Listen to the commentary
Real Audio | MP3 download
It’s summer at last and for many people that includes the promise of traveling beyond east central Illinois to enjoy the outdoors. (Rocky Mountains here we come!) But let’s face it, vacations are not a full-time lifestyle option for most of us, and we’ll spend the majority of days this season doing what we usually do: going to work in the morning and heading home in the evening. So here’s a plug for enjoying the wildlife we can experience every day.
I typically commute from my home just west of downtown Champaign to the U of I campus by bike, via a route that takes me past the Second Street Basin. In combination with Scott Park, the basin provides a little oasis for people, and habitat for a surprising diversity of animals.
[Photos by author: softshell, painted turtle and red-eared sliders; great blue heron; green heron; belted kingfisher.]
A less conspicuous but equally beautiful green heron also stalks the shores of the Second Street Basin on a regular basis. It’s a crow-sized bird with orange-yellow legs, a dark green back and red-brown neck and shoulders.
As if the herons weren’t enough, the fish of the basin are also food for a belted kingfisher, which perches on the railing of the overlook and then plunges into the water to capture prey.
I must admit that while my descriptions of wildlife at the Second Street Basin are accurate they represent a tightly focused view of the scene.
I was reminded of this recently when Lisa Bralts of Illinois Public Media joined me there for a brief tour one morning. Suddenly I was self-conscious about things I normally look right past, especially all of the goose poop on the sidewalks and the sad state of the landscaping (no complaint there; I know it’s a work in progress).
Worse still, Bralts had come to gather material for a segment on urban wildlife for her multiplatform program, “Backyard Industry,” and I felt like it was important that we see something cool. But it was too early for the turtles to be out yet. And the fish-eating birds were all elsewhere.
We got as far as the bridge over the Boneyard Creek in Scott Park before an unlikely appearance by a creature I hadn’t anticipated seeing saved the day. Rather than providing my own account of that, though, let me direct you to hers. It will run on WILL AM-580 tomorrow morning at 7:35. Or you can find it on the Illinois Public Media website at http://will.illinois.edu/backyardindustry/program/urbana-bestiary.