A Beautiful Saturday Morning
On Saturday my parents and I went birding around Jackson Park on the South Side of Chicago. We were lucky with some great weather, and we saw some interesting birds. I added another woodpecker species to my list with the yellow-bellied sapsucker. The sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker that lives throughout the Midwest and the eastern U.S. Sapsuckers are infamous for their ability to destroy trees by voraciously feeding on them. In fact, many birders consider them to be a pest because they often harm trees that they feed on.
In the eastern end of Jackson Park, there are some martin boxes high on poles in the middle of a clearing. Purple martins make nests in these tall homes each summer. The white boxes are empty right now, but they still stand tall above the clearing. One interesting thing that I learned on this outing was that the martin boxes are on poles with pulley systems attached so that people can take them down and clean them after the martins leave their nest each fall. I cannot recall seeing a nest box like this before, and I think it is a wonderfully functional design, allowing for easy cleaning.
Jackson Park backs up into the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI). The MSI is one of the few remaining landmarks left from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Originally named the Palace of Fine Arts, it was built to contain great works of art on loan from around the world. The only way that Chicago could secure these artworks is by convincing world-famous museums that the building was safe and would not burn down with all of the art-on-loan inside. Only twenty years earlier the world-famous Chicago Great Fire burnt much of the city down, so nobody wanted to take any chances. Almost all of the many buildings built for the fair were made of cheap wood and stucco materials, but painted white to look like marble, and were deconstructed or destroyed soon after the fair. However, the MSI was built of stone, and it stands to this day, one of last reminders of the “white city” that once was. One of the other few relics of the Columbian Exposition happens to be right behind the museum, in the form of Wooded Island. The island was constructed by Frederick Law Olmstead, America’s greatest landscape architect and the designer of Central Park in Manhattan. It is now know for its beautiful Japanese garden.
Every time I go birding at Jackson Park, I remember how the land I am standing on was put there to protect what was inside and built to last, just like the boxes for the martins right in front of the museum.