Rob Kanter

Rob Kanter

Environmental Almanac | In appreciation of chimney swifts

If you're a bird and you want lots of attention from humans, your best bets are a dramatic color scheme or a loud, pretty song.

Combine these characteristics, as the northern cardinal does, and you wind up as the state bird, and you get sports teams named after you.

Environmental Almanac | We live in a great area to view wildlife

Even though there's time on the calendar before autumn begins officially, we've hit some important marks on the cultural calendar. Labor Day weekend is here, the new school year is in full swing and for most people, the season of traveling to outdoor destinations is over. For me, that means it's a great time to renew appreciation for the undramatic nature that surrounds us every day.

Environmental Almanac | Homegrown entertainment with native shrubs

Like many people who have the time and means to travel, I relish getting away to places where the riches of scenery and wildlife are more pronounced than they are in central Illinois — the north country of New Hampshire where I fish with my brother and his son, the west where my family and I hike and camp, and Costa Rica where I travel with UI students to study environmental sustainability.

Environmental Almanac | Stand up for our National Scenic River

I value the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River for more reasons than I can count.

On the Middle Fork, my wife and I enjoyed leisurely canoe trips and catching crayfish in the shallows with our children when they were young.

Environmental Almanac | A love of wildlife — even snakes

Thanks to a friend who's more observant than me, a few years back I discovered a new species of reptile in my own backyard. It was a plains garter snake, known by scientists as Thamnophis radix.

I should clarify by saying I mean the plains garter snake was "new" to me, not new to science or the wider world.

Environmental Almanac | Sharing the benefits of biking

Does the warm spring weather prompt you to wonder about getting out on a bicycle? If so, let me offer some words of encouragement.

Bicycling is good for the planet. It requires no fossil fuel and so alleviates all of the environmental damage caused by drilling for, transporting and processing oil.

Environmental Almanac | Warbler neck a common ailment this time of year

Have you noticed friends or co-workers looking a little sleep-deprived lately? Perhaps these same people complain of a sore neck and look past you into the trees while you're talking. You may be encountering birders caught up in the excitement of spring migration.

Environmental Almanac | Supplemental feeding of deer a bad idea

If you struggle with the perception that, as a state, we too seldom get things right in Illinois, let me call your attention to the success we've had in managing a life-and-death wildlife issue that's causing far more trouble in neighboring states, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

Environmental Almanac | Time to tune in to the campus climate

I had intended last week to write a column encouraging readers to pay more attention to the damage being done by Scott Pruitt in his role as head of the federal EPA than his apparent lack of personal or professional ethics.

Environmental Almanac | Strength of environmental community gives reason for hope

If you're looking for inspiration and energy this month — and who's not? — let me call your attention to the state of the environmental community in central Illinois and some of the ways it has flourished over the past year.