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November 2022 Sightings

Guest post by Brett Peto, board of directors, member
On the sunny Sunday before Thanksgiving, I joined Janice and Gary for a delightful afternoon tour of the Preserve. We entered off the road, walking past an elegant sign marking the property. Soon, it and every other sign in the area will display a QR code directing folks to this website, in the hopes they’ll learn more and be inspired to support Aull Nature Preserve (ANP).

There were plenty of pleasant sights and sounds throughout the day, many of them arriving on wings. Dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis), which have arrived in Chicagoland from their breeding grounds in Canada, and northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), which are year-round residents of Lake County, flitted about. A red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) chatted from a distance, always seeming to stay a hundred feet or so in front of us.

On two occasions, Gary spotted a resident great horned owl (Bubo virginianus), perched and in flight. Janice noticed the four-toed tracks of a mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) imprinted on a dusting of snow atop a half-frozen creek. And, heard before seen, a group of sandhill cranes (Antigone canadensis) passed low overhead, sharing a small glimpse of their migratory journey with us for a moment.

We walked the perimeter of the property, then headed east to the heart-shaped pond at, well, the heart of the Preserve. It was beautiful to see, an oasis within an oasis, surrounded by serenity, blue sky and snags that provide great nesting habitat for birds. There was sunshine in the air, as well as lively conversation about all sorts of subjects: nature, conservation, music, health, family stories and future plans.

After 90 minutes—or perhaps it was 120—we exited and enjoyed more conversation over cups of tea and slices of delicious zucchini bread. It’s been said before, but nature is one of the great uniters, something all of us have in common. The Preserve and ANP’s mission are already stunning, and yet, there is more fantastic, exciting potential to explore.

I’m beyond grateful to be part of the team working to preserve, protect and restore this pocket of peace in Lake Bluff.

October 2022 Sightings

We spent October learning the history of the property. Key points we discovered:

  • The treaty of September 26, 1833 ‘removed’ the Pottawattamie Indians. This treaty was not proclaimed until February 21, 1835, and the Indians were ‘allowed’ to remain in the territory until August 1836. (So many comments and thoughts about this.)
  • Settlers started to settle Lake County, IL in 1834.
  • The Gibbons family owned the property from 1861 through the early 1900s. (Still need to research additional ownership history)
  • The family that still lives on the adjoining property shared some wonderful memories of growing up there. They have lived there for over 60 years, if not more.
    • The property was pasture for their horses
    • The pond was made by humans and has cement blocks with drainage pipes.
      • They would wade/swim in the pond, it was approximately four feet deep. There were leeches.
      • It had fish (stocked); bluegill and bullheads.
      • There were frogs, they do not recall seeing any turtles.
      • The Great Blue Heron and Kingfisher would visit the pond.
      • The area would easily flood when it rained.

September 2022 Sightings

September continued to be more ‘doing’ than ‘sighting’. The focus was more on the administrative side; creating and submitting documentation. Efforts were still made to keep the non-natives from going to seed. We did spot some things that made us smile. The thrillers were; an American Woodcock flew up while we were walking the Preserves, saw some English Aster doing its best to bloom and thrive, found the area where the deer like to sleep, and we inadvertently gathered many, many clinging seeds once we emerged from the Preserve. September was a dry month for the Preserve, we didn’t even have to wear our water boots when hiking.

August 2022 Sightings

August has been more of ‘doing’ than ‘sighting’. We have been trying to keep the loosestrife and teasel from going to seed. We have also been cutting the grape vines to keep them from getting bigger; some of the vines are huge. It is amazing how thick the vines can get! The good news is the native plants and animals are doing their best to enjoy their sanctuary.

July 2022 Sightings

July ended with the coyotes serenading us with their multiple sounds. It is fun to hear their chorus after a siren goes off.

After close to 7″ of rain on July 22, the ponds are looking good. At this time of year, we see how much work we have ahead of us. As you’ll see in the photo gallery, the grapevines, purple loosestrife, and other non-natives are the dominant plants. We do have natives that are trying to do their best. The birds are enjoying the elderberries and we saw an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoying some nectar on a non-native (video is on the ANP YouTube page).

June 2022 Sightings

June gave us the opportunity to see the preserve without as much water. Both ponds did get smaller and the main pond has a healthy about of duckweed.

It is amazing how fast things grow! Every time we visit we try to keep the grapevine and buckthorn under control, which feels like a futile task.

We did plant another baby oak tree, another transplant from Nature’s Haven.

May 2022 Sightings

May was filled with exciting new discoveries! The water level fluctuated a great deal, however, the main pond stayed stable. We were able to spot at least five Painted Turtles, Wood Ducks, and Duckweed! It is fun to try and sneak up on the wildlife. Most times we hear the turtles plunk into the water well before we get to them. There are many native trees, shrubs, and forbs among the non-native plants. Lots of Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago).

We were able to put the signs up and met the wonderful neighbors. All were happy to see the property become a preserve for nature. It was fun to hear their experiences with living so close to the Aull Nature Preserve. One neighbor said her kids would skate on the pond in the winter and her son would float on it during the summer. She thinks it is approximately 3 feet deep.

We did plant two baby oak trees that popped up at Nature’s Haven. They needed to be relocated before they got too big.

Every time we visit we discover new things, it is constantly changing. Very exciting to watch!

April 2022 Sightings

April was filled with rain, cold and more rain and cold. We did see a Kinglet, a tiny friendly bird overflowing with energy. It seemed to be just as curious of us as we were of him. There were numerous Crayfish burrows, filled with water. A couple snags fell during one of the storms. Looking forward to more exploration and birding in the coming weeks.

March 2022 Sightings

The ice is melting and the water is receding. The red-winged blackbirds returned early in the month. The second week of the month we had a wind storm, causing a large snag in the middle of the pond to fall. We’re bummed the snag fell, it had a number of woodpecker holes in it. On March 14 we saw a garter snake! The large pond still has ice on it. We were able to walk into the edge of the pond, which is approximately 10″ deep. The water is gone from most of the trails.

The ice melted by mid-March, allowing us to remove two cars full (with the trusty Subaru Impreza) of trash and debris! Our reward was hearing the chorus frogs and red-winged blackbirds! The site looks great! We believe the main pond is approximately 1m (3′) deep.

The month ended with multiple rainy days, all the water is back!

February 2022 Sightings

The majority of the preserve is covered with ice. It was fun to walk around the pond. With the warmer weather at the end of the month, we did have to walk lightly. Our exciting views this month!

  • There is a deer carcass (all bones) that keeps showing up in different spots. A leg was in a tree branch for a couple of days.
  • A Cooper’s Hawk. A few days later we saw the remains of a bird, someone had a meal.
  • Coyote and fox prints, taking the same paths we take.
  • A coyote walked by and then stopped to watch me for a bit. The coyote came back the next day to inspect where I had been.

We are looking forward to seeing what happens next month!