Palos Forest Preserve

This morning we took a walk at the Palos forest preserve and took the trail at Wolf Road Woods.  This was the first time we walked this 3 mile trail and found it really enjoyable.

IMG_4989

Tomahawk Slough in the Cook County Forest Preserves.  As the trail started to go by this small lake we could hear the deep resounding calls of bull frogs.

IMG_4980

Bullfrog and lily pad.

IMG_4976

The lily pad leaves and flowers seemed to be a bigger species on this lake.  The flowers were facing away from us to the south.

IMG_4946

I heard a new bird call I did not recognize and zoomed in on this bird, which I believe is an Eastern Towhee.  This is the first time I have seen one of these birds.

IMG_4960

Intricate spider’s web in the woods.

IMG_4973

Can you see the katydid on the oak leaf?  Dan and I have been fascinated with hickory trees ever since we planted one in our yard.  As we were looking at hickory leaves I wondered out loud what was chewing up these oak leaves nearby.  And then I noticed the katydid.  Otherwise I would have walked right by.

IMG_4963

We thought we had come upon an old cemetery with one tombstone.  A closer look showed that this was related to the atomic testing done in this area from 1943 – 1949.  The sign says there is no danger to visitors and someone has scratched out the “no.”

IMG_4992

Unidentified hawk

IMG_4920

Eastern Kingbird.  This was taken yesterday at Lake Katherine.  I think it is an eastern kingbird because of the  white at the bottom of the tail.

IMG_4925

I couldn’t resist getting a shot of this little goldfinch.

We feel so blessed to be near such beautiful natural places with an abundance of bird life and other biodiversity.

I Spy In July

It is full summer now.  After hot dry days we had plenty of rain this past week and all is growing well.

IMG_4913

Male downy woodpecker on yucca plant.  Each year I wait to see it the woodpeckers will come to attack the yucca plant seed pods outside my front window.  Moth larvae grow up inside the seed pods.  It did not look like the woodpecker was very successful on this attempt, but wait a few days and they should soften up…

IMG_4842

A few weeks ago I just got a glimpse of this cedar waxwing.  It was the end of the mulberries ripening, so I think that was what brought it to our yard.

IMG_4929

Black-eyed Susans with miscanthus ‘morning light’ and Russian sage.

IMG_4939

This was taken in early morning light and shows what these flowers looks like from the patio where I eat my oatmeal.

IMG_4881

Orange butterfly weed

IMG_4931

Swamp milkweed, grown from a seed packet labeled ‘red milkweed.’  I am still waiting for monarchs, though there are plenty of red admiral butterflies around.

IMG_4883

North flower bed with joe pye weed, liatris and echinacea – purple coneflowers.  The messy meadow is on the left and kale in the foreground.

IMG_4888

Laundry usually dries quickly these days.

IMG_4845

Zucchini still in its somewhat tidy state.  The marigolds have been cheerful this year.

IMG_4876

We have been able to keep up with the zucchini by picking it small.

IMG_4869

Cucumber vines grow out in all directions.  We have a lot of cucumbers, though, and my refrigerator is starting to get full!

IMG_4865

Invasive viburnum leaf beetles mating.  We removed the raspberry tart viburnum  and the blue muffin viburnum bushes, that were both so beautiful.  It looks like next year we will be getting rid of the Chicago lustre viburnum bushes as well.  We don’t have the energy to fight these beetles year after year, so we will start over with other plants.

IMG_4995

Sunday soup.  Sometimes we put a little too much in the pot!

Vegetable Flowers

The raspberries are finished now, though all kinds of birds are wild about the remaining mulberries in the big tree in the easement.  Now is the time for summer vegetables.  Last weekend I took these vegetable flower pictures.

IMG_4763

Cucumber flower.  The first cucumber is a little small yet.  It has been dry, so I will probably put the drip hose on tomorrow for a few hours.

IMG_4829

Zucchini flower.

IMG_4765

Eggplant flower.

IMG_4824

This is the first year I have grown white eggplants.

IMG_4769

Tomato flower.  Green tomatoes are ripening, but I have eaten a couple of sweet cherry tomatoes.

IMG_4779

Wax bean flower.  I have been picking yellow wax beans every day and cooking them up.

IMG_4775

The French pole beans are climbing the poles and string lattice, and they have been flowering, but I have not seen the thin green beans yet.  Soon!

IMG_4770

Kale planted last year is flowering now.  I just keep breaking off these flower stems to keep the plant producing leaves.  On the right is wild kale that it tender and easy to use.  In the back left is curly kale.

IMG_4789

There are a lot of pepper flowers now.

IMG_4826

Dill in bloom.

IMG_4784

Cone flowers.  The birds, bees, and butterflies need food, too.

IMG_4783

Joe Pye Weed

IMG_4781

Liatris spicata blazing star

IMG_4810

Great blue heron at Lake Katherine, where we often walk on Saturdays.  There are a lot of fish in this lake, so happy hunting.

IMG_4799

Another shot of the heron and lily pads.

IMG_4840

The little house wren thinks he is king of the yard.  He has been busy bringing home lunch.  I saw glimpses of a cedar waxwing and an oriole in the yard this week.

Rabbit Story:  A while ago we were excited that we chsed a baby rabbit out of the yard.  A larger rabbit somehow got in for a visit sometimes, but politely went out the gate when we opened it.  Then about a week ago Dan discovered five baby rabbits in our meadow!  Our neighbor helped us chase them out of our yard.  He was hoping they would come and live under his deck.  Every now and then we find a little bunny in the yard, so it is non-stop, but so far the damage has been manageable…  We just have such a cozy habitat for insects, birds, and even mammals.  The brave chipmunk ran by me few times as I read outside this afternoon.

Visit to Southern Indiana

For the 4th of July long weekend we headed to southern Indiana.  We made Nashville, Indiana, our home base and visited state parks and nature preserves in the area.  It was our first time here.

IMG_4498

Boats docked in the evening at Yellowwood State Forest.

IMG_4397

The steps up to Ogle Lake at the start of trail 7 at Brown County State Park.

IMG_4343

Ogle Lake at Brown County State Park.  The grasses in this sunny spot were full of butterflies and bees.

IMG_4349

Bee on common milkweed – Asclepias syriaca. All the pollinators seemed excited about the milkweed.

IMG_4389

Black swallowtail butterfly on queen Anne’s lace.

IMG_4344

The bluebirds were busy feeding their young.

IMG_4476

We also walked around Strahl Lake at Brown County State Park.

IMG_4483

This looks like a zebra swallowtail butterfly.  A delicate butterfly on delicate flowers by a peaceful lake…

IMG_4463

‘Hoosier’s Nest.’  We explored this little cabin.  The downstairs seemed to be fixed up like a school room.

IMG_4596

Another day we visited Clifty Falls State Park near Madison, IN.  We saw three or four waterfalls, though the water levels were low.  On one “very rugged” trail we were walking along this streambed and looking for the trail that would lead us out of the ravine.  The signs were not clear and we ended up climbing up a challenging, rocky streambed to a waterfall, only to find there was no way out and we had to climb back down to find a trail out, as the sun started to descend….  We love adventure and were thankful for no injuries, so it is a memory we will keep for a long time.

IMG_4584

I think this is a brown thrasher.  There were so many birds singing and flying by in all the forests.  We are still amateurs at birding, but learning little by little.

IMG_4587

Wild turkey

IMG_4609

Green frog.  This pond was at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site where we explored two quitet paths in the surrounding forest.

IMG_4649

We pulled off the road near the Monroe Reservoir, the largest lake in Indiana.  We chatted for a while with an older guy fishing on the shore about the fish in the lake.

IMG_4657

Barred Owl, I think.  At Spring Mills State Park we hiked through the forest and we passed several caves.  This owl was resting by the entrance to the Bronson Cave.  Nearby a songbird chattered incessantly at the owl.

IMG_4646

The forest canopy was full and provided shade as we hiked.

IMG_4678

Trail 3 at the Spring Mills State Park took us through a virgin forest with some trees over 300 years old.  Dan was hugging one of the large trees near the path.

IMG_4741

View from the top of the fire tower at Martin State Forest.  It was just starting to sprinkle at the end of the day.  Sunday rained all day, but we were in our car driving home, so that was fine with us!