Final Impressions

Here are a few final impressions that I took away with me from the Orchid Show at the Chicago Botanic Garden this year. I made a total of three visits there, and each time saw something different that caught my eye as I wandered through the greenhouses.

These images will hopefully carry me through the final days of winter until we finally welcome spring flowers and warmer temperatures. I can’t wait for the new growing season to start, both at the Chicago Botanic Garden and in my own garden.

The show is on through March 26th so there is still time to see all these beautiful blooms if you happen to be in the area. Even if you’re not, it’s well worth the trip.

Brilliant Timing!

Having already postponed our 50th wedding anniversary celebrations earlier in the year because of bad weather, we opted, instead, to have a family get-together at our house this past weekend. My cousin was flying in from England and everyone was looking forward to seeing people that they hadn’t seen since COVID began.

So, what do you do when you’re expecting 17 people for dinner the next day? Why, you get rushed to hospital for an appendectomy. Brilliant timing, I don’t think! However, the surgeon did an amazing job on the morning of the party and I was home by late afternoon to enjoy the celebrations.

Since I had been encouraged to walk about a bit once I got home, we followed through with plans to take my cousin to the Orchid Show on Monday.

Because I’d already visited the Orchid Show on two other occasions, this time I concentrated more on the other things that were growing in the greenhouses. The cacti and succulant foliage were well worth a shot or two.

All’s well that ends well. I still have a few more pictures of the Orchid Show to post but, for now, I’m just going to sit back and relax and give myself time to heal.

Sunshine And Orchids

What a difference a few days make. Today we are recovering from yesterday’s ice storm, but on Monday the weather was nice enough to allow for a trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden and the annual Orchid Show.

Heading indoors for the Orchid Show, we found the place packed, not surprisingly, as it was Presidents Day. The theme for the show this year is ‘Orchids Magnified’ and the layout featured some interesting displays that included large magnifying lenses and small, hand held magnifying glasses with which to get a closer look at the blooms.

Although the magnifying lenses were an interesting concept, they were something of a challenge to photograph and, with the place being so crowded, it wasn’t always easy to maneuver in order to get the best shot.

Thankfully, much of the exhibition was sans lenses and so the camera was able to capture a clear image of some beautiful blooms.

The Orchid Show runs through March 26 so there’s still plenty of time left to visit. I would like to go again, perhaps when it’s not quite so busy, to take a less hectic look at things without feeling rushed to move on.

There are special hours for photographers to enjoy the show on Tuesdays from 8:15am to 9:45am. And there will be a post-show plant sale on March 30 from 9am to 4pm when many of the orchids in the show will be for sale.

Sightings At Spring Valley

Last week, the weather warmed up sufficiently to give us a brief reprieve from winter, so I thought I’d make the most of it and take another walk around Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg. The lake was still frozen over.

Because of all the damage done by the beaver, the staff at the Center have started putting wire cages around some of the trees. Unfortunately it comes too late for some.

Walking through the woods, I saw quite a few birds including nuthatches, woodpeckers and, enjoying a bath in some open water, a group of robins.

Still not much action over at the farm, but as I was walking back down the track I spotted a hawk sitting on a low branch of a tree. Usually, when presented with this kind of opportunity, I take a picture right away, just in case I’m not able to get any closer, but this time it obliged me by staying put, and allowed me to creep up quite close until I was almost underneath it. Great!

In fact, at one point, I thought I’d let myself in for more than I’d bargained for, but it eventually settled down and I continue to take dozens of shots.

Eventually it moved off to a tree further down the trail but it waited for me to catch up and I was able to keep on shooting. It really seemed to be enjoying having its picture taken and even turned around to give me a different angle.

All the time this was going on, the ducks in the nearby creek were kicking up quite a racket. I think they must have been aware that the hawk was nearby and you could almost see the hawk thinking to itself, “Hello. Grub’s up!”

Finally, after quite some time, it flew off, and as I turned to look back up the track, three female deer stepped out of the trees. The perfect end to a successful afternoon.

Crabtree Nature Center

On Saturday, I took a soggy and, in some places icy, walk around Crabtree Nature Center. The Visitors Building is still undergoing renovation work and much of the main trail was closed off for maintenance, so I had to make do with what was available.

There are a lot of very old trees in this Cook County Forest Preserve in Barrington and I think they are especially interesting to see without all their summer foliage.

I found some interesting lichen on one of the old fence rails and was pleased to see that the trail was still open to the Children’s Nature Play area. I’m all for encouraging the young ones to explore and learn about nature although, on this particular day, there were no children around to enjoy it.

I’d been wondering where our local nuthatches had gone to. We haven’t seen them for the past couple of weeks. Apparently they are all over at Crabtree. There were hundreds of them, darting among the trees and flying around the bird feeders.

Doting On Doves

Despite its size, the mourning dove is a mild-mannered, unassuming bird, unlike the pigeons who are pushy and overbearing. They are always welcome in our garden. Their gentle cooing make a nice change from the racket that the sparrows make every day.

Like the cardinals, they usually arrive in pairs, one, two or even three pairs at a time. We have even seen as many as 14 of these birds in the garden at one time.

They are with us all year round and, because they are rather slow off the mark, tend to be a regular target for the hawk. They are also hunted as game in some parts of the country, more than 20 million birds are shot annually, but because of its prolific breeding – one pair can raise anything up to 6 broods of 2 in a year – its numbers remain strong.

They’re not quarrelsome birds and get on nicely with the others at the feeders, happy to take what they can get without getting into a fight over it. And when the sparrows clear off, it fits nicely into the tray.

Warmer Days In Spring Valley

Although you couldn’t exactly run out there in your bathing suit, the weather was certainly warmer yesterday than it has been for quite some time. This prompted me to take a trip to Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg and, although it was still rather icy underfoot, it was quite a pleasant walk.

There was no sign of activity over by the beaver lodge but there was clear evidence that it had been quite busy since the last time I was here. It had made short work of some of the smaller trees and I was surprised to see that even the larger ones had come in for some attention.

Because the pathways were still slippery, I didn’t take my usual route but stayed down near the cabin area. There was just enough snow left to make the wintry scene appealing.

Midway through the walk, I came upon two deer, one with an impressive set of antlers, the other with only one. We were both wary of each other but they didn’t run off and we followed each other along the path almost all the way back to the parking lot where we said our farewells.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Messages

The theme for this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge, suggested by Donna from Wind Kisses, is Messages. If you take a hike around the Giant City nature trail, you may see some messages carved into the huge sandstone bluffs that tower over the pathways in this State Park near Carbondale, Illinois.

Many of these messages, worn with time, are not easy to find, but others, more deeply etched, are still easy to read, some dating back to the time of the Civil War.

There is evidence of human habitation in this area from as early as 10,000 years ago, but European settlers didn’t move into this region until the early 1800’s.

The cliffs and canyons were used as safe havens for both the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War and one can imagine weary soldiers carving their names for posterity on these massive stones before going into battle.

The State of Illinois acquired more than 1,100 acres of land in Union and Jackson counties in 1927 and dedicated the area as Giant City State Park.

Hello, Hawk

Visits from the hawk are sporadic, so I’d better be ready with the camera when it does arrive. We count ourselves lucky if we see one and it’s even better when a pair land in the garden.

I’m not very good at recognizing the different types of hawk but I’m pretty sure the one on the left in the next picture is a sparrow hawk. It was much smaller than the ones we usually see.

I used to feel guilty about feeding the birds, thereby providing a sitting target for the hawk to zoom in and chow down on, but I’ve noticed that, more often than not, it doesn’t actually catch anything when it swoops in. I guess the others around the feeder have become quite proficient at making a quick getaway.

Fortunately, or not, depending on your viewpoint, it does stay longer when it is able to snag something, which gives me a much better opportunity to get some reasonably good shots. These are certainly not as gruesome as some of the pictures in the photo files, but they do serve to illustrate that it’s not all ‘hearts and flowers’ in the world of nature.

The most recent sighting was a few days ago. As I was sitting by the window, I spotted a hawk, way up in the treetops on the next block and figured it was sure to have spotted all the birds clustered around the bird feeders, so I grabbed the camera. I was right. It came swooping down and landed right on top of the feeder pole. Awesome! It didn’t catch anything but stayed long enough for me to get a good view of it.

The first two pictures in the next set are not that clear (naturally these things never occur in a convenient spot) but they do show an interesting piece of interaction between a hawk and a squirrel. The hawk had already caught a sparrow and was in the process of tucking in, when a squirrel, either very young or very stupid decided to challenge it. The hawk is on the far left and squirrel to the right. The squirrel went right up to it, I don’t know what on earth it was trying to do, and eventually the hawk got rather annoyed and chased it off.

The Constant Cardinals.

The cardinals are regular year-round visitors to our garden but, unlike the sparrows who arrive in hordes, they appear mostly one pair at a time.

They are cautious birds and prefer not to get involved in any kind of brawl with other visitors to the feeders, usually waiting until the coast is clear to come down.

The cardinal pair may stay together for years, although I doubt they can match the milestone that my husband and I reached yesterday, celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary.