West Ridge Nature Park Advisory Council (PAC)

Chicago Park District

Plants, Animals and Birds Show Marvelous Growth

Our nature preserve has come a long way since its dedication two years ago in September. Visitors continue to comment on the attractiveness of the site and often compare it to the impenetrable jumble of weeds, dead trees and invasive species that preceded its reconstruction. 

This has been a fall with gorgeous Asters – sky blue, New England, large-leaved and others. In addition, a whole new consort of flowers has appeared from seeds this year and these flowers are expressing themselves throughout the site. The section along Western Avenue south of the gate has been especially varied and beautiful.

The four rye grasses are having an even better year. They are twice as robust as last year and fighting over space. That encourages the site’s birds and small mammals to gorge on the abundant food provided by these grasses.

Many of the more than 200 new shrubs are also bearing fruits, nuts and other seeds as food sources. The ground in many woodland places is a carpet of walnuts, acorns and buckeyes – much to the delight of squirrels, larger mammals (and the deer).

The small mammal populations seem to be thriving, as are their predators. Coyotes from the cemetery leave evidence of regular visits while observers often see Red-Tailed Hawks taking prey and–more recently, photographed one of the Great Blue Heron regular visitors capturing a small mammal in the savanna.

The bird populations and their diversity are also doing well. One hundred and seventeen different species have been identified in the nature preserve so far this year. Many of the birds have found the enhanced food sources in the developing shrubs and plants nature preserve attractive.

Visitors miss the buck who grew up in the preserve last summer and wonder where he is. But they are pleased with two young does who have taken his place. 

We are eager to see what the next years will bring. Many of the species planted as seeds have yet to announce their presence.