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Exploring LaBagh Woods

While exploring LaBagh Woods, make sure to look up - Nature Photography by Michael Courier.
While exploring LaBagh Woods, make sure to look up!

My childhood was spent outside. Growing up on a small farm had its challenges, but it also allowed me the freedom to wander the woods and experience nature.

As an adult, even before this pandemic started and stay-at-home orders were issued, I had difficulties making time to explore nature. Last year, I was marginally better — and I made time for a few outdoor excursions.

One of my favorite places to visit is the LaBagh Woods. Located on the North Side of the city, near the Jefferson Park neighborhood, is a wonderful mixture of woodland and low-lying wetlands. The North Branch of the Chicago River runs through the area, helping to form an oxbow slough — a swamp or shallow lake system, usually a backwater to a larger body of water.

A ventral view of a female black swallowtail, enjoying the nectar from a common milkweed at LaBagh Woods - Nature Photography by Michael Courier.
A ventral view of a female black swallowtail, enjoying the nectar from a common milkweed.
A green darner and common milkweed at LaBagh Woods in Chicago, Illinois - Nature Photography by Michael Courier
A common green darner (dragonfly), left; common milkweed, right.

On a fabulous July afternoon — a Monday, to be more precise — I planned a trip to explore the woods. My timing was effective, as I was able to enjoy the environment without too many people around. While I was there, I found a black swallowtail butterfly enjoying the nectar of some common milkweed, and a green darner (dragonfly) relaxing near the river.

I’m particularly fond of trail and canopy views! While hiking, I like to stop and look up, and behind me — retracing my steps in a slightly different manner to see what I missed. For me, this is a great way to slow down and take in the experience.

When this quarantine is over, and we can relax our social distancing policies a bit, I’m very much looking forward to a long walk through nature.

A landscape view of the North Branch of the Chicago River at LaBagh Woods - Nature Photography by Michael Courier
A view of the North Branch of the Chicago River.
A reflection of trees at LaBagh Woods - Nature Photography by Michael Courier
A canopy view - Nature Photography by Michael Courier
A view of the woodlands at LaBagh Woods - Nature Photography by Michael Courier
A view of the overgrown woods.

Walk for Kidneys 2019

A kidney recipient poses during the Walk for Kidneys 2019 event at Solider Field - Event Photography by Michael Courier
A kidney recipient poses during the Walk for Kidneys 2019 fundraising event at Soldier Field.

The National Kidney Foundation of Illinois (NKFI) contracted me to photograph a variety of events throughout 2019, with one of the first events being the Walk for Kidneys fundraiser at Soldier Field.

If you’re unfamiliar with the National Kidney Foundation, or its Illinois chapter, the organizations help all people affected by kidney disease — through community education, government advocacy, public health initiatives, and funding scientific research.

Kidney disease can be a life-threatening condition that often requires intensive management. If the kidney fails, a transplant is required. Due to the seriousness of the disease, patients are often immunosuppressed — meaning their immune system is weakened. A weakened immune system is not able to fight off and recover from infections as it normally would when healthy.

With this in mind, NKFI has canceled or postponed many of their spring events. Where possible, they have moved their community events online. Though Covid-19 poses a serious threat to any individual, it is especially dangerous to an individual who has a compromised immune system.

If you, or someone you know, is currently battling kidney disease, the National Kidney Foundation has compiled a Covid-19 resource guide to help you better manage this situation.

Waving to the camera during a fundraising walk in Chicago - Event Photography by Michael Courier.
Children pose during the Walk for Kidneys event at Solider Field in Chicago, Illinois - Event Photography by Michael Courier.
A group poses for a photo during a fundraising event in Chicago - Event Photography by Michael Courier.
Posing for a photo during a fundraising event in Chicago - Event Photography by Michael Courier.
Walk for Kidneys Event Photography by Michael Courier
Walk for Kidneys Event Photography by Michael Courier
Walk for Kidneys Event Photography by Michael Courier
Walk for Kidneys Event Photography by Michael Courier
Walk for Kidneys Event Photography by Michael Courier
Walk for Kidneys Event Photography by Michael Courier

Osterman Beach Stewardship Days

A volunteer participates in Osterman Beach Stewardship Days, planting native species along the coast of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois - Event Photography by Michael Courier
A volunteer participates in Osterman Beach Stewardship Days, planting native species along the coast of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois.

It may seem like a trivial issue, but native plants play an important and pivotal role within local ecosystems. They provide food and habitat for other native species, and they protect the health of the environment.

Renee Patten has been leading Osterman Beach Stewardship Days, in a joint effort with the Chicago Park District and the Edgewater Environmental Sustainability Project. Last spring, I joined her and 50 other volunteers as they planted 1,500 native species.

June Grass, for example, is well adapted for sandy soil. Its root system helps mitigate soil erosion and protects the health of Lake Michigan’s coastline.

Starting April 26th, there will be more stewardship days at Osterman Beach throughout the year. You’re welcome to join Renee or some of the many stewardship days across the city. You’ll be able to learn about native plants while protecting our ecosystem!

A volunteer participates in Osterman Beach Stewardship Days, planting native species along the coast of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois - Event Photography by Michael Courier
Renee Patten works with local volunteers - Event Photography by Michael Courier
Renee Patten, center, works with local volunteers during an Osterman Beach Stewardship Day.
June Grass, before and after it was planted at Osterman Beach - Event Photography by Michael Courier
June Grass, before and after it was planted at Osterman Beach.

Understanding Invasive Species

Invasive species are often introduced to new environments through human interaction. This could be unintentional, through ballast water — or intentional, through the deliberate act of transportation.

When invasive species are introduced to a new region, they often overrun the native inhabitants, due to a lack of competition and disease.

In the Great Lakes Region, we suffer from many invasive species — like zebra mussels and sea lamprey. Non-native plants affect the ecosystem by impacting the food chain, making it harder for native species to find sustenance.

Volunteers participate in Osterman Beach Stewardship Days, planting native species along the coast of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois - Event Photography by Michael Courier
Volunteers participate in Osterman Beach Stewardship Days, planting native species along the coast of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois - Event Photography by Michael Courier
Volunteers plant native species at Osterman Beach in Chicago, Illinois.

Resources for Covid-19

While Covid-19 continues to impact daily life, I’ll continue posting images from previous events — highlighting local organizations, their missions, and the communities they serve.

If you’ve been financially impacted during this trying time, I’ve compiled a list of local and national resources that may be able to help ease your situation. As I discover new resources, I’ll continue to add them to the list.

Volunteers participate in Osterman Beach Stewardship Days, planting native species along the coast of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois - Event Photography by Michael Courier