Have you been out to LaBagh Woods lately? If you have, you have seen that the LaBagh Big Year has made a huge difference. Planting is complete for this year, but fund-raising and scouring LaBagh for new species has not stopped.

How have we done? 
COS is pleased and proud to let you know that (a) COS has raised at least $9.577.50 so far, and (b) 378 shrubs have been planted. So how did we get from (a) to (b)? Here are just some of the steps involved in transforming green dollars into green shrubs:

Step 1 –Where and what to plant? With advice and input from many, we figured out where the plantings would go, and which plants would do best in that environment, and cleared our plans with the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

 

The planning group is taking a break to admire one of our "peanuts" planted in the spring.

The planning group is taking a break to admire one of our "peanuts" planted in the spring.

Step 2-Let’s go Shrub Shopping!  Forest Preserves of Cook County requires that the shrubs planted at LaBagh Woods be sourced from the North Branch of the Chicago River.  Both Possibility Place and Ken Schaefer, master naturalist, have shrubs that meet this criterion. This year, we purchased 212 shrubs from Possibility Place, and Ken gave us over 131 plants, gratis! COS also rescued over 28 native roses that were slated to be plowed under, which now have a new home at LaBagh.

 

Step 3-Auguring well for planting day! We discovered from our spring plantings that digging big holes with little shovels is back-breaking work.  To make planting day easier, a group of strong volunteers augur the holes for the larger plants before the actual planting day.

Shrubs being loaded at Possibility Place, destination LaBagh! Picking up shrubs in Monee saves COS $500 delivery charge.

Shrubs being loaded at Possibility Place, destination LaBagh! Picking up shrubs in Monee saves COS $500 delivery charge.

Dennis Marton, Fran Morel, Josh Coles, Luis Munoz and Jeff Skrentny: augur team! (photo by Jeff Skrentny)

Dennis Marton, Fran Morel, Josh Coles, Luis Munoz and Jeff Skrentny: augur team! (photo by Jeff Skrentny)

Step 4-  Planting Day (five this year!) The person power to plant the shrubs is a combined effort of Habitat 2030 LaBagh volunteers and COS. Here are a few photos that tell the story:

 

Volunteers at the November 15 planting day included 2 school groups and entailed a lot of organization.

Volunteers at the November 15 planting day included 2 school groups and entailed a lot of organization.

Volunteers at the November 15 planting day included 2 school groups and entailed a lot of organization.

Volunteers at the November 15 planting day included 2 school groups and entailed a lot of organization.

Shrubs being tucked into their new home (photo by Jeff Skrentny)

Shrubs being tucked into their new home (photo by Jeff Skrentny)

Last Step:  Fencing!   And this is why --> 

What else has been going on at LaBagh?

The volunteers from Habitat 2030 LaBagh have been gathering seeds for herbaceous plants throughout the year and sowing them in the Preserve. The native plants were already growing this fall, and were enjoyed by sparrows, kinglets and other birds. Volunteers have also been improving paths and discouraging use of duplicative ones. Most importantly, buckthorn removal has continued. Female buckthorn trees have been marked for felling this winter, leaving the males to provide continuing habitat until more native shrubs can be planted.

Monitors have been tracking birds at LaBagh since this spring. The data they have collected will be used to analyze the habitats that birds use and the effect of our restoration efforts on bird populations at LaBagh.

Jeff Skrentny has continued his indefatigable cheerleading of everyone’s efforts at LaBagh and continued to post his sightings at My Year Birding at LaBagh. Click on those words and be amazed at the diversity of flora and fauna to be found right here at LaBagh!

And of course, birding at LaBagh has never been so intensely pursued. With fall winding down, new species sightings for the year are still coming in: Tundra Swans, White-eyed Vireo, Nelson’s Sparrow (a first ever for LaBagh!), Merlin, Northern Harrier, Connecticut Warbler and Common Nighthawk are new additions for the year. We are at 165 species for the year and there is still more than a month of birding to go! We have obliterated our original goal of finding 140 species here.

What is coming up in 2016 and beyond?

COS and its partners are the recipients of two grants to restore the understory at LaBagh with native shrubs. To assure that COS has the supply of shrubs needed over the next two years, we decided we needed to collect seeds this year from North Branch plants.  The volunteer stewards of the North Branch Restoration Project know where plants are located and were integral to this effort.  In particular, Eileen Sutter, who oversees seed collecting for the North Branch, and Michael Swierz of Habitat 2030 took this project to heart, collected some difficult-to-find seeds, and provided much-needed guidance.  In an effort that stretched from late summer well into November, we felt like giant squirrels as we scoured the woods for the fruits and nuts of 25 different species.  The seeds are now with Possibility Place Nursery and they will come back to us as shrubs in 2016 and 2017.

We will need lots of different kinds of help in the next two years to continue what we started this year, from cutting buckthorn, gathering and sowing seeds, planting shrubs, monitoring birds, leading bird walks, community outreach and other activities. There is something that each of you can contribute to this effort to think globally and act locally!

A huge THANK YOU !! to all COS members, friends and family who have donated and pledged the funds which have made the LaBagh Big Year possible.

It is not too late to donate (or pledge!). It is so easy- just go to chicagobirder.org and follow the prompts.