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.

Spring Wildflowers and Birds

Spring Wildflowers and Birds

When we went to the Palos Forest Preserve yesterday we noticed all the spring woodland wildflowers starting to open up.

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Claytonia virginica spring beauty

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Pollinator on spring beauty wildflowers.

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Toothwort

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Trillium

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There are two or more different sets of leaves here which may produce flowers, but not sure what they will be…

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Male red-bellied woodpecker

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We saw a bird fly in and out of this knot hole, but did not see what kind of bird it was.

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Northern flickers.  The female is on the left and the male on the right.

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This morning we went to the Sagawau Environmental Learning Center, where we saw this white-breasted nuthatch, right near the sign for snake crossings.

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Mertensia virginica Virginia bluebells

IMG_7556In the wetlands there were large swaths of marsh marigolds.

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IMG_7548Podophillum peltatum mayapples.  We came across this patch of mayapples starting to come up as we walked along on to the Sagawau trail.

IMG_7543Violets were blooming here and there.

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Back in my yard I have started to plant the vegetable garden.  Curly kale and romaine lettuce in this picture, but also, cauliflower, collards and eggplant.

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Great egret up in a tree above McGinnis Slough.

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

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Orange sulphur along the path

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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Hummingbird on clothesline.

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Mute swans at Lake Katherine last week.

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

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The forbes at Lake Katherine were tall and attractive.

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Aster

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

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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.

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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!

Serviceberry, Lettuce, and Wild Creatures

It’s that busy time…  There is the lawn I am trying to overseed and water, weeds to pull and mulch to put down, and of course it is time to start planting some vegetables.  But each day it’s fun to watch the trees that are starting to bloom.  The first shrub is the serviceberry, or Juneberry.

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Serviceberry amelanchier laevis.  I can’t wait for the yummy berries in June.

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The petals were starting to fall today.  It is easier to see the beauty of these blossoms when there is a dark background like an evergreen.  I have a hard time getting good pictures of the whole bush in the spring, when the surrounding vegetation is sparse and the background is a white garage.

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American plum trees ready to bloom.  Last year I had only one blossom on both plum trees!!  The previous year the bugs had really been chewing on the brand new shrubs.  Now they have obviously recovered and are getting ready for a show.

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Last year I planted asparagus for the first time.  Maybe the plant was not in such good shape because this year I only got one shoot that has survived so far!   A few other shoots are trying a little, but don’t look so good.  In the back the chives are going strong and will bloom before long.  The strawberries are doing their thing and the oregano is coming back to life on the right.

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Romaine lettuce and rhubarb.  I have big plans for the vegetable garden this year, so I have to pace myself.  While the weather is cool I try to get some lettuce going.  I planted a few spinach seeds yesterday.  I have some tiny leaf lettuce starting to grow from seed also.  It won’t be long before I will make some scrumptious rhubarb sauce.

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I picked up a 6 pack of Georgia collards and planted three of them here in the new bed I created from the silver maple mulch from the tree we cut down.  I just dug three holes and put soil around the seedlings.  Eventually the roots should go through the newspapers at the bottom and penetrate the soil below.  Hopefully…

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Looking through the front window I saw a brown bird pecking in the lawn.  After zooming in I saw that it was a female northern flicker, a type of woodpecker that apparently does a lot of pecking on the ground.

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This picture of the female northern flicker is not much better, but it was really fun for me to see her in the yard.  I saw a flicker couple at the bird bath once last year.

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This morning I saw a bug I did not recognize on the lawn chair.  I believe it is a western conifer seed bug.  Since we have conifers in neighboring yards that makes sense.  So many intricate details…

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Last week when we went for a walk at Lake Katherine along the new Cal-Sag bike route we came across this dead snake.  My guess is that it hibernated before all this netting was put down over grass seed next to the newly paved path.  Then when the snake came out in the spring it got caught in the netting.  Maybe someone killed it at that point.  I believe it is a northern water snake, which are apparently fairly common.

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Male northern shoveler duck at Lake Katherine.  The green head looks like a mallard, but the rest doesn’t, so I tried to zoom in and get a picture.  They stay in the middle of the lake and seem more shy than mallards.  This morning I saw a couple of northern shovelers again.  I also saw the pied-billed grebe again.  It is fun to start being able to identify different waterfowl.

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Common cattail gone to seed.  Apparently this fluff was once used in pillows…

It is raining this evening.  April showers bring May flowers!

If you have any interest in seeing how my garden has developed over the past five years you can visit pardonmygarden.wordpress.com.