Bees on Agastache

It is a busy time for bees.

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A large pollen covered bee on Agastache ‘blue fortune’ – anise hyssop.

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A jumbo bee meets the ever-present orange bugs.

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This bee is a little smaller.

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False sunflower

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These two bees spent a long time chasing each others.  I was not sure if it was a mating event or something else going on.

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Coleus below my office window

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Bee on coleus

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Hawk chased a squirrel, but came up empty.

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Can you see the caterpillar on the parsley?

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Black swallowtail caterpillar

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Grasshopper on dried coneflower

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Moth on miscanthus ornamental grass

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One of the three prairie drop seed plants has grass heads now.

Butterflies and Zinnias

I see that I have already been posting pictures of butterflies and zinnias this year, but that is where the action currently is, so here are a few more pictures.

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Black swallowtail butterfly on zinnia.

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So many delicate parts and such an intricate design.

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I decided to look for black swallowtail caterpillars on the curly parsley today and I saw a total of four caterpillars on three parsley plants.  The picture above is of a medium size caterpillar.  There was one that was much bigger near the house.

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Here is a tiny black swallowtail caterpillar just getting started.  I was watching the butterfly laying more eggs on parsley this week.

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Black swallowtail butterfly and monarch butterfly on zinnias.  Today I was in the garden and saw three butterflies just a few feet from me.  One was a silver spotted skipper butterfly, which I have not seen since last year.

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A few days ago I took this shot of the zinnias and, in front of them, the pole beans.  It has been dry recently, but yesterday we got a downpour, with two inches of rain, so that should keep the flowers blooming and the zucchini coming.

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Monarch butterfly on zinnia.

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Monarch on red zinnia.

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Eastern tiger swallowtail on zinnia.

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Here you can see the butterfly’s face.

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From the kitchen window I took this picture of the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on the white phlox.

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The most frequent flying visitor is the cabbage white butterfly.  Unfortunately, our yard is a wonderful habitat.

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Here are the collard leaves that have been chewed by the cabbage worms.

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The male American goldfinch pulls the petals off the zinnias.

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Here the goldfinch reaches up to work on the sunflower that is hanging down.

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Now that the yucca plant has pods the downy woodpecker likes to come and work on them.  There are worms inside those seeds pods he is trying to get.

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I like the woodpecker’s  portrait pose!

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Smaller orange zinnias along the east fence.

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Something else along the fence that is orange, but not so attractive, are these milkweed bugs that have been maturing on the swamp milkweed. They feed on the seeds, leaves, and stems of the milkweed.

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Our neighbor decided to grow cherry tomatoes on the fence this year, and they are starting to ripen on our side of the fence.

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Yesterday we took down a rather tired common lilac bush and planted this fothergilla bush.  Fothergilla major ‘Mt. Airy’ is supposed to be 5 to 8 feet tall, so the goal is to have it grown up to provide privacy from our neighbor’s deck.  But this shrub might take a while to grow, so it might not be very effective for a while…

Sunflowers and More!

I  never know what will happen when I throw seeds in the ground in the spring.  This year I was pleased with the sunny sunflowers that grew up in my un-mowed “meadow.”

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Sunflowers and coneflowers grow in grassy area.  Zinnias are on the right and Joe Pye Weed in the background.

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Sunflower and purple coneflowers.

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Sunflower with bee.  I saw a lot of different bees and flies on these flowers.

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I planted dwarf sunflowers called “Elves Blend,” and I liked the variety.

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By now the goldfinches have removed the petals and picked away at the seed center on this flower.

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I shot this American goldfinch picture from the kitchen this evening, working on a coneflower.

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This very small butterfly or moth was working on the Joe Pye Weed, which also attracts a lot of pollinators.

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The giant zinnias are looking good now and they are loved by the goldfinches and butterflies.

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Swamp milkweed with black-eyed Susans and Russian sage in the background.

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Black-eyed Susans and Miscanthus ornamental grass ‘morning light.’

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The yellow cherry tomatoes have been fantastic this year.  They are so sweet!  This time of year I spend more time with the vegetables than flowers.  I am picking them and making salads or cooking them and eating them…..

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I usually plant three or four varieties of tomatoes and see which ones are best.  These Bonnie Originals have been wonderful this year.

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Zucchini

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A rabbit has moved into the yard, but mostly seems interested in eating the clover in the grass.

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Our next door neighbor called us over to look at the snake they found sunning in front of their house.  We wondered what kind it was for a while.  It turns out it was a python and a neighbor in the area collects snakes and it must have escaped.  I am glad I did not come across it in our yard….and glad it got safely back to the neighbor!

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Northern Cardinal at the birdbath.  The day lilies add some color.

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In July this bird was in our yard for a while.  I think it is a juvenile Baltimore Oriole.

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One day some northern flickers came for an ant meal.  This handsome male was poking around this tiny bird house I call my bug house.

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I snapped a picture of a cicada on the pole beans.

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The black chokeberries on the bush I planted in the spring seem to be ripening now.  Apparently they are edible, but need a lot of sugar, so best in jellies and jams, which I probably will not make.  Let’s see if the birds like them.

Monarch

Flowers are blooming and butterflies are visiting.

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From the kitchen window I caught a glimpse of a monarch butterfly on the swamp milkweed.

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Thursday morning I saw the first monarch caterpillar I have seen in the yard in a long time, chewing on the swamp milkweed flower, as far as I could tell.  However when I went back in the next hours I could not find it.  I am hoping it made it to safety….

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We have a lot of hungry juvenile robins, as well as juvenile starlings and a lot of other birds in the yard.  I read that soldier bugs are predators for monarch caterpillars, though maybe that is when the caterpillars are tiny, not huge, like the one above.

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We have had grackles in the yard this week, visiting the bird bath.

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A noisy blue jay has started visiting the yard this week, checking on the acorns on the Chinquapin oak, which are still tiny.

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On this day the bird bath was almost empty and not very clean, after a large group of starlings had a pool party.  The blue jay did not take a drink or a bath…  I have to change the water frequently in this hot weather.

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I really enjoyed the raspberries this year, but I think they are all eaten now!


Visit to Orland Grasslands

I wanted to see a meadowlark, so I took a drive to Orland Grasslands.  Most of the morning I was not sure what I was looking at, but here are some of the bird and prairie pictures I took.

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Male American Goldfinch pauses while working on thistle seeds.

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Male and female American Goldfinches

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And now there are three…  I just love the bright colors.

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Right from the start of my walk I saw a lot of these male birds singing above their nesting areas.  I thought they were meadowlarks, but now I think they are dickcissels.

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Dickcissel

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Dickcissel singing

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Another dickcissel.  If any of these are really meadowlarks please let me know.

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Here is another new bird for me.  My guess is that it is a grasshopper sparrow.

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Here is the same bird singing.  There is a tiny bit of yellow on the wing, a white eye ring and the little color above the eye.  I might be wrong, though….  The only way to learn is to spend time looking at birds and at my new Peterson Field Guide to Birds.

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This little bird was on the bike path.  I wondered if it was a baby bird that had come out of the grass.

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I zoomed in on this black bird out in the prairie.  I think it is a bobolink, because of the light patch on the back of the head.

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Here is a blurry close up of the bobolink.  I could be wrong.

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In a wooded area I saw an oriole.

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A tree swallow was getting ready to find some bugs.

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Here is one of two other tree swallows that were preening on a branch.

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Looks like a downy woodpecker.  Another one went up the tree and out of the picture.

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I chased this singing bird around for a while, and never got a good picture.  I think it was some kind of flycatcher.

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It was a beautiful morning to be in the prairie, with the flowers starting to give it color.

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The pink coneflowers were blooming.

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This monarch is the only butterfly picture I got.  I could hear a bull frog in the pond and the crickets were starting to make noise.

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I am thankful for the chance I had to enjoy this beautiful morning!

Eared Grebe and March Soil

I planned to have this blog be about my back yard, and there are a few pictures at the bottom of this post about that.  But when I hear that a bird that is not common for Illinois is in the neighborhood I sometimes decide to go birding instead of focusing on the garden.

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Eared Grebe at Saganashkee Slough.  I get frequent emails from IBET – Illinois Birders Exchanging Thoughts.  They inform the birding community of what interesting birds have been seen that day.  I particularly pay attention when the birds are seen in the Palos area. So I headed out to the slough to see if I could find this bird.  After taking quite a few pictures I noticed some birders and approach them and they said it looked like my picture was of the eared grebe they were looking for.  Yay!  This is a bird that is migrating through Illinois.

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Saganashkee Slough.  I understand that the water is only about 6 feet deep and that may make it a good fishing place for waterfowl.

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Horned grebes.

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A horned grebe that caught a fish.

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Red-breasted mergansers diving for fish.

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As I was watching through my binoculars it looked like mating season, as a group of male red-breasted mergansers were following a female.

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Two male common mergansers with a female.

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I kept hearing the sandhill cranes flying overhead during the afternoon.  Sorry the photo is not more zoomed in!

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Dormant trees at Long John Slough.  We are still having freezing temperatures at night, but today the weather was warm and beautiful.

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I noticed insects flying around today.  A moth landed on the Hicksii yew shrub.

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Daffodils were pushing up along the east fence.  I guess the soil is kind of heaving now due to the ice freezing and thawing in the soil.  I think this is good for the soil and the soil is damaged when we walk on this soft soil this time of year.

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Another view of soft, thawing, spring soil that is pushed up here and there.

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Earlier this week it was snowing hard, though we only got about an inch.  It snowed and sleeted Friday night, too.  I think we can use the moisture, so no complaints.  Spring is coming, but winter has not quite left us.

Fall Walks, Birds, and Butterflies

The weather stayed nice and unseasonably warm through today, when the rain and cooler weather seems to be moving in.  I was able to go on a number of beautiful fall walks this past week.

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Fall colors at Lake Katherine

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There were two pairs of mute swans at Lake Katherine this morning.

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The nuts were abundant on the bald cypress trees.

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Our little bitternut hickory tree in the front yard continues to grow more each year and it turned very yellow today.  You can see that the neighbor’s autumn blaze maple behind it is just getting ready to turn color.

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On Wednesday I had the day off and I went for a walk at the Little Red Schoolhouse in the Palos Forest Preserve.  The hickories were turning color, but most of the color was fairly muted.

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The temperature was in the mid-70s, so I sat down in the sun across from the prairie and soaked up the sun and the quietness.  The big oak trees were still very green.

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A large grasshopper was walking in circles in the grass at my feet….  So many different and complicated insects in the world, eating and being eaten.

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Nearby a migrating white-crowned sparrow looked for a snack.

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I spent some time in the shelter observing birds.  Another more experienced birder came along and she confirmed some of my sightings.

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I thought I had take pictures of a group of eastern bluebirds and she confirmed that was true.  I have not seen eastern bluebirds for a while, so that was rewarding.

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A great blue heron and a double-crested cormorant each found a resting spot on top of the solar array in the middle of the slough.  It was a very beautiful day.

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Back home in our yard two painted lady butterflies have been hanging out at the zinnias all week.

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A variety of other moths and butterflies spend the day on the flowers that are still blooming.

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I was struck by the two designs that meet in this picture.

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A week ago I took this picture of a goldfinch munching on the dried coneflowers in the garden.

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Pulling back you can see the little goldfinch on the messy coneflowers.  This is the view from our kitchen window.  This is the time of year to clean up the yard and get ready for winter.  I am always having a conversation in my mind about what messy plants to leave for the birds and insects and what clean up to do now to make it easier in the spring.  Some years I clean up more and some years I leave more mess!