Bison back in Illinois, USA after 200 years

This 5 December video is about the Nachusa Grasslands, near Franklin Grove, Illinois, USA; and the recently reintroduced bison there. Music: ‘Home On the Range’ by Mannheim Steamroller. A song with lyrics mentioning ‘buffalo’ (really meaning American bison).

By Dean Reynolds, CBS News in the USA:

June 25, 2015, 7:19 PM

​Back in brown: American bison return to the Midwest

FRANKLIN GROVE, Ill – What used to be a corn and soybean field 15 years ago is now full of tall grass and flowers — a restoration in the making.

Jeff Walk is science director for the Illinois chapter of the Nature Conservancy, a private organization that is trying to bring the prairie back to the Land of Lincoln.

Walk and his group are seeding 1,500 acres with natural grasses and plants: from wild lupine to prairie smoke to golden Alexanders.

The goal is to restore the rolling hills to the way they looked 200 years ago or more. In the process, they’re adding one more, rather hairy ingredient to the mix: The American bison.

“The last wild bison in Illinois was killed about 200 years ago,” said Walk.

The bison serve an important purpose here. Kind of like landscapers, they maintain the prairie by eating the grass like furry lawnmowers that swallow what they cut.

“They’re doing great,” said Walk. “They cope very well. They seem to be peaceful, content.”

They were trucked to Illinois’ Nachusa prairie from Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, as well as other preserves. About 50 are on the land now can move freely around 1,500 acres.

Bison are much easier than cattle for this job. They don’t need a barn, don’t need to be fed and are hardy as all get out — needing only one medical exam every year.

The hope is to have a herd of 125 in the future.

“They are just iconic Americana,” says Jeff.

So give me a home where the buffalo roam — just two hours west of Chicago.

From AgriNews in the USA:

Bison babies make more history

Jeannine Otto, Field Editor

Friday, June 12, 2015 2:00 PM

FRANKLIN GROVE, Ill. — The arrival of the first wild bison calf born east of the Mississippi River in close to 200 years didn’t cause much of a stir.

It was the discovery of that calf that was a surprise to the staff at The Nature Conservancy’s Nachusa Grasslands prairie near Franklin Grove.

“The first one was definitely a surprise,” said Cody Considine, restoration ecologist at Nachusa.

In fact, it wasn’t even a staff member who got the first look.

“It was the first week in April, and Bill Kleiman had some friends visiting in town. They were looking around, and his friend said, ‘Oh, you’ve got a little one,’” Considine said.

After taking a look through binoculars, Kleiman confirmed that the first of the grasslands herd’s new members had arrived.

“That one was about two to three weeks ahead of the other ones,” Considine said.

The new calves for the herd, introduced to the restored Illinois prairie, now stand at 14. The herd numbers 30 adults with 18 mature cows, and Considine said that means they could see more new arrivals.

The bison and their babies don’t get any assists from human hands, even when calving.

“It’s all hands-off. Even if there was trouble, you have to let nature take its course. It’s natural selection,” Considine said.

But so far, there haven’t been any problems.

“Everybody seems happy and healthy,” Considine said.

Prairie Benefits

That includes the prairie itself.

“The whole reason why bison were brought to Nachusa is for the role they play in the tallgrass prairie,” Considine said.

Since the bison have been munching their way around the 500 acres they’re confined to now, with an additional 1,000 acres scheduled to be opened to them later this summer or in the fall, Considine and researchers have watched how bison affect the prairie.

The word “amazing” comes up more than once in describing how the bison, mature cows weigh from 800 to 1,100 pounds and mature bulls can weigh up to 2,000 pounds, delicately eat their way around the prairie.

“We’ve got a place where we had some rare violets blooming, and they’ve gone under the violet or around it and grazed the grass around it. That’s pretty incredible. That’s the proof in the pudding — they are doing what we brought them here to do, and that’s to eat the grass,” Considine said.

He and others gather data using fenced-off control areas, called “exclosures,” to record how bison impact the prairie. Three of the exclosures include remnant prairie — prairie that has never been plowed.

The total acreage of Nachusa is some 3,500 acres, and Considine said staff is exploring how many bison the acreage could support.

“We think we could support 100 to 120 animals. However, there’s no literature or anything on how much native tallgrass prairie east of the Mississippi River can support, so this is all new exploration. We’re doing a lot of monitoring, a lot of research. We’re going to let the land tell us how many animals it can support,” he said.

Considine said the bison have weathered the rainy and severe spring weather well.

“Some of those tornadoes came through pretty close and we had large hail and it didn’t seem to bother them at all,” he said.

Other Species

Right now, the adult bison are looking a little scruffy as they shed their winter coats. Even that activity is contributing to the ecosystem of the prairie — and helping fellow mammals grow their own families.

“Our crew got a photo of mice using the bison hair as a nest … It’s great for nesting material for mice and small mammals,” Considine said.

The increase in small mammals on the prairie — including some species of mice that only inhabit prairie — means other species thrive, too.

“There are a lot of small mammals on the prairie, and increasing those populations helps increase other animals, badgers, raptors — it’s one of the benefits of more food,” Considine said.

This fall, the bison herd will be moved into the corral system where they will get an annual health check and vaccinations, one of the few times they interact directly with humans.

The staff also is in the preliminary stages of building visitor areas, including one with a viewing platform, trails, restrooms and parking. Considine said plans are in the works for pull-off areas alongside the prairie.

The bison’s arrival has created a media sensation. Considine said staff has hosted or will host media from Chicago to national media, including the CBS Evening News, to global media, Al Jazeera, to talk about the reintroduction of the bison to the restored Illinois prairie.

For now, it’s up to the bison whether or not it’s time for a close-up with their fans.

“It depends. Yesterday they were right next to the road. This morning, you can’t see them. It really depends on where they want to be,” Considine said.

Western chorus frogs in Canada

This video from the USA says about itself:

Western Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata) calling in Illinois Beach State Park. There are thousands of this small but very vocal frogs but I had to spend a lot of time to actually see one of them. To record them the secret is to just leave the camera running and move away for 10 minutes.

From Bird Studies Canada:

The Western Chorus Frog is at risk of disappearing from parts of its range in Ontario. Its numbers have declined as much as 40% in some areas since the mid-1990s. Key causes are habitat loss and degradation -through urban sprawl and intensification of agriculture. Diseases, pollution, drainage, and climate change are also factors.

American crows’ big roosts during winter

This video is called The American Crow.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

What Makes Crows Gather in Large Roosts During Fall and Winter?

Posted on Monday, October 06, 2014 by eNature

Steve Bailey is a bit of an exception.

Whereas most people in Danville, Illinois, wish the crows now in their midst would find themselves another winter home, he welcomes the visitors with open arms. He’s a bird lover, of course, and proud to live in the unofficial Winter Crow Capital of North America—despite the noise, the mess, and the smell that comes with that distinction.

Danville is home to roughly 35,000 people. Its crows, however, number some 162,000 according to the recent Audubon Christmas Bird Count. There are so many crows in the 6- to 8-block area where they nightly roost that their weight sometimes snaps branches off trees.

And then there’s the endless supply of droppings and the incessant racket. No wonder some desperate residents have cut down healthy shade trees in order to force the birds to relocate. Others have tried scaring the birds away with plastic owls and sirens, even recordings of Barred Owl calls played throughout the night.

Still, the birds remain. The most obvious reason for their stubbornness is that Danville offers a perfect location for crows. It’s in a river valley surrounded by agricultural land in all directions. As for the crows’ communal tendencies, the birds know that there is strength in numbers. That is, roosting together helps them watch for predators and increases their chances of finding food.

Given these tendencies, it should come as no surprise that Danville’s is not the only large crow roost that takes shape in the United States from fall to spring. In Jasper County, Iowa, for example, thousands of crows settle down a little to the east of Newton. In Massachusetts, up to 20,000 descend on the center of Framingham every afternoon. Wichita, Kansas, has 100,000 crows spread among a few roosts. And in the 1940s and ‘50s, Stafford County, Kansas, hosted upwards of a million crows in winter, though that roost eventually disintegrated.

And perhaps the same fate will someday befall Danville’s crows. No doubt most of the town’s residents would welcome such a development. For bird lovers like Steve Bailey, though, Danville just wouldn’t be the same without its winter crows.

Good or bad, they’re certainly a spectacle!

Have you encountered a large roost of crows? There’s one not far from our eNature office— and you’ll often hear it before you see the birds. It’s always a fun visit.

Let us know what you’re seeing out there!

How to tell a crow from raven: here.

Crows and ravens look almost alike, and with ravens expanding their range of late, telling the difference is a growing challenge. Our own Dr. Kevin McGowan has studied crows for 30 years—and his advice is to use your ears. Learn to tell a caw from a croak, and these big black birds will confuse you nevermore.

What If They’re Silent? See our Crows vs. Ravens page for McGowan’s visual ID tips.

Bald eagles in the USA, where to see them

This video is called American Bald Eagle.

From Discovery News in the USA:

Endangered Species

Bald Eagle Spotting: Top Spots

Dec 27, 2013 12:43 PM ET // by Tim Wall

Forty years ago, the Endangered Species Act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. The act’s authors sought to protect animals, plants and other wildlife from extinction caused by “economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation,” in the words of the Act.

One symbol of the United States, the bald eagle, provides an example of how a change to the economy saved an icon of North America.

DDT, or dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, weakened eagle and other bird egg shells so much that the eggs would collapse under the mother. The chemical was introduced in the 1940s and already had decimated bird populations by the early 1960s.

NEWS: Bald Eagle Nestlings Contaminated by Chemicals

In 1972, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned the pesticide. The removal of DDT from the market allowed eagle eggs to regain their strength, and the raptors began a recovery.

Bald eagles soared off of the Endangered Species List in 2007. Although off the list, the birds are still protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

LIST: Animals Back From the Brink

An eagle-watching trip could be a thrilling way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act and the success of bald eagles.

From coast to coast, National Wildlife Refuges offer winter-long opportunities to observe the raptors, along with special events.

The USFWS presents a cross-country list of these eagle adventures in Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Tennessee, Missouri, Oklahoma, Utah, California, Oregon and Washington. Here are a few highlights:

Maryland: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Eagle Festival March 15, 2014, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The festival is a free way to see more than 200 eagles overwintering in the refuge, the largest population on the East Coast, north of Florida.

Illinois: Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge Eagle Watch Jan. 18-19, 25-26 at  8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Reservations are required for this guided van trip to see eagle nests.

Missouri: Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge Open all winter. A 1.5-mile trail offers views of hundreds of eagles.

Oregon: Winter Wings Festival in Klamath Falls Feb. 13-16. Sessions on bald eagles and other raptors are featured events at this avian extravaganza.

The Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of 99% of the more than 2,140 species it currently protects: here.

West Nile Virus Behind Utah Bald Eagle Deaths: here.

Urban warfare drills in Chicago, USA

This video from the USA is called Urban Warfare Drill Chicago 2012 Blackhawk helicopters NATO | G8.

The US Department of Defense conducted urban warfare training drills in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park this week, including the use of explosives to train soldiers in the raiding of homes and other structures: here.

Urban warfare exercise in Tinley Park frightens some residents: here.