Mar 12

Our friends at the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve were anxious to share their Illinois wildlife story as part of ARKive’s Going WILD in Illinois guest blog mini-series and, of course, we were happy to oblige! Read on to see how the Preserve is creating citizen science opportunities to make a real difference in northern Illinois.

The Openlands Lakeshore Preserve is a 77-acre Illinois Nature Preserve, located in Highland Park on what was once the historic Fort Sheridan military base. The Preserve offers a beautiful network of walking and biking paths and an innovative, art-based interpretive plan that tells the unique story of this unusual landscape. The site is owned and operated by Openlands, a regional conservation organization.

Visitors to the Preserve often first notice the sweeping views presented by the bluffs. But it is the site’s rare natural communities – three ravines and a mile of bluff and lakeshore – that make the Preserve such a special place to protect. Lakefront ravines are only found on a short stretch of Illinois’ coastline and today, and most are in poor ecological health.

Butterfly at Openlands Lakeshore Preserve

Butterfly at Openlands Lakeshore Preserve

Recognizing the importance of the site’s rare ecosystems, Openlands has been carefully restoring the Preserve’s natural communities by removing invasive plants, replanting oak woodland and savanna, and repairing storm water damage. While restoration is an ongoing process, the reestablishment of viable natural communities is well underway. Today, the Preserve is a stopover for thousands of migratory songbirds and waterfowl and is home to seven plant species on the state endangered and threatened list.

ARKive's common merganser photo

Common merganser, a type of waterfowl that may visit the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve on occasion

In 2010, Openlands began partnering with the Plants of Concern (POC) program at the Chicago Botanic Garden to collect data on birds, plants, spiders, and other aspects of the Preserve’s ecology. Our volunteer “citizen scientists” work with POC and Openlands staff in the field to conduct biological monitoring. This includes searching for new populations, mapping, and recording data. As a result of monitoring, Openlands can track critical trends in population size, area, and condition, allowing us to adapt our management accordingly. Our monitoring program is now entering year five, and we are excited to start this spring!

Citizen science efforts at Openlands Lakeshore Preserve

Citizen science efforts at Openlands Lakeshore Preserve

Are you interested in becoming a citizen scientist for the Preserve? Learn how to get involved at www.plantsofconcern.org.

Aimee Collins, Site Manager, Openlands Lakeshore Preserve

Thanks so much for sharing your opportunities for Illinois citizens to take an active part in protecting and restoring the WILD of Illinois! If you haven’t already, be sure to take a stroll through the brand new Illinois feature page on ARKive. 

Mar 4

ARKive is proud to have partnered with the Lincoln Park Zoo on a number of incredible projects over the years. From organizing opportunities for zoo staff to meet influential wildlife media leaders, to co-hosting an after school program challenging students to create digital scavenger hunts across the zoo using iPhones and ARKive imagery, we’re always looking for fun and unique ways to support conservation together. Allison Sacerdote-Velat is a Reintroduction Biologist at Lincoln Park Zoo working with a small but oh-so-special Illinois species. Here’s her story!

Meadow jumping mouse eating grass seed

“We aim to conserve this species in our region”

At Lincoln Park Zoo, I work on the conservation and recovery of local wildlife. In partnership with Lake County Forest Preserve District, we began a recovery project for one of three subspecies of meadow jumping mouse that occur in Illinois, starting our project in 2012. Meadow jumping mice are important seed dispersers that help maintain diverse native plant communities. Because they are nocturnal, they are a major prey item for barn owls and other predators. Their populations have declined from habitat loss and fragmentation. By re-establishing populations following habitat restoration, we aim to conserve this species in our region, documenting the number of sites that still had meadow jumping mouse populations, and bringing 8 pairs of mice to Lincoln Park Zoo to establish a breeding program that provides young for supplementation and reintroduction in restored prairies and savannas.

People may be surprised by the appearance of meadow jumping mice. They are smaller than the house mice or white-footed mice that may be familiar to Illinois residents. With large kangaroo-like hind feet, and tails that are twice the length of their bodies, they can jump a meter at a time through their habitat. They sleep under natural cover objects like logs during the day. If you happen to uncover them, they quickly take off and cover large distances, bounding through the vegetation.

Meadow jumping mouse habitat

“I tried to be a good sport about being hazed by mice”

Radio-tracking our zoo-reared mice was a highlight of our work this year, as it permitted me to follow them while they explored their new home. Some mice quickly established nests in tall grasses while others kept me hiking through prairies and wetlands for weeks. One mouse led me through a thistle patch regularly, but I tried to be a good sport about being hazed by mice for their conservation.

mouse with radio collar

Allison Sacerdote-Velat, Reintroduction Biologist, Lincoln Park Zoo

Thank you, Allison, for your fantastic and vital work with meadow jumping mice! Check back again soon for the next blog in our Going Wild in Illinois guest blog mini-series and keep exploring our new Illinois feature page on ARKive!

Feb 27

Have we got a treat for you times two! First, have you seen the incredible new Illinois feature page just launched on the ARKive website?

ARKive's Illinois feature page

From the stony outcrops at the Garden of the Gods to the sandy shores of Lake Michigan, the state of Illinois is one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the Great Lakes basin. Through the generosity of ARKive supporters in the great state of Illinois, we are delighted to launch the ARKive Illinois feature page; the GO-TO source for Illinois wildlife media and natural history information. You can spend hours exploring 50 well-known and well-loved species of Illinois as well as 100+ lesser-known but just as important species that deserve recognition!

ARKive's northern raccoon photo

So, what’s the best way to celebrate this new feature and all of the wonderful wildlife, woodlands, and wayward walks in Illinois?  By gathering an incredible collection of scientists, conservationists and nature diehards that can’t wait to tell their favorite WILD stories in the Land of Lincoln as part of our Going WILD in Illinois mini-blog series!

Il parter logos

For the next two weeks, we’ll be publishing guest blogs from our friends at the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and more who are anxious to share stories about Illinois endangered species recovery, explorations of incredible natural areas found only in the state, and brilliant Chicago students who are leading the charge as the conservationists of tomorrow.

ARKive barred owl photo

Of course, there will be loads of awe-inspiring imagery from fantastic ARKive contributors to quench your thirst for wildlife media – it’s what we do!

So, come back to the ARKive blog often to read the next chapter in the series. Follow the Going WILD in Illinois blog tag or look for the series on social media by searching #GoingWILDinIL.

Liana Vitali, Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

Jan 29

Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is an important traditional Chinese holiday, packed full of flamboyant family festivities, age-old traditions and cultural charm. In China, New Year celebrations begin on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month, with each New Year being represented by a different animal in the Chinese zodiac or ‘Shēngxiào’. On the 31st January, we enter the Year of the Horse, the seventh sign in the Chinese zodiac, and to celebrate this occasion we have delved into the ARKive vault to bring you fabulous facts about all things equine!

Ass-ociations

Asiatic wild ass image

According to Chinese astrology, each sign of the zodiac can be associated with specific personality traits. People born in the Year of the Horse love to be in a crowd, enjoying social occasions such as concerts, theatre visits and sporting matches. and it seems these Asiatic wild asses are no different! Interestingly, the social structure of this species appears to differ across its range, with some populations forming harems and others adopting territory-based social groups.

Several species with stripes…

Plains zebra image

As well as being one of the most distinctive equids, the plains zebra is also the most widespread and abundant. But did you know that there are two other species of zebra, both of which are considered to be threatened? The mountain zebra can be distinguished from its relatives by the stripes on its neck and torso which are thin and relatively close together, while Grevy’s zebra is the largest of the equids and has a conspicuous black stripe running along its back. With their fashionable stripes and funky manes, zebras are true style icons for the image-conscious folk born under the sign of the Horse.

Hot-headed horses

Przewalski's horse image

Two of the more negative personality traits associated with those born in the Year of the Horse are impatience and hot-headedness, as demonstrated here in this aggressive encounter between to Przewalski’s horse stallions. In the wild, Przewalski’s horse occurs in family groups led by a dominant stallion which physically defends its herd should a male from a bachelor group try and take over.

Equine explorers

Kiang image

People born in the Year of the Horse love to travel, as does the kiang which roams the vast open terrain of China, India, Nepal and Pakistan. This species can be found in Alpine meadows, steppes and on plains, foraging for grasses and sedges, and occurs at impressive elevations of up to 5,430 metres.

Energetic equids

African wild ass image

Those born under the sign of the Horse tend to be active, energetic and athletic, and are always on the move, much like this African wild ass. Horse-folk tend to pick up new skills quickly, and the African wild ass has a special skill of its own – it is capable of surviving water loss of up to 30% of its body weight, and of drinking enough water to replace it in under 5 minutes. Impressive!

Ass-like attributes

Kiang image

Despite sometimes being considered arrogant and selfish, people born in the Year of the Horse are also creative, positive and open-minded, as well as being witty (although this kiang appears to find himself funnier than his herd-mates do!), so befriend a Horse, embrace their free-spiritedness, and celebrate Chinese New Year in style!

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

Jan 25

January 25th marks the Birthday of Robert Burns (1759-1796), an iconic Scottish figure and one of the world’s most famous poets.

Admired for his poems, love songs and cheeky character, Robert Burns created works which are still well known today, such as Auld Lang Syne, one of the most popular songs in the English language.

Since Burns’ early death over 200 years ago, people have gathered together every year to commemorate his life and work. Burns Night is one of the most celebrated events in Scottish culture, and the occasion is recognised all over the world. Typically, a supper is held on or around January 25th, which includes a traditional Scottish meal, Scotch whisky, music, speeches and recitation of Robert Burns’ work.

In memory of Robert Burns, we thought we’d delve into the ARKive collection and celebrate all things Scottish!

Spear thistle

Spear thistle image

Spear thistle in flower

Legend has it the Scottish army were alerted to the onset of Viking intruders after one of them stood on a thistle barefooted and cried out in pain. The thistle has been the national emblem of Scotland for centuries, and the earliest record of it being used as a royal symbol is on coins issued by James III in 1470.

Although the actual species of thistle is disputed, some believe that the spear thistle is most likely to be the true ‘Scotch thistle’, as it is abundant and native to Scotland.

Red deer

Red deer image

Red deer stag roaring during rut

Britain’s largest land mammal, the red deer is widespread throughout Scotland, with an estimated population of 300,000. In winter, the red deer tend to move from the hills and remote glens to lower areas with shelter and a more abundant food supply. In winter the coat is brown or grey, but it changes to a reddish-brown in the summer.

Puffin

Puffin image

Puffin

In April, puffins begin arriving around the Scottish coast to breed. Almost one million puffins choose to breed in Scotland, and most are concentrated in just a few colonies in the north and west. Puffins nest in burrows or in rocky crevices, and normally lay a single egg in May.

The best time to see puffins in Scotland is in mid-July, when the adults are busy collecting sand eels to feed the pufflings.

Scottish wildcat

Scottish wildcat image

Scottish wildcat resting in woodland

It is thought that fewer than 400 ‘genetically pure’ wildcats remain in Scotland today. This is because wildcats breed with domestic cats, creating hybrids which are diluting the population.

The wildcat is solitary and usually hunts at night. It catches rabbits, hares, voles and mice, but it may also feed on small birds, frogs and even insects.

Osprey

Osprey image

Osprey carrying a fish

Ospreys arrive in Scotland to breed in late April to early May after an amazing journey from western Africa, which takes about 20 flying days. There are around 200 breeding osprey pairs in Scotland, and the best places to see them include Loch Garten and Loch of the Lowes.

Ospreys return to their wintering grounds in West Africa in late August to mid-September. If you can’t make it to Scotland this summer, why not watch this fantastic osprey video - it’s the most popular one on ARKive!

Scots pine

Scots pine image

Scots pine forest

The Scots pine is native to Scotland and is a dominant tree in the Caledonian Forest, which is also made up of birch, aspen, rowan, oak and juniper. Although pinewood forests were once spread over most of the Highlands, only 1% of the original forest remains, split into smaller, fragmented pockets.

The oldest scientifically dated Scots pine in Scotland is Glen Loyne, which was estimated to be 550 years old in the late 1990s.

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin image

Bottlenose dolphins breaching

Bottlenose dolphins inhabit the waters around the Scottish coast throughout the year, but they are easiest to spot during the spring and summer. The Moray Firth is home to the most northerly resident bottlenose dolphin population in the world, and is one of the best places to watch dolphins in Scotland.

Compared to bottlenose dolphins in warmer climates, such as Florida, the Moray Firth dolphins are larger and fatter to insulate them from the colder water.

Eurasian beaver

Eurasian beaver image

Eurasian beaver feeding

Between May 2009 and September 2010, 16 Eurasian beavers were released into the wild in Knapdale Forest, Mid-Argyll, as part of a monitored trial. The first beaver kit (named Barney) was born in spring 2010, making him the first to be born in the wild in Scotland for over 400 years!

At the end of the trial, decisions will be made about the future of beavers in Knapdale Forest and other possible reintroduction sites in Scotland.

You can see some videos of the introduced beavers on the Scottish Beaver Trial blog.

Let us know if your favourite Scottish species is missing from our blog! How are you planning to celebrate Burns Night?

ARKive Media Team

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