May/June 2017

We can all learn amuch about nature when we visit the forest preserves, but did you know that you can also learn through a bloggers experience when you log onto Jen Berlinghof, Lake County Environmental Educator for the Lake County Forest Preserves, writes a fascinating nature blog.

Jen’s blog is an active effort to keep readers informed of current natural events and to offer helpful suggestions for exploring local nature niches in Lake County, Illinois. Here’s one of Jen’s blogs that I enjoyed when I visited:

Hordes of Hummingbirds
Posted on August 22, 2016 by lakecountynature
Post by Jen Berlinghof

For me, most days on the job consist of time in my “office” outdoors—a woodland, prairie or wetland in the Lake County Forest Preserves—with my “clients”—students, teachers, and families interested in learning more about local nature. On those rare days spent plunking away at a computer indoors, the view out my window can be bustling with activity, as hordes of ruby-throated hummingbirds buzz around the feeders, bulking up for a long flight south.

Mid-August through early September is peak migration for these charismatic and acrobatic birds—the only species of hummingbirds that nests in eastern North America. The number of hummingbirds headed south this time of year is often doubled from their northward spring migration, providing even more viewing opportunities in Lake County. Why are there so many more headed south in the fall? Because, this group of travelers includes the immature hummingbirds that hatched over the summer, as well as surviving adults.

What you may not see during fall migration is the shimmering, jewel-toned throat that is emblematic of adult male ruby-throated hummingbirds. Males only stay in the area for a few weeks, just long enough for courtship and mating. Then each male is off on its own, beginning migration earlier than females and young. Immature males look a lot like mom at this stage, although some are beginning to sport a tiny 5 o’clock shadow of darker throat feathers.

Scientists believe the urge to migrate for these birds is triggered by the shortening length of sunlight. When they sense the strong drive to migrate, they also get an urge to binge eat, needing almost doubled bodyweight to make it to their wintering grounds in Mexico and Panama. Some of the mighty even cross the entire Gulf of Mexico in a 500-mile non-stop flight, which is far for a bird that only weighs as much as a dime or two.

Learn more about hummingbirds and nature right in our own backyards at

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