Friday, April 26, 2013

A Walk in the Woods – Seeing an Endangered Species!

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After what seemed like weeks of cold and wet weather, we finally got a couple of warmer sunny Spring days to enjoy here in Chicago!  I met up with my friend Kate, and we decided to take her kids (my goddaughter, Olivia, and her brother, Bradley) and my “fur-kid” Millie for a walk to the local forest preserve after lunch.

7-year-old Bradley was eager to walk run Millie up and down the trails, while 11-year-old Olivia was interested to compare my recent Master Naturalist classes with her own Junior High science studies.

Not much of any green was showing yet on the bushes and trees in the forest, but the groundcover was now growing, and we spotted a number of birds and animals out gathering their daily food.

Around a bend, we came upon a turtle stopped out in the middle of the trail (most likely scared out of it’s wits with the gathering crowd!). 

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I held onto Millie and kept our distance, allowing my zoom lens to get a better look at the turtle.  After a few minutes, when the little gal decided that none of the human giants around her were there to cause her any harm, she stretched her head and legs out a bit further from her shell, and poked her tail “rudder” out to make a fast dash to the grass and woods in the distance.

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The kids had never seen a turtle up close before and were thrilled to watch at how quickly it moved!  Within a few seconds, the little thing had made it safely to the grass and gave a short glance to tell us “thanks” as it headed on to the shade and safety of the woods.

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I didn’t realize until researching my photos later that we had actually witnessed a close-up encounter with an Illinois Endangered Species!  Click the photo above larger, and you’ll see by the distinctive yellow throat that this is a Blanding’s Turtle.  They used to be quite common in the Great Lakes region, but have increasingly lost their habitat in the past few decades, and are prone to get run over by cars because their natural protective instinct is to retract completely within their shells rather than to move quickly out of danger.  These turtles are also slow to reproduce, not typically breeding until they are 20 or more years old (they can live into their 70’s!).

I hope that turtle has many more happy years at the forest preserve!  How cool!!!

A short time later, as we rounded another bend in the trail, Bradley pointed out a few white tailed deer trying to camouflage themselves in the barren woods.

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They did a pretty good job of blending in until they decided to walk out onto the trail!

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Still always a treat to see these common, but beautiful, animals up so close!

After the thrilling animal sitings, the kids took turns trying out the binoculars to look at birds.  My little point-and-shoot camera was not up to zooming in sufficiently for any good bird photos, so I stuck to just focusing on the kids and the thrills they were having at discovering so many different species around them!

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Hopefully, this day will be far more memorable for them than an afternoon indoors playing video games Smile

5 comments:

  1. I've always thought that the Forest Preserves in Cook County were a wonderful idea in such an urban area. I spent lots of time in them as a kid. That's also where I learned to drive a stick shift car. :)

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    1. Now there's an "endangered" activity! Well, hope you decide to route back thru Chicago before or after your MN gig. We've got lots of nice Forest Preserves (one, Burnidge FP in Elgin, even has big rig camping available!)

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  2. I agree - even the most common animals and birds are exciting for me every time they come near. And always grab my camera, even if I already have 100 shots. It's been a while since I've seen any deer. And I've never seen a turtle in it's own environment, although my daughter used to own a box turtle when she was a teenager.

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  3. That's an awesome turtle spotting! Thanks for sharing.

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  4. No matter how many times I see deer out and about ... it still is a gorgeous thing. squirrels and rabbits and wild turkey or whatever... an endangered land turtle... had no idea. knew about the sea turtles. glad no one

    life in nature being free is just the way it ought to be ... several, gorgeous RED cardinals have flown by and decided to sit a spell in my tree in front of my window... sooo pretty

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