January 1, 2020

Happy New Year!

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Snow Crocus emerges.

I first noticed this snow crocus on Christmas Day, which is the earliest I have seen it appear.

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Daytime moon

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Dark-eyed junco on liatris.  It looks like it got a seed to nourish it on a winter day.

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We had about an inch of snow yesterday morning, which should melt today and tomorrow.  It has been a mild winter.

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The cyclamen is blooming for the fifteenth year!  This autumn I refinished the wood counter in my greenhouse window.

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We started the new year with a wonderful hike at Cranberry Slough in the forest preserve.  The trail was icy, but not slippery, and the only person we met was riding a bike.

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One last shot to say goodbye to 2019. Mute swans flying over Lake Katherine last weekend. 

Lake Katherine Reflections and a Raptor

Yesterday morning I had a quiet walk around Lake Katherine in Palos Heights.

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The still water reflected the trees and the clouds.

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It was a cold morning and the mute swans seemed to be sleeping with occasional grooming.

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Mute swan

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Mute swan

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There were not many people out, but two women were laughing and taking picutres on the bridge at the pond surrounded by cypress trees in autumn colors.

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Water is high in the pond this year.

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I see that invasive phragmites are taking root in the pond.

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When I first arrived at the lake it was birdy and I was trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to take pictures of white-breasted nuthatches, cardinals, downy woodpeckers, goldfinches, and some unknow sparrows.

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Then I noticed a red-tailed hawk land in a nearby tree.

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After a while it flew over to another tree.  Can you see it?

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I got a closer look at this predator.  I wondered if he had already had his breakfast or was hunting.

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Here is a view of the back feathers.  I understand that red-tailed hawks don’t get red tails until they are two years old.  The tail did not appear to be red.

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One more shot of the red-tailed hawk.  can you see the yellow at the base of the beak?

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Other than the swans there were only mallards in the lake.  There was plenty of quacking.  The geese must have already flown away for the day before I arrived.

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Duck getting breakfast.

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Parts of the lake were still frozen.  The temperatures have been swinging above and below the freezing point these past weeks.

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Fungi on a log were covered with a pretty frost.

Books:  I am currently reading Troubled Water: What’s Wrong with What We Drink, by Seth Siegel.  Lots of food for thought and a pretty interesting read.  Do you drink water from the tap?  A lot of us don’t trust it.  The book it not out to get villains, but says there are a lot of bystanders.  It is a complicated issue, but a serious one.  I am just on the fourth chapter but I understand more about why no one is taking action to solve the problem, which is getting worse each year. (I think it might involve taxes and getting re-elected.)  I am looking forward to what suggestions and solutions I will find in the book.

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Mid-Winter Images

Here are a few pictures since my last post a month ago.  We are in the middle of winter.  We have warm days that melt the snow, rainy days, and then more snow and lots of cold.  The lakes are frozen.  But the days are getting longer….  Here are a few pictures from the last month.

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Stream flowing at Lake Katherine

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The stream ends in the lake that is kept from freezing with a bubbling fountain.  In the morning the geese and ducks are gathered before flying away for the day.

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Mallard couple

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Walking on the trail around Lake Katherine on February first.

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Grab a book or add one you are finished with to share with the community.

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The alder tree caught my attention today with all the hanging catkins.

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On the alder tree the male catkins are the long thin one.  The mature female catkins look like tiny pine cones.

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The bench reminds us of other times of the year when this is the perfect place to sit and enjoy the magic of the moment.

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One of the problems with hiking this time of year is icy trails.  The show starts to melt on warm days, then freezes up and gets icy.  We ended up on a walk at Cranberry Slough in the forest preserve yesterday where we spent most of the walk on the side of the trail or looking for places to walk that were not icy.  Luckily we made it with no falls.  It ended up being a beautiful walk, though we were looking down at our feet more than usual.

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Another cold Saturday recently took us down this hill with helpful log steps and no ice. In previous years we found it to be a dangerous decent when it was snowy or icy!

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February has brought snow off and on to our yard, along with the polar vortex.

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One day I noticed that a downy woodpecker was completely fluffed up, I guess to keep warm.

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A flock of dark-eyed juncos have been visiting the yard throughout the winter.

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The rabbit visits too.  We also see rabbit footprints in the snow.

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The snow crocuses have been pushing up through the ground since January, though they will need some warmer weather to bloom.  I have seen daffodil shoots too!  It won’t be long now.

January Happenings

We finally got snow in 2019.  It seems more like winter now!

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Today we trimmed the chinquapin oak tree on the left.  Each year we have cut off a few lower branches and this may be the last year to do that.  We will see.  We like to keep some privacy, but don’t want to deal with the mosquitoes in the shade when changing the birdbath water or mowing the lawn under the low branches.

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Shadows on the snow

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Female northern cardinal on a snowy day.

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While I was putting together this post I saw this picture and remembered that we were going to prune back the left side of this American plum tree that is crowding into our yew bushes.  So we just went out and cut that off now.  We keep fighting for sunlight.

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On the last warm day, before the cold and snow, Dan turned the compost pile and mixed up all the very wet stuff, very dry stuff and kitchen scraps, so that it will keep decomposing as soon as we get a little more warmth.

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We smeared some peanut butter on a knot on the crabapple tree and the squirrel is working on it.

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This morning we watched hundreds of Canadian geese on the open waters on Lake Katherine.  We watched one group after another taking off and flying to the east.

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Several groups were landing on the grass nearby for their morning munch.

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A week ago Dan surprised me with a bouquet of roses and chrysanthemums.  We rarely buy flowers at the store these days, but it was a nice treat for January!

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Also, this is the time of year when vendors from work send holiday gifts.  We got one box of chocolates around Thanksgiving and two this week.  I had to take a picture of the beautiful way it was wrapped.

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I sure love chocolate!

View From The Window

On cloudy, gray days there are a lot of pictures that look black and white.

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Dark-eyed junco

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Dark-eyed junco on snowy birdbath

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Down woodpecker

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Red-bellied woodpecker getting a suet snack

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A female house sparrow, I think

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The snow is mostly melted now.  The squirrel is often seen at the suet feeder.

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On a cold morning this week we visited Lake Katherine.  There were a few spots with open water where the ducks and geese were gathered.

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The mute swans were present among the hundreds of geese and ducks on the lake.

November Snow Beauty

Happy Thanksgiving!  I did not get around to posting on Saturday, 11/17, when the snow was on the ground and now it is gone, but here are a few pictures to record what has been a cooler than usual month of November in Illinois.

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On Saturday we opened the kitchen curtains to see the snow lining the trees branches in the backyard.

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Snow on Hicksii yew bushes and on the mulberry tree in the background.

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Miscanthus ‘morning light’ ornamental grass.  I cut off some of the seed heads already to get ahead of the spring duties.  I use this grass, minus the seeds heads, as mulch around the garden in the spring.

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We walked around Lake Katherine on Saturday morning and loved the reflections.

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Across the lake a woman in a red coat walking her dog caught my eye.

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Snow on pine needles

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The cypress tress by the ephemeral pond had changed color but not lost their needles yet when the snow covered them.

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We were the first ones to come to the snowy bridge over the pond.

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We noticed a white waterfowl in the lake.  Was it a goose or a duck?  At home I did an internet search and I think it is an American Pekin, which is a domesticated duck.  I suppose it has joined a wild flock or something, not sure how that works.  Apparently these domesticated ducks originally were bred from mallards in China.

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Back at home, we put up a suet feeder about a ten days ago and the male red-bellied woodpecker came to feed.

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Here is another shot of the red-bellied woodpecker on a snowy day.

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The white-breasted nuthatch watched a flock of sparrow at the bird feeder and kept its distance.

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A male house sparrow can be aggressive for its small size.

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The white-breasted nuthatch eventually got its turn, looking around between each nibble.

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The downy woodpecker came, too.  I need to put another block of suet in the feeder today.

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A week ago we were walking in another part of the forest and stopped to admire the moss on an old log.

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Our walk took us by this grassy prairie.  The reason we ended up on this path is that we could see two coyotes on the path we planned to take.  They were relaxing by a stream, but we really did not feel like walking toward them to see what they would do….

I am thankful for so many things and thank you for reading this far today!

Snowstorm

On February 9th the snowstorm brought approximately 13 inches of snow.  The pictures below will show how gray the days have been.

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The snow keeps falling on the birdbath and last fall’s flowers.

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A downy woodpecker works at the spicy suet on a snowy day.

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The white-breasted nuthatch pauses in the snow before checking out the suet.

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Pulling back on the picture you can see on the left that the sedum stalks are almost completely covered with snow.  On the right the yew shrubs are leaning way over with the weight of the snow.  I knocked the snow off most of the yew shrubs, but did not go far enough to reach these branches.

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Hicksii yew branches and snow after an earlier snowfall.

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Snow on goldenrod, Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks.’  I left the goldenrod up for winter interest and the insects that might be in the stems.

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I went out three times during the day for spurts of shoveling and my husband and son took their turns.  On the left you can see a few spikes of yucca poking out of the snow.  On the right, notice how high the snow is on our little bitternut hickory tree.

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This morning we walked at Lake Katherine.  It was a slog through the high snow, but great exercise and quiet beauty.  The lake was frozen except for this area where the fountain was bubbling.

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The Canadian geese were hunkered down on the lake ice.

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Snow scene at Lake Katherine.  After taking this picture my camera battery died.  It was probably best, as then I kept my cold hand in my mitten.

Earlier this morning our older neighbor was complaining because the snow plough had covered his car with snow and blocked him in.  Dan, my son, and I went over and shoveled him out so he would not have a heart attack!  We may need him to help us one day, and snowstorms can make us more neighborly or the opposite.