Animal stories: People staying home or nearby discover the wild wonder of what is outside

Red foxes, hummingbirds, American white pelicans, red-breasted mergansers and morel mushrooms are among the wild wonder being discovered and savored during the stay-at-home edict.

SHARE Animal stories: People staying home or nearby discover the wild wonder of what is outside
A red fox on Downers Grove gave a special moment when eating a rabbit while visible from a window. Provided by Bob Zarnowski

A red fox on Downers Grove gave a special moment when eating a rabbit while visible from a window.

Provided by Bob Zarnowski

More animal stories came in the last three weeks with the stay-at-home edict than in the last half year.

These should not be confused with the “Animal Stories’’ back in the day with Uncle Lar and Lil Tommy on WLS-AM.

Faithful readers know red foxes are my favorite mammal.

So Bob Zarnowski emailed a photo and this, “Lastly, had a fox catch a rabbit in our backyard here in Downers Grove and proceed to eat it right in front of our back window. Just beautiful animals and it was absolutely incredible to watch!”

To the north, Sondra Katzen continued the saga of a neighborhood red fox family.

“So last night my neighbor texted me and said to come outside,” Katzen emailed. “I went out and the mom fox was standing guard staring at us while her youngsters were playing. . . . My neighbor thought she had seen five kits, I know I saw at least four. . . . Their den is not in a wood pile as Dave [Derk] and I originally thought, but rather under a garage. They have already changed mostly to their red coat; last time I saw them they were still pretty grayish in color.”

A red fox oversees its playing kits in the Chicago suburbs. Provided by Sondra Katzen

A red fox oversees its playing kits in the Chicago suburbs.

Provided by Sondra Katzen

To the Southeast Side on April 5, Patty Houlihan emailed, “We were at Big Marsh and found 10 [American white] pelicans on the pond, many of them sitting on piles of weeds and some on top of each other.’’

A notable change in recent years is the drift east of pelican sightings around the Chicago area, as the Illinois Natural History Survey notes at inhs.illinois.edu/outreach/spotlight/american-white-pelican/.

From the western suburbs in early April, Dr. Elizabeth Pector emailed her usual wonderful photos, including a red-breasted merganser.

“They obviously have suffered from their local barbershop closure during the social distancing order,” she joked. Red-breasted merganser crests look ragged in the best of times.

A red-breasted merganser with a ragged crest spotted in the western suburbs. Provided by Dr. Elizabeth Pector

A red-breasted merganser with a ragged crest spotted in the western suburbs.

Provided by Dr. Elizabeth Pector

Back south last week, Christian Howe reported an early hummingbird. So I hung our feeder Sunday. Hummingbirds.net no longer does a migration map. Try hummingbirdcentral.com, where reports were as far north as Palatine by Saturday.

On the Facebook group, “Illinois Morel Mushrooms,” the first report in Cook County was in the progression map on Monday.

Perfect time to keep watching.

STRAY CAST: I bought my first box of Steak-umm in decades Saturday for their Twitter account, true as an angler weighing a fish on a scale.

The Latest
It’s early yet, but we like the rebound plan for the beleaguered shopping district under the city’s marquee Invest South/West initiative.
Recent “worst case” estimates say Chicago Public Schools could lose 15,000 students next year.
No jurors were seated Monday. But after court, Kelly defense attorney Jennifer Bonjean said the jury pool had already been tainted by mentions of Kelly’s previous conviction in court.
“It’s very important to me,” Cease said of matchup with Verlander
Never satisfied, veteran point guard leads Sky into playoffs