Birds At Year End

We had snow yesterday…  These pictures were taken over the past few weeks as we move from late fall to early winter.

IMG_1062

Red-bellied woodpecker at Hidden Pond Forest Preserve

IMG_1059

Female northern cardinal at Hidden Pond Forest Preserve.  I always hope to see wood ducks in Hidden Pond, since I saw them there once, but I have never have seen them there again.

IMG_1071

I walked one of the trails at Hidden Pond forest preserve a few weeks ago.  Today I went back there with a crew of volunteers and we cut invasive brush and built two big bon fires to burn it up.  In this picture the late green leaves you can see are probably honeysuckle, which is an invasive shrub all over the forest preserves.

IMG_1105

Black-capped chickadee at Lake Katherine

IMG_1095

I always look at the waterfowl at Lake Katherine to see if I can see anything besides mallards and Canadian geese.  This pair look like scaup, but I can’t tell if they are the greater or lesser variety…  My picture is not the greatest.

IMG_1078

Back in our yard the blue jay is faced with a frozen bird bath.  In the background are sedum, which I decided to leave up for the winter.

IMG_1129

We have had quite a few dark-eyed juncos pecking around in the yard the past few weeks. They like to scrounge around in the leaf litter, so our yard is a good place for them. I think they prefer seeds, but will eat insect, too.

IMG_1112

Dark-eyed junco eating liatris seeds

IMG_1153

Here is what our messy meadow looked like after the snowfall yesterday.  The little bluestem grass has turned red.  Plenty of flower and grass seeds here.

IMG_1122

I noticed a large flock of starlings across the street and on our front lawn.  I heard that when you see starlings on the lawn that you have grubs in the lawn.  It certainly is possible.

IMG_1124

When a white-breasted nuthatch flew in and landed on the neighbor’s oak the starlings may have been spooked and all flew away.

IMG_1082

Moving from birds to mammals….  Dan and I went for a walk one Saturday morning in the forest preserve south of us on Harlem Avenue and came across this deer, who stood still for a few moments.

IMG_1144

The squirrels have been busy in the yard.  This one was working on the ice in the bird bath.  Don’t you love that winter fur and fluffy tail?

IMG_1166

The squirrel is continually running around the yard, maybe checking on the nuts that are buried here and there.

IMG_1056

At the end of November I went to the horse stable and loaded up the car trunk with buckets of horse manure that I spread over the vegetable gardens.  It should blended into the soil by next spring.  The manure was already fairly well composted.  The parsley and strawberries stay green until it really freezes hard and stays frozen for a while.

IMG_1151

I guess we are done with mowing the lawn and mulching up our leaves.  We had strong winds last week, causing the last of the leaves to fall.  We got them all mulched and then the snow fell the next day.

IMG_1158

The shadows are long now on the north side of the house, but when the sun comes out the grass is still green.

IMG_1157

You can see the kale is still hanging in here in the pictures above, so I was still able to add some fresh greens to our vegetable bean soup.

IMG_1148

We are getting close to the shortest day of the year.  Sometimes I think I hear a great horned owl in the trees near us, but I have not seen one yet.

Snow, Cyclamen, Hawk, and Sandhill Crane

The first snowfall to stay on the ground just started.  We should have a few more inches of snow today.

img_6667

First snowfall of the season in the back yard.

img_6668

Snow on chinquapin oak tree.

img_6670

The cyclamen started blooming to bring in the Christmas season.

img_6666

We started cooking the soup before the snow fell and brought in Brussel sprouts, collards and kale.  We still have a lot of kale in the garden, so we will see how it looks next week.

img_6663

When I stepped outside yesterday this hawk flew up into a nearby tree.  It was probably hunting sparrows or squirrels at the bird feeder next door.

img_4259-1We came upon a lone juvenile sandhill crane (no red marking on head) at Lake Katherine on Saturday morning.  It must have been separated from its flock as it flew south. On Friday Steph and I were taking a walk and looked up to see 80 – 90 sandhill cranes flying over us in a southeast direction.

I Spy In July

It is full summer now.  After hot dry days we had plenty of rain this past week and all is growing well.

IMG_4913

Male downy woodpecker on yucca plant.  Each year I wait to see it the woodpeckers will come to attack the yucca plant seed pods outside my front window.  Moth larvae grow up inside the seed pods.  It did not look like the woodpecker was very successful on this attempt, but wait a few days and they should soften up…

IMG_4842

A few weeks ago I just got a glimpse of this cedar waxwing.  It was the end of the mulberries ripening, so I think that was what brought it to our yard.

IMG_4929

Black-eyed Susans with miscanthus ‘morning light’ and Russian sage.

IMG_4939

This was taken in early morning light and shows what these flowers looks like from the patio where I eat my oatmeal.

IMG_4881

Orange butterfly weed

IMG_4931

Swamp milkweed, grown from a seed packet labeled ‘red milkweed.’  I am still waiting for monarchs, though there are plenty of red admiral butterflies around.

IMG_4883

North flower bed with joe pye weed, liatris and echinacea – purple coneflowers.  The messy meadow is on the left and kale in the foreground.

IMG_4888

Laundry usually dries quickly these days.

IMG_4845

Zucchini still in its somewhat tidy state.  The marigolds have been cheerful this year.

IMG_4876

We have been able to keep up with the zucchini by picking it small.

IMG_4869

Cucumber vines grow out in all directions.  We have a lot of cucumbers, though, and my refrigerator is starting to get full!

IMG_4865

Invasive viburnum leaf beetles mating.  We removed the raspberry tart viburnum  and the blue muffin viburnum bushes, that were both so beautiful.  It looks like next year we will be getting rid of the Chicago lustre viburnum bushes as well.  We don’t have the energy to fight these beetles year after year, so we will start over with other plants.

IMG_4995

Sunday soup.  Sometimes we put a little too much in the pot!