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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Butterfly Patterns

This weekend I went up to the Chicago Botanic Garden specifically to see the Butterflies and Blooms exhibit. Needless to say that wasn’t the only thing I ended up photographing but the butterflies provided an ideal topic for this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. Thanks for the suggested subject of Patterns, Ann-Christine.



For more on the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge go to Patterns

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A Day At The Races

Summer wouldn’t be complete without at least one day at the races at Arlington Park.  Our granddaughter loves animals and especially horses so Arlington was high on our list of things to do during her visit.

I will say this, however, that a trip to Arlington may, on the face of it, seem like a cheap day out – parking is free and entrance to the Park is reasonable on certain days – but once inside, beware.  Apart from the obvious temptation to have a bit of a flutter on the gee-gees, the price of food and beverages is ridiculously high! I could have bought a decent bottle of wine for the cost of a small bottle of water and a thrifty shopper could have fed themselves for a week on what I shelled out for ice cream (the first thing the kids ask for when we go somewhere like this.)

Still, the high price of feeding and watering the troops was well worth it, just to see these beautiful creatures step daintily past as they made their way out of the paddock, hopefully with the winning jockey on board.

The horses aren’t the only things racing about at the track.  There isn’t an awful lot of time in between each race so we must decide which horse we like according to name, color of the jockey’s silks or the even more scientific method of sticking a pin in the list of runners, then run up the steps to place a small wager, out again and down the steps to view the horses in the paddock to make sure our choice is still alive and kicking, then back up again so we can go down to the rails to cheer the winner home. It’s quite exhausting!

Things usually go very smoothly at Arlington.  I’m always impressed by how efficiently everyone does their job, from the stable lads and the people who maintain the track to the person who plays the bugle (or is it trumpet?) before each race.

We did quite well that day. Three winners out of seven races which, for us, is about par for the course. And the pleasure we got from seeing our granddaughter meeting one of the horses face to face so to speak, rounded out our trip to the races very nicely.

A Day At The Zoo

We recently hosted two of our grandchildren for a visit during their summer vacation and the first place our granddaughter wanted to go to was Brookfield Zoo. We’re always happy to put our membership to good use, so off we went.  The zoo covers a large area, some 216 acres, so there was plenty of walking involved, with lots to see and do.

 

The giraffes, largest animals in the ‘Habitat Africa! The Savannah’ exhibit, are always a favorite. The last time we were here we caught one of them in a scuffle with a pair of geese. Things were more peaceful this time. I’m always fascinated by the way these graceful creatures deal with the advantages and disadvantages of their height.


The featured attraction at the zoo this summer is the ‘Amazing Arachnids’ exhibit.  Display cases housed in a large tent hold a wide variety of these scary spiders most of them well hidden from view. Only the larger ones were easy to spot, if you could get near enough to get a look in.  The zoo is especially busy just now and a certain amount of patience is required if you want to see these creepy-crawlies up close.

The bears, meanwhile, were snoozin’ and cruisin’ in the summer sun, which was kind of surprising given how hot it was. You would think that they’d be favoring the shady areas (like the rest of us) with those thick fur coats they’re wearing but that didn’t prove to be the case.


When the ‘Tropic World’ exhibit opened in the 1980s it was, at that time, the largest indoor zoo exhibit in the world. It’s still a popular feature at Brookfield especially when there are young Western Lowland Gorillas getting up to all kinds of antics.

Large birds were much in evidence in all areas of the zoo, including a penguin that wasn’t the least bit camera shy, a couple of pelicans taking it easy by the Formal Pool, an emu that we got to meet up close and personal at the Hamill Family Wild Encounters exhibit, an eagle that appeared to have discovered something interesting in the undergrowth of its enclosure and a peacock that was just showing off in all directions.


After spending many hours walking around the zoo, our pace had slowed down to that of this tortoise so we figured it was about time to call it a day.

 

Dazzled, Breathless and Giddy

There are a few words that best describe the effect that the San Antonio Botanic Garden had on me and one of those words is dazzled! With the sun beating down and the glowing colors of the flowers that crowded the beds on that June afternoon, I was well and truly dazzled!


I was breathless! I don’t know if it was the 100 degree heat or just the overwhelming splendour of the garden that took my breath away but yes, I was definitely breathless!


 

I felt giddy, like a kid who’d just been given carte blanche at the local toy store. I felt like laughing and singing and crying just from the joy of being there. Yes, I certainly felt giddy!





And I felt grateful! Grateful to be alive and to have the opportunity to see this beautiful place and rejoice in the wonders of nature.



San Antonio Botanical Garden

You somehow get the feeling, as soon as you walk through the entrance to the San Antonio Botanical Garden, that you’re in for a treat. Despite it probably being the hottest day of our trip to Texas, we couldn’t pass up the chance to see this magnificent display of plants and flowers, especially since it was on our Chicago Botanic Garden membership reciprocal list.


Just the sheer novelty of seeing cacti growing outside rather than in a greenhouse was well worth braving the scorching temperatures.  The Garden covers some 40 plus acres and was first opened to the public in 1980.

The Garden is a remarkable place to see nature in all its diverse splendor and makes a wonderful living classroom in which to learn about the conservation of these magnificent plants and their natural habitat in what can sometimes be a harsh and unforgiving climate.


Every turn in the path provided a new and awesome landscape, so strange to our eyes, accustomed as we are to our usual bill of fare here in the Midwest. “Look but don’t touch” was definitely the order of the day when it came to many of these prickly characters.

 

We took in this view overlooking the city of San Antonio on our way down the path to even more garden delights that I look forward to sharing with you in the next post.

I add this interesting little footnote regarding wildlife; I had hoped to see lots of lizards and suchlike running around the Garden, especially in the more natural areas, but surprisingly we didn’t come across anything which was a bit of a disappointment.  The only lizard we saw during our trip to Texas was this one, I suppose you could call him a lounge lizard, basking on a chair by the pool back in Houston.

Whistling Ducks and Dancing Turtles

Hermann Park covers some 445 acres and is one of the oldest public parks in Houston.  It features an enormous reflecting pool, various gardens including a beautiful Japanese Garden, a recreational lake and a golf course. The park is also home to the Houston Zoo, Miller Outdoor Theater and the Houston Museum of Natural Science.



As always seems to be the case when we are on the road, our time in Houston was all too short, so we weren’t able to explore the entire park but we took in as much as we possibly could, given our tight schedule and the extreme heat which made walking any great distance rather a chore.  And I have to admit that I was on a mission. I was looking for a duck. And not just any old duck.

When our daughter and her husband first moved to Houston they sent us a blurred picture and a brief description of a rather unusual bird that they’d seen in Hermann Park. After some research we determined that what they’d probably come across was a whistling duck, which actually isn’t a duck at all, although it appears to be part of a subfamily that includes ducks, geese and swans. Not to be outdone and being a bit of a smart-arse, I sent them a picture, telling them that we had our own whistling ducks here in Chicago.

But this exchange of pleasantries got me thinking that if we ever visited Houston I would go in search of their whistling duck and see for myself what this bird was all about. And sure enough there, snoozing by McGovern Lake in Hermann Park, it was. It was apparently too weary to whistle but it afforded me the opportunity to get up fairly close, or as close as I was prepared to get to any bird, and capture some images. 

Having seen the whistling ducks we moved on to the Japanese Gardens where we saw some dancing turtles. At least, they appeared to be dancing.  With the temperatures at approximately 95 degrees in the shade, I imagine the rocks in the pool were getting pretty darned hot and the turtles, who were loath to give up their place in the sun, had to keep moving their feet or flippers or whatever they’re called, so as not to get scorched. These two seemed to coordinate their movements rather like dancing partners. They were soon joined by a third who wanted to get in on the act, while others watched from the bank, picking up tips on style and presentation, and another, who appeared to be the judge, got a closer view from a nearby vantage point.



Despite the heat, it was quite pleasant walking around the Japanese Gardens since much of it was in the shade. However, time and tide wait for no man and this visit, with its whistling ducks and dancing turtles, signaled our farewell to Houston as we would soon be on our way to San Antonio.


Distracted

Very often, when I visit the Chicago Botanic Garden, I tell myself that this time I’ll concentrate my photography on one particular area of the garden, not go wandering about willy-nilly snapping random pictures as I go.  It never works! It’s impossible to stick to the plan when there are so many things to distract me.  To give an example, this is how things went when I visited there last week.

“Okay, I’m going to head straight to the English Walled Garden this morning and I’m going to photograph the living daylights out of it!  Every flower, every shrub from every conceivable angle! But while I’m here I might as well get a few shots of the Esplanade and I have to go through the Heritage Garden anyway so I’ll take a few shots there too.”

“I’ll just get a closer look at these flowers, and ooh, look, there’s a chipmunk under here!”


“Right! Now! Straight to the English Garden! But we have to go past the Rose Garden. Oh, what the heck! I’ll only be a few minutes.”

“Now, right turn here.  No, that’s wrong. I should have turned left! Never mind. I’ll just have a quick look in the Circle Garden.”

 

“Now to get back on track, if I go down here past the Enabling Garden…..”

“What’s this sign say?  Corpse Flower! Well, I’ll have to see that while I’m down this way.”

“Mmm. Interesting! Okay, well it seems a pity to come this far out of our way and not see the Sensory Garden and if we take the path along there we’ll come out by Evening Island and ….”

“If we sit here for a while we’ll hear the bells.”

“Now, over the bridge and …… oooh look! Here comes the dredger! I’ll just follow its progress for a little way, past the Waterfall Garden….”



“Now how on earth did we manage to end up back in the Rose Garden?  Oh well, it won’t hurt to take this way back to the English Garden. Almost there!”


“See! I told you! Here we are at the English Walled Garden!  Good gracious! Is that the time already? Well I’ll just take a few shots while we’re here.”

 

 


“Next time I’ll concentrate on the Circle Garden for sure! No wandering around!”

And that’s how it goes.