  Sarah Henry, 11, of Batavia takes her turn practicing with a hand drill during a maple sugaring program for home-schooled kids at Brewster Creek Forest Preserve in St. Charles.

    Maple trees offer more than just syrup Feb 27, 2013 12:00 AM
    ‘Tis the season to think maple. Granted, this is not Vermont, it’s Illinois. Nor is it autumn, it’s winter. But our native Illinois maple trees are noteworthy, especially now, when the sap is rising and maple trees bring the promise of spring.

  • From left, Trace Klehm, 13, of Barrington, and Thomas Grant, 13, of East Dundee play a nature version of “go-fish” with Jacob Zupan, 11, of Addison at the Forest Preserve District of Kane County’s new Creek Bend Nature Center in St. Charles. Sixth- and seventh-graders from Harvest Christian Academy spent a few hours each day of the past week learning at the center as part of a class elective.

    Forest preserve opens new nature center in St. Charles Feb 3, 2013 12:00 AM
    The new Creek Bend Nature Center at LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve in St. Charles opens to the public Monday, Feb. 4. The welcome sign is up, and the Forest Preserve District of Kane County hopes you’ll stop in.

  •  People have been known to take turtles from the wild. It’s never a good idea, says naturalist Valerie Blaine. Shown is a Blanding’s Turtle, an endangered species, at the Cosley Zoo in Wheaton.

    What are the ethics of collecting plants and wildlife Jan 6, 2013 12:00 AM
    This month, a familiar question came up about collecting in forest preserves. A visitor to the nature center had read that some native plants could be used as medicine, and wondered where he could get some of these plants. The answer? Not in the forest preserves.

  •  A Canada goose flaps its wings after bathing in the Fox River near Boy Scout Island in St. Charles. Some readers wonder what the best way is to control goose overpopulation in the suburbs.

    Readers asked, Valerie Blaine answers Dec 8, 2012 12:00 AM
    People ask the darndest things. When someone sees the forest preserve district patch on my sleeve, it seems I'm fair game for just about any question — and there are some doozies. "Do you have to rake all these leaves?" "How many coyotes are in the preserves?" "What's the name of that bird that's blue, kind of small, you know — the one that sings a lot?"

  •  Shelley and Kris Kummer of South Elgin make their way with their daughter Sophia, 4, to watch staff from the St. Charles Public Library bring books, finger plays, songs and more to children during a story time at the Arlene H. Shoemaker Nature Center in Tekakwitha Woods Nature Center in St. Charles. The nature center is moving this month from Tekakwitha Woods to LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve.

    A look at the history of Tekakwitha Woods Nov 10, 2012 12:00 AM
    In mid-November the naturalist staff of the Forest Preserve District of Kane County will move from Tekakwitha Woods Nature Center to the District's new Creek Bend Nature Center at LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve in St. Charles. Moving is a reflective, if not hectic, time. As I've been filling and stacking boxes, I have frequently paused and look out into the autumn woods. There's a lot of history here.

  •  Silphium, better known as compass plant, blooms at LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve in St. Charles.

    How the prairie survives a hot, dry summer Aug 18, 2012 12:00 AM
    Robins perched motionless in the shade, bills agape. Thirsty plants wilted in flower beds, and trees prematurely surrendered their yellowing leaves. Humans holed up in air-conditioned houses. Everyone, it seemed, was held hostage by the heat this summer. Everything was dying for rain. Everyone and everything except the prairie.

  • An American Goldfinch pokes around duckweed near Boy Scout Island in St. Charles. The bird's most common natural habitat is weedy fields and floodplains, but with the drought, creatures of all kinds are seeking water wherever they can find it.

    Water 101: How to weather the drought Jul 17, 2012 12:00 AM
    Stuck in the gridlock of Randall Road, I watched as sprinklers shot water in glistening arcs over grass-covered median strips. Millions of water drops were evaporating into thin air, never reaching a blade of grass. I cringed. That was my water someone was wasting. Your water, too.

  •  The underside of a white oak leaf has jumping oak galls attached as well as some which have fallen off at Tekakwitha Woods in St. Charles.

    Meet the jumping oak gall wasp Jun 3, 2012 12:00 AM
    Jumping Jehoshaphat! The ground is alive! Or so it seems when hundreds of tiny round spheres the size of a pin head are hopping around on the sidewalk. This spring there are plenty of these curious little things, thanks to a bumper crop of jumping oak gall wasps.

  • A May-apple plant before unfurling its umbrella-like leaves in a St. Charles yard.

    That's not an umbrella, it's a May-apple Apr 3, 2012 12:00 AM
    If you've walked in the woods this week, you might think a beach party is about to begin. There are beach umbrellas popping up all over the forest floor. But unlike those on the sandy shoreline, these umbrellas are about 10 inches high. And, of course, they're not really umbrellas; they're the leaves of a woodland plant called May-apple.

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