Cacklers, sheds, ice fishing, “Botany of Desire,” birding: WWW Chicago outdoors

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Credit: Great Backyard Bird Count

Wave after wave of cacklers and Canada geese flew over low last night as I walked Lady, our family mutt.

Truly, at least for some birds, this is a Wild Weekend Wandering.

At first I thought, the geese were coming too early and would only find well-frozen ponds and lakes. Then this morning, as Lady and I walked farther afield, I figured out what the geese were doing. The snowpack dramatically decreased, nearly disappeared, yesterday and the geese were flying out into the fields to feed.

Early Thursday afternoon, Jim Hantaknoticed some spring signs and emailed:

Dale, Tons of geese moving North, male Cardinals starting to sing, maybe the groundhog was wrong. Jim Hantak Hillside

I had not noticed the male cardinals yet, but that may simply be because the weather in the last couple weeks has limited how far Lady and I could ramble.

As to my own wanderings this weekend, the bulk of it is taken up with the final bowling sectionals for Beat the Champions.

But this morning, I am going to watch, “Botany of Desire,” the PBS documentary on four plants–apples, tulips, marijuana, potatoes–that changed the world.

My Mondays for the next couple months are taken up with intensive all-day study for a Master Gardener certification. It is quite fun, though more work than I anticipated.

This Monday, I have added work in an evening talk at Purdue to thePurdue Student Chapter of theAmerican Fisheries Society and the Purdue Wildlife Society.

Prepping for that is taking some time, but I am really looking forward to it. I hope to have a two-way exchange with students in this brave new work of modern communications.

Now to the regular stuff of the Wild Weekend Wandering.

SHED HUNTING:Several readers in the last week noted that it is time for shed hunting, especially with the snow cover the last 10 days. One of the readers also sent photos of several nice bucks herded up in the deep snow and still sporting beautiful big racks. I guess that kind of means it is time for shed hunting.

SHOWTIME:TheMidwest Musky Club’s swap meet is 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday at the Village Sportsman’s Club at 5201 W 115th St., Alsip. Admission is $2. For information or if any tables remain, contact Larry Downes at (630) 302-0759 or

The Chicago RV & Camping Show runs through Sunday at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.

The Indianapolis Boat, Sport and Travel Show, one of the last 10-day shows and one I need to get to at least once, opens today and runs through Feb. 25 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

Our World Underwater Chicago Dive & Travel Expo, another event I’ve long wanted to attend but it falls on Beat the Champs sectional weekend, is Saturday and Sunday at the Chicago Marriott O’Hare.

The Henry Decoy Show, something I have long wanted to do but always falls on a Sunday with Beat the Champs sectionals, is Sunday at Henry-Senachwine High School.

The Rockford Boat, Vacation & Fishing Show opens today and runs through Sunday at the Indoor Sports Center in Loves Park.

Click here for the complete general list of shows this winter. If you have any adds or tweaks for the master list of shows, please let me know.

GREAT BACKYARD BIRD COUNT:The great citizen’s event, theGreat Backyard Bird Count, starts today and runs through Monday. Our family usually puts in a bit of time doing this. If you are a teacher or a youth leader of any sort, it is a good way to connect youth to the outdoors.Click here for more information.

COHO: I am thinking conditions are setting up right for some coho to pop next week along the Chicago lakefront. There have been a few sporadically already in the last couple weeks when weather allows in Indiana.

ICE FISHING EVENT:As far as I know, Hermann’s Ice Fishing Derby is still on from Hermann’s Lowlife Bar & Grill in Port Barrington for 6 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday. It’s $10 entry. You can check their Facebook page or call (847) 639-9644.

ICE FISHING: Once again, conditions vary widely across the area.To the north, ice fishing will be snow-covered, but should be OK. To the south, conditions are much trickier or even deadlier with connections opening up and shorelines weakening. Know your lake or pond and use the usual precautions (buddy system, spikes, spud bar, common sense, etc.).

Click here for the update on ice-fishing regulations for local waters.

FIELD FREE DAYS:The Field Museum has free days through February for Illinois residents. Click here for details.

FREE FISHING WEEKEND:Michigan’s Free Fishing weekend–#MiFreeFishingWeekend–is Saturday and Sunday. No licenses needed, but other regulations apply.

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