A Deer’s Ears: A Natural Satellite Dish

Leisurely wondering the sidewalks and paths of Wolf Road Prairie, you might be lucky and encounter a deer. If the deer is at a safe distance from you, chances are that the deer will hold its ground, steadily staring right at you. Maybe it is sizing you up, perhaps it is just curious. Such an encounter allowed photographer Vito Martinez to capture the beautiful dignity of this Wolf Road Prairie deer. Notice the size of its ears and their taunt alert position. Those attractive looking ears are part of the deer’s defense mechanisms.

The next time you spot a deer at a distance, one that is not paying any attention to you, throw a small object to the left or right of the deer. Standing still, the deer will rotate its flexible ears independently of one another without moving its head. These large funnel shaped ears can effectively scan the air, tuning into sounds all around it. This enables them to pinpoint both the distance and direction of a sound with amazing accuracy. Hunters believe it is the out-of-place sound for which the deer are listening. They will ignore the familiar sound of a squirrel or a raccoon. Field studies have led naturalists to theorize that it is also an effective way for the deer to keep tract of one another. If that is true, then the noises they make while moving around is their own form of Twitter.

Reference: University of Georgia’s Forestry Service 2018.

Group Workdays on Hiatus

Due to COVID, the county has suspended group workdays. We’ll keep you posted on when the weekly workdays can safely resume.

In the meantime, please have a warm and safe holidays!

Winter, time to hunker down. The first inhabitants of the
Prairie House would have, by now, filled their root cellar
with dried beans, a sack of salt, potatoes, beets, carrots,
dried fruits, and jerky. They would depend on the deer
and other wild critters for meat.

The Prairie House has a covered opening in its floor
which once led to a root cellar.

Weekly Open House

Sundays, 1:00-3:00pm
@ the Historic Prairie House, 11225 Constitution Drive, Westchester
Masks required

Westchester’s Oldest House: an 1853 Midwest Farmhouse surrounded by native prairie. What Lies Within? A Hand-hewed timber framed schoolhouse and adjacent teacher’s quarters. Historic artifacts & original documents.

Matching Grant Opportunity

Save the Prairie Society is undergoing a match grant and the opportunity is almost up! We’re at about $1,500 of the maximum $2,500. Meaning that if we (you and us, together) can reach $2,500, the amount is matched for a whopping total of $5,000!!!

If you donate any amount to the match grant in a check or enveloped cash, written out to Save the Prairie Society and sent to 11225 Constitution Dr., Westchester, IL, one of our members will match the amount donated. That means that any amount you donate is automatically DOUBLED and you help us TWICE as much as you are able, by default. This match grant is going to help us in commissioning our restoration efforts to ecological contractors so that our time and energy can be more focused and less thin-spread. It’s a huge aid to us and means a ton to our efforts! Especially in this time when money is tight for most people.

We thank you dearly in advance. If you have any amount you’re willing to donate, write up that check and send it to us. I will update this post with any other means of donation applicable to the match grant. And as always, we graciously except all other forms of donation as well, at any time.

Thanks for all of your support. It allows us to continue restoring this important and functional ecosystem that benefits you even if you never step foot it in (for more info on that, check out the latest Wyatt E Coyote video on Facebook). We need these environments and these environments need you!

Please share this post, get the word out!

Insect Safari

Sunday, September 20, 2:00pm
@ the Historic Prairie House, 11225 Constitution Drive, Westchester
$5 for adults, children free

Join in the fun, help find a variety of insects at Wolf Road Prairie. Sturdy shoes and long pants advised.
Later, on the porch of the Prairie House, we will release the insects back onto the prairie.
For those who do not wish to go out onto the prairie, there will be an insect display in the Prairie House.

Yoga and Forest Bathing at Wolf Road Prairie

Saturday, August 22, 9:00 am to 11:30 am
@ the Historic Prairie House, 11225 Constitution Drive, Westchester
$30 for Individual or $25 for two (bring a friend)

Meet at the Prairie House. Instructor Marie Zubinski will be holding class from 9 am to 11:30 on Saturday, August 22. Masks are required inside the Prairie House.

For more information: call Marie @ (630) 947-5977 or visit https://www.facebook.com/virgoonfire/.

Westchester Food Pantry and Save The Prairie Society

As you know, the current Pandemic has made the pocketbooks of a lot of people a little lighter. Many are even finding it hard to put food on the table. Imagine then, the pressure that food pantries are facing trying to provide to meet an increasing demand.

By having the Prairie House porch designated as an official drop off site, we hope to make it easier for those living near the Prairie House to contribute food. [Google map]

On Friday, our volunteers deliver the porch donations to the Westchester Food Pantry. Please stop by to share your food items and take time to visit the deck overlooking the Prairie.

The following towns are served by WFP: Bellwood, Berkeley, Broadview, Hillside, Hines, La Grange Pk, Westchester, Western Springs.

No persishables

Prairie John

Wolf Road Prairie’s Steward for 22 years, John Banaszak, passed away May 21, 2020

From a young age, John showed an interest in wildlife. As a boy, he successfully nursed an injured crow back to health. Before long, it was perching on John’s shoulder, taking food from his hand and following him around the neighborhood. This lucky crow would not be the last animal he would nurse back to health. After receiving his first bike, much of his free time was spent exploring the still undeveloped wild places of Downers Grove. He often shared his fond memories of growing up in Downers. Perhaps, these boyhood experiences were what motivated John to initiate and spearhead the movement to save Lyman Woods, the center of his boyhood adventures.

He set his foot on his chosen path and never looked back. 

After finishing his formal education, John enrolled in a class at the Morton Arboretum. His teacher was none other than the great prairie advocate, Ray Schulenberg. Like many of Ray’s students, John caught the prairie bug. Through this patient and knowledgeable teacher, he not only learned about prairie plants, but also prairie ecology and management. He once confided that Ray Schulenberg and Rachel Carson were the two people he most admired.

Committed to saving the prairies that remained, John became Steward of Wolf Road Prairie. Through his studies and his own astute observations, he became the ideal gardener and protector of WRP. John soon led a faithful group of volunteers, who trusted both his knowledge of prairie plants and his judgment. Some of those workdays often felt like military missions, especially when noxious weeds were close to setting seed, time was of the essence. Whatever our target, John always took time to share his knowledge. Sometimes he did so by encouraging us to carefully examine a plant for its unique qualities. At other times, he challenged our memories, checking to see if we remembered previous lessons. The volunteer who first responded with the right answer inevitably evoked one of his broadly beautiful smiles. John’s knowledge of plants was deep, far beyond identification. By sharing what he had learned over the years, he was also motivating us to be passionate about preserving the prairie.

After a workday, we would enjoy refreshments on the deck or porch of the Prairie House. Inevitably, John turned our attention to the ever present birds. On countless evenings we were schooled in bird identification and bird behavior. From the porch, we would watch, with delight, the variety of birds showing up at the birdbath, noting how they responded to each other, which species was dominant and who had to wait for an opening to get a drink. We enjoyed Baltimore Orioles, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Robins, English Sparrows, Gold Finches, Hummingbirds and once in a great while, the elegant Cedar Waxwings. If we were on the deck, we listened for the call of the Willow Flycatcher or the more raucous calls of the Red-winged Blackbirds and occasionally, we enjoyed the flight of the Red-tailed hawk, or spotted a Blue Heron winging west to its evening roost. We never tired of the acrobatic flights of the Tree Swallows, and for one special year we even watched the daring flight of Barn swallows. Always, John was imparting his knowledge. Our understanding and appreciation of birds is, to a large extent, due to John’s contagious enthusiasm for all winged creatures.

John had a special way with children, tapping into their curiosity and their natural sense of wonder. During events on the Prairie House deck, he encouraged them to hold a Monarch Butterfly and then release it to the sky. Seeing their delight was gold for John. He would hold a preying mantis so they could see the wonder of it up close. All the time, he would be cracking jokes, evoking giggles and laughter. He always had time for their questions and would answer, by coating facts with humor. To John, the children were the most important guests at any event.

For many of us, John was our guide to the world of nature. The best way that we can honor his memory is by passing that knowledge on to a new generation.

R. Mc

Nature Therapy Yoga Class

Saturday, March 21, 9:30 am to 12 pm
@ the Historic Prairie House, 11225 Constitution Drive, Westchester

Marie Zubinski will be holding her class on the deck of the Prairie House or if the weather is inclement, inside the large room with a view of the Prairie.

To register: email mzubinski@gmail.com.