Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo

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February 24, 2014
Sharing Notes on Urban Wildlife

For the past few years the Urban Wildlife Institute has been chronicling the diversity of wildlife at Nature Boardwalk and Lincoln Park Zoo. We use motion-triggered camera traps to collect photographs of mammals (coyotes, raccoons, etc.), conduct visual observations of birds and butterflies, and even deploy hoop-net traps to monitor the turtle populations in our ponds.

Older Stories

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.

July 29, 2010
Eastern Cicada Killer Wasp

The other day, while I was walking around the boardwalk, I heard a loud buzzing and rustling sound coming from the prairie grasses. When I looked down, I immediately spotted the source. A long, slender wasp with reddish-tinted wings was dragging a huge cicada along the ground, furiously buzzing and working its wings as it went along.

To my surprise, the wasp began climbing one of the wooden stakes we are using to anchor the goose fencing (netting temporarily in place to keep Canada geese from eating our new plantings).

July 19, 2010
Differentiating Dragonflies and Damselflies

An astounding 16 species of dragonflies and damselflies have already been identified at Nature Boardwalk. To tell one of these species from the next, biologists use species identification keys to look for specific features.

The first step is figuring out whether an insect is a dragonfly or a damselfly. These two groups share a common biological heritage: both are suborders within the scientific order Odonta. They are similar in other ways as well. Both are carnivores, eating other insects. Both start their lives in the water as nymphs and then emerge as flying insects.

July 15, 2010
Giant Water Bug Nymphs

You wouldn’t know it by looking at this little green critter, but this tiny animal will grow up to become a giant water bug. Zoo biologists found this insect while doing invertebrate surveys at the pond at Nature Boardwalk. Just like dragonflies and damselflies, immature giant water bugs are called nymphs.

Giant water bugs make up a family of insects that are often found in ponds.

July 7, 2010
Dragonflies of All Stages

An adult dragonfly at Nature Boardwalk.

Today a few colleagues and I put on our boots and waded into the shallows of the pond at Nature Boardwalk to take samples of the invertebrates that are colonizing the habitat. We swished our finely meshed nets back and forth in the water to collect aquatic invertebrates and then quickly transferred everything we’d caught into a bucket for temporary holding.

July 1, 2010
Stocking Nature Boardwalk with Fish

The pond at Nature Boardwalk has more than 30,000 new residents today! This morning we stocked the pond with multiple native species of fish. Approximately 800 bluegill and 600 pumpkinseed were given a brand new home at the pond, along with an astounding 100 pounds of fathead minnows. The minnows are about an inch long at stocking, so you can imagine that 100 pounds is a lot of minnows. There are approximately 300 individuals per pound!

The fish all arrived on a pickup truck, eager to get out of their small tanks and into the big pond that awaited.

June 24, 2010
Preparing for Turtles at Nature Boardwalk

We want to welcome many different types of wildlife to the pond at Nature Boardwalk, a desire that’s reflected in the area’s design and landscaping. A specific group of animals we hope to welcome is turtles. We plan on bringing turtles to the pond in the future, and some may naturally find their way here as well.

Because turtles can’t regulate their own temperature like we can, basking sites are a very important habitat feature to welcome them. Basking sites are spots where turtles can use heat from the sun to regulate their temperatures.

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