I was out on this beautiful day, taking what has become a regular walk, along the lakefront, through the Alfred C. Caldwell Lilly Pond, through Lincoln Park Zoo, and the new Nature Boardwalk just south of the zoo. The Nature Boardwalk is a wonderful new addition to Lincoln Park and the city, winding for a mile or so around the pond in the park, with wonderful educational materials along the way. You will see myriad birds using the pond, and if you look closely, you can see lots of fish. There is a small island in the middle of the pond, and it is well used by the wildlife. A few days ago on a big rock protruding next to the island there was a group of eight or ten turtles taking in the afternoon sun. Just south of the boardwalk is the older part of Lincoln Park, and it contains a favorite spot in the city. A long, wide sidewalk that goes uninterrupted for a quarter mile or more, covered by a canopy of trees lining either side of the walk, which is also lined with aging and mostly still usable benches. It’s like a natural corridor through the southern part of the park leading to the city. I was going to walk down it today, and when I approached I saw that the whole walk was fenced off, with the fence reaching beyond the walk to fence off the rows of trees forming the canopy. My first thought was good grief, what the heck is this all about. And then I got closer and saw there were small signs attached to the fence every 20 or 30 feet. They announced that the area was closed temporarily because there were many Black-Crowned Night-Herons nesting there, and the species is endangered in Illinois. The sign warned to leave the young alone if seen and not to handle or feed them.
Through the winter months I would walk along this area and be amazed by all the nests bunched together in these great old trees. Today as I gazed up through leaves searching for the heron, I was startled to see so many. They peppered the trees above, and near many of the dozens of nests–most well over 50 or 60 feet up or higher; these are old tall, huge trees–sat herons, watching over their young. Magnificent birds, white on the bottom, black on top, with a wing span of 45 inches. Ocassionally one took flight and displayed its wingspan and grace in the air.
I felt happy to forgo that part of my walk to help protect the nesting birds, glad that we extend our social contract to these wonderful creatures we share the earth with. I watched them for awhile, glad to have them in my park, our park. I turned and started the walk back towards home, thankful for the endangered species act, thankful that we still have rules and standards, regulations if you will, that acknowledge the commons belong to all of us, including the things with feathers.
I only had my phone with and not my camera with a better zoom. I’ll try to get back for better pics. The thing in the center is a heron next to a nest.