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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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.

June 23, 2010
Pasture Rose

Every once in a while you run across a plant you think everyone should be growing just because you like it so much. And if you’re up on natives, this makes the case for the pasture rose (Rosa carolina). I can only find one flaw, but I'll get to that.

I’m glad we used pasture rose at Nature Boardwalk. The large, shell pink, flowers are decidedly pretty and the customary, glossy dark green leaves are handsome as well.

June 18, 2010
Behind the Scenes at Nature Boardwalk

Everyone here is gearing up for the big opening of Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo on June 24, and the plants are getting ready too! Prairie grasses will be a prominent feature of the landscape, a process that will take some time as they develop their extensive root systems.

In some prairie plants, as much as 90 percent of the weight is underground. This extensive root structure protects the bulk of the plants beneath the soil, enabling them to survive in an ecosystem with frequent disturbances, such as fire and drought.

June 17, 2010
Sharing Space with Nature

Standing at the pond’s end, I found it easy to imagine the beginnings of a prairie landscape taking shape as the workers reached the end of the construction phase. Like many times before, I watched the sunburned crew load a wheelbarrow, heft it up and steel themselves for a long march around the boardwalk. This has been part of the job for months now, and as you might guess, they were probably getting weary, especially at the end of a long day.

And then, something surprising happened. I saw the wheelbarrow tilt and the gentleman struggle to keep it upright. What went on?

June 16, 2010
Nature Boardwalk Blog

Follow the growth of this new urban ecosystem with our Nature Boardwalk blog. Director of Horticulture Brian Houck and Coordinator of Wildlife Management Vicky Hunt will provide regular updates as native plants and animals establish themselves in this rare refuge.

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