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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Look At That Bird!

It is bird migration season, so I have been on the lookout for birds.  I even joined in with someone, for the first time, to help on the Bird Count in the forest preserve for the global big day of birding on May 4th, 2019.  Since there are many birds I have never seen before I try to take pictures of the birds I see, if I am able to do so, so I can look them up in a bird book to verify what I have seen or try to identify a bird.  Because of that some of the pictures to follow may not be the best quality, but they are fun for me as I remember the sightings.  I put in a few wild flower pictures in at the end, because I can’t help noticing them when I am in the woods!

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Yellow Warbler

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American Redstart

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Female American Redstart

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Belted Kingfisher

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You can’t see very clearly, but I think this is a black-throated blue warbler.

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Ruby-throated hummingbird.  All the pictures above were taken at McClaughry Springs in the Palos Forest Preserves.

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Up in the woods above McClaughry Springs we saw a flurry of warblers.  This is a pine warbler.  We also black-and-white warblers and palm warblers.

Last weekend we went to Sagawau Environmental Learning Center, where they were having a special birding festival.  We checked out the woods and the feeders there.

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Baltimore Oriole

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Tree swallow

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Rose-breasted grosbeak

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Rose-breasted grosbeak

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We spent a while watching bird banding, which was fascinating.  Here a chipping sparrow is getting banded.  The lady doing this let me release the sparrow when she was finished!

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American goldfinch

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Back in my backyard – the goldfinch is a regular visitor.  You can see how the green plants are shooting up today!

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I noticed a white-throated sparrow pecking around the garden the other day.

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Male northern flicker

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I took this picture in April of the mute swan on her nest at Lake Katherine.  I have not been back to see the cygnets, so I hope they survived.

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We flushed this pileated woodpecker on our walk in the woods yesterday.  This was the best picture Dan got.  When Dan and I walk in the woods he takes the camera and I use my binoculars, so I need to credit him for a number of the bird pictures.

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Jack-in-the-pulpit.   I nearly missed this flower that was off the path in the shade.

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Trillium

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This looks like another kind of trillium.

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Virginia bluebells

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Back in our yard again – This was a bumper year for the “profusion” crabapple.  It was stunning!  It looks like the robins built a nest in it a few days ago, once the blossoms had fallen.  I am curious if they will stay there as it is quite close to the house.  A few years ago this tree lost almost all its leaves, but so far it looks healthy this year.

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Finally, I am a book worm and I loved this book.  It was entertaining and kept me interested and wondering what would happen to each person in the book.

Foggy Trails and Trumpeter Swans

Nothing needs to be done in the garden, so we can headed out to the forest preserve for a hike on a mild, foggy December morning….

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After some very cold weather it turned mild this week and the fog filled the woods Saturday morning.

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The trails are not bad, since the ice and mud are still frozen in many places.

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We experimented with shots of the fog as well as the rising sun.  In the wild areas of the woods the black-capped chickadees were hopping around.

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Though we generally were not successful shooting into the sun, I liked this picture.

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This shot, taken later in the morning, shows the trouble with trying to photograph the rising sun.  Dan had such a nice smile so I put it in.

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The camera decided to focus on the branches in the foreground.  Little streams were quietly running through this beautiful woods.

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Moss on log

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Fungi

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As the fog burned off the sun came out near Boomerang Lake.

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Sunny December morning on the Spears Woods trail in the Palos Forest Preserve.

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Mourning doves gather in the morning

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This morning we noticed two trumpeter swans as we walked around Lake Katherine.  I don’t think I have ever seen them here before.

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Close-up of trumpeter swan with a black beak

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There was a pair of mute swans nearby. The mute swans are often seen here.  Notice the difference in this species from the trumpeters.  I included the goose here so you can see the size difference.

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Last night’s sunset….

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.

Fall Walks, Birds, and Butterflies

The weather stayed nice and unseasonably warm through today, when the rain and cooler weather seems to be moving in.  I was able to go on a number of beautiful fall walks this past week.

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Fall colors at Lake Katherine

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There were two pairs of mute swans at Lake Katherine this morning.

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The nuts were abundant on the bald cypress trees.

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Our little bitternut hickory tree in the front yard continues to grow more each year and it turned very yellow today.  You can see that the neighbor’s autumn blaze maple behind it is just getting ready to turn color.

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On Wednesday I had the day off and I went for a walk at the Little Red Schoolhouse in the Palos Forest Preserve.  The hickories were turning color, but most of the color was fairly muted.

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The temperature was in the mid-70s, so I sat down in the sun across from the prairie and soaked up the sun and the quietness.  The big oak trees were still very green.

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A large grasshopper was walking in circles in the grass at my feet….  So many different and complicated insects in the world, eating and being eaten.

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Nearby a migrating white-crowned sparrow looked for a snack.

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I spent some time in the shelter observing birds.  Another more experienced birder came along and she confirmed some of my sightings.

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I thought I had take pictures of a group of eastern bluebirds and she confirmed that was true.  I have not seen eastern bluebirds for a while, so that was rewarding.

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A great blue heron and a double-crested cormorant each found a resting spot on top of the solar array in the middle of the slough.  It was a very beautiful day.

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Back home in our yard two painted lady butterflies have been hanging out at the zinnias all week.

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A variety of other moths and butterflies spend the day on the flowers that are still blooming.

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I was struck by the two designs that meet in this picture.

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A week ago I took this picture of a goldfinch munching on the dried coneflowers in the garden.

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Pulling back you can see the little goldfinch on the messy coneflowers.  This is the view from our kitchen window.  This is the time of year to clean up the yard and get ready for winter.  I am always having a conversation in my mind about what messy plants to leave for the birds and insects and what clean up to do now to make it easier in the spring.  Some years I clean up more and some years I leave more mess!

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.