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!

Red-headed Woodpecker at Indiana Dunes State Park

Red-headed Woodpecker at Indiana Dunes State Park

The weather was gorgeous and Dan and I had the day off so we headed to the Indiana Dunes State Park, which is about an hour away.  It turns out that there is a birding festival going on there this weekend, though we did not know that before we got there.  We climbed the bird observation tower where we ate our lunches and looked at the scenery.

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We saw this red-headed woodpecker gradually coming closer to us.  This was the first time I have seen one of these birds, but I understand that this is a common location for them and a breeding ground this time of year.

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We headed off on the trails through the dunes and into a wooded area.  We climbed Mt. Tom, a sand dune that is 192 feet high.  This is just a shot at the beginning of the trail as we left the beach at Lake Michigan.

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I believe these are large white trillium, which were blooming throughout the woodland above the lake.

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And now for a few shots from our yard – While in my office this week I saw this indigo bunting outside the window, though I did not get a great shot.  This is the first one I have seen in my yard.  They are passing through in spring migration.

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Also visible in our yard this week are palm warblers.

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I also captured this shot of a palm warbler at Lake Katherine this week, as they pass through in spring migration.

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Song sparrow at Lake Katherine.  It was nesting in the same place this year as last year.  My pictures are not all great, but I have a lot of fun taking them.

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Back in our yard again – the goldfinches are back and making a lot of cute noises these days.

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I was not sure what this bird was, but I wonder if it is not a female red-winged blackbird.  I hear and see male red-winged blackbirds in the neighborhood everyday, so maybe this is the female.  If anyone knows better please let me know.

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Male northern cardinal in the ‘Profusion’ crabapple tree.

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Our two fothergilla bushes have been blooming the past few weeks.  I did not get any pictures, but the lilacs are blooming now, too!

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Occasionally we see rabbits, but not yet in our garden this year!  Which is great because I just planed out a lot of vegetables and herbs recently.  I have gotten in the tomatoes, peppers, parsley, dill, basil, peas, and today I planted some pole bean seeds in a warm spot.

Bees, Birds, Butterfly and a Toad

I have been watching for migrating birds in the yard.  The trouble is, it is hard to get good pictures of them.  Still I am entertained and enjoy observing and learning.  After a busy day of gardening it is fun to get out the camera and take a closer look at what is visiting the flowers.  So here are a few creatures I saw this week.

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Bombylius major – bee-fly.  This little brown bee-fly with a long proboscis is enjoying nectar from the strawberry flower.  It is a fly that is a bee mimic.  No stinging involved here.  The wings were flying very rapidly so it could hover above this flower.

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I have some pink strawberry flowers, too.  It looks like a lot of strawberries are coming soon!

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I can never remember the exact name of these blue bulbs, here visited by what looks like a mini-bumble bee.  It was hard to focus on both the flower and the bee, so I took a lot of shots.

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Here the same blue flowers are below the birdbath where a male goldfinch is coming for a quick drink.  There have been quite a few goldfinches in the neighborhood.

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I think this is a white-crowned sparrow.  If I have this wrong let me know.  They are not in my book of birds of Chicago, so I think this guy is just migrating through.

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Often from the kitchen window it is hard to know what I am seeing across the yard.  Is this still the white-crowned sparrow, a palm warbler or something else?

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Or this slightly blurry bird snacking in the chinquapin oak tree.  Is this a palm warbler migrating through, or something else?  My camera was focusing on the beautiful oak leaves and catkins hanging down.

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A red admiral butterfly has a great camouflage with closed wings.

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Red admiral butterfly

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Back in a weedy part of the garden a toad hopped to get out of my way and try to blend into the surroundings.  I am so happy to have toads in the yard.

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We enjoy our chinquapin oak tree so much, as do the birds.  Our laundry poles keep me from getting a very good shot of it, but once warm weather comes the laundry can dry so quickly outside.

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I planted garlic for the first time and it seems to be doing well.

Seeds Sprouted:  All the bush cucumber seeds sprouted so maybe I will try making pickles this year.  The wax beans are sprouting and I saw two zinnias emerge.  The lettuce needs to be thinned and nibbled on.

Sightings:  We saw quite a few large bull frogs at Lake Katherine today, and could hear them, too.

Warbler and Goldfinch find Lunch

This afternoon a palm warbler (I think) and I took an interest in each other.  I was shooting pictures and the warbler was gradually coming closer to me.  It is hard to focus on a little active bird, but here is what I captured.

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Palm warbler on solidago rugosa ‘fireworks’ goldenrod.

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Here is what that corner of the garden looks like.  I have been enjoying it from my office window all week.  New England purple dome asters, goldenrod ‘fireworks’, and zinnias.

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The day I took this picture the asters were hosting a grasshopper, a bumble bee, and a fly.  The fly might make a nice snack.  Would the grasshopper be too big or would it be delicious?

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Palm warbler hopping my directions and stretching to see something.  These birds are passing through during their migration.

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Goldfinch eating coneflower seeds.  It is fun to see the goldfinch enjoying these seeds.  Sometimes I want to pull down these dried up flowers because these aren’t very attractive, but when I have the goldfinch in the yard it is fun to leave them for him.  It could be a female or a male that is starting to lose its bright yellow summer color.  Not sure.

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What can you see in this picture.  Look closely….

The rabbit is baaack…

I am enjoying the alyssum and the chrysanthemums I planted in the spring, along with the orange and yellow zinnias.

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No sense spending a long time chasing him out of the yard when we don’t know where s/he is getting in.  Nice fur.

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Meanwhile, there was a frost warning last night, though no frost yet.  So it is time to be vigilant and start bringing in as much of the harvest as possible.

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Now that the wax beans are slowing down it is easier to see and enjoy the marigolds.  I also brought in a bucket of pole beans that had dried on the vine and shelled those today.

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I think this is a cabbage worm.  We have had soo many cabbage moths in the yard this summer, with all the kale and cauliflower that we have been growing.  I am surprised I have not seem more of these worms.

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Walking around Lake Katherine this morning I decided to looks more closely at the ducks to see if there were any that were not mallards, and I think this is an American coot.  The lighting was not great, but it has a black body and a white bill.