Spring is a very busy time for many of us at Lincoln Park Zoo. The Horticulture Department works tirelessly with large teams of volunteers on the grounds both at the zoo and Nature Boardwalk, and our animal keepers are welcoming new zoo animals like the baby Sichuan takin.
For me, black-crowned night herons have arrived in larger numbers than ever before (over 500!), the trees are peppered with migratory birds and the rocks that surround the island at Nature Boardwalk are covered with turtles. As such, I thought it a good idea to provide some tips for what to look out for when you come to visit the boardwalk in the next few weeks:
Birds: The cliff swallows (below) just made their return to Nature Boardwalk, so make sure to look for them building nests underneath the Lester E. Fisher Bridge just south of Café Brauer. These swallows look very similar to barn swallows except their tail is not as heavily forked and the area above their eyes is cream colored.
Bugs: Green darners, large blue-bodied dragonflies with green heads, can be seen darting back and forth over the water. For butterflies, look for red admirals (below). These medium-sized butterflies have dark brown, black and red wings with white spots and are most active at mid-day.
Reptiles: Painted turtles (below) and red-eared sliders blanket the basking rocks on the south side of the island. It’s always a surprise to see how many are out each day! Painted turtles have yellow on the sides of their head while the side of a red-eared slider’s head is red (it’s in their name after all).
Its radio transmitter visible, a painted turtle swims in the pond at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo.
Plants: There are just a few plant species that have bloomed at the boardwalk, but my personal favorite are the columbines. Look for these plants just south of the boat launch near the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial.
Every day brings something new to Nature Boardwalk, so come back often to see what you can see!
Mason Fidino is coordinator of wildlife management for Lincoln Park Zoo's Urban Wildlife Institute.