Black-crowned night-herons prefer secluded wetlands to build their nests of twigs and sticks to raise young. Due to loss of habitat and other reasons, the black-crowned night-heron is listed as endangered in Illinois. But there's one place the state-endangered bird has found to nest that's a little more out in the open -- the Lincoln Park Zoo.
For the past eight years, black-crowned night-herons have nested in colonies in somewhat noisy places in trees near the Abraham Lincoln memorial statue and those above the zoo's red wolf exhibit. Zoo scientists monitor the colonies -- and this might be one of the last bastions of nesting areas for this species in Illinois.
The night-herons return to the region sometime in April when the males start snapping their bills and making crazy sounds while bowing to intended mates. Females respond by letting a male rub his back on the back of her head -- and if it's a match, you can watch them groom each other. Later on in the season, you might see the young in the trees, squawking for food. It's OK to watch as long as you stay a good distance away and don't make any loud noises or quick movements.
Just north of the zoo is the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, where you can see photos of the night-heron as well as other threatened and endangered species of Illinois. It's an exhibit called "Endangered Beauty," put together by Team Green featuring some of the many photos Carol Freeman has taken of these rare gems throughout Illinois.The exhibit is open during regular museum hours through June 24th. Why not visit the museum and the Lincoln Park Zoo to see if you can find some night-herons? Look for a bird with yellow legs, white belly and black crown and bill with a red eye.
You've seen lots of turkey tails -- from the ones on the wild creatures that live in the woodlands to the ones you might have made as a child with your hand on a piece of paper.
But there's another kind of turkey tail you'll find in the forest -- it's the turkey tail fungus. The second part of its Latin name, Trametes versicolor, means many colored. And if you see one in the wild, you'll notice that it is many-colored, and it does look like a turkey tail. This fungus is a shelf mushroom, which means it appears to be bracketed on top of one another and inserted to the side of a tree. The best place to find a turkey tail fungus is by looking down at decaying and dying trees. You can find them spring through fall and even into winter.
Here's a photo of a turkey tail fungus taken by Carol Freeman. You can note the tan, white, green and dark brown colors in this mushroom. It's being studied for its medicinal purposes -- some scientists think that it can slow the progression of tumors and reduce the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. More studies are needed; in the meantime, take a walk in the woods this autumn and look for turkey tails.