We All Should Vote Yes for the Forest Preserves of Cook County

For Cook County residents, here's an incredibly easy way to help fight climate change and support biodiversity. A slightly different version was published in the   Oak Park Wednesday Journal on October 18, 2022. At the beginning of the 20th century, a group of farsighted people had the novel idea to create the Cook County Forest Preserves system, the first of its kind in the country. It was a daunting task to plan, persuade people, and get laws through the legislature. Only then did the real work begin of purchasing and managing vast acreage, developing public programs, and conserving biodiversity while catering to humans. None of this was easy. Starting with an initial purchase of 500 acres in 1916, today the FPDCC comprises 70,000 acres of natural and recreational areas stretching from Lake-Cook Road south to Steger Road. Consequently, Cook County, home to over 5 million people, can also boast that it’s the most biodiverse county in the state.  In this time of global warming, en

Home Ave Hummer Project

About Ruby-throated Hummingbirds  
Anyone who has ever seen one of these cute 3-inch birds hover nearby has probably not forgotten the experience. The ruby-throated hummingbird is native to this part of the Midwest. They winter in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean and fly north in the spring, passing through our area in late April to early May. Males sometimes start back south as soon as July; females follow somewhat later and the juveniles later still, up to the first frost. Hummers tend to return to the same places to feed during their long migrations. They find suitable places to linger by sight, which is why bright red flowers as well as feeders help attract them. (Photograph by Robert Lubeck/Animals Animals—Earth Scenes)

How The Project Began
We, Muriel and Adrian, have been gardening as neighbors for over twenty years and had never seen hummingbirds in our back yards. In 2008 Muriel decided to see if she could attract them. She put out two feeders, and amazingly, a pair showed up during the fall migration period, staying around for several weeks before continuing south. We decided it was in part the feeders, but also because we have many hummingbird attracting flowers in our yards and don’t use insecticides. 
In 2009 we started this project and several neighbors joined, also putting up feeders and planting appropriate flowers. The hummers returned that fall. In 2010 we enlisted even more neighbors and to help make our block a real haven for these beautiful birds. Who knows how many hummingbirds might decide to stop by on their way north or south, or even stick around to build nests and raise young? 2015 update: we've been seeing hummers since early spring and all summer long.

How to Attract Hummingbirds: 
  • When planting shrubs, vines, perennials or annuals, choose at least a few hummingbird-attracting kinds, such as those on the list below. (Hummers especially like tubular red native flowers.) 
  • Put out a hummingbird feeder and keep it filled with sugar water (this requires a certain degree of commitment, since it must be cleaned and refilled weekly). 
  • Don't use insecticides in your yard. Besides pests, they can also be toxic to people, bees, butterflies, and birds. Flowers and feeders attract hummers because, as one source put it, “hummers need nectar to power the bug eating machines that they are.” Most of their diet is soft-bodied insects and spiders. Having hummers around helps improve the balance of nature.
For More Information 
The National Geographic site is informative, as is the Cornell University All About Birds site. To learn more about attracting hummers, go to www.hummingbirds.net  or the kid-friendly www.rubythroat.org. Track hummingbird migration at Hummingbird Journey North. The Hilton Pond Nature Center in the Piedmont region sponsors Operation Rubythroat. A fascinating PBS documentary, Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air, can be seen at PBS: Nature. Related post: Hummingbird Sightings

 Hummingbird-attracting Plants
Native Vines

Campsis radicans
Trumpet Vine
Clematis virginiana
Virgin’s Bower
Sun to shade
Lonicera sempivirens
Lonicera x brownii

Native Shrubs

Ceanothus americanus
New Jersey Tea
Sun to part shade
Cephalanthus occidentalis
Sun to part shade

Native Understory Tree

Aesculus Pavia
Red Buckeye
Part shade

Native Perennials

Agastache foeniculum
Blue giant Hyssop
Sun to part shade
Agastache rupestris
Licorice Mint
Sun to part shade
Aquilegia canadensis
Sun to medium shade
Asclepias incarnata
Marsh Milkweed
Asclepias syriaca
Common Milkweed
Asclepias tuberosa
Butterfly Weed
Geranium maculatum
Wild Geranium
Part sun to shade
Glandularia canadensis
Rose Vervain
Sun to part shade
Liatris aspera
Rough Blazing Star
Liatris mucronata
Narrow-leaf Gayfeather
Liatris pycnostachya
Prairie Blazing Star
Liatris scariosa
Scaly Blazing Star
Lilium michiganense
Michigan Lily
Sun to part shade
Lobelia cardinalis
Cardinal Flower
Sun to part shade
Lupinus perennis
Perennial Lupine
Monarda braburiana
Eastern Beebalm
Sun to part shade
Monarda didyma
Scarlet Beebalm
Sun to part shade
Monarda fistulosa
Wild Bergamot
Sun to part shade
Penstemon cobaea var. purpureus
Showy Beardtongue
Sun to part shade
Penstemon digitalis
Sun to part shade
Penstemon pallidus
Pale beardtongue
Sun to part shade
Penstemon tubaeflorus
Tubed Beardtongue
Sun to part shade
Phlox divaricata,
Woodland Phlox
Sun to shade
Phlox paniculata
Garden Phlox
Sun to part shade
Physostegia virginiana
Obedient Plant
Sun to part shade
Salvia azurea
Pitcher Sage
Silene regia
Royal Catchfly
Silene virginica
Fire Pink
Part shade
Silphium perfoliatum
Cup Plant
Spigelia marilandica
Indian Pink
Part shade

Native Annuals

Canna indica
Native Canna
Castilleja coccinea
Scarlet Indian Paintbrush
Castilleja indivisa
Texas Indian Paintbrush

Phaseolus coccineu

Scarlet Runner Bean
Monarda citriodora
Lemon Horsemint
Nicotiana mutabilis
Flowering Tobacco
Phlox drummondii
Annual Phlox
Salvia sp.
Annual Sages

Non-native Perennials


Liliam sp.

Non-native Annuals

Any tubular red-to-purple flowers such as petunias, impatiens, salvias, fuschia, four o’clocks, geraniums