Seasonal Guide - Fults Hill Prairie
Spring woodland wildflowers in bloom from March to early May include bloodroot, spring beauty, bellwort, false Solomon's seal, toothwort, may apple, Dutchmans breeches, trout lily, wild geranium, wild columbine, phlox, violets, bluebells and Jjack-in-the pulpit.
Sighted during spring migration are Tennessee, Kentucky, blue-winged, yellow-winged, yellow-rumped, black-and-white, black-throated green, prairie, worm-eating warblers, American redstart, rose-breasted grosbeak and wood thrush.
Prairie wildflowers blooming in early summer include false boneset, blue hearts, pale purple coneflower, flowering spurge, prickly pear cactus, hairy petunia, rose verbana, butterfly milkweed, spiderwort, tickseed coreopsis and mountain mint.
Prairie plants blooming mid to late summer are big bluestem, little bluestem, side-oats gramma, Indian grass, sky blue aster, silky aster, partridge pea, white prairie clover, purple prairie clover, rough blazing star, goldenrod, pale purple coneflower, Missouri orange coneflower, rattlesnake master and flowering spurge.
For a spectacular fall color display from mid to late October take a drive down Bluff Road, taking time to look overhead at turkey vultures, often seen in groups of five or six. With a large wingspan and gliding with their wings in a "v" shape, these scavengers are easily recognized.
Also seen overhead from September trough November are migrating hawks such as red-tailed, broad-winged, Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks and osprey and northern harriers.
In winter months, take time to locate tracks of deer, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, squirrels and possibly coyote and fox in the snow.
From late January to mid-February you sometimes can see bald eagles, which have migrated south during the winter, soaring above. Views of eagles are especially inspiring from the bluff top.
Seasonal Guide - Kidd Lake
Listen for male frogs looking for mates in early spring make a lot of noise on warm humid nights. Occurring at Kidd Lake Marsh are the western chorus frog (sounds like running a finger along a comb), northern spring peeper (high-pitched, repetitive peep), American toad (high-pitch, extended trill), southern leopard frog (cackle-like call), and bullfrog (deep, mournful call "glu-ub, glu-ub").
Identifiable plants in the wetland are cattails, lotus, smartweeds, cordgrass, river bulrush, false aster and arrowleaf.
Scope out the wetland for birds such as great blue herons, little blue herons, great egrets, sora and coots.
When the fall migration starts, Kidd Lake Marsh wil hold flocks of Canada geese, snow geese, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, mallards, wood ducks and gadwall.
Those dome-shaped mounds dotting the marsh are muskrat houses. Aquatic mammals smaller than a beaver and having a rat-like tail are mostly vegetarian, but also eat clams, frogs and fish on occasion. Muskrat houses are made of wetland plants, and each is home to one family.
Loess Hill Prairie
A hill prairie is an opening on a forested slope, usually a south- or west-facing bluff. Loess is a term for the type of dry, well-drained soil found along many portions of the bluffs of the Mississippi River. This loess soil layer resulted from a fine silt that was blown up from the floodplain and deposited on the bluffs over hundreds of years.
Certain plants are adapted to the harsh, dry conditions of the loess hill prairies, creating unique communities at these sites. Grasses such as side-oats gramma, little bluestem, big bluestem and Indian grass dominate. Wildfires once helped maintain these open areas, preventing trees from taking over. DNR now manages hill prairies using controlled burns to mimic that historically natural process.
Open, prairie-like areas on more shallow soils with extensive limestone outcropping, are called limestone glades. Vegetation on glades is sparser and shorter than on a prairie. Dominant glade grasses are little bluestem and side-oats gramma. Common forbs include American aloe, purple prairie clover, false boneset and Missouri orange coneflower. Some of the characteristic glade plants are more typical of the Missouri Ozarks and are limited in Illinois to this preserve. The "Lost Glades" were not actively managed by fire and other brush control techniques until the early 1990s and have become dominated by trees.
The forests of this preserve are mostly on dry sites, with black oak, post oak and black hickory the dominant species. Forests of the ravines have more moisture and contain white oak, red oak, chinquapin oak, sugar maple and hickories. In dry upland areas, such as those surrounding the "Lost Glades" and loess hill prairies,savanna communities once existed. A savanna is an open woodland with a thin, scattered distribution of trees, primarily oak species, and a mixture of grasses. You can spot these areas by looking for oaks with large, spreading limbs that indicate they did not competewith other trees as they grew.