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Butterfly festival at Elkhorn preserve shines light on native inhabitants

Butterflies were the main attraction of the Northwest Illinois Audubon Society’s Elkhorn Creek Butterfly Festival on July 27, but one volunteer made sure all the other inhabitants of the preserve also got their day in the sun, so to speak.

A few monarchs flew by the group on a blustery warm day making sure to avoid several children who held their butterfly nets at the ready.

Their misses gave tour leader John Walt, of Dakota, plenty of time to talk about all the other native plants and insects that make the Elkhorn Creek Biodiversity Preserve their home.

“Here is Queen Anne’s Lace,” Walt said as he displayed the cluster of white blossoms to the group. “And this is wild grape and as you can see a Japanese beetle has eaten most of it making it pretty much useless to the plant.”

Around 75 people attended this year’s free event.

Located southwest of Forreston and north of Polo, the 43-acre site is home to several remnant hillside prairies, some wetland features, and a portion of Elkhorn Creek.

Grasses such as big bluestem and little bluestem in addition to milkweeds, wild bergamot (bee balm), spiderwort, and coneflowers are just some of the forbs and grasses on the site.

Volunteers are busy working to restore and re-create native communities. Individuals are welcome to participate in various management tasks including seed collecting and planting, weed suppression, wood cutting, and prescribed burning.

Many species of wildlife occur in the habitat with 450 species recorded including 130 species of birds, 77 species of insects, and 201 species of plants.

The Elkhorn Creek Biodiversity Preserve is located three miles southwest of Forreston in the southwest corner of West Grove and Freeport Roads.