Scout Out Your Next Adventure

Calling all Scout leaders!

Are you looking for the next adventure for you and your scout group? Great news- with the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, you can discover local forest preserves with a Naturalist!

Our Naturalists can lead your group on an informative hike, or be the perfect complement to your campout! On informative hikes, a Naturalist will cover many different aspects of flora and fauna while helping your scouts work towards their next badge, patch, or pin. You can choose to do a “Seasonal Spotlight” hike that focuses on a variety of topics such as Spring Wildflowers, Trees and Their Leaves, The Amazing Prairie, Animal Tracks and Signs, and more. There are many exciting changes in the natural world every season, and we have a topic for every one of them! Complete with hands-on, interactive discussion and trail hiking, your scouts are sure to enjoy this excursion into nature.

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A Scout group inspects a tree trunk affected by beaver activity

All programs are 60-90 minutes long. Programs can be scheduled at any preserve and can be flexible depending on the needs of your group.  Reservations are required for these hikes. The fee is $2 per person with a minimum of $20 needed for a program. For more information about scheduling and fees, email programs@kaneforest.com or call 630-444-3190.

Support Blandings Turtle Conservation in Kane County!

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Calling all turtle lovers! Would you like to help the Blandings Turtle population thrive in Kane County? Participate in the Kane Forest Preserve Foundation’s “Adopt A Turtle” program! These ceremonial adoptions aid the Forest Preserve District’s conservation efforts and research above and beyond their current capacity, so that we can help this species get back on their (webbed) feet.

Who’s ready to become a turtle parent? We are so excited to see our Blandings babies soon; the countdown is on! Can’t wait until they arrive to learn more? Check out the links below for more information or search #KaneAdoptATurtle!

Adopt-A-Turtle information: http://bit.ly/KaneAdoptATurtleFlyer

Adopt-A-Turtle online form: http://bit.ly/KaneAdoptATurtleCC

Note: These are ceremonial adoptions. No turtles will be removed from Forest Preserve District property.

Nature Tykes & Little Naturalists

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Spiders, bugs, and the great outdoors…does this sound like something your child would enjoy? Have them explore nature with the Forest Preserve District of Kane County! Our programs “Nature Tykes” and “Little Naturalists” are designed for young children who enjoy learning about the natural world.

At these hour long programs, we will focus on a different theme each month. Every session will begin with a short introduction to the topic, and feature a combination of games, stories, crafts, or nature hikes that are led by a District Naturalist. 3 year olds are invited to attend Nature Tykes, and Little Naturalists is geared for 4 and 5 year olds. Spiders, insects, and leaves are the topics we’ll be focusing on this fall.

A parent or caregiver must be present at Nature Tykes throughout the program. Little Naturalists is a “drop-off” program, and adults and siblings are welcome to wait in the nature center or enjoy the trails during the class. The sessions are listed below and are held at Creek Bend Nature Center:

  • Thursday, September 26: Insect Wonderland. Nature Tykes 9:30- 10:30 a.m., Little Naturalists 1- 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 24. Spider Mania. Nature Tykes 9:30- 10:30 a.m., Little Naturalists 1- 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, November 21. Leaf-O-Rama. Nature Tykes 9:30- 10:30 a.m., Little Naturalists 1- 2 p.m.

 

There is a fee of $5 per child, per session. To register for a session, call 630-444-3190 or email programs@kaneforest.com. Creek Bend Nature Center is located at 37W700 Dean Street, St. Charles.

Rusty Rodeo

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There’s an underwater invader in our local streams and rivers- and we want you to help us find them! Our culprit: The Rusty Crayfish. This tiny aquatic creature is considered an invasive species (non- native) and can negatively affect the health of an ecosystem if they are left unchecked. Are you ready to wrangle some of these creatures in? Will it be you that finds the biggest, longest, or most wanted of these Varmints? Join us and find out as we scour the common habitats of these wanted creatures at The Rusty Rodeo!

The rodeo will take place at Glenwood Park Forest Preserve, 1644 S River St. Participants are encouraged to wear closed-toed shoes and clothes that can get muddy and wet as much of our exploration will be done in the water! In addition to removing the crayfish, there will be music, and prizes for those who find crayfish within the winning categories. Sound like a good time? We’d love to see you there! The event will run from 11am-1pm and admission is FREE!

Get To Know A Naturalist: Erica Lemon

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Erica examines a bug with a camper

 

Name: Erica Lemon

Alma Mater: University of Iowa

Hometown: Grew up in Burlington, IA. Now live in Pingree Grove, IL

Years worked at the Forest Preserve District: 14 (13 full time)

How and when did you become interested in being a naturalist?

In community college I really got interested in environmental science and it gave me the motivation to educate the public on our natural world.

What is your favorite part about being a naturalist?

Seeing the wonder in the eyes of all ages, but especially in little kids, when they see or learn something new.

What is the most important skill you have acquired through your career?

Being able to adjust the way I’m speaking depending on the knowledge level of my audience.

If you could take a hike anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Zion National Park.

What is one item you can’t live without?

Sugar haha!

Do you have any hobbies outside of work?

I crochet and I’m into nature photography.

What is your favorite genre of music?

80’s rock and pop.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Don’t worry about things you can’t change. Though I struggle following that piece of advice!

Do you have a favorite animal and/or plant species?

Turkey Vultures.

What has been your proudest moment in your career?

Hiking with a group of Aurora High Schoolers. There was one student that looked like someone 100% not interested in nature, not dressed quite right for the outdoors, ear buds in, hat backwards, stayed at the back of the group. As the hike went on, he kept kind of inching his way closer to the front of the group. About half way through, he was walking right with me and asking all sorts of relevant questions. By the end of the hike, he told me he would love to do “something like this” when he was finished with school!

What is your favorite event at the Forest Preserve District?

Monarchs & Milkweed, hands down!

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring naturalist? 

Focus on the part of nature you enjoy most, we can all learn from each other to expand in other areas!

 

View the slideshow for a few examples of Erica’s nature photos!

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Get To Know A Naturalist: Barb McKittrick

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Barb presenting at a program

 

Name: Barb McKittrick

Alma Mater: Aurora University (BS Biology) and Northwestern University (MBA)

Hometown: Batavia; born and raised on Chicago’s lovely northwest side!

Years worked at the Forest Preserve District: 7

How and when did you become interested in being a naturalist?

I learned to love nature as a kid growing up in Chicago. Believe it or not, Chicago is a haven for urban wilderness, with a wonderful network of forest preserves, parks and protected places – several of which were right in my neighborhood. While I didn’t start out my career as a naturalist, I did get my degree in biology and worked at the molecular scale of science for many years. It was only years later when I started volunteering for a youth science organization that I realized that people actually get paid for inspiring others to appreciate and care for our natural places, and decided that I wanted to be a naturalist as my second career!

What is your favorite part about being a naturalist?

Seeing people’s faces light up when they discover something new out on the trail – whether it be the spicy scent of crushed wild bergamot, the pert call of a chickadee, or the warty bark of a hackberry tree.

What is the most important skill you have acquired through your career?

The ability to take the time to really and truly see. It is so easy to get so busy that we don’t stop and appreciate the little wonders that make a walk in the woods (or prairie or wetland) meaningful. I’ve been known to be guilty of this! Being a naturalist has taught me to slow down, to observe closely, and to be grateful.

What are you most excited for as you move into your new position?

I am so excited to have the opportunity to lead the great team of FPDKC Naturalists as the new Environmental Education Manager. I look forward to building upon the tremendous success of current programs like the Kane County Certified Naturalist program, special events like the recent Monarchs & Milkweed festival, and our slate of public programs for children, families, and adults. I’ll be looking at ways we can more actively partner with other regional agencies and organizations to best serve our patrons and at improvements we can make to our Creek Bend Nature Center facility and grounds to maximize each visitor experience. My goal is to touch as many people as possible with our nature programs and preserves in order to foster a connection with nature wherever it’s found – be it in a forest preserve, a city park, or your own back yard.

If you could take a hike anywhere in the world, where would it be?

That’s a hard one, because there is so much variety in nature and each place has it’s own special beauty. I’m so fortunate to have traveled the world during my past corporate life, but one place I’ve never been and would love to explore is Japan. There is a special hike there called the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage that follows ancient trails through deep, forested valleys. I’d like to go there someday.

What is one item you can’t live without?

Coffee!

Do you have any hobbies outside of work?

I enjoy biking, kayaking, backpacking, home brewing and reading. But my favorite time is time spent with family and friends.

What is your favorite genre of music?

Alternative rock.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Well, it’s not exactly first-hand advice, but I really like Rachel Carson’s words: “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

Do you have a favorite animal and/or plant species?

Fungi are amazing!

What has been your proudest moment in your career?

Seeing employees I’ve mentored go on to accomplish great things.

What is your favorite event at the Forest Preserve District?

I started a monthly hiking program called “Trek with a Naturalist” and it is my favorite event – and one that I get to repeat every single month with a lot of interesting and like-minded people!

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring naturalist?

Slow down and appreciate the details and intricacies of nature.

 

Get To Know A Naturalist: Valerie Blaine

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Name: Valerie Blaine

Alma Mater: University of Illinois

Hometown: Currently, St. Charles

Years worked at the Forest Preserve District: Just a few days shy of 25 years

How and when did you become interested in being a naturalist?

I think I was born a naturalist. It’s just in me. When I was a kid, I played a lot in a forest preserve near our house in Northbrook. My mom instilled in me a great love and respect for plants and critters. I loved biology in high school, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in botany and a master’s degree in forestry. As for my interest in becoming a naturalist as a profession, I think I first became interested when I attended a naturalist-led night hike with my parents, at Turkey Run State Park, when I was in college. I was amazed by the naturalist guide. The light bulb went on in my head. “You mean I can get paid for doing what this person does?” It took a lot of work to become a professional naturalist (it’s much more than walking in the woods), but eventually I did and it was so worth it.

What is your favorite part about being a naturalist?

Knowing that I have helped foster a connection between people and the natural world.

What is the most important skill you have acquired through your career?

There are different aspects to my career. There’s the naturalist part, and the supervisor/manager part. In regards to the former, observation is the most important skill. As for the latter, I hope the skill I have honed is keeping sight of our mission and guiding the staff accordingly.

What will you miss most about being a naturalist?

My avocation and my vocation are one in the same, so I will never not be a naturalist. (Paul McCartney said it best when asked when he’ll retire. He replied, “Retire from what?”) I will stop being a manager when I retire, and honestly there’s not much I’ll miss about that!

If you could take a hike anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Am I restricted one answer? The Smokies, the Chiricahua Mountains, Konza Prairie, and Infinitum.

What is one item you can’t live without?

My glasses.

Do you have any hobbies outside of work?

Hunting, raising bird dogs, studying French, playing guitar, working out, reading.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Live as if every step on earth is a prayer.

Do you have a favorite animal and/or plant species?

There are so many that I love that I couldn’t possibly narrow it down to one!

What has been your proudest moment in your career?

Oooh, boy! I don’t think there’s one moment. Being part of the very successful Kane County Certified Naturalist program makes me proud, and my column in the Daily Herald.

What is your favorite event at the Forest Preserve District?

Maple Sugaring.

What are your plans for retirement? (ex. traveling, volunteering, new hobby, etc.)

I’m going to do a lot of stuff. … Seriously, there are so many things on the bucket list that the bucket is overflowing. Training our GSP pup, hunting, working in my woods, getting together with friends a lot more, continuing to study the French language, playing guitar, reading a ton, wood carving, a lot of working out with my trainer, swimming, hiking, birding, writing. You know, stuff.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring naturalist? 

Spend as much time in the real world woods and prairie as you can, and avoid the screen (computer, phone, tablet) as much as you can. Be insatiably curious. Share your passion. Don’t be discouraged by [those who don’t support conservation]. Fight the good fight.

 

View the slideshow for examples of her nature photography…

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Creek Day: A Summer Camp Special

The best part of summer?  It depends on who you ask, but many would answer summer camp! A popular warm weather activity for generations both young and mature, camp has always been a time to explore nature and meet new friends. At the Forest Preserve District’s Week in the Woods summer camp, this still holds true! Throughout our week-long camps, there are a variety of activities every day such as crafts, outdoor games, and hikes that encourage kids to explore the natural world. A popular favorite activity of campers is Creek day, where they grab their bathing suits and head to Ferson Creek to play for the day. The creek is home to all kinds of aquatic creatures, such as crayfish, frogs, water skaters, and more; many of which we found on the most recent creek trip!

 

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Our Naturalists and their campers search the water with their nets

 

We had a gorgeous, sunny day to get out and explore the creek with our nets! The water was perfect to splash around in and yielded many different creatures that we caught to examine then release back into the creek. When we weren’t searching for the next best creature to drift along, the campers enjoyed swimming and learning to skip rocks; many of them showed awesome talent with it! At the end of the trip, it was clear that the campers had learned so much and gained an amazing appreciation of the creek as a not just a fun place to play, but also a habitat for the many creatures they found! Enjoy the pictures below of the trip and some of their finds! Keep scrolling for information on how to give your kids the opportunity to explore this summer…

 

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A tiny leopard frog

 

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Our nets caught many crayfish!

 

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A small nymph.

 

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A crayfish inside our “specimen bin” that was shortly after returned to it’s habitat.

 

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Another crayfish- these little guys were everywhere!

 

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Fish on! This little one was quickly returned to the water after swimming into our nets.

 

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One of our last finds of the day- a beautiful pair of shells.

 

Want your kids to explore the marvels of nature? Sign them up for Week in the Woods summer camp! Each nature camp runs for five days each, Monday through Friday. The dates are as follows:  “Summer Unplugged” August 5-August 9. Camp is for kids entering 1st-6th grade, and there is a fee of $175/child for the week. Advance registration is required, register by calling 630-444-3190 or email programs@kaneforest.com. 

Get to Know a Naturalist: Ben Katzen

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Ben at Harvest of the Acorn Moon

Name:  Ben Katzen

Alma Mater: University of Florida

Hometown: Downers Grove, IL

Years worked at the Forest Preserve District: 19

How and when did you become interested in being a naturalist?

In college, as a sophomore business major, I realized the importance of doing what you love. I changed my major to Forest Resources and Conservation.

What is your favorite part about being a naturalist?

Working with people from all walks of life throughout the County.

What is the most important skill you have acquired through your career?

How to effectively communicate with people of various age levels and backgrounds.

If you could take a hike anywhere in the world, where would it be?

The Canadian Rockies.

What is one item you can’t live without?

Tie between eyeglasses and shoes/boots.

Do you have any hobbies outside of work?

Car repair and electronics.

What is your favorite genre of music?

Progressive Rock.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Be yourself.

Do you have a favorite animal and/or plant species?

Wild Turkeys.

What has been your proudest moment in your career?

Having a child I taught in our preschool class come back 13 years later to be our college intern.

What is your favorite event at the Forest Preserve District?

Harvest of the Acorn Moon, our Fall festival.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring naturalist? 

Go on guided hikes to learn from other naturalists.

 

Camp is Calling: Tips to Make Your Camping Trip Run Smoothly

 

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Ah- the great outdoors! As the days get longer and the nights become warmer, many folks will be pulling out their tents and other gear to get ready for camping season. There’s nothing better than a few days spent in nature with your family, friends, or just yourself. As we gear up for camping season to come our way, here are some tips to help make your camping trip run smoothly.

Check all equipment. Nothing is worse than packing up, driving to the campsite, and realizing your gear is broken. Be sure to test out all equipment you plan to bring before you leave so that you’ll have proper shelter, food, and other items working properly.

Choose your campsite. This is one of the most important tips: know where you’re going before you leave. Sure, it can be fun to drive around and survey the sites, but it can also be stressful if you get lost or the campsites have little to no space left. The Forest Preserve District of Kane County has multiple campsites for you to enjoy: Big Rock Campground and Forest Preserve, Burnridge Forest Preserve and Paul Wolff, Camp Tomo Chi-Chi Knolls, and LeRoy Oakes. Some sites may require renting them before use, so be sure to check before you confirm plans.

Pack more than just your average camp food. Not all dinners have to be hot dogs and s’mores; branch out by trying recipes you can make ahead of time! By making a few campfire-ready meals ahead, you’ll cut down on prep time at the campsite and try recipes you never thought you could have while camping!

 Leave it how you found it. If you’ve generated any trash during your trip, be sure to dispose of it in the proper places as designated by the campground. This not only makes you a stellar citizen, but it also improves the experience for the campers arriving after you leave. Aside from that, it ensures our environment stays trash and pollution free so that we can all enjoy it for years to come. Win-win!

 

 Find and follow us on social by searching @forestpreserve. Visit our website at www.kaneforest.com for more information on our campsites and forest preserves.