Summer 2018 Conservationist


by Jayne Bohner, Communications & Marketing

If you have lawn chairs and sunscreen in your car and a couple hundred dollars in concert tickets in your pocket, you’re likely headed to a summer music festival. But DuPage forest preserves have their own summer performers, and you don’t have to ante up to get a front-row seat.

Rolling Rapids

In 2011 the Forest Preserve District and its partners celebrated the completion of a massive endeavor: removing the dam across the DuPage River at Warrenville Grove. The dam trapped fish and mussels downstream and created an upstream stew of decomposing plant and animal matter that stripped the water of the dissolved oxygen fish and other animals needed to survive.

Today, the river flows in a more natural state over rocks and gravel that provide healthy habitat for aquatic animals. They also create some of the world’s most pleasing sounds: the trickles and roars of water as it slips around boulders and jets through open chutes created for passing canoes and kayaks.


West Branch DuPage River at Warrenville Grove

The Flight of the Dragonfly

There are dozens of spots near open water where you can listen for dragonflies, and the trail along the southeast shore of Pickerel Lake at Pratt’s Wayne Woods is one of them. With such scenic waters it can be difficult to force yourself to close your eyes, but by doing so you can tune your ears into some of the preserve’s fastest flyers.

Dragonflies beat their wings about 30 times a second, each stroke creating an audible wind vibration. From the 1.5-inch wingspan of an eastern amberwing to the 4-inch span of a green darner, you’ll hear a range of scales as these mosquito-eating marvels zip by.

Banjos and Bullfrogs

Some frogs only sing in spring, but green frogs, American bullfrogs and others are on stage all summerlong. Male green frogs looking for mates belt out explosive twangs that sound a lot like loose banjo strings. More familiar sounds are the baritone jug-o-rums of male bullfrogs, which you can hear over a half mile away. Often mistaken for crickets, breeding American toads project high repeating trills, each lasting up to 20 seconds. Gray tree frogs make similar-sounding warbles but in 3-second bursts.

One place to enjoy these amphibian headliners is near the south shelter at Herrick Lake. If no one’s performing, listen for calls on a walk around the 1-mile Lake Trail. The grassy area by the pond near the Elsen’s Hill parking lot at West DuPage Woods is another popular spot.

A Little Night Music

Great horned owls end their mating calls in late winter but perform their well-known hoo-HOO-hoo-hoos all summer long. Screech owls belt out shrieking whinnies that can be both startling and impressive, especially for birds the size of pint glasses. In many wooded areas these birds are backed up by a looped score of trilling crickets, katydids, toads and tree frogs.

A site at the Blackwell family campground grants you admission to these nightly concertos, but so does a short visit to a preserve as the sun readies to set. DuPage forest preserves, after all, are open daily one hour after sunrise to one hour after sunset.

Trail Tunes

When bicycle tires roll over the fine grains of a crushed limestone trail (the most common type of trail in DuPage forest preserves) the friction creates a calming drone with the power to drown out far-off traffic.

At Hidden Lake, Greene Valley, Meacham Grove and other locations, American goldfinches, red-winged blackbirds, black-capped chickadees and dog day cicadas mix their vocals with the pleasing pedal-driven rhythm.

Down on the Farm

For sounds of DuPage from a century ago, spend some time at Kline Creek Farm. In addition to clucks, neighs and moos, on Saturday afternoons you can hear wood crackle in the blacksmith’s forge as hammer clangs against anvil and hot iron tools hiss as they’re dipped in water to cool. The toll of the bell at the top of the hour announces the start of another farmhouse tour, and the trickles of Klein Creek on the walk back to your car remind you to visit again soon.