Backyard blooms, berries and beyond

Backyard blooms, berries and beyond

Following on in the “B” theme, look in this blog post for a bull frog, blue damselfly and Indiana dunes beach….

IMG_8536

The butterfly weed is in bloom.  We are waiting for the monarch butterflies to visit…

IMG_8509

Veronica spicata Spike speedwell ‘Royal Candles’ a little bit past its prime.  Red hot poker flowers in the background.

IMG_8523Kniphofia red hot pokers in front of miscanthus ‘morning light’ ornamental grass.

IMG_8590

The view from the patio.

IMG_8551

Aruncus goat’s beard does well on the north side of the house.

IMG_8508

The first gaillardia blooms.

IMG_8585

Bright yellow yarrow, and in the background salvia ‘blue hill.’

IMG_8548

The alyssum re-seeds itself each year and is starting to bloom now.

IMG_8460

Does cauliflower count as a flower?  I cooked this up in a soup today!

IMG_8527

The collards are looking nice and we are trying to keep up with eating them before the cabbage worms do their munching.  This plant does not look too chewed on.

IMG_8550

We haven’t had to buy lettuce for a few weeks.  This leaf lettuce is nice, but the romaine is starting to bolt with the hot weather.

IMG_8599

In a bowl this morning from our yard – serviceberries, strawberries, mulberries and raspberries.  I enjoyed them with my oatmeal.

IMG_8572

Ripening serviceberry.  I am competing with the birds for these now.  The robins are often in the serviceberry tree.

IMG_8530Unfortunately this berry loving cedar waxwing died after crashing into our kitchen window!  I saw a big serviceberry in its mouth before it died.

IMG_8518

A downy woodpecker has been visiting the birdbath.

IMG_8596

There seem to be a lot of wasps in the yard this year.

IMG_8562

Blue damselfly on miscanthus ornamental grass.

IMG_8410

We visited Indiana Dunes State Park last weekend.  We hiked for a couple of hours in the dunes before enjoying our lunch with the crowd on the beach.

IMG_8426

A little cactus along the prairie trail.  This state park has quite a few endangered species.

IMG_8462

Tomahawk Slough in the Palos Forest Preserve, where we hiked last Sunday.

IMG_8464

One of many bullfrogs at Tomahawk Slough.

IMG_8496

There were also a ton of little toads or frogs hoping around near the water and on the trail.  I guess it is time for them to head out on their own and see if they survive.

IMG_8480

Great blue heron at Tomahawk Slough.

Birding:  I signed up for a birding blitz in the Palos Forest Preserve for June 17th.  I am just an amateur birder, so I was looking forward to going out with someone who could identify a ton of birds.  I showed up in the parking lot at 5:30 am and then remembered to check my email on my phone.  The blitz had been canceled for weather reasons, as thunderstorms were predicted.  I could hear all the birds around me, but the expert birders were not there.  We did not get any rain on Saturday as I guess the rain fell somewhere else.  But it was probably a good thing that I was not involved, as my foot has been giving me some trouble after all that hiking last weekend.  So it is a good weekend to just rest and recover and get this blog post done!

 

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…

img_6964

Hamamelis vernalis, vernal witch hazel.

img_6965

Close-up of vernal witch hazel flowers.

img_6881

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.

img_6966

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.

img_6905

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.

img_6889

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.

IMG_6947.JPG

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

img_6951

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

img_6957

I hope we will see some little swans before long.

img_6917

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

img_6922

A downy woodpecker perched near the lake path.

img_6942

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

img_6931

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

img_6935

A flap of her strong wings shook the water off…

img_6933

The male mallard was busy working on a meal.

img_6985

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!

img_6981

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

img_6987

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.

September Birding and Wildlife

September Birding and Wildlife

The fall bird migration season is a great time to get out and do birding in our area between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River in Illinois.  I recently joined IBET (Illinois Birders Exchanging Thoughts) and I get numerous emails each day from birders who are announcing what birds they are seeing around Illinois.  This has given me ideas about new areas to explore.  This morning we ended up at McGinnis Slough in Orland Park and never got to the other places we planned to explore.  It amazes me how many beautiful natural areas there are right around us that we have not even explored yet!

img_5813

Wood ducks and American coots at McGinnis Slough.  We walked very quietly down the path in order not to scare the waterfowl and saw quite a few beautiful wood ducks, but the pictures I took of them were not the greatest.

img_5816

Most of the brown ducks are mallards, but I wondered if the brown one in front is an American wigeon or something other than a mallard.

img_5825

I didn’t really count how many coots there were.  I would say at a minimum there were 40, but maybe quite a few more.

img_5804

Great egret up in a tree above McGinnis Slough.

img_5855

McGinnis Slough.  This time of year there are high marsh grasses surrounding the water as well as a beautiful forest area.

img_5839

Orange sulphur along the path

img_5851

Can you see the dragonfly?  I think it is a darner, but after some research I am hesitant to clearly identify what type of darner.

img_5797

Female yellow-rumped warbler at Lake Sedgewick in Orland Park, IL.  She is just migrating through…

img_5792

I made a quick stop at Lake Sedgewick yesterday and hope to explore here soon.  One of my IBET emails said that a group of 25 American white pelicans stopped for a bit on one of the islands in the lake as they migrated through this week.

img_5789

Male downy woodpecker.  These birds stay in Illinois year round.

img_5769

Another place where I made a quick stop yesterday was Orland Grasslands.  An IBET email mentioned that a mink had been seen here several times this week.  The grasses are tall now and I hope to get back to explore soon.

img_5656

Male northern flicker searching for ants at Cranberry Slough Nature Preserve.  We sat in our car for a while and watched the little meadow filled with morning bird activity early last Sunday morning.

img_5659

Deer in morning light.  Restoration has been going on at Cranberry Slough Nature Preserve and much of the overgrown shrub undergrowth has been cleared out to restore sunlight for more native plants to flourish.

img_5703

Back in our yard the goldfinch was snacking on coneflower seeds.

img_5716

Mystery bird in our chinquapin oak tree.  Can anyone identify this bird?

img_5711

Hummingbird on clothesline.

img_5686

Mute swans at Lake Katherine last week.

img_5683

Stephanie walked around the lake with me last week and she tried out the new giant adirondack chair in the back meadow.

img_5724

The forbes at Lake Katherine were tall and attractive.

img_5677

Aster

img_5756

Back home again, this is a painted lady butterfly, I think, on an orange zinnia.

img_5745

Common green bottle fly on yellow mum.  Yesterday when Dan and I were walking at Lake Katherine we saw for the third time a man with his camera in the weeds.  We stopped for a while and he is a specialist at insect photography.  We had a fun time talking about insects and the best ways to take pictures of them.  He recommended some reading for me.

img_5735

Huge bee on the nasturtiums.  I am not sure if these big bees are bumble bees.  They are much bigger than the other bumble bees in the yard.  Rather than entering the flowers from the front they just bite the outside of the flower and sip the nectar that way.

Hope you enjoy your little corner of the world this week!

I Spy In July

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!

Hungry Birds and Ripe Tomatoes

Here are a few pictures of birds looking for their next meal.  Besides some butterfly and flower pictures, I also have a few tomato shots.  This is the time in the garden when everything ripens and needs to be eaten or frozen or given away or something!

IMG_0340

We could see the male goldfinch working on the cone flower seeds from the kitchen window.

IMG_0373

Male downy woodpecker working on yucca seed pods.  Each year after the yucca plant finishes flowering I leave the ugly seed pods standing.  I understand that there is a moth that only lays her eggs on the yucca plant and the caterpillars grow up inside these protected seed pods.  That always brings the woodpecker to these plants by our front window and I love to watch the woodpecker working at the seed pods.

IMG_0299

Two baby robins in the lilac tree nest.  This must be the third set of baby robins that have come out of this nest.  The lilac has been having a terrible time this year, but this one tall branch has stayed green and been a good home for the robins.  It looks like there is some plastic around the bottom of the nest.

IMG_0317

Later in the week one of the baby robins was trying to look inconspicuous and waiting for Dad robin to bring something tasty to eat.  We seem to have a lot of juvenile robins in the yard this year.

IMG_0284

We spotted this hawk on a visit to the Morton Arboretum last week.  I am guessing it is a red-tailed hawk.  We spent time looking at the collection of trees native to Illinois and found Chinquapin oak and bitternut hickory trees, like the ones we have in our yard.

IMG_0249

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on a cream-colored cone flowers at the Morton Arboretum.

IMG_0293

We stopped to watch a group of young people doing Japanese drumming.

IMG_0338

Back at home the monarch was flying around looking for milkweed so she could lay her eggs.  I don’t have a lot of healthy milkweed or butterfly weed this time of year, but she found every plant that I have as she flew back and forth.  Now we will see if eggs were laid and caterpillars emerge.

IMG_0356

Was this the same monarch sipping on zinnia nectar after the eggs were laid?  In the background the dill is blooming yellow.

IMG_0307

This dragonfly, perched on Russian sage, is probably a blue dasher.

IMG_0323

Orange marigold

IMG_0385

Amish paste tomatoes ripen

IMG_0387

We eat tomatoes very day, but just keep picking them.  The cherry tomatoes did not fit in this bucket.  The peppers are nice and red now, too.  I need to make some tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce this week.