Nature's Beauty at MA Center Chicago

A buck at MA Center Chicago

"There is one truth that shines through all of creation. God is the pure consciousness that dwells in everything. Rivers, mountains, plants, animals, the sun, moon and stars, you and I...are all expressions of this one Reality. It is by assimilating this truth into our lives, and thus gaining a deeper understanding, that we can discover the inherent beauty in diversity." ~Amma

MA Center Chicago's 142 acres of fertile land is a nurturing environment for many species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects. On the west side of the ashram grounds, we have four ponds and a creek that attract about a dozen species of migrating ducks in the spring and fall including northern shovelers, blue-winged teals, ring-necked ducks, wood ducks, and mallards. A few mallards live here year-round since the creek doesn't freeze in winter. For the past two years in April, a pair of Canada geese has nested on the little island in our newest pond and flown off with their young adults in the end of July. The ponds and creek are also home to great-blue herons, green herons, great egrets, belted kingfishers, bullfrogs, snapping turtles, painted turtles, and muskrats. We also see the occasional mink and beaver.

The many trees throughout the ashram are home to our summer and year-round resident birds. Robins, bluebirds, red-winged blackbirds, red-bellied and downy woodpeckers, starlings, house sparrows and finches, cardinals and blue jays are some of the regulars. White-crowned sparrows, juncos and American tree sparrows come from Northern Canada to spend the winter with us. We also have red-tailed hawks, Cooper's hawks and Great-horned owls year-round.

The trees also provide rest for the migrating warblers, thrushes and other birds flying to their summer or winter homes. While some red-winged blackbirds, common grackles, and starlings spend the summers here, in the spring and fall we have flocks in the hundreds passing through.

Over the past 18 months we have identified 118 bird species here at MA Center Chicago. In addition to the birds already mentioned we have seen Lapland longspurs, fox sparrows, white-throated sparrows, ruby-crowned kinglets, various sandpipers, Baltimore and orchard orioles, pine siskins and many more.

Fox squirrels, gray squirrels, chipmunks, thirteen-lined ground squirrels, ground hogs, and rabbits are the common four-legged furry friends that live in the ground and the trees. At dusk, you can see deer in the fields and hear the howling of coyotes.

There are numerous species of insects to complete the ecosystem. Butterflies include the familiar monarch and swallowtails. We also have the smaller pearl crescent, cabbage white, and clouded sulfur butterflies. Several species of dragonflies and damselflies fly and dart around the ponds and fields. The largest is the eastern pondhawk dragonfly and smallest is the dainty blue-fronted dancer damselfly. The elegant ebony jewelwing damselflies can be seen along the creek. There are a few species of bees besides our honey bees, from the plump bumble bees to the tiny green iridescent sweat bees. Many of the insects go unseen but one that stands out is the small but colorful red milkweed beetle.

It is truly a joy to walk the grounds and take in the beauty and diversity of Nature here at MACC.