Our trip started on Friday at 4:00pm (1st April), when we headed toward Prairie Ridge State Natural Area in Illinois. We briefly stopped in Terre Haute to have dinner and we arrived to our lodging facilities at about 9:00pm. After settling in our “camp” we did a night hike in search of amphibians (where we had a close encounter with many Honey Locust trees), we did some stargazing, and we gathered around a bonfire to talk about prairie conservation, and many of the organisms that depend on this fragile and threatened ecosystem .
On Saturday morning we woke up at 5:30 am and went to the Prairie Ridge State Natural Area to visit a displaying ground of Greater Prairie Chickens. Watching them dance is a unique and unforgettable experience! We were lucky to observe 8 males booming, raising their pinnae feathers, inflating their orange air sacs, snapping their tails, and stamping their feet to try to impress the visiting females. Dances looked really energy‐demanding and elaborate, but the only female that visited the lek while we were there did not seem impressed and left the lek without mating. We hope they have better luck next time!
At about 4:00pm he headed out again and visited the Newton Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area. Here we spent some time walking in the forest and we had the opportunity to see a few spring ephemerals (spring is late this year) such as Spring Beauties, Mayapples, Hepatica, Trout Lily, Sessile‐leaved Trilium, many interesting trees such as Shagbark Hickory, Shingle Oak, some amphibians such as Small‐mouth Salamanders, Slimy Salamanders, Spring Peepers and birds such as White Pelicans,Double‐crested Cormorants, Northern Flickers, among many others
We will always remember this natural history expedition as a time of friendship and a great opportunity to enjoy and learn about nature. Opportunities like this are priceless! We would like to thank the Vicki Penziner-Matson donors for making this trip possible! - ( Wendy Tori and John Iverson)
A more detailed account of the experience can be found here.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to go with students and colleagues, many of whom are trained naturalists, to see a stunning migration in my own state. My husband and I commented again and again on our way home how lucky we were to see the variety of flora and fauna, to learn from students and colleagues, to meet the range of students including international students. We are happy to see so many international students take this opportunity to learn more about the natural life of the US.” - (Kari & Family)
"This was the most educational and fun trip I have ever been on. I can't wait to go next year! Thank so much for putting this together." (Will)