June Garden and Illinois Waterways

June Garden and Illinois Waterways

Everything is growing and green now!  The trees have leafed out, the flowers are taking their turns blooming, the vegetables are getting going and the weeds are doing what weeds do…  The birds and the bees are active!

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The chinquapin oak tree is on the left and the crabapple tree on the right.  The crabapple is having another bad year, with the leaves turning brown and falling.  Last year we did not have any crabapples and that might happen again this year.  But we are enjoying the irises blooming this week.

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Red iris

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The male northern flicker was hanging out looking for an ant meal.

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The yarrow flowers have finally turned yellow.  In the back you can see the first pink foxglove flower.

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Foxglove in foreground, on the left the lady’s mantle is blooming, and in the back penstemon – beardtongue – is getting ready to bloom.

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The grasses in the unmowed “meadow” catch the morning sunlight.  The grasshoppers and damselflies love this area.  The robins are starting to visit the serviceberry bush for a berry snack.  The raspberries on the fence are forming and will ripen in a few weeks.

Road Trip

10 days ago we headed out for a four-day vacation in central Illinois.  The day we took off was rainy, so we spent time driving down to Alton, IL.

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The fields were just getting started.  We enjoyed being out in the country.

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Thursday morning we visited the Audubon Center at Riverlands in Alton, where we spotted this Eastern Kingbird.

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The male indigo bunting kept its distance, but the color is wonderful!

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Many areas along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers were flooded.  We went hiking at Pere Marquette State Park.  Climbing the hills got us away from the flooding and provided wonderful views of the Illinois River.  Can you see the little brown ribbon of a trail we took to get us up to this hilltop where a few benches provided a rest area?

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Dan on the Pere Marquette State Park trail.

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The next morning we visited the Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area and enjoyed a walk around this little pond.

We did not stay long as our goal was to visit Emiquon, run by the Nature Conservancy.

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Emiquon is a Nature Conservancy project in a flood plain along the Illinois River, and a lot of migrating birds stop over here.  However, migration season is mostly over and this time of year is when the flooding is the highest.

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We tried, without much luck, to zoom in on birds across the water that looked like pelicans.

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We drove by a snapping turtle, but did not get too close.

Then we crossed the Illinois River and went over to take a look at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge, where the flood waters were high as well.

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A lot of drift wood came to rest on the shore at Chautauqua Lake.

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Red-headed woodpecker at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge.

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On Saturday we visited Matthiessen State Park on the Vermillion River.  Since it was Memorial Day weekend the crowds were large and the trails had turned into muddy pits, that took a lot of skill to navigate!

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Cedar waxwings were in the tree above the river.  I have seen them in our yard this week, too, looking for serviceberries or other ripe berries.

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Sunrise view from the hotel in Yorkville, where we stayed Saturday night.

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We visited Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area on Sunday morning.  There were several lakes as well as a trail along the Fox River.

We enjoyed all the places we saw and now will get back to hiking in our wonderful neck of the woods.

August Morning at Lake Katherine

August Morning at Lake Katherine

Both Saturday and Sunday I took morning walks at Lake Katherine.  Here is a little of what I saw.

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Green heron

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These pickerel rush blue pond flowers were planted this spring and are blooming in the shallows of the lake.  I had some trouble getting a picture of them, but here is a small one with the green heron.

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The green heron stretched out ready to catch a fish.

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I actually noticed the green heron today when I was zooming in to try to find out what this bird was.  I think it is the eastern kingbird.

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Great blue heron.

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It was one of those gorgeous mornings with incredible reflections.  Can you see the line of ducks in the water?  The beaver lodge is on the far left.

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 A close up of the ducks with the beaver lodge behind.

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Here comes a beaver swimming with a tree branch to the beaver lodge nearby.

I am going to try inserting a little video of the beaver.  Our camera battery ran out on Saturday morning.

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Marsh mallow

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There are all kinds of wild flowers blooming now.

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Green darner dragonfly

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All the water is gone from the ephemeral pond now and it is full of grasses and other plants. This would have been one place where dragonflies would have hatched, I think.

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Elderberries are ripening making good bird food.

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I spent a while trying to get a picture of this oriole in the tree top.

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Male goldfinch eating thistle seeds.

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Male goldfinch singing a morning song.

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On the paved bike trail there are people on bikes and runners.  The lake trail has a lot of dog walkers, fast walkers, and slow walkers with cameras, too.

Palos Forest Preserve

Palos Forest Preserve

This morning we took a walk at the Palos forest preserve and took the trail at Wolf Road Woods.  This was the first time we walked this 3 mile trail and found it really enjoyable.

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Tomahawk Slough in the Cook County Forest Preserves.  As the trail started to go by this small lake we could hear the deep resounding calls of bull frogs.

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Bullfrog and lily pad.

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The lily pad leaves and flowers seemed to be a bigger species on this lake.  The flowers were facing away from us to the south.

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I heard a new bird call I did not recognize and zoomed in on this bird, which I believe is an Eastern Towhee.  This is the first time I have seen one of these birds.

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Intricate spider’s web in the woods.

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Can you see the katydid on the oak leaf?  Dan and I have been fascinated with hickory trees ever since we planted one in our yard.  As we were looking at hickory leaves I wondered out loud what was chewing up these oak leaves nearby.  And then I noticed the katydid.  Otherwise I would have walked right by.

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We thought we had come upon an old cemetery with one tombstone.  A closer look showed that this was related to the atomic testing done in this area from 1943 – 1949.  The sign says there is no danger to visitors and someone has scratched out the “no.”

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Unidentified hawk

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Eastern Kingbird.  This was taken yesterday at Lake Katherine.  I think it is an eastern kingbird because of the  white at the bottom of the tail.

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I couldn’t resist getting a shot of this little goldfinch.

We feel so blessed to be near such beautiful natural places with an abundance of bird life and other biodiversity.

Summer Birds, Flowers, and Travel

Starlings, robins, house sparrows, and house finches are pretty common in our yard this summer.  It has been fun to see other birds, too.  If I have identified them incorrectly please let me know.

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I believe this is an eastern kingbird, because of the white terminal tail band.

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At first I thought the eastern kingbird was eating crabapples, but I think it is just the red color in his mouth.  Those crabapples are not very good this time of year, but there may be some good bugs around.  There were two of these birds flying between the viburnum and the crabapple tree.

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I took a picture of a brown bird making noise at the kingbirds, and now that I have it on the screen it looks like a female rose-breasted grosbeak.

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These are the two birds mentioned in my last blog that I think are Baltimore orioles.  The bird bath has really been fun to watch recently.

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Every morning the house wren has been singing up a storm.  I have not been able to zoom and get a good picture, since my zoom can’t get a good picture of this small bird singing way up in a tree.  Here the house wren is looking for a meal in the garden bed.

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Here is a shot of the backyard recently, where the birds have been visiting.

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The rudbeckia – black-eyed susans – are at their peak this week. In the back is miscanthus morning light and Russian sage.

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Agastache hyssop blue fortune is attracting the bees now.

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Sunrise through a collard leaf.  I took this last week.  This week many of the leaves have small holes where they have been chewed.  Those worms are good bird food.

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We visited Spokane for a wedding this past weekend.  Many places were very brown and dry, but the clouds were really fun during the weekend and the evergreens were everywhere.  It would be fun to visit again when we have more time to explore.  I believe this was Palisades Park.

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This wheat field was right next to the wedding venue and we watched a beautiful sunset as the young people danced away the evening.

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I read Orphan Train on the plane and just finished it.  I really enjoyed it!

Bird sighting:  I just saw a great egret wading near the shore at Lake Katherine.  I did not have a camera with me, but enjoyed watching it catch its supper.