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!

Daffodils, Spicebush, and Spring Hikes

Daffodils, Spicebush, and Spring Hikes

After a very rainy week the sun appeared late on Thursday and a warm wind is blowing today.  Spring is coming on quickly now.

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Cheery yellow daffodils are all over the yard.

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Everywhere little insects are emerging with the flowers.

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White daffodil with yellow center.

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Double daffodil

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Blue anemone bulbs keep multiplying in five or six spots in the garden.

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The spicebush flowers are fully open and have been beautiful this year.  They are so small and hard to photograph.

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The camera has trouble knowing where to focus when I try to capture the spicebush, which has gotten so big.  It is maybe ten feet tall.  There is a lot of yellow in the yard, now.

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Tiny red-stemmed mosses grow out of a rotting railroad tie in the garden.

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Yesterday Dan and I found a new forest preserve trail on a ridge in the Cap Sauers Holdings.  A crew had cut down honeysuckle along much of the path, so we could see the contours of the ridges and valleys.  It was a gorgeous spring morning!

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We walked by a wetland where the frogs were peeping loudly.

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Mallards swam in the rushes.

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A week ago, the sun came through the misty morning, as we walked around Lake Katherine.

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We came across a robin with nesting material.

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Finally, it got tired of waiting for us to go away and jumped down a few feet into its snug nest.

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Can you hear the red-winged blackbird’s call?

IMG_7327Today the mute swan couple seemed to be napping on the island at Lake Katherine, so maybe they will nest here again this year.

IMG_7325The Great Blue Heron is back.  The lake was so crowded with walkers today, but the heron found a quiet spot along the canal.

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The star magnolias were blooming at Lake Katherine.  On our street the neighbor’s pink magnolia tree is getting ready to bloom.

It has been gray and gloomy for so long, that it has kind of surprised me to see spring march on in the past week or two.

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.

Vegetable Flowers

Vegetable Flowers

The raspberries are finished now, though all kinds of birds are wild about the remaining mulberries in the big tree in the easement.  Now is the time for summer vegetables.  Last weekend I took these vegetable flower pictures.

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Cucumber flower.  The first cucumber is a little small yet.  It has been dry, so I will probably put the drip hose on tomorrow for a few hours.

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Zucchini flower.

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Eggplant flower.

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This is the first year I have grown white eggplants.

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Tomato flower.  Green tomatoes are ripening, but I have eaten a couple of sweet cherry tomatoes.

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Wax bean flower.  I have been picking yellow wax beans every day and cooking them up.

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The French pole beans are climbing the poles and string lattice, and they have been flowering, but I have not seen the thin green beans yet.  Soon!

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Kale planted last year is flowering now.  I just keep breaking off these flower stems to keep the plant producing leaves.  On the right is wild kale that it tender and easy to use.  In the back left is curly kale.

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There are a lot of pepper flowers now.

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Dill in bloom.

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Cone flowers.  The birds, bees, and butterflies need food, too.

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Joe Pye Weed

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Liatris spicata blazing star

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Great blue heron at Lake Katherine, where we often walk on Saturdays.  There are a lot of fish in this lake, so happy hunting.

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Another shot of the heron and lily pads.

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The little house wren thinks he is king of the yard.  He has been busy bringing home lunch.  I saw glimpses of a cedar waxwing and an oriole in the yard this week.

Rabbit Story:  A while ago we were excited that we chsed a baby rabbit out of the yard.  A larger rabbit somehow got in for a visit sometimes, but politely went out the gate when we opened it.  Then about a week ago Dan discovered five baby rabbits in our meadow!  Our neighbor helped us chase them out of our yard.  He was hoping they would come and live under his deck.  Every now and then we find a little bunny in the yard, so it is non-stop, but so far the damage has been manageable…  We just have such a cozy habitat for insects, birds, and even mammals.  The brave chipmunk ran by me few times as I read outside this afternoon.

Fall Clean Up and Florida Birds

It was down to 32 degrees last night.  Yesterday was the big chance to get the leaves cleaned up, though there are still a few colorful leaves on trees and shrubs here and there.  I have also included some pictures below to let my minds wander back to warmer days we had not too long ago in Florida.

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With our big trees cut down we had to get some leaves from the neighbors to make our fall compost pile.  We will be able to put our kitchen scraps in the pile most of the winter, if we can reach the pile and it is not too frozen.  We took the picture yesterday while the zinnias were still pretty.  They took their last bow with the frost last night.

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The fothergilla bush is still pretty.

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The brussel sprouts have been small and grown slowly, since we have had little rain this fall.  Maybe they will get a little bigger in the next few weeks before the hard frosts come.

Moving to some warm weather pictures! Here are some glimpses of birds we saw recently in Florida.

Black Skimmer

A black skimmer on the Miami beach.

Royal Tern in Florida

Royal tern facing into the wind on Miami beach.

Female painted bunting

Female painted bunting at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne.

Mangroves at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

Mangroves at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.  We went down some beautiful, but very mosquitoey, trails to get to this area where herons were fishing at sunset.  We ran back to our car pretty quickly.

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The next morning we visited the Loxahatchee national wildlife refuge, the northern most part of the everglades.

Boat-tailed grackle

I think this is a boat-tailed grackle with the setting moon.  It was just before Halloween so a fun picture.

Common Egret at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

Great Egret at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

Anhinga at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

This Anhinga was making noise about something for a while as we watched.

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In the afternoon we were in the Big Cypress National Preserve, just north of the Everglades, and saw this great blue heron near a pond at the Kirby Storter Roadside Park.  We followed a boardwalk through some wetlands and woods until we got to this pond.

Alligator at Kirby Storter Roadside Park

It took us a while before we spotted the alligator in the pond at the Kirby Storter Roadside Park.  It was a very quite spot, though we could hear the cars driving by not far away.

Green Heron at Oasis Visitor Center

We saw this hunting green heron at the oasis visitors center at the Big Cypress National Preserve.  The canal there seemed to be well stocked with fish, so there were many gators, herons, anhinga, and turtles for easy viewing of those who popped out of their cars to walk the boardwalk.

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We were surprised to see quite a few large green iguanas.  This one was sunning itself just off the road in the Upper Florida Keys.  After a little research I learned that they are not native to Florida, but came to Florida as exotic pets. Now they are well established if I understand correctly.

Beach Entrance Blowing Rocks Preserve

A final shot of the entrance to the beach at Blowing Rocks Preserve, owned by the Nature Conservancy.  There was some type of raptor flying in the sky when I shot this picture.  What a beautiful place!  After that we went and splurged on big ice cream cones and watched some beginning surfers at Jupiter Beach as sunset approached.

Well, back in autumn in the Midwest…  Most of the vegetable plants are cleaned out of the garden and we are just eating collards, kale, brussel sprouts, and cabbage out of the garden until the snow flies….  Time to enjoy the cozy warmth of the house for a while, except for good walks with a jacket and gloves!

Trip to Tennessee

We took off a few extra days around the 4th of July and visited Tennessee, mostly in the Chattanooga area and the Cherokee National Forest.  Other than many beautiful parks and waterfalls, here are some of the birds, mammals and insects we saw.

Great Blue Heron, Indian Boundary Lake

We saw this great blue heron as we walked around Indian Boundary Lake.

Brown Thrasher maybe

Could this be a brown thrasher?  I have never seen one before and the bird looked red, but that is my best guess.  It was a very foggy morning at Point Park on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga.

4th of July, Point Park

We briefly watched these civil war reenactors at Point Park pushing their cannon into place on July 4th.  While we were on the trails we heard the cannon boom.

Wild Turkeys at Audubon Acres

When we arrived at Audubon Acres we saw this wild turkey and three poults.  It’s not the best picture, but it was fun to see them running around the grounds there.

red-spotted purple butterfly on my foot

It rained every day we were in Tennessee.  When the sun finally came out at a mountain lookout this red-spotted purple butterfly landed on my foot to do some sunning.  We only got caught in a downpour on one trail.  Otherwise the rain did not bother us much.

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This red and black millipede crossed our path on a trail.  They eat plants and rotting wood and leaves to help the composting process in the woods.

3.2 mile trail at Indian Boundary Lake

Hiking the 3.2 mile trail around Indian Boundary Lake in the Cherokee National Forest.

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On one drizzly day we drove along the Ocoee River Scenic Byway.  Near a dam we watched three rafts taking off for white water rafting.  The water was very wild due to all the rain, and it looked pretty dangerous.

 Lake Ocoee from Chilhowee Mt.

Above the Ocoee River we stopped at a lookout on Chilhowee Mt. to look down at Ocoee Lake and Sugarloaf Mt.  There were a lot of beautiful views like this on the trip.

At River Gallery Sculpture Garden

Back in Chattanooga, we visited the River Gallery Sculpture Garden in the bluff district.  We saw this little guy voraciously eating the day lily flowers.  He seemed too small for a beaver, so we figured it was a muskrat.

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We disturbed two fawns at Radnor Lake State Park near Nashville.  They did not run very far or fast.

Vacations are great!  I put on my exploring hat and leave the chores behind.