black and white skunk in straw bed

When people get excited about supporting wildlife on their property, they are usually referring to charismatic wildlife. The ones that bring us joy or whimsy or that serve a function such as pollination. Or even the ones that encroach on our lives the least.

The Illinois Master Naturalist program recently welcomed Duane Friend as its new coordinator earlier this year. Duane Friend has been with Extension for more than 30 years and is excited to share some new updates to the program that will expand training opportunities, reach youth, and give volunteers continued education opportunities.

flying geese over lake silhouetted against sunrise

Anyone who comes into contact with birds should be aware that avian influenza cases are on the rise in Illinois and around the Midwest.

What is avian flu?

Avian influenza is a highly contagious virus that spreads naturally among wild birds, sometimes without causing illness. However, avian influenza can infect domestic poultry with devastating effects. Some so-called highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza may cause severe disease and high mortality in domestic birds like chickens and turkeys.

three white pelicans on a lake

In the spring, a remarkable migratory bird returns to the waters of the Illinois River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Complex which includes the Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge. American white pelicans stop at the refuge to rest and refuel on the way to their summer breeding grounds in the north. While they’re here, they entertain birders and outdoor enthusiasts alike with their graceful flight, immense size, and impressive fishing skills.  

trees woodland area

Walking through the woods, you will notice that not all forests are the same. The plant composition, elevation in the land, geography, and soil composition all make for a variety of forest types. One of my favorites and most unique is the flatwood forest.

A flatwoods is a level area with a hardpan underneath that keeps water from draining. This unique feature creates distinctive biodiversity opportunities and a forest composition for the most adaptive species.

two red insects, a lady bug and a lady beetle.

When I put my blog choice in for ladybugs versus lady beetles, I thought it was going to be an easy write-up. A piece about our native ladybugs and the seemingly invasive biological control animal I like to call the Terminator Lady Beetles.

It would be a good guy versus bad guy story. Ladybugs, the good guys, who eat aphids from our flower and vegetable plants versus the bad guy predators who bite and move into our homes in the fall with no intention of paying rent.