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Walking in Spring Valley

As I mentioned in my previous post, Monday was my first visit this year to Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg. So far, we have had a reasonably mild winter and it was nice to be able to get out and walk around the Center instead of the usual, boring trek around the track at the local gym. They had cleared quite a lot of the growth on the prairie near the entrance and things had a much different look from the last time I was there.

Over by the lake, I noticed that they had replaced the viewing platform. It is much steadier now, which certainly helps when photographing the surrounding scenery.

Further along the path there was evidence of some freshly cut trees, no doubt victims of the high winds that we experienced just before Christmas. It’s somehow comforting to come upon the remains of an old tree that is no longer growing. I’m glad they left it there. It makes a good nesting place for the woodpeckers.

Walking up towards the farm, I was surprised to see this area open. It is usually closed off during the winter months. There weren’t any animals about, but the red barns always make a good shot.

On the path back to the cabin, there was another area that had been cleared of densely growing shrubs and undergrowth. It looked like they had installed a nesting box high in a tree. I’m not sure what they expect to entice there, something fairly big I imagine. Maybe a woodpecker or flicker.

At the little pond by the cabin, our three mallard ducks from the previous post were swimming around and generally enjoying the sunny weather.

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.

Water, Water Everywhere – At White Pines Forest

Now that the winter weather is starting to settle in, it’s nice to be able to look back on some of the trips that we made when the temperatures were still warm enough to make walking and lingering to take in the view enjoyable. The last outing, of any significance, that we made this autumn was to White Pines Forest State Park near Oregon, Illinois. Most of the pictures that I captured there seemed to be suitable for Jez’s Water, Water Everywhere Challenge.

Spring and Pine Creeks wind through the park and in order to drive around the park you have to cross four fords that span them. Although the first one seemed shallow enough, the next one was running quite high and it didn’t seem advisable to risk going through it in a brand new car so I did the rest of my exploring on foot.

The park covers 385 acres and seems to be an ideal spot for fishing, hiking, picnicking and camping and there are several bridges that allow you to cross the streams without getting your feet wet.

White Pines Lodge has 23 guest rooms and there are more than 100 camp sites in the park if you want to stay longer than just one day. White Pines Forest is quite near Castle Rock State Park and one or two other interesting places so there’s plenty to see in the area.

A Piece Of The Rock

A few weeks ago, we made a two-hour drive to Castle Rock State Park in Illinois, only to find out that it was closed! There was, however, a sliver of the park, between Route 2 and the Rock River, that was accessible, so the trip wasn’t a total loss. In fact, this may well have been the most scenic part of the entire park.

The Rock. a tributary of the Mississippi River, is the river that runs through Rockford, as mentioned in the previous post. I was also interested to learn that the Sauk and Fox Indians used to call it the Sinnissippi River, which accounts for the park of that name in Rockford.

A little further down the road, we came upon a promising sign and upon investigation it yielded another nice view of the river at ground level and, after much stair climbing, an excellent view of the surrounding countryside.

Glacial Park – Who Knew?!

Glacial Park in McHenry County, another one of those places practically on our own doorstep that we’ve never visited before, turned out to be well worth the trip. Covering some 3,439 acres with 5 miles of trail, Glacial Park is run by the McHenry Conservation District.

Along the trail, we came upon a snake that blended in so well with the background that I almost didn’t see it until it moved off into the leaves along the side of the path.

It turns out that Glacial Park is a great place for birdwatching too. At the Lost Valley Visitor Center, on their deck high atop the trees, bird feeders attract all kinds of birds. The lady working the information desk was very helpful and even clued me in on what kind of bird seed they use to entice them.

Autumn In The Grove

Since I was last at The Grove in Glenview, almost a year ago, the little pools and ponds all seem to have dried up or become overgrown. The area shown in the first picture used to be quite a sizeable pond near the Interpretive Center. Now, the deer are using the grass that grows there as camouflage while they take a rest.

Despite living relatively close to the city, we are lucky to have such areas so close at hand. It’s nice to see the wildlife in their natural habitat thanks to various park districts and forest preserves. The Grove is managed by the Glenview Park District and covers 150 acres of woodland.

There are plenty of squirrels and chipmunks scurrying about, stocking up on supplies for the winter. And there’s plenty for all, with oak trees and other sources of food in abundance.

At one point, during our walk, I noticed a deer quite close to the trail. I kept as still as possible so it could get used to me being there and gradually it came closer and closer until it was almost within touching distance. But then, a toddler accompanied by his mother came along the trail and the spell was broken. Still I was lucky enough to get a few good shots.

The Potawatomi settled in this area in the mid-18th century. They had numerous camps in Northern Illinois including one at The Grove. Kennicott legend references a peaceful interaction between the family who settled in The Grove and their Potawatomi neighbors. The Grove was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

There’s Gold In Them Thar Hills!

Autumn gold, that is. And the hills are in Moraine Hills State Park, Illinois. Despite only living about an hour’s drive from here, this was our first trip to the park. As with many of these places, I feel that Autumn is the best time to visit. No aggresive springtime nesting redwings. or pesky summer mosquitoes.

There were plenty of easy walking trails and some beautiful scenery but the best part, for me, was when a flock of cedar waxwings stopped at some nearby trees to snack on the berries.

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.

A Walk In Crabtree Nature Center

I thought this might make a good entry for Jo’s Monday Walk even though it was on Sunday. It’s just as well we went when we did as there was a light flurry of snow this morning. Thankfully it didn’t stick and the weather is supposed to warm up a bit, later on this week.

I haven’t been to Crabtree since last year and it’s surprising how quickly the landscape has changed, with many of the trees and shrubs gone, whether by the hand of man or nature I’m not sure, while things like grasses and other plants are growing like crazy.

Fortunately they do a very good job of keeping the paths clear and there’s plenty of room to walk. We passed several couples on our way around and a few more overtook us as I stopped to take pictures.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Birds

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge seemed like a good opportunity to share these shots that I captured at Brookfield Zoo the other day. As any of you who have been following these posts for any amount of time will know, there is no way I’m going in the bird houses at the zoo. But large birds, outside, are not quite so terrifying, even if the bald eagle did give me quite the glare.

The peacock had lost most of its tail feathers but still looked very colorful and appeared to be sporting some rather snazzy legwear.