Bird of the Week – Coopers Hawk

With hundreds of pictures of birds in the photo files, Bird of the Week was a challenge, from I. J. Khanewala, that I couldn’t pass up. This Cooper’s Hawk was spotted in February of this year at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg, Illinois. Luckily, it allowed me to get quite close so the 200 zoom lens was able to get a fairly clear shot.

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.

Water, Water Everywhere – At Brookfield Zoo

Looking back on some warmer days at Brookfield Zoo for Jez’s Water, Water Everywhere Challenge. I don’t imagine there’s too much frolicking about in the water going on just now, in these freezing temperatures.

It wasn’t only the sea lions that were having fun in the water. The polar bears enjoyed the occasional dip too.

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge – Sycamore

This week, Cee has chosen anything made from wood as the theme for her Black & White Photo Challenge. This gives me a good opportunity to share some pictures that I haven’t used before. On our way to DeKalb, back in October, we stopped off in Sycamore to visit the DeKalb County History Center. We looked in at the little museum they have there, but what really caught my eye was the old barn outside.

Walking Squares – At The Morton Arboretum

Another one of my favorite places to walk is at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, so here are a few shots taken on two of my most recent visits, the latest with fellow blogger, Janet from This, That And The Other Thing, for Becky’s Walking Squares Challenge. Janet helped me find the elusive ‘Human Nature’ sculpture (the first picture in this series) that I had previously missed and we spent a lovely day talking and walking around the Arboretum.

This is another one of those posts that serve to answer two challenges, the other one being Jez’s Water, Water Everywhere Challenge. There are plenty of water features throughout the Arboretum.

Walking Squares – In Rockford

Here is another entry for Becky’s Walking Squares Challenge. And it might also work for Jez’s Water, Water Everywhere Challenge and even Marsha Ingrao’s Photographing Public Art Challenge.

I’ve always enjoyed our visits to Rockford and I especially like walking in the area down by the Rock River, around Sinnissippi Park and the Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens.

On our latest visit to Rockford, we also visited Midway Village Museum. Although the buildings were closed for the winter, we were able to walk around outside. This was another first for us and we were sufficiently intrigued to warrant another trip here next year, so more pictures in a future post.

LAPC – Wildlife Close To Home

This week, Anne Sandler has chosen Wildlife Close To Home as the theme for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. You couldn’t get any closer to home than this lot! If I left the door open they’d be walking inside and making themselves right at home.

There has been a flurry of activity in the garden since I put up the new birdfeeders. The squirrels have been temporarily thwarted by the store-bought baffle but they still have access to one table and have also been enjoying the pumpkins left over from Halloween.

We’ve had quite a variety of birds attracted by some premium quality seed mix and suet blocks. I don’t know how long I can afford to go on feeding them this gourmet diet but until the cash flow drys up I continue to take advantage of this current feeding frenzy. Some of the birds are merely passing through on their way to warmer climes while others are with us all year round.

Not sure what this little guy is but if anyone can enlighten me, I’d welcome your comment. As for the rest, I do know enough to recognize robins, blue jays, cardinals, mourning doves, finches, woodpeckers, sparrows and juncos.

There’s safety in numbers but when the hawk flies through, you’d better make a quick getaway. This time it managed to snag a sparrow.

And let’s not forget all the other critters that show up from time to time, including rabbits, foxes, raccoons, possums and ground squirrels. There’s no shortage of wildlife on our own doorstep (literally in some instances.)

Walking Squares – At The Chicago Botanic Garden

I do a considerable amount of walking during the course of the year, at places like the Chicago Botanic Gardens, and combining this exercise with the pleasure of photography makes the walk even more enjoyable. It’s good to see Becky’s Square Photo Challenge back again. Thank you for continuing to host this unique challenge, Becky!

It occurs to me that some of these shots might fit the bill for Jez’s Water, Water Everywhere Challenge too. And we might even Pull Up A Seat or two with XingfuMama.

Last year, I wrote a piece called Thoughts on Walking. It was on one of my other blogs that I rarely use so it didn’t get much notice. If you didn’t already see it and have the time and the inclination to read it, I would be thrilled.

Water, Water Everywhere – At Crabtree

Here’s an entry for Jez’s Water, Water Everywhere Photo Challenge. More than 3 miles of walking trails wind around and by three bodies of water, Bullrush Pond, Sulky Pond and Crabtree Lake, at Crabtree Nature Center, part of the Cook County Forest Preserve system in Barrington Hills, Illinois.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Favorite Flowers

Ann-Christine has chosen Favorite Flowers as the subject for this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. This was a challenge I couldn’t resist so here are a few recent pictures that I haven’t used before. I don’t know that they are necessarily my favorite flowers but I was quite pleased with the way these shots turned out.