West Bluffs Walk: 2

by Carl Strang

Yesterday I shared the tracking highlights of my recent walk through south Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve. Today, some winter botany. These are not unusual plants, but such a large area provides a lot of good examples to choose from for photos. The first species is one I haven’t found at Mayslake Forest Preserve, my main area for botanical study.

Someone familiar with this species will recognize it from this photo.

A closer view of the distinctive fruiting stalk reveals it to be lopseed.

Another woodland herbaceous plant, and one of our most common, is the wood avens, also known as white avens.

Again, if you are familiar with this one, this photo is enough.

Close up, the seeds in their loose ball project the hook-like extensions that latch onto fur or clothing for dispersal.

In this case I have a flower photo to show.

Wood avens is in the rose family.

One more common woodland plant, this time beginning with the seed array:

Again, little hooks serve to aid dispersal.

Here is the entire plant, a woodland knotweed.

I’ll close with a weedy plant from the Old World. It grows in the open, and belongs to one of two species. I do not know how to tell them apart without the flowers.

The sprawling, spindly plant form is rather nondescript in winter.

The seeds, many of which have been knocked off at this point in the season, have a vanilla flavor if chewed. I don’t recommend chewing on unfamiliar plants, however.

When blooming it looked either like this:

White sweet clover

Or this:

Yellow sweet clover

All in all, this was a satisfactory walk even without the spice of bobcat tracks.


  1. Pam Bunyea said,

    January 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Noticed your reference to bobcat in recent post. . . Haven’t read your articles since last winter, when I was excitedly trying to find info. regarding any bobcats in this area. I live in south Naperville @ 75th Street and Washington St., across from the DuPage River. At that time, fresh animal tracks in my backyard indicated a bobcat (print size, width of straddle and length stride did NOT compare to coyote, fox, or dog). This was after heavy snow and tracks were very distinct. The animal came back a few days later, left additional tracks. Then nothing else, so it must have moved on. So do you think bobcats may be in this area?
    I could never find out where to report this, do you have any advice?

    I feel very lucky to have seen some amazing things right on this busy corner in Naperville. In previous years have seen an otter (Nov. 2007) and my husband and I saw a golden eagle (July 2004) . And I am NOT KIDDING! Not a juvenile baldie, not a large hawk, but a huge golden eagle! Unforgettable for sure. I am an avid backyard birder and have logged a few really “cool” sightings. In 2009 saw 5 black vultures fly overhead in a group. And always watching, spring & fall, for the sandhills: friendly rivalry w/my sister in Lombard, as to who sees (or hears) them first! In 2010 my son and I got to see 3 whooping cranes with them, a pair and a single, all this from my own backyard. I am SO blessed. And watchful!

    Now I have found tiny tracks which I suspect as weasel (?).

    Mr. Strang, can you give me any advice on reporting these things? I have tried reporting the otter and eagle to both the DuPage Forest Preserve District and the IDNR but got the same answer, “Never been seen in DuPage before, you are mistaken”.

    Thanks for any help you can give.

    • natureinquiries said,

      January 20, 2012 at 6:53 am

      Hi, Pam,
      While bobcat cannot be ruled out, and riverways are potential travel corridors, keep in mind that deep snow will alter all the qualities you list. In such cases try to get clear photos both of series of footprints and of single tracks, with measurements or something included for scale, and send them to me at cstrang@dupageforest.com

      Something must have been confused in your communications regarding the golden eagle and the otter. Both golden eagles and bald eagles are seen migrating through DuPage every year. Perhaps your report was in the middle of the summer, when an immature bald eagle would be the more likely sighting. Otters have been well established in the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers in Illinois, and the possibility of a dispersing young animal in the DuPage River would not have been ruled out of hand, though this would be an unusual sighting. Mink are common, and male mink can get large enough to produce a double take. In my years at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center (where calls often preceded someone bringing an animal to the clinic) I learned that people almost always overestimate the size of an animal they are seeing. This is the kind of experience that makes professionals cautious when reviewing reports like the ones you are describing, and why photographic documentation is so important.

      As I said, mink are our common weasel. A few least weasels have been found, but they generally stick to the maze of vole tunnels in prairies. Long-tailed weasels are a low-probability option, but their tracks are nearly as large as those of mink. Those species, along with otters as I mentioned, are the extent of the local weasel possibilities.


      • Pam Bunyea said,

        January 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm

        Hi Mr. Strang, Thanks for your response.

        I DO have photos (taken last winter) of what I believe are my bobcat tracks next to a ruler I placed for measurement. Seemed as if the legs had to be very long. Also indicated as “feline” and not canine. The animal paced around outside our yard, then jumped my 6 ft. fence from a standing position. On the later visit, it again jumped our 6 ft. fence and leapt from the top of it across a 4ft. space onto the top of our garden shed! I will email the photos as soon as I locate which photo chip they reside on. . .

        I also have photos of the tracks from last week that I believe are from a weasel, again next to my trusty ruler for scale. I’m pretty sure too small to be mink, only approx. 1/2″, some are “bounding” and others just “snooping around” at a walk.

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