Chicago outdoors: The wonder of nature’s resilency and fly agaric


Notes come from around Chicago outdoor and beyond.



“While wandering around Morton Arboretum recently, a friend and I happened across this. Pictured is a variety of fly agaric (Amanita muscaria), a very beautiful but poisonous mushroom. Legend has it that Vikings would ingest them before battle and then go berserk fighting their enemies. Pretty cool, huh?” Paul Bleers

A: Beyond cool. Andy Miller, principal mycologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey, emailed that it was Amanita muscaria var. guessowii. He added, “It is one of the most photogenic and easily recognized mushrooms in the USA. It differs from the true fly agaric in having a yellow cap vs. a red cap.

The page by the U.S. Forest Service includes this tidbit: “In the `old world,’ the psychoactive fly agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria) has been closely associated with northern European and Asiatic shamans and their rituals. Researchers have documented its use or presumed use by numerous cultures throughout Europe and Asia. In Siberia, its use predates the crossing of the Bering Straits into North America.”


John and Sandy Anspach emailed the photo below and this, “A few days ago we saw this amazing little display of nature’s beauty and ability to thrive on a sign post.” It was on the Des Plaines River Trail at Deerfield Road.

WOTW, the celebration of wild stories and photos around Chicago outdoors, runs most weeks in the special two-page outdoors section in the Sun-Times Sports Saturday. To make submissions, email ([email protected]) or contact me on Facebook (Dale Bowman), Twitter (@BowmanOutside), Instagram (@BowmanOutside) or Blue Sky (@BowmanOutside).

A prime example of nature’s abilty to endure on a signpost along the Des Plaines River Trail. Credit: John and Sandy Anspach

A prime example of nature’s abilty to endure on a signpost along the Des Plaines River Trail.



Tuesday, Oct. 17: Cory Yarmuth of Midwest Outdoors, Arlington Anglers, Poplar Creek Banquets, Hoffman Estates, 6:30 p.m.,

Wednesday, Oct. 18: Ken “Husker” O’Malley on fall fishing, South Side Muskie Hawks, The Sock Bar and Grill, Hickory Hills, Chicago, 7 p.m.,

Thursday, Oct. 19: Ralph Steiger on Lake Michigan smallmouth bass, salmon and trout, Fish Tales Fishing Club, Worth Township offices, Alsip, 7 p.m.,


Monday, Oct. 16: Boat America, Northfield, Dan O’Connell, [email protected]

Next Saturday, Oct. 21: Boat America, Chicago, Dan O’Connell, [email protected]


Oct. 21-22: Mokena, [email protected]


Sunday, Oct. 15: Frog season (bullfrogs only) ends

Tuesday, Oct. 17: Remaining firearm/muzzleloader deer permits sold over-the-counter


Oct 26: Maritime folklore and fundraising, Chicago Maritime Museum, Chicago photographer, Barry Butler, and Tall Ships captain, Tom Kastlle host,


Nov. 1 (virtual meeting Nov. 9): Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Lake Michigan meeting, including tracking fish with acoustic telemetry, emerging research on PFAs in Lake Michigan fishes and Indiana DNR fisheries report, Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk classroom, Portage, Ind., 6-8:30 p.m. register at


Annual Delaware watershed photography contest focuses on nature, wildlife, environmental stewardship | Entertainment



Nature photographer hopes to inspire others to see ‘the real Florida’


HASTINGS, Fla. – SnapJAX Stories is back and this week we were blown away by one of our snapper’s pictures. Turns out he’s a nature photographer and he’s been capturing images for almost 50 years.

Joe Myers, better known as “Long Hair Guy” on SnapJAX, truly lives up to his nickname. He has a mane of beautiful blonde hair.

“So it’s natural, all-natural. No plans on cutting it. People ask me about it. I tell them I need what little I got. They go silent every time,” Myers said.

Myers’ pictures might also leave you speechless. The best sunsets, extraordinary cloud formations and dramatic lightning all caught on camera — mostly in Hastings. (Photo gallery above of some of Myers’ shares on SnapJAX)

Myers moved from Ohio some years ago and fell in love with what he calls “the real Florida.” He’s a self-described nature photographer and storm spotter.

“(I like) to show people the cool stuff that’s out here so they can enjoy it and say, ‘Hey, this is a Florida we don’t see.’ You go to Florida, you see Disney, you see all the flying and bling, but you come out here: This to me is the real Florida,” Myers said.

One of his talents is capturing time-lapse video, and he’s not afraid to put himself in the middle of a storm to get amazing footage.

“I actually had a good scare back in April where I had a supercell just explode right on top of me,” Myers said. “Normally when I’m out in a storm, it’s like, ‘Bring it on. Bring it on.’ But this one is like, ‘Am I gonna make it through?’”

But it’s the calm after the storm, the sun setting after a hectic day, birds in flight and spectacular butterflies taking a rest on flowers that have shaped Myers’ life and given him a point of view that only a detailed person with true patience can appreciate.

I asked him what his life motto or mission statement would be.

“I would say, ‘Trust the Creator’ because this is all here for our enjoyment. It’s put here for us not to abuse or destroy it but to enjoy it. Have fun with it because that’s what it’s put here for,” Myers said.

One thing we didn’t see when I met Myers was “the big one.” Myers said there’s a 10-foot gator that lives in a nearby lake and travels over to a smaller body of water every night right around dinner time.

On that note, we left, but not without Myers leaving a lasting impression about his love of nature.

Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.


Abbey Nature Preserve temporarily closing as land development begins


Mgn 1280x720 30428p00 Wqcgb
FILE – Trees (Photo: Freepik / MGN)

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Abbey Nature Preserve in Scotts Hill will temporarily close beginning October 16th as crews begin land development on nearby property.

Officials say signage will be placed around the entrances of Abbey Nature Preserve as a safety precaution. A fence was recently installed on the boundary line between Abbey Nature Preserve and the land being developed to ensure the public’s safety.

The land was previously owned by the Foy Family, who settled in Pender County more than 250 years ago. The property was acquired by Mungo Homes, who asked Pender County Parks and Recreation to lease the 62 acres of the Preserve, which is currently held under two conservation easements through the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust.

As part of the site development for Indigo at Abbey Preserve, Mungo Homes will be deeding the 62 acres of conservation land plus an additional 7.5 acres for a future county park. This agreement allows the Preserve to stay open for public enjoyment and make it a permanent feature of the community.

“We are in close communication with the developers of the adjacent property, and Abbey Nature Preserve will be reopened once it is safe to enter,” said Pender County Parks and Recreation Director Zach White. “The Preserve is a special place in the community, and our goal is to keep people safe.”

The Preserve hosts a unique landscape of densely wooded trails, cypress trees, gum trees, a dam, and a millpond.


PHOTOS: Roots in the Garden at Longview Arboretum and Nature Center | Galleries


The Longview Arboretum and Nature Center’s Roots in the Gardens fall concert series continued Thursday with performer The Purple Hulls.

The series continues Oct. 19 with Covie the Band and Dagnabbit on Oct. 26.

Gates open at 5 p.m. with music beginning at 6 p.m. Concert attendees are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs, blankets, food and drinks.

The weekly concert series is a fundraiser for the arboretum. 

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 7 to 12 and free for children 6 and younger and are available online or at the gate on the day of the concert.

In the event of inclement weather, the concerts will be moved inside the warehouse at the arboretum at 706 W. Cotton St.

For tickets and information, go to .


The 2023 Wildlife Photographer of the Year winners


The annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards, hosted by the Natural History Museum of London, is a hotly contested event. And 2023 was no different, with the judges having 49,957 images to narrow down to a handful of adult and junior winners.

One of the most loved nature photography competitions on the calendar, this year an alien-like creature of the sea, a fantasy fungi scene and the brutality of orca teamwork were among the highlights that took out prestigious wins across the diverse categories. It also saw history made, with overall winner, France’s Laurent Ballesta, picking up his second Grand Title, the first double in the competition’s 59 years.

‘The ancient mariner’, Laurent Ballesta (France) – Grand Title winner

'The ancient mariner,' Laurent Ballesta (France) – Grand Title winner. Nikon D5 + 13mm f2.8 lens; 1/25 at f22; ISO 800; Seacam housing; 2x Seacam strobes
‘The ancient mariner,’ Laurent Ballesta (France) – Grand Title winner. Nikon D5 + 13mm f2.8 lens; 1/25 at f22; ISO 800; Seacam housing; 2x Seacam strobes

Laurent Ballesta/2023 Wildlife Photographer of the Year

This year’s top prize went to Laurent Ballesta of France, whose image of a tri-spine horseshoe crab (Tachypleus tridentatus) with a trio of trevally trailing behind captured a rare, candid glimpse into in the mysterious life of one of nature’s most remarkable animals. Ballesta also made history as the first photographer in the competition’s history to twin the Grand Title twice, claiming it in 2021 with a shot of camouflage groupers shooting out of a cloud of eggs.

The horseshoe crab has been on the planet for more than 300 million years, but its numbers are drastically declining thanks to environmental changes, overfishing and their huge value to medicine. The unique blood of the crab contains the protein limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL), which is used by pharmaceutical companies to test products for bacterial substances. Since scientists discovered this unique clotting ability in the blue blood of the horseshoe crab in the 1960s, they’ve been subject to mass bleeding. In 2021, five companies along the East Coast of the US drained the blood from more than 700,000 horseshoe crabs. While the process, which involves piercing the animal through the heart and draining up to half their blood over the course of around eight minutes, isn’t necessarily fatal, many are then sold off to be killed for food or bait.

As such, these incredible ancient crabs – which are more closely related to spiders and scorpions than their crustacean namesakes – are rarely captured in natural environments engaging in natural behaviors. In this case, in the protected waters around Pangatalan Island, Palawan in the Philippines.

‘Last breath of autumn’, Agorastos Papatsanis (Greece) – Plants and Fungi winner

'Last breath of autumn', Agorastos Papatsanis (Greece) – Plants and Fungi winner. Nikon D810 + 105mm f2.8 lens; 1/40 at f36; ISO 500; Godox flash + trigger; Leofoto mini tripod
‘Last breath of autumn’, Agorastos Papatsanis (Greece) – Plants and Fungi winner. Nikon D810 + 105mm f2.8 lens; 1/40 at f36; ISO 500; Godox flash + trigger; Leofoto mini tripod

Agorastos Papatsanis/2023 Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Fungi has been a big winner in nature photography contests in recent times, and it again takes the top prize in the Plants and Fungi category. Agorastos Papatsanis of Greece snapped this fantasy-like image of a forest Parasol mushroom in the rain releasing its spores.

While mushrooms can seem sedentary and not exactly lifelike, their networks are a hive of activity, above and below ground. Here, Papatsanis captured a mushroom cap releasing millions of spores, a vital part of the fungi’s life cycle. Much like plants and seeds, fungi like this rely on these spores to be carried away – in this case, on the breeze – to spread and begin new growth. This process, however, is incredibly rare to catch sight of.

It’s no surprise that one judge described his evocative, wondrous photo, taken at Mount Olympus, as a “fairytale scene.”

‘Whales making waves’, Bertie Gregory UK – Behaviour: Mammals winner

'Whales making waves', Bertie Gregory (UK) – Behaviour: Mammals winner. DJI Mavic 2 Pro + Hasselblad L1D-20c + 28mm f2.8 lens; 1/120 at f4; ISO 100
‘Whales making waves’, Bertie Gregory (UK) – Behaviour: Mammals winner. DJI Mavic 2 Pro + Hasselblad L1D-20c + 28mm f2.8 lens; 1/120 at f4; ISO 100

Bertie Gregory/2023 Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Less fairytail and more nightmare – for the Weddell seal, at least – this dramatic scene captured by the UK’s Bertie Gregory shows how cleverly orcas work together to create water disturbance in an effort to tip a tasty snack off a chunk of ice. Orcas are known for their brutal teamwork, often employing this wave-making tactic to wash hapless penguins into the water, where they stand little chance against the accomplished hunters.

Gregory spent hours in freezing Antarctic waters on a two-month expedition to get that one perfect shot, before snapping this incredible image via drone. It not only offers a rare look at this unique animal behavior, but shows how technology in capturing wildlife images has evolved. We can only hope the seal had the moves once in the water to evade its hungry predators.

“We spent every waking minute on the roof of the boat, scanning,” he said of the work it took to capture this moment.

‘The tadpole banquet’, Juan Jesús González Ahumada (Spain) – Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles winner

'The tadpole banquet', Juan Jesús Gonzalez Ahumada (Spain) – Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles winner. Canon EOS R6 + 100mm f2.8 lens; 1/80 at f5.6; ISO 320; ring flash
‘The tadpole banquet’, Juan Jesús Gonzalez Ahumada (Spain) – Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles winner. Canon EOS R6 + 100mm f2.8 lens; 1/80 at f5.6; ISO 320; ring flash

Juan Jesús Gonzalez Ahumada/2023 Wildlife Photographer of the Year

In what at first looks like a work of abstract art, this startling image captured by Juan Jesús González Ahumada shows toad tadpoles in a feeding frenzy on the carcass of a fledgling sparrow in Ojén, southern Spain. The bird, which drowned after launching itself prematurely from a nearby nest, is a special treat for the growing tadpoles. While they normally subsist on a steady diet of algae, vegetation and tiny invertebrates, they become more carnivorous as they grow, hoarding the resources before moving onto their life stage as toads.

Check out some other highlights from the competition in our gallery.

Source: Natural History Museum


Nature apps can be helpful, but don’t expect your smartphone to always get it right


To identify plants in the wild, I’ve been using Seek by iNaturalist for several years. And, because I know plants fairly well, I can tell when this app doesn’t get it right.

For example, we planted a bur oak in our front yard, and Seek identified it as a different type of oak. I knew better. But Seek almost had me fooled when it identified a fern in my front yard growing beneath some Norway spruces as the New York fern, an Illinois endangered species.

After some initial excitement, I posted a photo of that fern to a botany group and was politely scolded that this was nothing more than a common ostrich fern. I have plenty of ostrich ferns in my backyard, but these in the front were much smaller.

Another botanist reminded me that the environment in which a plant grows can make a difference in its size and appearance. To give Seek a break, I do realize that identifying ferns in the wild — even with a magnifying glass — can sometimes be difficult.

Also, iNaturalist is a wonderful way to interact with other nature lovers and learn more about plants, insects and other critters.

But I found a better plant ID app called Picture This. It immediately recognized that the front yard plant was an ostrich fern. Picture This also identified a lady fern growing in the yard near a little homemade pond.

I also learned that what I thought was an American plum just planted this year is really a pin cherry.

The moral of this app story is that when in nature, do not expect your smartphone to get it right all the time. These apps should only be used as part of the learning process.

By talking with botanists and doing online research with sources I respect, I’ve learned the ostrich fern can be mistaken for a New York fern. But I’m not convinced that so-called plum is a cherry, even if Picture This says so, though it’s possible the nursery selling this plant misidentified it. I need to do more research.

There are also apps, including Merlin, to identify birds by both song and plumage. But beware, especially if you’re a beginning birder.

An Aug. 23 article in the National Audubon Society magazine said, “Merlin is magical, but it still makes mistakes.” I agree. Advanced birders might immediately recognize the mistakes, but unfortunately beginning birders don’t, and some have inaccurately been reporting birds based on what their app says.

One Merlin user and birder from southern Illinois said, “We know Merlin isn’t perfect, and the software tells you to confirm with a visual sighting, but the last couple days Merlin says there are pheasant cuckoos, rufous-breasted spinetails and pavonine cuckoos in the woods. I had to look them up. The first two live no further north than approximately Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, and the last one is almost exclusively in Brazil. I’m going to be pretty surprised if I get a visual sighting of any of them.”

Other Merlin users have had great experiences. For example, one Merlin user and birder said, “I picked up the sound of American pipit on my Merlin app last week, and finally had a chance to photograph a small flock in the monastery cemetery this morning. It’s a new species for our campus list.”

A birder from Chicago’s southern suburbs was told by his Merlin app that a yellow-rumped warbler was singing in his yard. “I’d not seen or heard them previously,” he said. But after viewing the app, he saw these “little birds bouncing around the tree branches and even eating off poison ivy berries in the back part of my yard where the old pond used to be.”

Lake County News-Sun


News updates from Lake County delivered every Monday and Wednesday

They were definitely yellow-rumped warblers, and it’s cool he discovered them in his yard.

The technology gurus are working to improve these apps, and there are various settings to improve accuracy.

But there is a lesson to be learned from these nature app anecdotes. Technology can enhance your knowledge of nature, but it should be used in conjunction with the tried-and-true method of learning from others, or while you’re in the field. 

I love using Picture This, but I’m not just going to run around collecting a list of plant names based on what the app is telling me.

Nature apps are tools, and you’ve got to know the right way to use them. Walking in a preserve outdoors should include more time looking with your eyes, and hearing with your ears, and less time turning on a smartphone.

I hope our natural areas don’t fill up with humans holding up their phones to see what may be out there, instead of exploring on their own and using their own five senses. Yes, certain plants emit an identifiable fragrance. I wonder if there’s an app for that.

Sheryl DeVore has worked as a full-time and freelance reporter, editor and photographer for the Chicago Tribune and its subsidiaries. She’s the author of several books on nature and the environment. Send story ideas and thoughts to [email protected].


Hubble Telescope discovers thousands of hot stars camouflaging a spiral galaxy (photo)


Bright pink splotches of young star clusters camouflage a barred spiral galaxy in a new photo from the Hubble Space Telescope. 

The galaxy, called NGC 5068, lies about 20 million light-years from Earth in the southern region of the constellation Virgo. NGC 5068 is believed to be approximately 45,000 light-years in diameter and have a prominent central structure shaped like a bar (captured in the top center of the new Hubble image) that is densely packed with mature stars, according to a statement from NASA. 


“Luminescent” photo of horseshoe crab wins Wildlife Photographer of the Year prize


A photo of a golden horseshoe crab —one of the world’s most ancient and highly endangered animals— earned a marine photographer the grand title in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest. The Natural History Museum in London, which runs the competition, made the announcement Tuesday.

The picture, taken by Laurent Ballesta, shows a tri-spine horseshoe crab on a seabed near Pangatalan Island in the Philippines, as it is followed by three golden trevallies. Ballesta documented the horseshoe crabs as they moved through water, fed, mated and provided a home to other animals, according to the museum.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest is produced by the Natural History Museum. Ballesta’s photo was chosen from nearly 50,000 entires across 95 countries. Kathy Moran, who was the chair of the jury, called the image “luminescent.”

“To see a horseshoe crab so vibrantly alive in its natural habitat, in such a hauntingly beautiful way, was astonishing,” Moran said.

“We are looking at an ancient species, highly endangered, and also critical to human health,” Moran added. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the tri-spine horseshoe crab as “endangered.”

French photographer Laurent Ballesta has won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award for the second time after capturing this image of a horseshoe crab near an island in the Philippines.  / Credit: Laurent Ballesta/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

It’s the second time Ballesta has won the grand prize, after he earned it in 2021.

Horseshoe crabs are typically found in waters off southeast Asia and despite their name, they’re more closely related to spiders and scorpions than crabs. According to the Natural History Museum, the horseshoe crab has survived relatively unchanged for around 100 million years —meaning they were around when dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex were roaming the planet.

However, their existence is under threat. Its blue blood is critical for the development of vaccines, and it’s used to test for potentially dangerous bacterial contamination. In addition, the arthropods are used as bait to catch other species. Overhfishing, paired with habitat destruction and ocean pollution, has led to all living species of horseshoe crabs being at risk.

The young Wildlife Photographer of the Year title went to 17-year-old Carmel Bechler, who took a long-exposure image of two barn owls in an abandoned roadside building. The teen from Israel said he hopes to share in his photography that “the beauty of the natural world is all around us, even in places where we least expect it to be.”

Moran said Bechler’s photo “has so many layers in terms of content and composition.”

“It simultaneously screams ‘habitat destruction’ and ‘adaptation,’ begging the question: If wildlife can adapt to our environment, why can’t we respect theirs?” Moran said. 

Ballesta and Bechler’s photos were chosen from 19 other category winners. All of the images will be on exhibition at the Natural History Museum beginning Friday.

Seventeen-year-old Carmel Bechler won the young Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his photo of two owls in an abandoned roadside building.  / Credit: Carmel Bechler/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

NASA says Bennu asteroid sample shows evidence of water, carbon

House Republicans nominate Steve Scalise as next speaker

Thousands attend funeral of woman killed by Hamas at music festival


Heartbreaking wartorn goodbye wins Siena International Photo Awards


Salwan Georges, an esteemed Iraqi-American photojournalist, has been named the overall winner of the Siena International Photo Awards 2023 for his powerful documentation of the devastating realities of war. 

His winning photograph, Georgy, captures the heartbreaking moment that George Keburia put his family on a train to evacuate their home of Odesa as the conflict between Ukraine and Russia escalated. Filled with sorrow and apprehension but underpinned with love, George’s capture is a striking reminder of how the innocent are affected by war.