Meetings & Programs

General meetings and programs of the Lake County Audubon are held at 7:30pm on the first Monday of the month October through May skipping the month of January.  These meetings / programs are open to the public as well as members and are typically held in the second floor meeting room of the Libertyville Village Hall, located at 118 W. Cook Street, which is just across the street to the north of the Cook Memorial Library.

For our 2019-2020 events and bird walks click here


2019 – 2020 Program Schedule

October 7. Bobcat: Illinois's Native Cat by Jennifer Kuroda
Bobcats, named for their short, bobbed tail, are about twice the size of a common house cat. They use their keen sight and hearing to hunt rabbits, squirrels, small rodents and some birds. They are mostly nocturnal, reclusive animals that prefer forested or wooded areas. Once hunted almost to extinction in the Midwest, bobcats have been making a comeback over the past 40 years.
In this talk, Jennifer will cover every facet of the elusive cats, including history, biology, predator perception, management and information about the ongoing bobcat population study by Dr. Jacques at Western Illinois University.

Jennifer Kuroda is the founder of the Illinois Bobcat Foundation. She received her B.S. from Rockford University and is a life-long Rockford resident. She serves as the Board President of the Sinnissippi Audubon Society and has been a nature lover since she was a young girl. Illinois Bobcat Foundation, PO Box 246, Lake Forest, IL 60045

November 4. State of the Lakes in Lake County by Alana Bartolai

Alana will speak about the state of Lake County lakes, threats to the health of the lakes, and preventive measures. Lake County has an abundance of lakes. Many communities within Lake County are built around lakes. Increased lakeshore development, inadequate sewage disposal, polluted storm water runoff, and other improper land use practices degrade water quality. As water quality deteriorates, recreational activities such as fishing, boating and swimming are impaired, the local economy suffers, and the general health of Lake County residents is threatened. Protecting the quality of our lakes is an increasing concern. To assist with this endeavor, the Health Department has a Lakes Management Unit (LMU) that provides technical expertise essential to the management and protection of Lake County lakes. The LMU collects baseline water quality information from 12-15 different lakes in the county each year. Water quality information is obtained through the collection of water samples once per month from May through September. Since 2000, 176 different lakes have been studied and data collected on temperature, dissolved oxygen, phosphorus, nitrogen, solids, pH, alkalinity, chloride, conductivity, water clarity, the plant community and shoreline characteristics. 

Each year, May through September, beaches are sampled tested for E. coli bacteria. If bacterial counts are high the beach is closed. Upon request, LMU also investigates possible pollution sources, fish kills and other related inquires. Lastly, the LMU offers educational services and publishes a newsletter, Cattail Chronicles, provides information about organisms found in and around lakes, up-to-date ecological issues affecting our lakes and streams, local and regional lake issues and technical information important to lake managers. 

Alana Bartolai, B.S., M.S., Water Quality Specialist, is originally from Lake County, Illinois. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Geology from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota and her Master's Degree in Water Resources Science from the University of Minnesota with an emphasis in Limnology. She has worked on water quality monitoring and watershed outreach projects in Wyoming, Northern California, and Minnesota. Alana currently lives in Highland Park and enjoys hiking, traveling and spending time outdoors with her dog, Kota.

December 2. Restoring and Re-storying the Urban Wild by Dr. Gavin Van Horn

We usually think of cities as the domain of humans—but we are just one of thousands of species that call the urban landscape home. City Creatures: Animal Encounters in the Chicago Wilderness introduces readers to an astonishing diversity of urban wildlife with a unique and accessible mix of essays, poetry, paintings, and photographs. Gavin Van Horn, the co-editor of City Creatures will discuss how urban wildlife can further connect us to place and the importance of re-storying Chicagoland, from our backyards to the bioregion.

Dr. Gavin Van Horn works at the Center for Humans and Nature as the Director of Cultures of Conservation. He is the co-editor of City Creatures: Animal Encounters in the Chicago Wilderness (University of Chicago Press, 2015) and Wildness: Relations of People and Place (University of Chicago Press, 2017). He edits, curates, and writes for the City Creatures Blog and has published in Orion, Emergence, Undark, Belt Magazine, Red Savina Review, and Zoomorphic, among others. His most recent book is The Way of Coyote: Shared Journeys in the Urban Wilds (University of Chicago Press, 2018).

January 6. Birding as a Socio-economic Development Strategy in Central America by Gustavo Ustariz

Many North American birds species spend their winter in Central America, a region facing many social and environmental challenges. In this presentation we explore ways in which birding can become a strategy for socioeconomic development, providing quality jobs and creating incentives to protect the natural environment; thereby helping protect the wintering grounds of North American birds.

Gustavo Ustariz has worked in tourism planning and development since 2003, mainly focused on nature-based and rural tourism, sustainable development and entrepreneurship. He is a believer that sustainable tourism can be a tool for the reduction of poverty. His projects include: designing and launching a travel marketing platform promoting culture + nature travel to Honduras, designing and launching a coffee tourism marketing platform, creating marketing channels for community-based tourism initiatives, conceptualizing a tent hotel in Nicaragua, drafting the first National Tour Guide Regulations for Honduras, and developing food tourism experiences, among others.

February 3. Little Falcon, Big Problem: Decline of the American Kestrel by Charles T. Rizzo

Details to follow

March 2. Life Cycle Lore: The Beauty & Bounty of Bees by Fayette Aurelia Nichols

Usually, when we think about bees, we conjure up a honeybee or a bumble bee. But, there are many more bee species living in our gardens than we may know. Their life cycles may only last a few weeks, or run throughout the growing season. They don't always look like what we think a bee would look like. Some are black and white. Some are metallic greens and blues. Some are just 1/8" long, while some are well over an inch. Most nest underground, but some build nests from pine resin, tiny pebbles, or tubes made out of leaves. Some, such as Bombus affinis, the Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee, are listed as federally endangered. 

So, how do we recognize what bees are flying around in our gardens? Or, where they're living? And, how do we report what we see? 

A 15% drop in plant and animal species is projected for the Western Hemisphere by 2050 due environmental changes, urbanization, and industrial agriculture. Biodiversity is one of our best defenses against these trends. The Xerces Society estimates that over 85% of the world's flowering plant species depend on pollinators to ensure plant reproduction. As the phenological timing of things shifts, how well will our gardens sustain the life cycles of our pollinators? 

This presentation looks at the variety of life cycles of bee species that appear in our gardens throughout the season, and examines how we can protect our pollinators against environmental pressures. The better our understanding of how these bees are trying to make a living amongst us, the better will be our ability to give these animals our support.

Aurelia's prime interest is in the relationship between plants and their pollinators, and how healthy habitat establishment through landscape design can support their survival. Her research includes pollinator life cycles, especially that of Bombus affinis, the Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee. She holds a BA from the University of Chicago and an MBA from Northwestern University. She is a member of the Iler/CaraDonna pollinator lab group, a graduate level program run by Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden at the Daniel F. & Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center.

April 6. Shorebirds by Adam Sell

Shorebirds. Mostly transient in our area and, unlike flashy warblers, they are often more subtle in coloration and pattern. Frustratingly, they can also be distant. Despite this, shorebirds are often one of the most sought after families of birds due to their unique behavior, long distances traveled, and short time with us. This presentation will look take a closer look at some of the more regular migrant shorebirds, how to identify them, and where they can be found.

Adam Sell doesn't remember a time when a pair of binoculars wasn't around his neck.  He was mentored by his father and other local birders in north Texas, and later by the incredible birding community of the Chicagoland area.  He is currently on the board of the Illinois Ornithological Society, and a member of the Illinois Ornithological Records Committee. He is a passionate hawk watcher, and is the lead counter and data compiler for the Fort Sheridan Hawkwatch in Lake Forest, Illinois. A middle school educator, Adam is a natural teacher who loves spending his summers guiding. When not birding, Adam enjoys the study of all other aspects of nature, fly fishing, and relaxing in the outdoors with his wife, Tiffany.

May 4. Piping Plover Research and Conservation in the Great Lakes by Dr. Sarah Saunders

The shores of the Great Lakes were once home to nearly 800 pairs of Piping Plovers, a small shorebird. Today, about 75 pairs remain. Dr. Saunders will discuss her research on these birds, current recovery efforts, and recent nesting attempts (and successes!) in the Chicago area. Color-banding has given researchers the opportunity to get to know individual birds – from this information, they have learned a great deal about factors influencing their survival, reproduction, and population viability. Dr. Saunders will share how this research helps improve the management actions for this endangered population, as well as a few behind-the-scenes stories from the field.

Dr. Sarah Saunders joined National Audubon Society in 2018, where she is a quantitative ecologist in the Science division. Residing in Michigan, Sarah primarily works on projects focused on the Great Lakes region, including modeling occupancy and abundance trends of marshbirds, coordinating science work across Audubon's Great Lakes Initiative, assisting in development writing to further regional conservation efforts, and collaborating with the Audubon Great Lakes team in Chicago. Sarah has also conducted analyses of Audubon’s Climate Watch data to determine how climate change is impacting the distributions of bluebirds and nuthatches throughout the United States.

Sarah has a strong background in population ecology and conservation. She received her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota (working with Dr. Francie Cuthbert), where she studied the environmental and genetic factors influencing survival and reproduction of Great Lakes Piping Plovers, an endangered shorebird. Most recently, she conducted postdoctoral research with Dr. Elise Zipkin at Michigan State University. While there, Sarah modeled the abundance, distribution, and climatic drivers of monarch butterfly populations using community science data. Sarah also specializes in integrated population modeling, a method that enables incorporation of multiple data types and seasonal factors into a unified analysis for improved inference on population dynamics. In addition to birds, Sarah has also studied organisms as diverse as red-sided garter snakes and tigers.

2018 – 2019 Program Schedule

October 1. Reversing the Trends of Chicagoland’s Most Threatened Birds – Audubon’s Conservation Programs for Marsh and Grassland Birds by Nat Miller

Wetland birds of the Calumet region have faced precipitous declines over the past 30 years. The  conversion of rich marsh to open-water ponds or mono-cultures of invasive species has put secretive marsh species like Common Gallinule, Least Bittern and King Rail on the fast-track to extirpation. However, new and intensive  monitoring and wetland restoration is setting the stage for an amazing comeback story.

While the dramatic decline of Midwest grassland bird populations has slowed in recent years, many species such as Bobolink continue on a downward trajectory and face new complex threats such as climate change and the conversion of hay to row crop. Audubon is working with seven counties in the Chicago Metropolitan Region to stabilize and increase grassland bird populations in a coordinate effort at the landscape scale.  

Nat Miller is the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi Flyway Director of Conservation for National Audubon Society. Nat holds a Master's degree in International Environmental Policy and spent nearly a decade in protected area management and policy development in Central America and the Caribbean before joining Audubon in 2014.  Nat now leads the regional conservation programs and projects for Audubon.

November 5. ID Review: Gulls of the Lake County Area by Adam Sell

Gulls are often avoided or ignored by birders due to their perceived difficulty in identification.  This presentation will review the regularly occurring gulls in the area and help take away some of the mystery in their identification.  It's a favorite family of the presenter, and he can't wait to show how gulls are actually exciting!  Yes. Exciting!

Adam Sell doesn't remember a time when a pair of binoculars wasn't around his neck.  He was mentored by his father and other local birders in north Texas, and later by the incredible birding community of the Chicagoland area.  He is currently on the board of the Illinois Ornithological Society, and a member of the Illinois Ornithological Records Committee. He is a passionate hawk watcher, and is the lead counter and data compiler for the Fort Sheridan Hawkwatch in Lake Forest, Illinois. A middle school educator, Adam is a natural teacher who loves spending his summers guiding. When not birding, Adam enjoys the study of all other aspects of nature, fly fishing, and relaxing in the outdoors with his wife, Tiffany.

December 3. Status and Conservation of Lake County’s Reptiles and Amphibians by Gary Glowacki

Lake County is home to a diverse mix of reptiles and amphibians with 34 frogs, toads, salamanders, turtles and snakes species known to have inhabited the area.  This presentation will go over the distinguishing characteristics, natural history and status of each species and what the Lake County Forest Preserve District is doing to conserve these often overlooked and misunderstood creatures.

Gary Glowacki is a wildlife ecologist with the Lake County Forest Preserve District where he oversees wildlife management, monitoring and conservation programs across over 30,000 acres of forest preserve land.  He earned a B.S. in Biology from Valparaiso University and a M.S. in Biology from Purdue University.  His research interests include the long-term monitoring, population modeling and the conservation of rare, threaten and endangered species, with a special emphasis on amphibians and reptiles. Gary also sits on the Illinois Amphibian/Reptile Endangered Species Technical Advisory Committee, Blanding’s Turtle and Eastern Massasauga Recovery Teams, Midwest Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation advisory board and is co-chair of the Chicago Wilderness Wildlife Committee. 

February 4. Don't call me Hedwig: Snowy Owl irruptions in the Chicago area by Josh Engel

Every few years, Snowy Owls descend by the thousands into the northern tier of states from their tundra breeding groups. This usually results in more than 100 individuals in Illinois alone, capturing the imagination of birders and non-birders alike. Starting with a basic question--What is a Snowy Owl?--Josh Engel will explore Snowy Owl biology, including the factors behind these irruptions, what makes them so exceptional, and what he learned about their diet from dissecting their pellets. He will also touch on Long-eared Owls and whatever other owls happen to be creating news in early February!

Birds have been central to Josh Engel's life for as long as he can remember. He learned that there was something called "birding" at age 12 and pursued it with abandon. His life since has followed birds to all corners of the globe, guiding birding tours and conducting research for The Field Museum, as he's transformed his childhood passion into a career. It has all led to his current endeavor, running his company Red Hill Birding, organizing and leading birding tours around Illinois, the US, and the world. Click here to see the Red Hill Birding website.

March 4. Birding the Indiana Dunes and Beyond by Brad Bumgardner

From Calumet Park to Michigan City Harbor, the Indiana Dunes region is a birder's paradise.  From high dune oak forests, restored grasslands, and interdunal wetlands, over 370 species of birds have been found hugging the far south shore of Lake Michigan.  Explore the amazing birding just outside the Chicago region and why nearly a thousand people now descend on it's annual birding festival each May.

Brad Bumgardner is the executive director for the Indiana Audubon Society and chairs the annual Indiana Dunes Birding Festival. He is the former head naturalist for the Indiana Dunes State Park and has a Bachelors in Science from Purdue University. Brad has been presented the region's top 20 under 40 business leaders award and currently resides with his family in Valparaiso, IN.

April 1. Why I Like Doing Big Days by Beau Schaefer

After 5 years of monthly Big Days, Beau has learned a lot about birds and himself. He will share those things as well as discuss his basic Big Day route and some of the highlights of past Big Days including their Lake County record of 164 in 2016.

Beau Schaefer is in his 32nd year as an Honors Biology and Human Genetics teacher at Libertyville HS in Libertyville, IL. He has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI and a Master’s in Biology from Northeastern IL Univ. in Chicago. Beau began birding around 9 or 10 after he saw a Blackburnian Warbler in has yard one day and then his parents bought him the Golden Guide to Birds of North America which he memorized. Beau didn’t really start serious listing until 2008 after he finished his baseball coaching career at the high school. Since then, however, birding has been his favorite activity and as a former competitive college athlete, Beau really enjoys the competitive aspects of birding. He has done Big Years, Big Months, and Big Days and has learned a lot doing all of these. His ABA List is 521, Illinois: 326, and Lake County: 305. Beau's previous speaking experience includes 2016 as a breakout speaker at The Birding America Conference in Chicago, and his “13 Things I Learned Doing Big Days” article was published in Feb, 2016 in Birdwatching Magazine.

May 6. Avian Architecture by Emma England

Nesting is one of the most interesting and complex of avian behaviors. Birds have developed an extraordinary range of nest structures to shelter, protect and help warm their developing eggs and chicks. Nests vary in their size, material and type, with designs including the cup, cavity, scrape and pendant nest. In this program Emma will teach us about the architectural ability of birds that has enabled them to diversify into so many habitats and to create some of the best engineered structures in the natural world. Specific examples of nest design, location and construction will be discussed from the tiny hummingbird nest to the enormous platform nest of the Bald Eagle. This will be a fascinating look into the world of our feathered architect friends and their creative constructions.

Emma was born in England and moved to Sweden in 2010. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacology and worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a biologist for 18 years. Since moving to Illinois Emma has become very active in the field of conservation. She has been a board member of the Lake County Audubon Society (LCAS) since 2014 and became president of LCAS in 2018. Emma is a member of the Lake County Forest Preserve District (LCFPD) Volunteer Stewards Network carrying out habitat restoration. She is also a LCFPD Education Volunteer leading nature walks. Emma is a wildlife monitor for Eastern Bluebird and Purple Martin nest boxes, Bird Conservation Network bird monitor and Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network monitor. Emma has loved birds her whole life and remembers that her first book was a bird field guide. She has monitored bird nest boxes for 6 years and has a keen interest in all aspects of ornithology. Emma’s other passion is nature photography and she enjoys photographing the huge diversity of nature in Lake County with a specialty in bird photography. Emma is Vice President of North Shore Camera Club.