Indigo Bunting, Skunk, and Garden Update

Indigo Bunting, Skunk, and Garden Update

We enjoy the garden this time of year, but also like to venture out in the many natural areas near where we live.

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Dan got a picture of a male indigo bunting singing in a tree at Lake Katherine last Saturday morning.

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The dragonflies are active this time of year.  This might be a blue darner.  I am seeing fireflies at night in the garden now, too.

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This monarch was at Lake Katherine on the thistle plants last week.  I may have seen one Monarch in our yard this year, but that is about all.  My zinnias are just about to start blooming, so that will attract them.

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I am going to sneak in this very blurry picture of an eastern bluebird that we saw in the Palos forest preserve yesterday.  The mosquitoes were after us when I was trying to take this picture, so that is my excuse for the poor picture!

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On our walk yesterday we passed this stump with interesting fungi.  I don’t know if you can see the hole in the log just below the top fungi, which looks like a nice home for some critter.

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Back in our yard, the monarda, bee balm, that I planted two or three years ago finally bloomed for the first time.  We have it growing in our tall grass area.

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One day this week I was working at my desk and looked out of the window to see something black and white that caught my eye.  We had left the back gate open and the skunk must have come in, snooped around for a minute, but then went back out the gate, which we then closed.

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Here is a closer look at one of the marigolds that was behind the skunk in the picture.

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A peek into my garden where things are getting going.  The cucumber is just starting to take off on the right.  Behind that I just planted two little tomato plants that my Arab neighbor lady gave me.  I don’t really need more tomatoes, but I am curious to see how they will do and I seem to have room right now for them.

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I took this picture of the zucchini plant about a week ago.  Since then it rained a little and there were a few flowers and the first small zucchini is coming along. Get ready for zucchini!

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We have been picking and eating a lot of raspberries in the garden this week.  Dan and I have each had a couple of good handfuls a day.  I throw in some mulberries and service berries into my morning oatmeal, too.

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There were quite a few blueberries on the Duke blueberry bush, but it seems to take forever for them to turn blue.  I think this bush is dying.  Our soil is not acidic and this bush does not really get enough sun.  But it has made a great effort to produce this year.

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Pink hydrangea.

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This morning we went to the McGinnis slough in the forest preserve in Palos Park.  As we were looking at the great blue herons and egrets we noticed a deer walking in the slough.  It seemed to be eating lily pads.

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Its ears were perked up and it looked our way a long time as we looked at it.

Rain:  As I was writing this post we just had a nice rain shower.  It was just over a tenth of an inch, so not a lot, but even that should help everything in the garden, as it has been a bit dry recently.  It cooled the temperature down, too.

Visit to Southern Indiana

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.

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Boats docked in the evening at Yellowwood State Forest.

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

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

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

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Black swallowtail butterfly on queen Anne’s lace.

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The bluebirds were busy feeding their young.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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Wild turkey

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

Autumn Transformations

We had a hard frost last night, but the fall colors have been pretty the past few weeks.

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Earlier in the week the orange leaves were slowly falling off the chinquapin oak tree on the left.  You can see the gaillardia flowers still blooming in the front right.  The zinnias stand was still pink in the center back.

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We have two small American Hornbeam trees.  One lost its leaves last week.  This one is always a little later in changing color and gets orange and pink.  Behind it the lilac is still very green and the spice bush is yellow.

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Saturday morning we woke to a little snow on the ground, after a very cold Halloween, with almost no kids coming for “trick or treat.”

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Last night we had a hard frost, but the sun was out this morning and the frost soon burned away.  Still, it finished off the pink zinnias and they turned brown.  In the bottom right is the blue fescue ornamental grass, which has done well this year.

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This is looking back across the yard with a somewhat foggy lens.  On the left the red upright grass is “little bluestem.”  In the spring the grass stands out because it is bluer than the grass around it and in the fall it turns red/orange.

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Before the frost I captured some cheery gaillardia blooms, also called blanket flowers.

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Frost-covered gaillardia.  We are supposed to have warm weather tomorrow, so we may still get more of these flowers.

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Pink geranium.  I forgot to include this in my last post about fall color, as these flowers do well in cooler weather.

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Frosty pink geranium.  My camera could either focus on the ice or on the inside of the flower.  The frost won’t hurt this flower.  I also love the foliage on this plant that gets bright red as the weather gets colder.

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Geranium ‘rozanne’ continues to bloom prolifically and beautifully.

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Despite the frost it is ready to bloom another day.  That helps the late pollinators have something to feed on.

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The bluebird house did not have bluebirds this year.  I kicked out sparrows a number of times and finally some house wrens filled up the house and then moved away.  So it was time to clean up before next spring.  This spider was surprised to have me discover its home.

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Here is a closer look at that spider.

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You can hear the blue jays before you see them.  This blue jay pair stopped in after the snowy morning.

Day Light Savings Is Over:  Now I know, but this morning we forgot and went out for a walk at Lake Katherine at around 7:45 am and did not see a soul until we got back to the parking lot.  Then we realized that everyone slept in that extra hour, and we were really walking at 6:45 am.  Still, it was great to see the swan couple, the little coot, and a lot of ducks and geese busy slurping breakfast in the water.  The warblers were there too, but they move so quickly I couldn’t tell what kind of warblers they were.  In the quiet morning you could just hear the sound of softly falling yellow maple leaves.  The frost loosened them up and the sun this morning set them free.