Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo

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September 12, 2014
Black-Crowned Night Herons Thriving

Last winter the Chicago Park District, after consulting with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Urban Wildlife Institute, made the very difficult decision to remove a number of trees south of Nature Boardwalk in Lincoln Park. Many of these trees were ash that suffered terrible damage at the hands (well, actually mouths) of the emerald ash borer beetle, and became safety concerns.

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September 29, 2010
Know the Butterflies of Nature Boardwalk

A while back I wrote a couple blog entries about monarchs and eastern tiger swallowtails—two of the most colorful, largest, and flashiest species of butterflies I’ve encountered at Nature Boardwalk. However, I don’t want to overlook all the smaller butterflies sporting relatively subdued color schemes. These little guys are just as lovely, and they’re a lot easier to come across at the pond. Here’s an introduction to some of the most common species I encounter at Nature Boardwalk.

September 22, 2010
The Painted Turtles Are Here!

Yesterday was an exciting day at Nature Boardwalk! The pond now has 10 new reptile residents.

Kids from Beidler School helped with the painted turtle introduction. I walked to the edge of the water with groups of two or three children, and together we tilted over the individual containers the turtles were housed in. This allowed the turtles to make their way out of the container and then decide where to swim next.

September 14, 2010
What’s Making that Sound?

This male black-legged meadow katydid wasn’t hard to find. All I had to do was follow the relentless chirping! These katydids are loud, chirping and buzzing away throughout the day from a perch on a blade of grass.

So, what’s the purpose of all that racket? This is the serenade the male sings to attract females to his territory to mate.

The singing sound of the males is made by them rubbing their forewings together.

September 10, 2010
Life Cycle of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

This colorful butterfly, flitting between pickerel plants at the water edge, caught my eye while I walked around the Nature Boardwalk one afternoon. This is a female eastern tiger swallowtail. Like so many insects, these butterflies have a fascinating life cycle.

A generation of adult butterflies is called a flight.

August 31, 2010
Dragonfly Metamorphosis In Action

At Nature Boardwalk last week I was able to witness one of nature’s most amazing spectacles right before my eyes, entirely by accident! As the zoo’s coordinator of wildlife management, I spend a lot of time surveying to see which specific species can be found at Nature Boardwalk, but some of my most amazing discoveries are by accident. This was no exception.

I’ve seen many dragonfly exuviae (the shed exoskeletons left behind by dragonflies when they transform from an aquatic nymph to a flying adult), but I’d never seen a dragonfly in the actual process of emerging.

August 24, 2010
Monarch Butterfly With a Secret Past Visits Nature Boardwalk

I was following around a monarch butterfly at Nature Boardwalk the other day, trying to get a decent photograph, when I noticed something unusual about this particular insect. As you might imagine, flying insects don’t pose for pictures very well, so I’d been pursuing this particular butterfly for a while. Luckily that gave me time to realize it had a sticker on one of its wings! As a biologist, I’m familiar with many ways that scientists track wildlife, but stickers on butterflies was something new for me.

August 17, 2010
Fish Nesting Near the Patio at Café Brauer

Next time you grab a table at the new Patio at Café Brauer Patio, be sure to look over the railing at the fish that are claiming their own space at Nature Boardwalk. The relatively shallow, sunny area right in front of the patio is an excellent area for sunfish (bluegill and pumpkinseed fish) to build their nests, and they’re doing just that.

August 13, 2010
Birds Foraging At Nature Boardwalk

The fish in the pond at Nature Boardwalk may be small, but they’ve caught the interest of several birds. Black-crowned night herons, green herons and ring-billed gulls have all been observed fishing at the pond. This is a natural—and expected—part of the food web at Nature Boardwalk. We’ve been keeping an eye out for this behavior since stocking the pond with fish in the beginning of July.

August 6, 2010
Our Little Green Friends

You might be one of the many folks who struggle with plant names. Most of us do! For the select few who can rattle off a full list of nomenclature, I suspect good, careful observation combined with a gentle affection for our photosynthetic friends really helps out. What follows are fun tidbits about the new flowers at Nature Boardwalk.

Black-eyed Susan
For such a cheery, bright summer bloomer, I have to admit this plant has an unfortunate name. I can’t shake the image of an accident-prone young girl.

August 4, 2010
Ready For Takeoff!

Black-crowned night herons are statuesque birds that look as though they are wearing black capes and hoods. They have piercing red eyes and long white plume feathers that trail off the nape of their necks.


Adult black-crowned night herons at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo.

They don’t begin their lives looking quite that majestic, however.

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