Water, Water Everywhere – At Gooseberry Falls

I’m not sure if I’ve participated in this challenge before but I thought Jez’s WWE photo challenge would be a good opportunity for me to share some pictures that I took up at Gooseberry Falls, about an hour’s drive north of Duluth in Minnesota, last month. The Falls are easy to access and consist of three levels, upper, middle and lower falls.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Designed By Nature

This week, Patti is looking at Shapes and Designs as the theme for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. I suspect that, much like snowflakes and humans, no two creatures of any one species are exactly the same. We are all different. Every one of us unique in our own way, according to nature’s design.

The Grove

Taking advantage of some unseasonably warm weather on Monday, I decided to do some photography at The Grove, a nature reserve, not too far from home, in Glenview, that I had first visited a couple of years ago.

The Grove, preserved and maintained by the Glenview Park District is an outdoor history and nature museum on 150 acres and includes an interpretive Center that houses a nice collection of turtles, snakes and other animals and birds, and several educational buildings such as the Blacksmith shop and a log cabin.

Also on the grounds is The Kennicott House, home of horticulturist and educator Dr. John Kennicott who settled on the property in 1836. His son, Robert Kennicott founded The Chicago Academy of Sciences.

I don’t know why I haven’t visited The Grove more often other than the fact that I am more used to places like Spring Valley and Crabtree Nature Center and get in a bit of a panic when I get lost on unfamiliar trails, even if I’m not more than a long stone’s throw from civilization. I have a terrible sense of direction and tend to resemble not so much a seasoned, experienced hiker as a nervous Hansel & Gretel following a non-existent trail of breadcrumbs. However, I decided to throw caution to the wind and risk a foray out to the back 70 acres and was pleasantly surprised. There was still plenty of autumn color and the trail took me through a variety of woods and wetlands.

I came upon a garter snake beside the boardwalk, wrestling with a toad that managed to hop away as the snake looked up to check my progress. The snake gave me a disgruntled look and slithered away while the toad, no doubt thanking his lucky stars, remained hidden under the boardwalk.

There are a lot of very old trees on the property, many of which have either been blown or cut down. I saw and heard quite a few chipmunks squeaking and scurrying about among the fallen branches and there was a continual rustling of leaves as squirrels foraged about looking for winter provisions.

I had been wondering if there were any deer in the woods and as I stopped by one of the many small pools along the trail, I was rewarded by a sighting of three of them, two females and a young male busy looking for food. They were on the alert but didn’t seem bothered by the fact that I was so close and I tried not to give them any reason to be alarmed. They crossed my path a couple of times as I was heading back to the parking lot.

Before I left, I stopped to have a look around the Redfield Estate which is also on the same property. Both The Grove and the Redfield Estate have been deemed National Historic Landmarks. Our eldest daughter was married here at the Redfield House in 2019 and it proved to be the perfect venue, inside and out, for this family celebration. I’ve promised myself that I will be a more frequent visitor to The Grove in future.

Polar Bear Week

Apparently the first week of November was Polar Bear Week so here are a few shots from the polar bear files. Better late than never! All these images were captured at various times throughout this year at Brookfield Zoo except the last one which is an old favorite of mine, taken at Lincoln Park Zoo, and one that I drag out of mothballs every once in a while to give it an airing.

If we don’t do something about global warming pretty d….. quick, the only place you will be able to see polar bears will be in zoos like Brookfield. The conservation work they do will give bears like this a fighting chance but only if we all do our bit. Because of climate change, polar bears have been classified as a vulnerable species.

Photographing Public Art – In Elk Grove

This week, Marsha is hosting the Photographing Public Art Challenge and has found some interesting works of art in Mesa, Arizona.

Almost everywhere you go in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, you’ll see ‘elk’ art. Earlier this year we happened to be driving down Oakton Street, past Elk Grove Technology Park, a new state-of-the-art industrial facility and noticed some interesting sculptures dotted about the grounds, so we stopped to take a closer look.

Meanwhile, over at the Busse Woods Forest Preserve in Elk Grove, you can see the real thing. The elk herd has been re-established and they are looking fit and well.

Burning Bright

“Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night;

What immortal hand or eye.

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”

William Blake.

This is Whirl, an Amur tiger at Brookfield Zoo. Despite losing her tail in an accident when she was a youngster, she seems to function very well without it and is still quite agile.

Autumn In The Garden

We’ve had some unseasonably warm, dry weather for the past few days so I thought I’d make the most of it and visit the Chicago Botanic Garden.

I’d like to give a nod here to all the people who keep the Garden looking a picture-perfect place all year round. I don’t think I’ve ever been here when it hasn’t looked in tip-top shape.

Autumn In The Valley

It seems like autumn has only just begun but, the way time seems to fly by, I thought I’d better pay a visit to Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg before fall turned to winter.

Water levels were rather low on the pond. Up until this week we hadn’t had much in the way of rain and all the water lilies had died off but there were still lots of frogs to be seen.

I’d noticed a heron standing on the shoreline some distance away and was trying to get him in focus when a disturbance broke out a little nearer to me. A beaver had been swimming between the water’s edge and the lodge in the middle of the pond when all of a sudden a hawk swooped down and attacked it. The resulting pictures are not that clear but I thought I’d include some of them anyway. The hawk made several attempts to get at its prey, returning to nearby branches to regroup and try again, but eventually it gave up and flew off.

I took my cue from the hawk and walked to the other end of the pond where I watched two very small turtles trying to climb up on to a log and then not quite knowing what to do once they got there. They were being watched by a much bigger turtle who sat looking on with a rather superior air.

From there I went on to the farm where all was quiet except for the sound of two cows munching at the grass.

It seemed to me, upon reflection, that most of the action that day was taking place on the pond and, afraid that I might miss something, I headed back there, and had I not been so preoccupied, faffing about taking umpteen pictures of frogs, I might have captured something more than a shot of the beaver’s backside as it swam away from a spot where I usually sit by the water’s edge.

Oh well! You can’t win ’em all, and if I’ve learned anything about wildlife photography it’s that you have to be in the right place at the right time. The church bell was chiming the hour. Time for tea, so like the catterpilar, I hurried home.

Winding Down

Although there are still one or two patches of color in our garden, things are gradually winding down now. For me, this is the busiest time of year, clearing away the dead growth, collecting seeds for use next year, moving plants and discarding others.

The pink and orange cosmos, both grown from seed, did very well this year, even towering over my husband, who is 6ft 3ins tall.

The blue Brazilian sage is still going strong although the hummingbirds have moved on to warmer climes now. We had at least one pair, that I know of, that stayed the entire summer. I know they are a pair because I caught them canoodling on one of the cables that runs to the roof of our house. It was quite a high-wire act with the male hovering up and down in front of the female until she adroitly flipped upside-down and he made his move.

Butterflies have been few and far between in the garden this year and it wasn’t until recently that I discovered one lonely swallowtail caterpillar on a sprig of dill. Since the last two batches that we hatched turned out to have been infested with parasitic wasps, I left this one to its own devices.

Another garden guest that was with us all summer was the praying mantis. Although we would occasionally lose track of her, she would invariably pop up again. I don’t know what she was living on but it certainly wasn’t butterflies. Slim pickings!

Apparently she wasn’t the only mantis on the block. These two gave me quite the look when I caught them in flagrante delicto amongst the Joe-Pye-Weed. Not surprisingly, I found two egg cases which I have brought inside for the winter. I thought my 3-year-old granddaughter might be interested to see them hatch out as they have been studying bugs at school.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Colors Of Autumn

This week, Amy is looking at the Colors of Autumn as our topic for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. I wanted to share pictures that I had taken recently rather than delving back into the photo files to come up with images that have probably been used several times already, but it’s a little too early for fall color in our neck of the woods just yet. However, we were up in Minnesota on the second day of Autumn last week when we stopped off at the Silver Creek Cliff Overlook, part of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail. There were traces of autumn hues in the trees and the many different colors of rocks on the cliff face combined with a blue sky mirrored in the waters of Lake Superior made a very colorful scene.