McCully Heritage Project
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trail signs

Trail maps and Trail signs are here!

As you hike the trails this summer you may notice colorful new signs along the trails. We are currently working on marking all of our trails with color coded signs to make the trails easier to navigate. Pick up a map in the main kiosk at the parking area, or download one here - so you can follow the trails.




lanceleaf coreposis

May 2009: With all the cool weather we've been having, it is almost surprising to see the bright yellow flowers of summer blooming, but they are. The garden looks like it will be prettier than ever this year. Two summers ago we planted 200 purple coneflowers in front of our pavilion, and have been adding in various native flowers and grasses since then. This garden has turned into the most spectacular native plant garden! The birds love it, the bees love and we love it! So will you.

The heirloom vegetable garden has been planted and Eva McCully's gardens are also blooming. You're welcome to visit and if you'd like a little tour, call the office at 618-653-4687


deer jumping November 2008: It's that time of year again. The leaves have nearly all fallen from the trees and the deer are on the move. We do allow hunting at the MHP, so our trail access is limited until Thanksgiving. The trails around the wetland and back to the fishing ponds are open.  


cricket frog

April 2008: Things started getting pretty lively around here in March, when the frogs in the wetland started singing. They're often hard to see, but if you're patient you may see one hop off the bank into the water and catch a glimpse. This cricket frog was seen at the upper fishing pond, trying to hide on a floating leaf.

The spring bird migration has also begun, and many birds are returning to the MHP to nest and spend the summer. This Eastern Towhee was spotted while hiking. He was sitting in a tree singing, "Drink-your-teeeeeee," when we spotted him. Learn more about birding at the MHP here.

eastern towhee


Not-quite-ripe persimmons on the branch. Usually persimmons don't fall until they are ripe and they're not not ripe until they fall!

Late October 2007:

This fall has been unseasonably warm and very dry, extending the fall color season. A fall hike along the MHP trails can be fruitful so-to-speak. Persimmons ripen in the fall, and are a nice addition to the fall colors. A word of caution: Don't bite into a persimmon unless you know it's ripe. Anyone who has done this will know why - until ripe, the fruits contain tannin that will make your mouth pucker. Ripe fruits are delicious, and if you can get them before the wildlife, they're said to make delicious jam and pudding.

For an interesting discussion of persimmons, click here.


This was the view, that same day, from the southern over look on the McCully property - a tow heading south. From this overlook you can see 21 miles down the Illinois River valley.

Tow on the Illinois


swallowtail on coneflower

August 2007: BUTTERFLIES!  This Tiger Swallowtail was spotted sipping nectar from the new-this-year butterfly and bird garden in front of the MHP pavilion.  This spring we planted nearly 300 purple coneflowers in this spot and sprinkled in a few other native prairies species and some sunflowers.  The butterflies, bees and birds (and bunnies) love it – so will you.  The MHP wetland is also an excellent butterfly viewing area. 

Did you know that the female Tiger Swallowtail is black, unlike its yellow male counterpart?  The coloring of the female is a defense against predators – mimicking a species that is distasteful to other animals.

female swallowtail

barn swallows
Speaking of swallows….the MHP farmhouse was host to two broods of barn swallows this summer (a living addition to our bird nest exhibit).  The second family fledged in early August.  Here’s a picture a day or two before they took their first flight.


sunflower July 2007: If you love sunflowers, or have never seen a field of sunflowers in bloom, now is the time to visit the McCully Heritage Project. We plant a sunflower field near our wetland each year. The flowers started to bloom in early July and seemingly overnight they turned into a sea of yellow. One visitor commented that just looking at them makes you happy. They certainly keep the wildlife happy - birds, deer and butterflies are regular visitors to the sunflower field.
sunflower field



Lanceleaf coreopsis blooming in the MHP prairie plot.

May 2007: The wildflowers have been blooming at the MHP since March, beginning with the Dutchman's breeches (right), spring beauty and red trillium. This week the prairie flowers began to bloom. The Lanceleaf coreopsis (left) were the first to bloom, along with the Blue-eyed grass. Many of the other prairie and woodland flowers are budding out and will be blooming throughout the summer.

dutchman's breeches

Dutchman's breeches blooming in the MHP woodland in March.

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Winter 2007: On February 10, 2007 a number of interested participants gathered at the MHP to learn about the Great Backyard Bird Count.  We talked birds and then went for a brief (it was cold!) bird walk, followed by hot chocolate (of course).

To the right is a list of the birds we identified:

1. Bald Eagle
2. Red-tailed Hawk
3. Downy Woodpecker
4. Hairy Woodpecker
5. Red-bellied Woodpecker
6. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
7. Blue Jay
8. Black-capped Chickadee
9. Tufted Titmouse
10. White-breasted Nuthatch
11. Carolina Wren
12. House Sparrow
13. Dark-eyed Junco
14. Northern Cardinal
15. American Goldfinch


Winter 2007: There have been a number of reports of bobcat sightings at the MHP, but no one has gotten a good picture to share. Bobcats are shy and are not often seen unless the observer is sitting very quietly and out of sight. Most of the reports of bobcat have been by hunters who have seen them from their tree stands. There are however signs of bobcat in the woods.

bobcat scratch

According to Len McDougall (The Complete Tracker, MFJ Books, 1997) one bobcat sign “is claw marks in the trunk of a tree, usually a softwood such as an aspen or cottonwood, almost never a pine or a cedar because of their gluey sap, or sometimes in a fence post. Bobcat claw marks are normally 2 to 3 feet above the ground and consist of three or four long, parallel scratches running almost vertically down the trunk.”

bobcat scratch bobcat scratch
These marks we found on the MHP property match that description nearly perfectly. It’s true that deer will often scrape bark off of trees and leave similar marks, but clearly these deep marks are that of sharp cat claws, rather than deer antlers.


September 2006: After a recent rain, this snapping turtle decided it was time to take a walk. It has been dry this summer and judging from the moss and vegetation on the shell of the turtle, it had been hanging out in one of our ponds all summer, but couldn't resist such a pleasant post-rain day. The shell of this turtle was 12 or 13 inches from front to back - not huge, but big enough!

snapping turtle
    snapping turtle


August 2006: A Hercules beetle has been wandering around the main pavilion on the site. Hercules beetles are the largest beetles found in North America. This particular one was a male and measured around 2 inches (over 5 cm) long! The males have the fierce looking 'horns' like this one, but they don't bite.

hercules beetle 2


The Hercules beetle from the side and from the top. The black and white squares on the scale in the second image are each one centimeter wide.

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