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News article: Wooded Island's silence is deafening (no sightings)

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  • Randi Doeker - Chicago
    FYI - Randi Doeker, Chicago, Cook County ... Wooded Island s silence is deafening ... Birds take wing after brush clearing, storms By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah,
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 1, 2007
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      FYI - Randi Doeker, Chicago, Cook County

      --------------------
      Wooded Island's silence is deafening
      --------------------

      Birds take wing after brush clearing, storms

      By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Chicago Tribune staff reporter

      January 1, 2007

      For more than three decades, Doug Anderson has led bird tours through Wooded
      Island, peering through his binoculars for black-capped chickadees,
      cardinals and downy woodpeckers on this bird lovers' paradise just south of
      the Museum of Science and Industry.

      But New Year's Day will mark the last tour of the Hyde Park "Bird Man"
      through the island.

      Anderson, 72, said there is no point leading walks through the island when
      there are so few birds to see.

      Heavy brush clearing by the Chicago Park District and damage from a
      microburst storm in October have led birds to take flight, he said.

      In the last few months, Anderson has seen only Canada geese, crows, seagulls
      and the occasional robin on the island, officially named the Paul H. Douglas
      Nature Sanctuary. At this time of year, he would typically spot at least 12
      different species, he said.

      On a recent tour through the island, only crows could be seen flying
      overhead.

      "You see how quiet it is," he said as he stamped through land recently
      cleared of shrubs, trees and bushes. "It's heartbreaking. All these stubs
      remind me of tombstones in a vast graveyard."

      The low bird count also could be due to mild weather, said Doug Stotz, an
      ornithologist and conservation ecologist at the Field Museum. He said less
      snow farther north could leave fewer birds wintering in Chicago.

      Wooded Island, once a sand ridge peninsula running parallel to the
      lakeshore, was molded into a 16-acre refuge by landscape architect Frederick
      Law Olmsted. He planted thousands of plants there for visitors to the 1893
      World's Columbian Exposition.

      The Japanese Garden, also part of the island, was not touched in the recent
      efforts to clear the area.

      Anderson began to lead tours in 1974 upon the urging of then-Ald. Leon
      Despres (5th), who was worried about crime in the area. Anderson, a juvenile
      probation officer at the time, took groups through the island to reclaim it.

      Over the years he has led more than 4,000 bird tours and identified more
      than 255 species of birds. It is considered one of the best bird-watching
      sites in Chicago.

      But in 2003, storms uprooted trees on the island. Damaging winds returned
      again Oct. 2. Several hundred trees were uprooted in Jackson Park alone,
      including about 75 at Wooded Island.

      Oaks, some more than 200 years old, and a 297-year-old hackberry were
      toppled over.

      But that was a freak of nature, Anderson said. The clearing was not.

      He said that in the fall, the Park District had a private contractor,
      Aramark, clear parts of the island. About 2,000 trees and shrubs were cut
      down, including invasive ones like white mulberry, buckthorn and ailanthus
      trees. They grow berries or clusters of seeds that are eaten by birds,
      Anderson said.

      Other non-invasive plants like red maple trees, red osier dogwood and
      American linden trees also were removed, and they provided nesting and cover
      for the birds, he said.

      "They laid waste to everything that was in their line of sight, and the
      birds have not come back since," Anderson said.

      The Park District said it cleared parts of the island only after meeting
      with the Jackson Park Advisory Council several times over the year. Council
      Vice President Ross Petersen said bird-watchers were invited to the meetings
      but did not attend.

      "It's unfortunate because we have made an effort to have a consensus," he
      said.

      The invasive plants had spread to an extent that it created a thicket under
      which little could grow, and it's important to have different kinds of food
      available for birds, said Adam Schwerner, the Park District's director of
      the natural resources department.

      Some bird-watchers also had complained that the bushes were too thick to
      view birds, he said.

      The Park District plans to do some replanting next year, but officials said
      much of the cleared area is filled with herbaceous plants that will grow on
      their own starting in the spring.

      "It's hard to satisfy 100 percent of the people, 100 percent of the time,"
      Schwerner said. "I actually believe that what we're doing, in the end, will
      be a better situation for bird species to survive."

      The Chicago Audubon Society, of which Anderson was once president, said it
      was not sorry to see invasive plants go but was concerned that bird
      sightings have dropped.

      "The area is a tourist attraction," said Joe Lill, president of the group.
      "People come to Chicago to see birds and they go to the most popular areas,
      Montrose Point and Wooded Island."

      Anderson said he doesn't know how long it will take for the new shrubs and
      trees to be planted or whatever exists there to grow again.

      "Wooded Island is hopeless," he said. "By next spring, the migrating birds
      will return and will find a devastated habitat, and they will go elsewhere.
      The island will come back, but I'm not going to live to see it."
    • Paul Clyne
      The bleak picture of Wooded Island portrayed in the Tribune article does not, it seems to me, have much connection to recent bird numbers around Wooded Island.
      Message 2 of 2 , Jan 1, 2007
      • 0 Attachment
        The bleak picture of Wooded Island portrayed in the
        Tribune article does not, it seems to me, have much
        connection to recent bird numbers around Wooded
        Island. I conducted surveys in this area on 25 Dec
        and again today and found normal to good numbers for
        most species for this time of year (where I’ve birded
        1979-1983 and 1993-present). I tallied 20 species in
        the loop around Wooded Island and through Bobolink
        Meadow on 25 Dec, and today I added Hermit Thrush
        (quite unusual here past early Dec) to that list. The
        species and one-day high counts (i.e., either 25 Dec
        2006 or 1 Jan 2007) are below. (These counts do not
        include species or individuals that I found elsewhere
        in Jackson Park on these dates and are confined to the
        areas typically surveyed by the Wooded Island
        bird-walk group. Note that this route is entirely
        west of Lake Shore Drive and excludes Lake Michigan
        proper.)

        Canada Goose 367
        Mallard 2
        Greater Scaup 1 (unusual away from Lake Michigan)
        Hooded Merganser 1
        Great Blue Heron 1
        Red-tailed Hawk 1
        Ring-billed Gull 43
        Monk Parakeet 5
        Downy Woodpecker 3
        American Crow 7
        Black-capped Chickadee 2
        Carolina Wren 2
        Hermit Thrush 1
        American Robin 36
        European Starling 3
        Cedar Waxwing 15
        American Tree Sparrow 8
        Song Sparrow 1
        Northern Cardinal 16
        American Goldfinch 10
        House Sparrow 1

        Paul R. Clyne
        Hyde Park, Chicago

        > --------------------
        > Wooded Island's silence is deafening
        > --------------------
        >
        > Birds take wing after brush clearing, storms
        >
        > By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Chicago Tribune staff
        > reporter
        >
        > January 1, 2007
        >
        > For more than three decades, Doug Anderson has led
        > bird tours through Wooded
        > Island, peering through his binoculars for
        > black-capped chickadees,
        > cardinals and downy woodpeckers on this bird lovers'
        > paradise just south of
        > the Museum of Science and Industry.
        >
        > But New Year's Day will mark the last tour of the
        > Hyde Park "Bird Man"
        > through the island.
        >
        > Anderson, 72, said there is no point leading walks
        > through the island when
        > there are so few birds to see.
        >
        > Heavy brush clearing by the Chicago Park District
        > and damage from a
        > microburst storm in October have led birds to take
        > flight, he said.
        >
        > In the last few months, Anderson has seen only
        > Canada geese, crows, seagulls
        > and the occasional robin on the island, officially
        > named the Paul H. Douglas
        > Nature Sanctuary. At this time of year, he would
        > typically spot at least 12
        > different species, he said.
        >
        > On a recent tour through the island, only crows
        > could be seen flying
        > overhead.
        >
        > "You see how quiet it is," he said as he stamped
        > through land recently
        > cleared of shrubs, trees and bushes. "It's
        > heartbreaking. All these stubs
        > remind me of tombstones in a vast graveyard."
        >
        > The low bird count also could be due to mild
        > weather, said Doug Stotz, an
        > ornithologist and conservation ecologist at the
        > Field Museum. He said less
        > snow farther north could leave fewer birds wintering
        > in Chicago.
        >
        > Wooded Island, once a sand ridge peninsula running
        > parallel to the
        > lakeshore, was molded into a 16-acre refuge by
        > landscape architect Frederick
        > Law Olmsted. He planted thousands of plants there
        > for visitors to the 1893
        > World's Columbian Exposition.
        >
        > The Japanese Garden, also part of the island, was
        > not touched in the recent
        > efforts to clear the area.
        >
        > Anderson began to lead tours in 1974 upon the urging
        > of then-Ald. Leon
        > Despres (5th), who was worried about crime in the
        > area. Anderson, a juvenile
        > probation officer at the time, took groups through
        > the island to reclaim it.
        >
        > Over the years he has led more than 4,000 bird tours
        > and identified more
        > than 255 species of birds. It is considered one of
        > the best bird-watching
        > sites in Chicago.
        >
        > But in 2003, storms uprooted trees on the island.
        > Damaging winds returned
        > again Oct. 2. Several hundred trees were uprooted in
        > Jackson Park alone,
        > including about 75 at Wooded Island.
        >
        > Oaks, some more than 200 years old, and a
        > 297-year-old hackberry were
        > toppled over.
        >
        > But that was a freak of nature, Anderson said. The
        > clearing was not.
        >
        > He said that in the fall, the Park District had a
        > private contractor,
        > Aramark, clear parts of the island. About 2,000
        > trees and shrubs were cut
        > down, including invasive ones like white mulberry,
        > buckthorn and ailanthus
        > trees. They grow berries or clusters of seeds that
        > are eaten by birds,
        > Anderson said.
        >
        > Other non-invasive plants like red maple trees, red
        > osier dogwood and
        > American linden trees also were removed, and they
        > provided nesting and cover
        > for the birds, he said.
        >
        > "They laid waste to everything that was in their
        > line of sight, and the
        > birds have not come back since," Anderson said.
        >
        > The Park District said it cleared parts of the
        > island only after meeting
        > with the Jackson Park Advisory Council several times
        > over the year. Council
        > Vice President Ross Petersen said bird-watchers were
        > invited to the meetings
        > but did not attend.
        >
        > "It's unfortunate because we have made an effort to
        > have a consensus," he
        > said.
        >
        > The invasive plants had spread to an extent that it
        > created a thicket under
        > which little could grow, and it's important to have
        > different kinds of food
        > available for birds, said Adam Schwerner, the Park
        > District's director of
        > the natural resources department.
        >
        > Some bird-watchers also had complained that the
        > bushes were too thick to
        > view birds, he said.
        >
        > The Park District plans to do some replanting next
        > year, but officials said
        > much of the cleared area is filled with herbaceous
        > plants that will grow on
        > their own starting in the spring.
        >
        > "It's hard to satisfy 100 percent of the people, 100
        > percent of the time,"
        > Schwerner said. "I actually believe that what we're
        > doing, in the end, will
        > be a better situation for bird species to survive."
        >
        > The Chicago Audubon Society, of which Anderson was
        > once president, said it
        > was not sorry to see invasive plants go but was
        > concerned that bird
        > sightings have dropped.
        >
        > "The area is a tourist attraction," said Joe Lill,
        > president of the group.
        > "People come to Chicago to see birds and they go to
        > the most popular areas,
        > Montrose Point and Wooded Island."
        >
        > Anderson said he doesn't know how long it will take
        > for the new shrubs and
        > trees to be planted or whatever exists there to grow
        > again.
        >
        > "Wooded Island is hopeless," he said. "By next
        > spring, the migrating birds
        > will return and will find a devastated habitat, and
        > they will go elsewhere.
        > The island will come back, but I'm not going to live
        > to see it."
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >


        paulclyne2000@...

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