Tag Archive | Spring Valley Nature Center

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 Fun Foto Challenge – Feathers

The theme for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is Feathers and, as luck would have it, I managed to capture a few shots on Monday that I thought would fit the bill (no pun intended.) The weather was chilly but sunny and dry when I paid my first visit of the year to Spring Valley Nature Center and I found myself spending some quality time with three mallard ducks that, unlike the poor bird in the previous post, were very much alive.

They appeared to be in the middle of a quick wash and brush up, with much flapping of wings, vigorous splashing and acrobatic contortions that were evidently required in order to get those feathers in tip top condition.

They did not seem to mind me gawping in on their ablutions. In fact, with their quacking laughter they seemed to be saying, “If you liked that one, get a load of this!”

Summer In The Valley – The Pond

It’s still summer at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg and the pond is like a gently simmering soup. At first glance it would seem that all the wildlife is hiding but the longer you look, the more you see.

We haven’t had much rain lately, although that could change tomorrow but, for now, the water levels are quite low and the frogs must be wondering how long they can hold out against the sharp eyes of the great blue heron that is standing on a partially submerged branch in the water.

On the far side of the pond is a convenient bench underneath a shady tree and I sit looking at some kind of heron that is perched on a branch at the water’s edge, staring right at me. It doesn’t seem to be bothered by our close proximity and continues to eye me as I click away with the camera. Those of you who have been reading my posts for any amount of time will know that I have a terrible bird phobia. I’ve had this fear of birds, which is a distinct problem for someone who enjoys doing wildlife photography, ever since childhood, but for some reason, larger birds don’t scare me quite so badly. That much becomes evident when a mallard duck creeps up behind me and proceeds to practically walk across my feet, while I merely let out a stifled “Arrg!” I’m not saying I wouldn’t have uttered a piercing scream if it had started flapping its wings, but I am quite proud of myself when two more show up and I do no more than make a slight movement with my foot to ensure they don’t get too familiar.

Autumn is fast approaching but, for now, the summer soup of Spring Valley pond continues to stir and bubble with activity.

Summer In The Valley – Part 1

Every season at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg has something special to offer and summertime means, amongst many other things, flowers. The new garden by the Visitors Center is flourishing with all kinds of plants that attract butterflies and bees.

The wealth and variety of wildflowers in the prairie areas is simply astounding! This doesn’t come without a lot of work on the part of the Nature Center’s dedicated staff, I’m sure. And they have done a magnificent job.

There was, however, one cause for concern. Even with all these lovely flowers, there were very few butterflies. By this time I would have expected to see monarchs, swallowtails and cabbage whites fluttering about all over the place. This may change in a week or two. I hope so.

First Look

On Thursday the weather warmed up and stayed dry long enough for me to take my first trip of the year to Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg. Everybody and their brother seemed to have the same idea but luckily most of the activity was centered around the children’s play area. Over by the lake things were a little more peaceful.

Although I could hear several frogs gently burping in the background, they were well hidden, but I did spot a lone turtle sunning itself on a log near the water’s edge. And apparently, I wasn’t the only one taking an interest in the lake. I came across two ladies, each with a different perspective, putting paint to canvas.

Over at the farm things appeared to be getting started again with the arrival of a new litter of piglets. There was a lot of squealing and grunting going on around the feed bins as they pushed and shoved each other, while one satisfied the urge to scratch, and another gave me quite the look as I leaned over the fence to take a few shots. (Nothing bland about this pigling.)

As the piglets retired to their shed for a snooze, I took the long walk back to the parking lot. It was nice to see so many signs of spring and hear the birds singing. I noticed that they are clearing away a lot of the tangled undergrowth in order to give the native plants a chance to flourish so it will be interesting to see what develops and whether it will attract more wildlife as they seem to think.

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.

Summer In The Valley

The past few weeks have been hot and humid for the most part, a fairly typical Chicago summer, but despite the heat, it was enjoyable to get out for a walk at Spring Valley Nature Center recently. The renovations to the visitor’s center are almost completed with just a few bare patches in the landscaping that will no doubt fill in with time.

The lake was one mass of waterlilies. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so overgrown before. There was a heron standing atop what I take to be a beaver lodge, and there were frogs aplenty.

Walking over to the farm, the air was very still and everything quiet. It appears that they have not yet become fully operational after closing for a time because of COVID. There were only two cows munching hay in a field that I have not seen used for some time.

Continuing on, along the prairie paths I spotted a chipmunk among the wildflowers, and a lonely monarch butterfly. Butterflies have been scarce this year both here and in the gardens.

With the days passing so quickly, it will probably be autumn by the time I return to Spring Valley. By then it will be cooler and maybe I will feel a little more energetic. These hot, humid days really slow me down and make me lazy.

The Last Of The Snow

We have just about seen the last of the snow, although there was still some lingering in patches at Spring Valley Nature Center when I made my first visit there this year, earlier this week.

The usual access to the nature center was closed as they are making some alterations and improvements to the Visitors Center area so I had to take an alternate route and with many of the paths that were in the shade still covered in ice, my walking was somewhat limited. Still, it was so nice to get out in the fresh air and see something other than our own garden. I was glad that I decided to wear my wellies, however.

There were a few people about but for the most part it was very quiet, which is why I probably came upon these two deer.

I almost didn’t need to use the zoom lens, they were so close and they didn’t seem at all bothered about my being there. They eventually ambled across the path and disappeared into the undergrowth. I stayed for a while, hoping that they’d come out again but no such luck, so I continued on my way.

I can’t wait to see see what the improvements look like at the Visitors Center. It’s supposed to be finished by late Spring which means I will probably have to use this alternate route for a couple more months at least.

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge – Vanishing Point

This week, Cee has chosen Vanishing Point as the theme for her Black & White Photo Challenge. There are several sections of the walk around Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg that provide a ‘vanishing’ perspective. I always wonder what I’ll see when I get to the other end or around the next corner.

The images were captured last year. We are expecting a blizzard this evening and these paths will probably be under several inches of snow by tomorrow so it will be a while before I walk them again.

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.