Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader George Pawlus, who once brought me diet sodas during the Great Soda Tax Episode in Cook Country, found Sandhill Cranes (Antigone canadensis) in Illinois:

Attached are some pictures of a pair of Sandhill Cranes I took in my girlfriend’s backyard –in Bartlett, IL.  They are 4 to 4.5 feet tall.  Completely unafraid of people. I got within 10 feet of them to take the pics.  Their beaks dissuaded me from getting closer. I put the pics up on her Facebook site with this comment:

“My recent visitors. These two have been hanging around my back yard for a couple of weeks. They vocalize (very loud), poop, dig in my lawn with their beaks and preen. Sometimes they go to the front of the house. They walk down the street. You can get very close to them. One has been banded. Has a green band with the letters JHZ. Should I call him/her Juhaz?”

Diana MacPherson has been AWOL (we can expect more photos when her chipmunks emerge), but sent three photos:

Here is a picture of a Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) in the Snow. I took this picture February 7 but only got around to downloading it now.

Junco on the fat and American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) tail:

Finally: harbingers of Spring from reader Christopher;

Here are three photos of the delightful Skunk Cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus, in various stages of growth that I took exactly two years ago at the Lyon Forest Preserve near the Fox River, Yorkville Il. It’s a fantastically bizarre early spring wetland plant with a funky smell released by crushing or tearing a leaf. According to Wikipedia, and I did not test this to see if it’s true, “While not considered edible raw, because the roots are toxic and the leaves can burn the mouth, the leaves may be dried and used in soups and stews.”


  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Some very good photos. This is the time of year for the Sandhill Cranes on the Platt.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      left the e off of Platte. And I don’t even live in Aksarben.

    • Ted Burk
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      The Audubon Society has a “crane cam” set up at their sanctuary on the Platte, where the Sandhill Cranes roost at night. Check it out around dusk (when they return from the surrounding fields) or dawn (when they leave their roosts for the day). The sound is even more amazing than the sight.

  2. Christopher
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    The skunk cabbage photos have been turned sideways in the post. Made me feel dizzy to see them. No worries though. But if you live in their range, go now to see some, they really are nifty. And if you are in Illinois, enjoy your forest preserves. The state is either under concrete or corn, so these little smudges of nature are precious, as is the Fox river.

    And those cranes! So jealous. Much nicer than plastic flamingoes on your lawn. I once saw from a highway what I thought were some sandhill cranes by a pond but by the time I got off the highway, turned around, took the exit and outer road… they were gone.

  3. Michael Fisher
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    @George Pawlus

    You can report your banded greater sandhill crane sighting HERE

    Eastern Sandhill Crane Banding Programs: “Have you seen a banded Sandhill Crane and would like to find out where and who banded the crane? Cranes are banded with color markers (also known as auxiliary bands) and aluminum bands throughout North America. THIS PAGE focuses on banding protocols for the Eastern Population of Greater Sandhill Cranes Grus canadensis tabida, which are found east of the Mississippi River in the United States”

    NB For “greater sandhill cranes” Grus canadensis tabida is incorrect these days [I think] it’s now Antigone canadensis tabida [you’d think the crane people would be up-to-date! Or have I made a mistake?]

    • George
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      I did report in the sighting back in July when we first saw them..

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    (Antigone canadensis)

    Antigone? As in Oedipus’s daughter [slap] sister [slap] daughter?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      The family tree thing: no TV or console games back then

  5. George
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    A bit more on the cranes. What is interesting (to me at least) is how the selection pressures from homo sapiens are shaping the environment – particularly the fauna. Out here in the Chicago exurbs we have all the usual suspects – coyote, fox, possum, many raccoon, fat squirrels, etc. I remember when spring came in the old days, squirrels were thin, scraggly and pretty dire looking. Not anymore. They are chubby after the winter. And I don’t feed the ones in my backyard. Neither do my neighbors. They manage to store enough food for a comfortable winter. Wildlife that adapts well to us does very well.

    More interesting are birds. We have lots of hawks out here – mostly red tailed and Coopers. The Bartlett High School athletic teams are the Hawks. There is a forest preserve called Hawk Hollow. At the western end of the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway (which goes to neither Elgin nor O’Hare although it may soon end up going to O’Hare if they can get the CP Railroad to agree), there are always hawks. There are many forest preserves around here. Their purpose is to flood in the spring and provide green space in the summer. And bird sanctuaries year round. I once saw a group of 20-30 hawks flying in a circle. Most of them were young. The larger ones were flying overhead and off to the side. I assume it was flying lessons. I saw a hawk kill a pigeon in my driveway. More accurately, I saw a pigeon walking on my driveway, then a blur of action, after which the pigeon, except for a few feathers was gone.

    The sandhill cranes are a recent addition. They have been summering (by the thousands) in Wisconsin, angering the farmers.

    A few (about eight) have discovered a group of retention/detention ponds about a mile north of where I took the pictures. One of them seems to be a perfect environment for cranes. Why fly 200 miles farther north to Wisconsin where you have to compete with thousands of other cranes. And the two in the pics found another pond nearby just for themselves. I assume they will be back this summer. They can be very loud – and annoying. It is amazing to watch them just saunter down the street. The cars stop waiting for them to clear the road. They know this environment is safe and they have nothing to fear from us.

    I am curious to see what other fauna will adapt well to living with humans. Maybe a predator of Canada geese who crap on everything.

  6. Colleen Milloy
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Love starting my day with Reader’s Wildlife Photos. Always something to learn. I also am waiting for the chipmunks to emerge. A few nice days here in southern Ontario have brought a couple out but mostly they are still underground. Thanks for sharing photos and comments.

  7. Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Very good! I wish I had a back yard like that with tall prarie grasses.
    Very familiar with skunk cabbage, and the smell. The plant is aptly named.

  8. Posted March 24, 2018 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    We have Dark Eyed Junkos in Northern California. They like to fly from a branch, tap the window, fly back to the branch then back to the window. It will do this several times in a row. I don’t know why! We also have lizards, deer, hummingbirds, snowy egrets and hares. I’d take photos and share, but I am no photographer, lol.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 24, 2018 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

      Send in your nature pics immediately madam! Mr. Google tells me that dark eyed junko males attack their reflection quite ferociously & repeatedly. Territory.

  9. jellen
    Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    Skunk cabbages are arums that generate their own heat, a property that enables them to emerge and even to flower in sub-freezing temperatures. See here:

  10. Posted March 24, 2018 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    That last plant looks quite interesting.

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