Pull Up A Seat – At The Chicago Botanic Garden

It may be getting a little too chilly to be sitting about outside now, but when I was at the Chicago Botanic Garden recently it was perfect weather for Pulling Up A Seat and enjoying the view.

And of course, the wildlife don’t really mind where they sit. Any convenient spot in the sun will do.

It may be a while before I get to take pictures like this again. Things are getting so bad in Illinois, with the virus, that they are asking us to voluntarily stay at home whenever possible for the next three weeks. It would be easy to ignore the warning, goodness knows we all dislike being cooped up indoors for any length of time, but if using our common sense now means that we may be able to relax the rules when Christmas comes around, then let’s make the effort now. And this means wearing a mask when you do have to go out. Most people here in the Chicago area are pretty good about doing that, but it only takes the few who aren’t to really mess things up. So stay well, keep safe and PLEASE spare a thought for others.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

This week, guest host Ana from Anvica’s Gallery, recalls the song ‘The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow‘ as the theme for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge.

Last week we were blessed with some exceptionally fine weather for November and everyone seemed to be enjoying the warmer temperatures. There also appeared to be some leg and wing stretching exercises in progress in preparation for those long winter days ahead. The first two images were captured at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg where there were a few mallard ducks, a couple of frogs that refused to be photographed and a lone turtle doing some calisthenics.

The creatures at Brookfield Zoo were certainly making the most of this late autumn reprieve and were soaking up the rays with evident pleasure.

Meanwhile, at the Chicago Botanic Garden, a tardy heron, who should probably have already been on his way south, stopped for a wash and brush up and gave his wings a bit of a stretch while an armada of geese sailed calmly by.

The sun may come out tomorrow but it probably won’t get much warmer and will definitely get a lot colder than this in the months to come.

Hello Kitty!!

This is the first time in over 40 years that I’ve managed to get a half-way decent picture of the leopards at Brookfield Zoo. Just in the right place at the right time the other day.

I’m pretty sure, if you zoom in on the next picture, you can see a reflection of me, leaning against the fence, in his eyes. Possibly sizing me up as the next meal.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Focus On The Subject

This week, Patti asks that we Focus on the Subject for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. She has even been kind enough to offer a few suggestions on how we can achieve this. So, following her example, here are a few shots that I hope illustrate her recommendations.

Framing the shot. Taken at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Leading lines and color. This is like a two-for-one, taken at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg.

Freezing the action. Buckingham Fountain in downtown Chicago.

The eyes have it. In this shot of my grandson’s lovely wife and their dog Crush, while Christianna appears to be gazing out into the distance, Crush has definitely spotted something interesting. (probably someone walking around with food.)

Selective focus. Zooming in on the butterfly throws the background out of focus and leaves us to marvel at one of nature’s beauties.

Flurries

We have seen quite a flurry of activity in our garden recently; birds flying south, and who can blame them, while critters get ready to hunker down for the winter along with the rest of us. Robins have flocked here by the dozens, attracted by the red berries in the shrubbery, that also appealed to some passing starlings.

My arch-nemesis, the rabbit, and his pals have been frequent visitors, as have the squirrels. The rabbits just get on with the job of eating whatever’s there, while the squirrels rush about like mad things, nibbling at tasty morsels and burying the rest, then looking around in puzzlement, scratching their heads and wondering where they left it. No wonder random plants keep popping up all over the garden! Squirrels are the first ones up to the buffet in the morning and the last to leave at night. They believe in getting their money’s worth.

Although I’ve often heard and glimpsed the flicker flying around the neighborhood, going from tree to tree, I’ve rarely seen it on the ground so I was quite happy to get this shot, even though he stubbornly refused to turn around so I could capture the black medallion on his chest.

Another fairly rare sighting in the garden was this woodpecker. We usually see the smaller downy woodpecker that shows up when I hang the suet basket out.

The blue jay caused a flurry as it usually does, squawking and making a fuss, so unlike the placid mourning doves that go about their business with just the occasional mild “Coo.”

Mr. & Mrs. cardinal arrived one afternoon, watched closely by a line of sparrows. Later, what appeared to be a dialog between the male cardinal and a male sparrow ensued. Perhaps they were sharing a joke.

Sparrow-: “Have you heard the one about the bishop and the actress?” Cardinal-: “Haha! Nice one!”

Sparrow-: “I figured being a cardinal, you’d appreciate that one. Know what I mean? Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.”

The juncos, goldfinches and purple finches snuck in when the sparrows were not hogging all the food. I think I identified them correctly but welcome any input if I didn’t.

Normally, at this time of year, if I saw these swallowtail caterpillars, I would bring them inside to await the emergence of some beautiful butterflies in the spring, but since the last batch produced almost nothing but parasitic wasps I decided to let this lot fend for themselves. Sorry!

Autumn At The Garden

Another opportunity to hideaway behind the camera presented itself recently on a trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden. This is my favorite time of year at the Garden, the colors are so spectacular.

Speaking of hiding away, I wonder if you can spot the chipmunk in this picture, helping himself to a tasty snack. I had a hard time pinning him down, he moved around so quickly, but he stopped just long enough for me to snap this one.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Hideaway

This week, Ann-Christine has chosen Hideaway as the topic for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. My hideaway may seem strange to many but this is my take on it. Being rather an introvert by nature, I feel more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it and photography seemed like an ideal hobby for me to pursue. I like the feeling of invisibility that it gives me while looking through the viewfinder, as though I’m the only person in the place. So that’s my hideaway, wherever I happen to be, behind the camera, which in this instance was Cantigny Park in Wheaton.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – A Photo Walk

My walking activities have been somewhat limited over the past couple of weeks owing to recurring foot pain and I’ve been trying to rest it as much as possible, but when I saw that Amy had chosen A Photo Walk as the topic for this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge, I decided to put my tortured tootsie to the test with a walk around Spring Valley Nature Center. It may have been a mistake to undertake this walk without the benefit of pain-killers but then it wouldn’t have been much of a test, and apart from one or two brief moments when I felt like curling up on the path and crying, things didn’t go too badly.

This was my first visit to the Valley since August of last year – it has been closed for much of this year – so I was curious to see if there had been any changes made to the landscape. The Bison Bluff play area was open for business but not too many takers.

The rest of the nature center was busy, however, with couples and families strolling about, making the most of the lovely autumn weather. Many were wearing masks but many weren’t, (tsk, tsk.) I’ve become so used to wearing mine that it doesn’t seem to bother me now.

The water in the pond was quite low as we haven’t had too much rain lately, but there were plenty of frogs even if they were cunningly camouflaged by the mud. I also saw a couple of turtles doing leg-stretching exercises and some scruffy-looking mallards up-ending in the deeper waters.

It seemed strange to see the farm buildings so deserted. Because the fallout from Covid meant cancelling all the programs at the Center, all the livestock has been shipped off to outside farms until next year. But at least I didn’t have to worry about being scared to death by the chickens that usually run around the farmyard.

As I started back on the path to the car park, I noticed several grasshoppers at my feet, while overhead a noisier winged item went flying by. Thanks for the encouragement to get out and walk, Amy. I may give this another go next week if the weather is favorable.

Sunflower Memories

Just prior to us cutting down the last of the sunflowers in the garden, the goldfinches went on a feeding frenzy. It was as if they knew that they’d better make the most of what was left. (Just as an aside, I dislike this new block editing thing intensely, but, like everything else, I expect I’ll get used to it.)

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Inspiration

This week, Tina has chosen Inspiration as the topic for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. With so many places closed down, travel restrictions in place and family gatherings limited because of Covid, and trips to the city put on indefinite hold because of increasing violence, I’ve been finding it hard lately to get motivated enough to get out and take pictures. I decided to look to the younger generation for some inspiration. Youngest granddaughter loves going to the zoo and great-grandson adores dinosaurs so yesterday I took my cue from them and headed over to Brookfield Zoo where by happy coincidence they are featuring a dinosaur exhibit. I think the kids would have approved.

Although the place was quite busy, most people wore masks and practiced social distancing and it was good to see families out there enjoying themselves, taking a break from all the turmoil that health, politics, social injustice and natural disasters has thrown at us this year.

Although the zoo itself is open, not surprisingly, all the indoor exhibits are closed which meant no pictures of gorillas in Tropic World and only a limited view of the bears. Add to this the fact that most of the animals were sleeping (when aren’t they?) and with the usual challenge of trying to get a decent shot through the intervening fences and wires, it proved to be an interesting exercise in zoo photography.

Despite so many of the attractions and services being unavailable, the zoo more than made up for it with the addition of the Dinosaur Exhibition. These prehistoric giants looked quite at home in their various settings and the animatronics and sound effects had all the kids (and some of the adults) squealing with excitement.