Sunday, March 11, 2018

Early Spring Scenes from Crabtree Nature Center

Early Spring hiking tips and a hike at Crabtree Nature Center

Crabtree Nature Center in Barrington Hills, IL is alive with the sounds of spring! While we still have a little while before spring "officially" starts, a recent hike through the preserve revealed our native wildlife already making preparations for the season ahead. This time of year is one of my favorites to hike because there are generally fewer hikers and the barrens trees make it much easier to see birds.

Lake at Crabtree Nature Center in Barrington Hills, IL at the end of winter

We love to walk along the wetland areas of the preserve. They are all stunning and often the places where you can find a range of wildlife.

The spring sun definitely brought alive warm hues from the dead grasses and leaves.

We did find some patches of snow which actually surprised us. The remnants we discovered are a good reminder of the season we are ending. Soon, this spot will look totally different as we enter spring.

Children's nature play area at Crabtree Nature Center part of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County Illinois
Children's nature play area 
Crabtree Nature Center has a nice children's play area. I love that it is interwoven with nature. Each element engages children in nature learning while having a fun. Part of the section was closed off due to flooding but some elements were still open to play.

Rat snake at Crabtree Nature Center
The Rat Snake one of several animals living at the nature center.
Also, check out the nature center. There are plenty of learning experiences for children of all ages. There are live animal exhibits, hands-on nature learning, places to watch bird feeders and more. There also are large bird enclosures are short walk away.

Inside the nature center, you will also find art by local artists. Crabtree Nature Center is home to Art in Nature with various events throughout the year including an arts festival celebrating plein air painting. Be sure to watch the event calendar for more information.

Nuthatch enjoying a feeder at Crabtree Nature Center
Nuthatch enjoying some seed!
There are quite a few bird feeders around the nature center. We almost always see birds at at least one of the feeders. I recommend moving slowly and quietly near the feeders. If you have time, stand therequietly for a little while. You will see birds come in for a snack! Yesterday, they were teeming with red wing blackbirds but we also saw nuthatches, mourning doves and even a red bellied woodpecker! In addition, we saw plenty of chickadees, mallard ducks, a song sparrow and a junco while walking.

This is truly one of my favorite times of the year to hit the trails! Crabtree is wonderful in all seasons and I am excited to see the landscape change. Make a plan to hit the trails soon!

Tips for hiking this time of year:

  • Be prepared for mud. Wear hiking boots. Bring a change of shoes and socks along. Also, bring a plastic bag for putting your hiking boots in. 
  • Try a walking stick. My daughter finds this helpful with the mud.
  • Dress for the weather.
  • Bring water. Since temperatures are cooler, it is easy to forget how quickly we can become dehydrated. Also, always bring snacks.
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Bring your birding binoculars! Without leaves, it is easier to see the birds. Plus, you will enjoy seeing birds return during migration!
  • Be prepared for some trails to be closed. 

Early Spring Hike Crabtree Nature Center Illinois


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