Great horned, barred and screech owls all live in DuPage forest preserve woodlands year-round, but in winter the leafless trees make them easier to spot. You might see great-horned owls in particular on the nest or on the move as they teach their young to hunt, so grab your binoculars!
It’s thought that owls nest in January and February because owlets stay close to their parents for a long time compared to other birds. They use this extended time with their parents “wisely,” learning the skills they’ll need to successfully hunt on their own before the cold of the next winter arrives. (A family of barn owls can consume over 3,000 rodents in one nesting season!)
Natural Ice Sculptures
DuPage forest preserve lakes and rivers are popular destinations in warmer weather for their blue flowing waters, but when temps go below freezing they create some solid natural works of art.
As ice forms and shifts on lakes and ponds it can create myriad geometric shapes, which are easy to see when it’s been cold for a while with little snow. (Play it safe and enjoy these patterns from the shoreline, though.)
Rivers and streams create their own designs. When water drips off branches hanging over the shore, icicles begin to form. When flowing, splashing water laps at those icicles, undulating spires of ice take shape. If water levels drop, this action can create tiers of frozen waves. The next time you walk along Salt Creek or either branch of the DuPage River, look for these beautiful natural creations.
The forest preserves are closed at night, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look for this winter constellation in your own backyard. As recognizable as the Big Dipper is in the northern summer sky so is Orion in the south in winter.
The name Orion comes from a mythical hunter, who was shot with an arrow under false pretenses by Diana, the goddess of the hunt. So Orion would never be forgotten, Diana’s father, the Greek god Zeus, placed him up among the stars.
Orion is easy to identify by his belt, which is made up of a band of three stars in the southern sky. (In our night sky, the entire constellation is on a bit of an angle.) North of the belt are two bright stars that make up his shoulders. The eastern star, and the brighter of the two, is called Betelgeuse; the western, Bellatrix. (Now you movie fans know where writers get names for some of their characters!)