Lake Katherine Reflections and a Raptor

Yesterday morning I had a quiet walk around Lake Katherine in Palos Heights.

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The still water reflected the trees and the clouds.

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It was a cold morning and the mute swans seemed to be sleeping with occasional grooming.

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Mute swan

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Mute swan

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There were not many people out, but two women were laughing and taking picutres on the bridge at the pond surrounded by cypress trees in autumn colors.

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Water is high in the pond this year.

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I see that invasive phragmites are taking root in the pond.

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When I first arrived at the lake it was birdy and I was trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to take pictures of white-breasted nuthatches, cardinals, downy woodpeckers, goldfinches, and some unknow sparrows.

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Then I noticed a red-tailed hawk land in a nearby tree.

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After a while it flew over to another tree.  Can you see it?

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I got a closer look at this predator.  I wondered if he had already had his breakfast or was hunting.

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Here is a view of the back feathers.  I understand that red-tailed hawks don’t get red tails until they are two years old.  The tail did not appear to be red.

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One more shot of the red-tailed hawk.  can you see the yellow at the base of the beak?

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Other than the swans there were only mallards in the lake.  There was plenty of quacking.  The geese must have already flown away for the day before I arrived.

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Duck getting breakfast.

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Parts of the lake were still frozen.  The temperatures have been swinging above and below the freezing point these past weeks.

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Fungi on a log were covered with a pretty frost.

Books:  I am currently reading Troubled Water: What’s Wrong with What We Drink, by Seth Siegel.  Lots of food for thought and a pretty interesting read.  Do you drink water from the tap?  A lot of us don’t trust it.  The book it not out to get villains, but says there are a lot of bystanders.  It is a complicated issue, but a serious one.  I am just on the fourth chapter but I understand more about why no one is taking action to solve the problem, which is getting worse each year. (I think it might involve taxes and getting re-elected.)  I am looking forward to what suggestions and solutions I will find in the book.

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Crabapple Tree

The crabapple tree outside the kitchen window has been catching my attention recently.

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It snowed on Halloween, but the next day the sun came out and I love the blue sky and fluffy clouds above the snow outlined crabapple tree.  On the left the chinquapin oak tree was showing its fall colors.

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Backing up, here is the view from the kitchen window.

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The dark-eyed juncos have arrived, and are winter residents in our neighborhood.

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Male house finch

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The crabapples probably get tastier after a freeze or two.  Though they probably are not terrific tasting since usually quite a few little apples persist on the branches over the winter.

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The crabapples are at various stages of ripeness.  The tree is full of crabapples this year and we hardly had any last year.

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Profusion crabapple tree this past spring.  The weather must have been just right to get the flowers pollinated and set into little apples.

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The squirrels have come a number of times for a snack.

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Golden-crowned kinglet migrating through Chicagoland.  It is always fun to look out the kitchen window and see what birds are stopping by.

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The bark of the tree does not look very healthy to me.  Does this mean the tree is dying?  The leaves get diseased and fall off early each year.  I have not diagnosed the problem yet.  We did have robins successfully nest in this tree early in the year though, when there were still leaves.

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As a side note, I saw a black swallowtail caterpillar in the fennel on November fifth, the week after the snow.  We are in cleanup mode these days and have started a big leaf and grass compost pile.  I am leaving more plants standing in place this year to provide habitat for wintering insects and other critters that are good bird food.  Insects are the foundation of the food chain, right?

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Dan and I had a fantastic walk in the woods this morning, starting at the Wolf Road Woods trail in the Palos Forest Preserve.

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At Tomahawk Slough we saw a very fluffed up great blue heron.  The temperature was below freezing last night and thin ice covered parts of the slough.

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This shot was from our walk last week at the Willow Springs Forest Preserve.  It is time to pull out the cozy jackets, wooly scarves and mittens, and warm boots and enjoy cold weather hiking.

Flowers of the Field

When I started seriously gardening over ten years ago, I was mostly interested in color schemes, height and placement of flowers, and having something blooming in all seasons.  That is still interesting to me, but since then my focus has moved to growing more food and planting as many native plants as I can.  So I still have non-natives in the yard, but I keep adding native plants, as they attract many more pollinators and provide habitat for a greater diversity of wildlife.  This time of year the abundance of flowers is really wonderful!

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Purple coneflowers, monarda – wild bergamot in the background, and Ratibida pinnata, sometimes called prairie coneflower, yellow coneflower or gray-headed coneflower.

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I bought this Ratibida – gray-headed coneflower – at the farmer’s market today and I hope it survives the heat these next few weeks, as I usually don’t plant anything this time of year.

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View from the kitchen window.

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For some reason I bought a lot of packets of sunflower seeds this year, so I planted them all over the backyard.

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Monarch on sunflower.  The goldfinches love to eat the seeds.

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Two tall varieties of sunflowers in the vegetable garden.  The two in the back are so tall that they have not even started to flower yet.  Can’t wait to see how big they get.

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Besides the sunflowers we have a lot of Echinacea purpurea – purple coneflowers. They seem to be multiplying and the goldfinches love them, too.

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Black swallowtail butterfly on purple coneflower – taken from the kitchen window.

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The monarda – wild bergamot – really took off this year, and it has been swarming with bumblebees and all kinds of pollinators.

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A hummingbird moth or clearwing moth of some sort has been visiting all the flowers.

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Liatris, blazing star.  I now have two nice clumps growing in the garden.

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Rudbeckia hirta, black-eyed susans.

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Gateway, Joe Pye weed.  I like the look of the flower as it gets ready to open.

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The pollinators like the Joe Pye weed when all the flowers are open and messy.  This is an ailanthus webworm moth.

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The fennel plant is now taller than I am and blooming, attracting a wasp and an ant to the nectar.

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The male house finch can be seen now and then snacking on the sedum, which has not started blooming yet.

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Did the robin enjoy the bath?  Sparrows never miss a chance to join the fun.

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But who is this visiting the garden at dawn?

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Is this stealthy, fat neighbor cat looking for a bird, a rabbit, a squirrel, or a chipmunk?  Salvia blue hill flowers in the background.

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I found two of these large bugs/beetles on the stalk of my new gray-headed coneflower after I planted it.  Do cats eat those kinds of bugs?  Or do birds eat them?

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Common buckeye butterfly we saw on a walk last week.  I see monarchs just about every day in the summer in my yard, but there are many butterfly species I rarely see because they like a variety of host plants that I probably don’t have in my garden.  It is just a reminder that wild habitats need protection.

Bobolinks at Bartel Grasslands

Last weekend I visited Bartel Grasslands for the first time.  It is part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Illinois.  I had my hiking boots on for mud and my bug spray, but it was not bad for exploring on the trail when I was there around 8:00 in the morning.

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Bobolink

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There were quite a few bobolinks around the grasslands.

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I had only seen a bobolink once before in the far distance at Orland Grasslands, so it was a treat to be closer.  This one seemed to be annoyed and was probably guarding a nest, so I kept moving.

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This shot shows the elaborate feather patterns on the back.

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As I started down the trail I could hear a meadowlark calling from the parking lot, so I turned around to take a picture.  This was the first time I had seen one.

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I am not sure if it is an eastern or western meadowlark.

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I enjoyed listening to it singing!

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I am not sure what kink of bird this is, but it was pretty.

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I think this is a female common yellowthroat.

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It must have had a nest nearby.

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I followed this trail for a while.

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Monarch butterfly

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I could see a little wetland to the east of me.  Across the road are the Killdeer Wetlands, where there were a lot of red-winged blackbirds.

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What a great refuge for these bobolinks!

Home And Away

Hot weather and thunderstorms are here.  Tomatoes are growing.  Summer is here and the garden is active!

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American goldfinch feasting on the first purple coneflowers.

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There is just one clump of gaillardias this summer.

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There is also one small group of Shasta daisies.

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The Miscanthus ‘morning light’ ornamental grass stretches over the back-eyed Susan flowers, which will bloom before long.

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Bee balm

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Jackmanii clematis

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Butterfly weed

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False sunflower

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The downy woodpecker spent time on the laundry pole pecking for something.

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There have been quite a few baby robins in the yard, though they are really “big” babies!

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Tomatoes are forming on one of three tomato plants.

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With the long, cool and wet spring we have had our best year of green peas.

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I pick a bowl of wax beans every day.  Cooking, freezing and giving to neighbors.  Not pictured here are the raspberries I have been loving!!!

At the end of May I sprained my ankle badly and so I spent a month sitting around watching the weeds grow.  On Sunday I started taking walks again and have been increasing the length of the walks each day.  It is wonderful to walk again, though I should have been doing more stretches this past month and I am trying to make up for it now.

Today, on the fourth of July, I took my lunch to the forest preserve at the Little Red Schoolhouse and took a wandering walk.

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Waterlily at the pond.  When I got this picture on the big screen I saw the tiny frog.  I could hear the bull frogs as I walked past the pond.

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I tried to take a picture of a dragonfly and saw I had a tiny frog in that picture, too.

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Prairie flowers

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I stood still by the slough and saw an indigo bunting feeding.

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The catbird was calling.

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This bird seems to look like a catbird, too, but the call was completely different, I think.

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A summer trail.  I am so thankful to be back on my feet!

June View and Midwest Vacation

I sprained my ankle, so no gardening for me.  It is a chance to post a few pictures from the past few weeks.

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Today’s view from the kitchen window.

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Looks like the squirrel came by for a drink.  I need to move the birdbath into a sunnier location as my chinquapin oak tree grows.

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Digitalis purpurea, foxglove.  This flower is not native, but it is well behaved in my garden and the bees and hummingbirds seem to like it.

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Looking at it from a different angle, the foxglove is on the left.  The grass in the “meadow” is high and the little hickory tree is shooting up. The tall tree in the back is the serviceberry, also called Juneberry.  Since it is June it is time to look for berries, though the weather has been mild, so everything is a bit late.  The raspberries on the right are starting to form.

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The cedar waxwings, who love berries, have been checking the serviceberry tree out.  You can see the berries are not quite ready, though there always might be one or two that can be eaten early.

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In the vegetable garden the clematis started blooming.  The robin came for a little bath in the bottom portion of this birdbath.  I did not get mulch down before I sprained my ankle so there are weeds everywhere.  My doctor said to just “bless the weeds” for the next few weeks while I rest and heal.  I sprained my ankle in the kitchen an hour after returning from our Memorial weekend mini-vacation…  Here are a few pictures from that time.

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Camel rock in the Garden of the Gods Wilderness in southern Illinois.

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We explored a lot of trails, like this trail at Giant City State Park.

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I got a sense of pleasure at seeing a rock pigeon nesting in the rocks instead under an overpass in a city.

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Liriodendron tulipifera – tulip tree in bloom.  There are not too many of these trees in northern Illinois, but they were common as we went south.

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The boardwalk at Heron Pond in the Cache River Wetlands.  Curiosity about this area was what motivated us to make another trip to southern Illinois.  Being on this boardwalk felt magical.  The cypress trees grow up in this swampy pond, where we could hear various birds calling.  It is a pretty wild area, but a great place for biodiversity and a buffer between the south and the north during this time of climate change, where various animals and birds can find habitat.  We did not see any water moccasins, but kept our eyes open and appreciated the boardwalk.

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We did a lot of driving, including on back roads like this.  A Swedish thriller audiobook kept us entertained in between jumping out of the car to explore the next place.

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These may be box turtles mating, or something….  This was at the Oakland Nature Preserve in Carbondale, Illinois.  It was a buggy morning so we were doing a very fast walk through these trails to keep away from the bugs, but we saw quite a few turtles and a lot of native and/or rate plants.  Our hiking boots were caked with mud on this trip.

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On the way home on Sunday we stopped at the Chinook State and Wildlife Area, east of Terre Haute, Indiana.  There were no trails, so we did not stay long, but two different units came to fish while we were there.  We had beautiful warm weather during our trip, but as we headed home the cool, wet weather began to move in again.

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We stopped to see a few of the covered bridges near Rockville, Indiana.

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On the last stretch home to Chicago we stopped to see the bison at Kankakee Sands in northwest Indiana.  Can you see the head of the little calf in the group?  This is a prairie restoration area run by the Nature Conservancy.  We did not want to take the time to go to the bird area, but we were refreshed by the wide open area we saw.  Then back in the car and back to life in the suburbs!

Look At That Bird!

It is bird migration season, so I have been on the lookout for birds.  I even joined in with someone, for the first time, to help on the Bird Count in the forest preserve for the global big day of birding on May 4th, 2019.  Since there are many birds I have never seen before I try to take pictures of the birds I see, if I am able to do so, so I can look them up in a bird book to verify what I have seen or try to identify a bird.  Because of that some of the pictures to follow may not be the best quality, but they are fun for me as I remember the sightings.  I put in a few wild flower pictures in at the end, because I can’t help noticing them when I am in the woods!

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Yellow Warbler

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American Redstart

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Female American Redstart

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Belted Kingfisher

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You can’t see very clearly, but I think this is a black-throated blue warbler.

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Ruby-throated hummingbird.  All the pictures above were taken at McClaughry Springs in the Palos Forest Preserves.

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Up in the woods above McClaughry Springs we saw a flurry of warblers.  This is a pine warbler.  We also black-and-white warblers and palm warblers.

Last weekend we went to Sagawau Environmental Learning Center, where they were having a special birding festival.  We checked out the woods and the feeders there.

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Baltimore Oriole

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Tree swallow

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Rose-breasted grosbeak

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Rose-breasted grosbeak

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We spent a while watching bird banding, which was fascinating.  Here a chipping sparrow is getting banded.  The lady doing this let me release the sparrow when she was finished!

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American goldfinch

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Back in my backyard – the goldfinch is a regular visitor.  You can see how the green plants are shooting up today!

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I noticed a white-throated sparrow pecking around the garden the other day.

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Male northern flicker

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I took this picture in April of the mute swan on her nest at Lake Katherine.  I have not been back to see the cygnets, so I hope they survived.

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We flushed this pileated woodpecker on our walk in the woods yesterday.  This was the best picture Dan got.  When Dan and I walk in the woods he takes the camera and I use my binoculars, so I need to credit him for a number of the bird pictures.

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Jack-in-the-pulpit.   I nearly missed this flower that was off the path in the shade.

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Trillium

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This looks like another kind of trillium.

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Virginia bluebells

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Back in our yard again – This was a bumper year for the “profusion” crabapple.  It was stunning!  It looks like the robins built a nest in it a few days ago, once the blossoms had fallen.  I am curious if they will stay there as it is quite close to the house.  A few years ago this tree lost almost all its leaves, but so far it looks healthy this year.

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Finally, I am a book worm and I loved this book.  It was entertaining and kept me interested and wondering what would happen to each person in the book.