The Northwest Illinois chapter works in the Driftless Area of Illinois. The area contains hill prairie, oak woodland, sand prairie, oak savanna, sedge meadow, oak barren, and tallgrass (black soil) prairie. We work to protect, restore and manage these fire-dependent habitats.
NIPE projects are primarily located within Jo Daviess, Carroll, and Stephenson Counties in Illinois. We invite you to join us!
Plants and Seeds: In late August, Prairie Diva (Seed Coordinator) Barb Siekowski reported: “Seed collection has been productive, with ever-changing site conditions and species concentrations. Some wetland sites remain a challenge to access due to flood damage, though abundant moisture has meant lush growth for numerous species. Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) at Wapello and Rosinweed (Silphium integrifolium) at Hanley Savanna are flush with bloom following burns this spring. We will harvest both. We've collected around 80 species and are approximately half-way done with this year's list.”
NIPE still need volunteers for seed picking through mid-October. If you are interested, contact Laura Dufford at firstname.lastname@example.org for the schedule and to stay apprised of schedule changes.
Seed picking also means observing and hearing the native fauna. Barb continues: “It has been wonderful to see good numbers of Monarch butterflies in the prairies this year, and hear the songs of the dickcissel, common yellowthroat (see photo), and other resident birds as we work at Hanley Savanna. We have also heard and seen Sedge Wrens at Wapello. And we spotted the nest of a goldfinch tucked into the top of a Pale Indian Plantain (Arnoglossum atriplicifolium) at Casper Bluff. The birds have nested in the same plant at Hanley Savanna.”
Land Management: NIPE Land Manager Ed Strenski and his team also keep busy. NIPE has enough land management personnel this year to allow for west and east area crews. Work can proceed simultaneously at different locations, greatly improving efficiency. Weeding over the summer will give way to seeding during the fall.
The NIPE team was recently reminded why they put in their time and effort for prairie restoration. A thank you letter from a private landowner included the comment, “You and your team have given me and my family a huge lifetime gift, and I am so grateful.”
Lonetree Farm: The latest news from Jim and Rickie Rachuy at Lonetree concerns the receipt of Hill’s thistle (Cirsium hillii) seed from Tom and Jennifer Mitchell of the TPE Prairie Bluff Chapter. The seeds will go into the seed cart this winter to produce plants – hopefully - for transplant in to the Lonetree east garden. Many thanks to the Mitchells for providing seeds of this rare native thistle!
The Rachuys are currently collecting seed from seven plants in the rare species garden. Upcoming projects include plans to introduce 24 additional species to the Lonetree gardens.
In the meantime, the gardens are in full bloom. While the entire list of species is too long to post here in their entirety, some of the rarer plants for our area include tall green milkweed (Asclepias hirtella), cylindrical blazing star (Liatris cylindracea), and the endangered leafy prairie clover (Dalea foliosa) and prairie bush clover (Lespedeza leptostachya). As autumn approaches, wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia) will bloom.
Hanley Savanna Doings
ICECF Stewardship Grant: NIPE‘s 18-month Stewardship Grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation comes to a close on October 31, 2019. Our next and last date to request payment is November 1, 2019. At that time, we will ask for payment of $4,000 for 400 hours of volunteer stewardship at Hanley Savanna. A big “thank you” goes out to all of the NIPE volunteers, staff, and grant administrator Jim Rachuy who have worked so hard to maximize available funding.
ICECF Public Amenities and Events Grant: Work continues designing the interpretive signs and map of Hanley Savanna. We have been busy with the multi-step process of theme generation, text drafting, image selection, editing, proofreading, and sign design. The content of the interpretive signs is just about complete, and map design is underway.
Bats: Vicky Wegner reports on efforts in early June to identify bats at Hanley Savanna, using an acoustic detector that can be purchased for a cell phone. Hanley does have bats – big brown bats, based on their sonar – but not as many as anticipated. Because Hanley had not been previously surveyed for bats, it is hard to know whether the numbers were normal or whether white-nose syndrome is affecting this local bat population. Thanks go to Beverly Paulan, who brought the detector and has previously surveyed bats for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Vicky hopes to continue the bat survey at Hanley next summer.
Butterflies: Throughout the summer, Becky Janopoulos scouted for and identified butterflies at Hanley Savanna. Confirmed species include hackberry emperor, great spangled fritillary, painted lady, monarch, red admiral, viceroy, red-spotted purple, skippers (silver-spotted and common checkered), banded hairstreak, little wood satyr, swallowtails (black, giant, tiger), eastern tailed blue, common buckeye, and question mark (punctuation mark under the wing). Many thanks to Becky for sharing her photos from Hanley Savanna for this webpage update.