Insects, Leaves, Plants, Wildlife — September Is Spectacular in Kane Forest Preserves

Insects, Leaves, Plants, Wildlife — September Is Spectacular in Kane Forest Preserves

spiderweb on sporobolus VMB_3931_zpsbjgb1zmd

The feature photo and all the outdoor nature photos in this article were taken by Valerie Blaine.

  • Blaine mugshotNature Nearby is written by Valerie Blaine, nature programs manager for the Forest Preserve District of Kane County. You can reach her at

Do you know what season it is? If your answer is “fall,” you could be right — or you could be partly right. It depends on your perspective.

Does fall start when the kids go back to school? Is Labor Day the beginning of fall? Is Sept. 1, the start of fall, as the meteorologists say? Or does fall begin on Sept. 22, the autumnal equinox of the astronomical calendar? (The date of the autumnal equinox varies, but is usually between Sept. 21 and 22. This year, it is Sept. 22.)

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Snowy Tree Cricket

The big box stores seem to have skipped right to Christmas. How in the heck are you supposed to know what season it really is?

It’s simple. There are really two seasons: one with leaves, and one without leaves. If you look outside today, you’ll see that we’re in the “with-leaf season.” That won’t change until late October. Then we’ll be in the “no-leaf season” until about April.

There are good things about both seasons, but I love the with-leaf season for all the activity that goes on. Especially in September. Green leaves are still making food, a bit more slowly than they did in June, but they’re still in production mode. Plants of all kinds are making fruit in abundance. The acorns covering the driveway are just a portion of the season’s cornucopia.

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Quercus alba

Wildlife is super active this time of year. The animals are relying on those leaves and seeds, big time, because the no-leaf season is right around the corner.

Insects are among the most active animals in September. Right off the bat, you could probably name several insects you’re seen today — butterflies, beetles, bees, ants. And there are spiders galore!

These many-legged creatures may not be your cup of tea — but know that they are performing lots of important jobs that we humans rely on. To wit, pollination, decomposition and pest control. (Yes, invertebrate animals that some people consider pests, are often predators of other animals that are also considered pests.) September invertebrates are food for other animals, like migrating songbirds and bats.


Spider art

Just as active as the daytime insects — and twice as noisy — are the night crew. This time of year, nocturnal insects make a huge racket when the sun goes down. Crickets and their kin, the katydids, are making noise as part of the all-important job of courtship each night. The variety in the cacophony of sound is incredible.

Take a minute to pause at the edge of a field or step into the woods at night, and listen carefully. If you parse the sounds, you can pick out a half-dozen different species of insects — the familiar crickets and lots of others.

All the noise is made by male insects. The guys are going all out for the girls with chirps, buzzes, clicks, rattles, and lots of rock ‘n roll – hoping to get the ladies’ undivided attention in a very crowded field. The males only have a small window of opportunity to find a date, and a mate. When the no-leaf season comes around, their dancing days are over.

Leaves are of paramount important for wildlife in the waning of the with-leaf season. Lots of animals are chowing down on carbs now, and green leaves are the primary producer of carbohydrates. Calorie loading is a particularly good thing before the no-leaf season. A host of creatures, such as spiders, are using leaves as shelter and structural support.

You can find orb weavers spinning webs from leaf to leaf in just about every field and forest this month. Some of the nocturnal noisemakers mentioned above use leaves as amplifiers. Tree crickets are awesome sound engineers, chewing holes in leaves and positioning themselves just so, making amplifiers out of the leaves.

Whether you call it fall or summer or the season with leaves, there’s a flurry of activity in nature this month. Take some time to walk in a nearby forest preserve, or join us on a guided hike. You’ll be amazed by all that the season has to offer.

September Programs in the Kane County Forest Preserves

For All Ages

Noises of the Night — What’s all that racket in the treetops? All ages are invited to come along on this evening walk and learn about the wildlife that makes noise at night. Beginning at dusk, we’ll listen to the last of the daytime choristers wind down as the nocturnal insects begin their symphony. Then, we’ll stalk some of the six-legged creatures and discover how they play their amazing music. The evening will conclude with a grand finale concert of our own, as we try to match the talents of the insect musicians.

  • 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9
  • Freeman Kame-Meagher FP, 40W346 Freeman Rd., Gilberts, 60136
  • FREE

VMB_2551_zps2euyqeclNational Public Lands Day – The Forest Preserve District of Kane County is calling for volunteers of all ages to participate in America’s largest, single-day, volunteer event dedicated to improving public lands. Join us anytime between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., as we’ll have plenty of activities to last throughout the event.

Enjoy live music, create a seedball, and stop by exhibitor booths to learn more about conservation efforts in the area. There will be tree planting, seed collection, and brush-clearing as part of the activities. This is a great event for families, scouts, groups or individuals.

  • 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24
  • Burnidge Forest Preserve, 14N035 Coombs Rd., Elgin
  • Groups of less than 10 do not need to register in advance. Groups of 10 or more, please contact the volunteer coordinator at 630-208-8662 or e-mail to RSVP.

For Kids

Generic story time image from library websiteStory Time at Creek Bend Nature Center — St. Charles Public Library staff bring books, finger plays, songs, and more for this fun program for children, infant through age 5. All are welcome to enjoy the interactive exhibits in the Nature Center following the program.

  • 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 16
  • Creek Bend Nature Center, 37W700 Dean St., St. Charles, IL
  • FREE. Registration required. Please call (630) 444-3190 or e-mail

Nature Tykes and Little Naturalists – In these programs for pre-schoolers, we will explore the natural world through a variety of activities. Sessions include a combination of stories, nature hikes, songs, games, or crafts.

  • 9:30 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, for 3-year-olds; 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. for 4- and 5-year-olds
  • Creek Bend Nature Center, 37W700 Dean St., St. Charles, IL
  • Fee: $5/child. Registration required. Please call (630) 444-3190 or e-mail

For Adults

John Muir_Nature Book Group — This month we’ll discuss the classic, The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, edited by Linnie Marsh Wolf. We meet in the library at Creek Bend Nature Center. Please contact us to let us know if you can come to this free discussion group; email or call 630-444-3190.

  • 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21
  • Creek Bend Nature Center, 37W700 Dean St., St. Charles, IL
  • FREE

Trek with a Naturalist — Get your 10,000 steps in during these brisk hikes! Each month, we’ll take an invigorating two-hour hike at a different forest preserve. This program is designed for those who like active hiking. The naturalist will interpret the ecology of the preserve as we walk. This program is for ages 18 and above.

  • 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8
  • LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve; Meet at the Great Western Trail on the south side of Dean St., west of Randall in St. Charles
  • FREE
CREDIT: Kane County Forest Preserve District

CREDIT: Kane County Forest Preserve District

Harvesting Seed for Habitat Restoration — In this class for adults, you’ll learn why and how ecologists harvest native plant seeds in habitat restoration. Forest Preserve District Restoration Ecologist Pat Chess will begin the class with an overview of seed identification, ripeness, and harvest techniques. He’ll discuss how seeds are processed for storage and later sowing. We’ll then go out into the field to put into practice the techniques we have learned.

  • 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10
  • Creek Bend Nature Center, 37W700 Dean St., St. Charles, IL
  • Fee: $10