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From a Hike to an Education

Welcome to my first blog. We are so excited to have our new website!

Recently, my daughter and I participated in Hike Lake County.  It was their annual fall walking program which is a great way to enjoy time outdoors and reconnect with nature while exploring trails in forest preserves across the county. We enjoyed seeing the fall colors and learning a bit about the flora and fauna of the area. The hikes were from 1.3 to 2.75 miles.

On one of our recent walks, we saw and learned about galls. According to Wikipedia, galls are “a kind of swelling growth on the external tissues of plants, fungi, or animals. They can be caused by various parasites from viruses, fungi, and bacteria, to other plants, insects, and mites. Plant galls are often highly organized structures so that the cause of the gall can often be determined without the actual agent being identified. This applies particularly to some insect and mite plant galls.”

We also learned, finally settling it for me, about the leader in the flight of geese.  The weakest or slowest goose is chosen to lead the formation. That way every goose can keep up.  And, I was struck by how wonderfully supportive that is for the community of the geese.

Next, we learned about Buckthorn.  According to the Chicago Tribune, “Exotic species of buckthorn that come from Europe and Asia are invasive, meaning they outcompete native plants for space, sunlight, and nutrients, upsetting the natural balance.”

We saw and discovered snags.  The National Wildlife Federation says that snags are “The name for dead trees that are left upright to decompose naturally.”  Snags serve a lot of purposes, among which are they give “a place to live for many animals, including birds, bats, squirrels and raccoons which make nests in hollow cavities and crevices in standing deadwood.”

We really enjoyed these walks for the exercise, the beauty, the outdoors in different weather (the temperature during the last one I did was 22 degrees), all the sights and interesting things we learned.

We learned most of the facts above from a very knowledgeable volunteer.  She surprised me at the end of our walk by talking with us about a fantastic feature on the Field Museum website.  They can describe it better than I can… “The Field Museum Field Guides are free, accessible resources filled with beautiful images and scientific information to help people engage with the diversity of nature and culture on our planet. Access thousands of field guides from around the world co-created by scientists, educators, local communities, and indigenous leaders.”

For whatever reason you may choose, this is a fabulous resource for those of you who have any interest.  She certainly awakened my interest!  From among the 1362 guides, here are a few examples, Illinois – Selected Insects in Your Midwestern Native Garden, (#1475) Chicago – Seeds of Hope Garden at Our Lady of the Snows, Illinois (#1405)- Common Lichens of Chicagoland, Illinois, (#1398) – Beginner’s Field Guide: Summer in Chicagoland (#1371) Illinois – Southside Blooms: Flowers That Empower, (#1311). There are many of these guides from Central and South America it seems. 

I thought perhaps some of you might be interested in exploring without the cold and snow coming soon. Enjoy!

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