West Ridge Nature Preserve, Park Advisory Council (PAC)

Chicago Park District

Fascinating New Stories Unfold in our

Nature Preserve Every Day

Keep Eyes and Ears Open

Butterfly Appearance

Resident Deer

Coyote Tracks

Eastern Bluebirds

Eastern Bluebirds Raise Family In Our Nature Preserve

Much to our delight, an Eastern Bluebird pair chose our nature preserve to raise a family. Now that the fledglings have successfully spread their wings, we can spread the news. Until now, we kept the story under wraps to protect our nesting couples’ privacy.

The story begins with a “Peterson” nest box donated by the McHenry County Audubon Society and Jeff Wade, a local West Ridge neighbor, who installed the box in the vicinity of earlier Bluebird sightings. He also monitored nest building, egg laying, hatching, feeding and final fledging.

Eastern Bluebirds prefer meadows, scattered trees and fence lines. The meadow grasses make perfect nesting materials. The trees and fence lines provide perches for hunting and guarding. While our preserve has these features, it also harbors some dangers. The installed “Sparrow Spookers” and “Baffle” kept sparrows, snakes, squirrels, and raccoons at bay.

Throughout the brooding period, both parents actively fed their babies, guarded the nest and – when the time was right – encouraged the brood to leave the box. The four eggs had a white-pink tinge - an anomaly that occurs in only 4% of Bluebirds (Normally eggs are light blue.). From those eggs, three hatched and successfully fledged.

Monarch Butterflies Make a Welcome Appearance

Because Monarch butterflies are endangered, our steward couldn’t wait to share the news of their appearance in our nature preserve. He took the butterfly photo below. Also included are photos of the larvae (caterpillar) and pupa (chrysalis). These photos were taken by our president.

It is amazing that complete metamorphosis starts with an egg (not depicted below) the size of a pinhead and ends with a butterfly in a little more than a month. The egg, larvae, pupa and butterfly complete one life cycle.

Where Is Our Resident Deer?

This spring, a young male white-tailed deer with two little bumps on his head appeared in our nature preserve. He stayed around during summer and fall, while his bumps grew into an impressive 9-point set of antlers.

Almost always visible from one of the trails, he delighted newcomers and became a favorite sight for regulars. While comfortable with the attention, he kept a respectful distance.

As fall progressed, we heard reports of does checking out our young buck from the Rosehill side of the fence. Then, questions started coming in. Where was "our" deer? No one had seen him in the Preserve for at least three weeks.

A regular visitor did note a buck with two does grazing just to the southeast of the Preserve. Perhaps this buck is "our" deer with his consorts

While we miss him, there is no rush for him to return. His wintertime browsing could do significant damage to the maturing trees and shrubs. Nevertheless, his "residency" was a rare and wonderful occurrence and we are grateful.

Coyote Makes Tracks and So Do People

Steward Tom Murphy, as part of his regular inspection walks, came across a single trail of tracks that circled the preserve. The tracks appear to have been made by a coyote. Interestingly, it circled across the pond. The pond must have been well frozen with a layer of slushy snow on top of the ice.

You also can see several star-shaped cracks in the ice with a black-ice center. They seem to have been made by a stone or other heavy object hitting and falling through the ice. 

Obviously, the coyote is not the only animal making tracks. People, too, are walking through the snow. Some even made a snow man.