One Human's Abandoned Railway Line is Another Bird's Rest Stop
November 18, 2009
When I make my screenprints I use The Bird Machine, my husband Jay's print shop. For the most part I work from my home studio, but it's always nice to have the option to indulge in a little printmaking. The shop started in the basement of our Northside Chicago 2 flat, and then for several years was in a space in the Lincoln Square neighborhood. 3 years ago when we moved just north of the city, it was decided it was a good time to look for a space closer to home. After looking long and hard at various commercial spaces in the city and suburbs, Jay settled on a nice storefront in Skokie. Skokie? Yep, Skokie. Sorry Skokie, don't take it personally, but you seemed the same sort of sprawling, drab, urban planning of a nightmare that I grew up in: Schaumburg. Yes, I grew up in Schaumburg, and so I know I have no right to be pointing fingers at you, Skokie. At least you have a definable downtown area. Schaumburg? Does Ikea count as a downtown area? All things said and done, the shop location has actually worked out quite well. The price was right, and it was close enough to home to encourage bike riding as the main mode of transportation to and from the shop.
The days that I go in to the shop, I usually bring our trusty, adored greyhound Seth. One of my favorite places to walk Seth is an old, overgrown, abandoned rail line about a block from the shop. It's a line that at that particular section follows the CTA Yellow Line, otherwise known as the Skokie Swift. As you can see from the photos, there is nothing extraordinary looking about it. It follows a little industrial corridor in which many of the buildings are abandoned. There's a couple of cottonwoods off in the distance, and lots of scrubby, nondescript bushes. In the summertime there are some nice prairie plants that I am trying to identify, but there are also invasives like wild parsnip indicative of disturbed habitat. But even in this scrubby, neglected little patch of land, there is an impressive amount of diversity. In spring and fall migration seasons, I have been amazed at the variety of birds flitting about in the underbrush here. Most of us, when thinking of nature, still associate it as something to be experienced outside of our urban areas or even in places far away like the National Parks of the western US. But if you know where to look and how to look, you can see amazing things even in a sleepy suburb like Skokie, IL. So, to demonstrate this, the following posts will each be about a particular species of bird that I have observed there in the last year. If I knew more about botany and insects, I would write about that too, but as I don't, I'll mainly stick to the feathered creatures. I am not sure what Skokie has planned for the old rail line, but rumor has it that it will be cleaned up and turned in to a bike path. Ok, stay tuned for more.