Daily Wonders

Daily Wonders

When you wake up you never know what you might see.  I am often surprised when I take time to look around.

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Double-crested cormorants rest between diving for a meal at the Saganashkee Slough last Sunday morning.

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Double-crested cormorant

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This was our first time hiking on the south side of the slough in the Palos forest preserve, and we walked under this flock of cormorants who had found a dead tree branch to rest on and dry their wing on this sunny morning.  It took a while to find a place to photograph the birds that was not blocked by trees and had the right angle for the light.

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View from the west side of Saganashkee Slough.  The great blue heron flew across the lake as a fisherman sits with a few bobbers in the water.  The cormorants were in a tree somewhere on the right side of this picture further down the lake.

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A sandpiper was hopping along on the shore.

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Back in our yard the white-crowned sparrows visited for a few days in their migration.  This one was in the Chinquapin oak tree among the fresh catkins.

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The white-crowned sparrow visits the birdbath.

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Raspberry getting ready to flower.  All the berries are in progress now, just needing rain and sun.

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The chive flowers were spilling over the strawberries.

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Red romaine lettuce.  We have been eating lettuce from the garden each day.  The little bean and zinnia seeds have sprouted, but I see the bunny has arrived, so I am not sure that they will survive.

 IMG_7803 Wax bean sprouts.  Will they survive the bunny?

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No more need to buy expensive kale at the supermarket until December….

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I planted a few coleus to fill the space of the viburnum we cut down, due to the invasive viburnum beetles we had last year.  Maybe next year I will have more time to find a shrub replacement.

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Ajuga reptans.  So much blue in the garden now.  The hostas are growing up in the shade.

IMG_7812Clematis jackmanii.  I love seeing these big flowers across the yard from the kitchen window.

Blueberries, Birds, and Wildflowers

Spring just keeps progressing day after day.  Plants are blooming and birds are migrating in.

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Duke Blueberry.  Just when I had sort of given up on getting many blueberries in the garden we had a lot of blossoms this year.

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The little Top Hat Blueberry was full of blossoms, too.  We will see if the blueberries turn out well.  These blueberry pictures are from about two weeks ago.

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Today all the strawberries are blooming.  I went around to try to put some straw under each plant to keep the berries out of the dirt.  I can also see that we are going to have a bumper crop of serviceberries before long, so I am looking forward to berry season.

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Common Lilac.  This photo was taken about two weeks ago, but the lilacs have been pretty for a long time, since it has been cool the past two weeks.

IMG_7605.JPGI never got good pictures of the crabapple blossoms this year.  It seemed to rain right after they opened, or I must have been busy….

Last weekend I took a few bird shots when we walked around Lake Katherine.

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Female mallard on log in pond

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Great blue heron

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The end of April seemed pretty early to see goslings, but we had some warm weather early in the spring.

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Fluffy gosling

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Back in our yard the Chinquapin oak tree is full of catkins.  Can you see the palm warbler in the tree?

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I tried to zoom in a little on the palm warbler.

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Here the palm warbler is looking for a bug snack among the strawberry and anemone plants.

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The dwarf fothergilla bush is in bloom now.

IMG_7616And there is the palm warbler again next to the fothergilla bush.

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There are a lot of little brown birds like this in the yard.  It could be just a house sparrow or it could be some wonderful migrating bird.  I have not had much time to get out and observe, but even going outside for 5 or 10 minutes can be rewarding.  I had heard the goldfinch song in the yard and today I saw the yellow bird for the first time this year.

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I was sitting listening to an unfamiliar bird song this morning way up in a tall tree and then I saw the orange color.  A Baltimore Oriole was busy singing and getting some kind of food from the top of this tree.

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It was so much fun to watch this Baltimore Oriole from my patio.

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The kale and romaine lettuce have been in the ground for 2 weeks.  There is a frost warming for tonight, but it looks like 37 degrees, which I think is fine in my yard.  I put up the bean pole structure and am waiting for the soil to warm up to plant pole beans.  You can see the mound of rhubarb in the back.  I made rhubarb sauce for the first time this season today.  I think my tomato and pepper plants should be coming from Seed Savers in the mail some time this week….

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Huechera ‘plum pudding’

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I threw some dwarf sunflower seeds in the meadow a week or two ago and was very excited to see they sprouted.  Can’t wait for these small sunflowers.

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Dark blue salvia is blooming next to the yarrow that will start up soon.

Yesterday our family went for a walk in the forest preserves.  I was looking forward to seeing spring wildflowers.  I did, but they were different from the ones I saw a few weeks ago.

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Dodecatheon meadia Shooting Star wildflower in the Cap Sauers Holdings of the Palos Forest Preserve.

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I am not sure what this is, but it was pretty.  No need to know the name, really.  We can just enjoy the beauty!

Spring Wildflowers and Birds

Spring Wildflowers and Birds

When we went to the Palos Forest Preserve yesterday we noticed all the spring woodland wildflowers starting to open up.

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Claytonia virginica spring beauty

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Pollinator on spring beauty wildflowers.

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Toothwort

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Trillium

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There are two or more different sets of leaves here which may produce flowers, but not sure what they will be…

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Male red-bellied woodpecker

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We saw a bird fly in and out of this knot hole, but did not see what kind of bird it was.

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Northern flickers.  The female is on the left and the male on the right.

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This morning we went to the Sagawau Environmental Learning Center, where we saw this white-breasted nuthatch, right near the sign for snake crossings.

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Mertensia virginica Virginia bluebells

IMG_7556In the wetlands there were large swaths of marsh marigolds.

IMG_7554Close-up of marsh marigolds

IMG_7548Podophillum peltatum mayapples.  We came across this patch of mayapples starting to come up as we walked along on to the Sagawau trail.

IMG_7543Violets were blooming here and there.

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Back in my yard I have started to plant the vegetable garden.  Curly kale and romaine lettuce in this picture, but also, cauliflower, collards and eggplant.

Spring Bulbs, Waterfowl, and a Snake

Spring Bulbs, Waterfowl, and a Snake

After some snow last week the weather warmed up again and it is feeling like spring.

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Cheery crocuses

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Mini daffodils

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Rhubarb emerging last week.  Already the leaves are much bigger today.

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I heard reports of common loons in our area on their way north and I went to the Sagahashkee Slough to see if I could spot any.  It was a cloudy day and I did not see loons, but enjoyed watching other waterfowl.

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There were maybe 40- 50 American coots on the west end of the slough.  A fisherman was seeing what he could catch, but he told me he had not caught any fish.

IMG_7193 American coots

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I spent a while trying to get a picture of this guy, that I think is a horned grebe with breading plumage.

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Another view of the male horned grebe.

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I wondered if this could be the female or a juvenile as it seemed nearby without the yellow head plumage.  It was continually diving for food.

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By the lake I came across a rugged path along the south side of the slough that I will have to come back and explore with Dan some time.  I continue to be amazed at how many places there are still for us to explore for the first time in the Palos forest preserves.

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Unidentified seed heads by the lake.

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Mosses on tree trunk

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There was a large patch of little blue flowers by the side of the path.

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As I walked along the path I just about stepped on this little garter snake.  It was maybe 15 inches long.  I poked the tail very gently with a stick to try to get it to move out of my way.

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It curled up and showed me its red tongue, but I had more room to get by.  I like how this picture captures the design.

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I drove to Maple lake to see if there might be loons there, but it was hard to get close enough to the birds and my camera battery was dying.  I managed to get a picture of a red-breasted merganser couple.

I was going to end with a short video of a muskrat at Lake Katherine, but I am having trouble getting it to upload, so maybe another time….

Witch Hazel, Sandhill Cranes and Swans

Witch Hazel, Sandhill Cranes and Swans

Have you checked your vernal witch hazel lately?  As I write this the temperature is 69 degrees Fahrenheit in Chicagoland on February 18th!  Our vernal witch hazel has been blooming for a while now…

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Hamamelis vernalis, vernal witch hazel.

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Close-up of vernal witch hazel flowers.

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Back on February 9th we had a thin layer of snow that soon melted, but we have not had much more than that since December.  The cyclamen continues to bloom in the greenhouse window all winter.

img_6971Last weekend was a good weekend for pruning dormant trees and shrubs, as it was warm during the day, but freezing at night.  We completely removed one of our two American plum trees.  You can see the little stump in the forefront.  The foliage had just gotten too thick and we wanted a little more space and sunlight.  Besides we only had plums on the tree that we left standing.

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We just put all the branches and twigs on the patio.  I am not sure how soon the village will send around the truck to mulch branches in the spring.

img_6972If I had more time and energy I would do some winter gardening.  I have the fittings in place in the ground, so I would just need to put back the plastic tubing and the clear plastic cover over it to get the earth warmed up and get some lettuce planted.  Maybe when I retire….

img_6974I went out at lunch yesterday to enjoy the sun and noticed the garlic turning green.  There were a few green bottle flies that flew by.  Then I heard bird calls and looked up.

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There were about 50 sandhill cranes circling above me and then they flew off to the northwest.  An hour later I saw 20 more and today I saw another 40 flying northwest over Palos Hills.

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Last Sunday morning I sat in our living room and watched a Cooper’s hawk sitting at the top of the oak tree across the street from us.  I wonder what it found for Sunday brunch.

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This morning we took a walk around Lake Katherine and were pleased to see two mute swans.

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Most of the time the swans looked like this while they worked on breakfast.

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I hope we will see some little swans before long.

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Steph stopped to sit on a warm bench on a warm winter day.

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A downy woodpecker perched near the lake path.

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An unidentified sparrow seemed to be eating buds off the branches.

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A female mallard posed for a portrait.  A little water glistened on her feathers.

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A flap of her strong wings shook the water off…

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The male mallard was busy working on a meal.

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This afternoon the warm weather drew us outside again for a walk on the north side of the canal where we saw a lot of deer and coyote tracks.  It was great with no bugs!

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Dan is always looking for some ridge to climb.  I waited below near some sunny rocks.

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Where the rocks were warm small plants were emerging.  I heard the song of first red-winged blackbird I have heard this year.

Global warming:  I think this is record-breaking weather today.  Even though we really enjoyed the warm weather there was something strange about it, too.  We may have more snow storms before spring comes, though we have had mostly rain the past two months.

Spring Day In January

I know we may still have a blizzard to two this winter, but today was in the high fifties and I was outside with just a hooded sweatshirt.

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Here is one of several groups of crocuses that have emerged from the ground.  These are snow crocuses and have the smallest flowers.

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The mini daffodils are emerging along with weeds on the south side of the back fence.

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I checked on the praying mantis sac that I moved on to the fence behind the ornamental grass last fall.

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This kale looks like it will make it through the winter, though some of the stalks of kale look ready for the compost pile.

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Looking into the neighbor’s yard it looks like he has put out some lettuce, hoping to attract a female rabbit to make her home under his deck and give him some baby bunnies to watch.  Of course, this is the opposite of what I am hoping for as they tend to squeeze into our side of the fence where the food is more plentiful in the garden.  But I am glad my neighbor likes wildlife….

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The moss continues to spread through the rocks.

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I had to pause to look at these leave on a gaillardia plant.

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I have to admit that creeping Charlie is my worst garden enemy, and it seems to love this weather.  I can’t let it stress me out.

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Most of the year the rhubarb leaves are covering this stepping stone, but not today.  I did see a few real insects flying around this afternoon, but did not manager to get any photos.

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My rabbit loving neighbor feeds the birds as well, and the squirrel was taking advantage of the dropped seeds.

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Black-capped chickadee in the spice bush.

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Starlings on the utility line.

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I am throwing in a shot of a tufted titmouse I saw near the Little Red Schoolhouse on January 8th.

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I will end with a shot from Lake Katherine where three of us took a beautiful morning walk.

Snow, Cyclamen, Hawk, and Sandhill Crane

The first snowfall to stay on the ground just started.  We should have a few more inches of snow today.

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First snowfall of the season in the back yard.

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Snow on chinquapin oak tree.

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The cyclamen started blooming to bring in the Christmas season.

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We started cooking the soup before the snow fell and brought in Brussel sprouts, collards and kale.  We still have a lot of kale in the garden, so we will see how it looks next week.

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When I stepped outside yesterday this hawk flew up into a nearby tree.  It was probably hunting sparrows or squirrels at the bird feeder next door.

img_4259-1We came upon a lone juvenile sandhill crane (no red marking on head) at Lake Katherine on Saturday morning.  It must have been separated from its flock as it flew south. On Friday Steph and I were taking a walk and looked up to see 80 – 90 sandhill cranes flying over us in a southeast direction.