Tag Archive | Spring Valley Nature Center

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Something Somber

I guess by now it has become pretty evident that I like to try and keep upbeat with the pictures that I post; sunshine and flowers and all that kind of thing. But today while I was walking along the path at Spring Valley I heard the church bell, not chiming the hour as I first thought, but keeping up a somber toll as if for a death and that gave me the idea for this week’s Lens Artists Photo Challenge. Thanks to Tina at ‘Travels and Trifles’ I’m looking for Something Different  A somber view of nature (with the help of a little photo manipulation.)

A view of our local park after a heavy rainfall taken with my phone camera. The day was sunny but with a little assistance from Snapseed the results looked quite different from the original.

The remains of an old tree at Spring Valley looked quite cheerful in the original picture but after I superimposed a shot of the smoke and flames taken at last week’s burn, it took on a whole different look.

From fire to ice.  With a bit more photo manipulation, a koi fish trapped in a frozen pond.

And autumn leaves on a rotting log seem a little more forbidding with the color drained from them with a bit of photo processsing.

The frog is, as it was…..dead.  Just below the surface of a watery grave. Perhaps the victim of a cruel winter, pollution or maybe just old age.  The more somber side of nature and just a little different from the images I usually like to capture.

 

 

Goodbye March – Hello April

One of the last things I did in March was to visit Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg.  I stopped on the way to visit the elk in Elk Grove Village and while I was there, almost stumbled over a nest of garter snakes.

When I arrived at Spring Valley the sun was shining although it was rather chilly, and one of the first things I noticed was that it looked as though they had been burning off some of the old growth in the field.

The smell of burning was quite strong so I figured it must have happened recently and I wondered what the chances of spotting any wildlife in the area would be.  No worries! I got a nice close-up view of a water rat over by the pond.

And a little bit further along the bank I spotted this creature (not sure exactly what it was, and would welcome any suggestions.) It was very skittish and didn’t keep still for long so I was only able to get a quick shot.

Meanwhile, over at the farm, the horses and cows were enjoying the sunshine.

I was right about the controlled burning. As I was returning to the parking lot I spotted smoke rising from the far side of the trail and, hurrying in that direction, I managed to capture the last of the day’s work.

It’s rather scary to see how rapidly the fire spreads but with the experts on hand to keep things under control I felt quite safe and the fire quickly went from a raging inferno to a few wisps of smoke and some dying flames.

So with that, I said goodbye to March and today it’s Hello April. With not much sun and chilly temperatures in the forecast for the coming week I don’t anticipate doing much in the way of photography for the next few days.  But there are signs of hope in the garden.  Just a few colorful crocus shivering in a cold wind.  Come on April! Let’s see what you can do!

Thanks for choosing this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge, Amy!

Spiky Squares – At Spring Valley

This will probably be my last hurrah for the Spiky Squares Photo Challenge unless something unexpected presents itself before the end of the month. This has been a fun challenge and has certainly prompted me to look at things from a whole different perspective.  Thanks Becky!

Some spikey squares from Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg. Hopefully I’ll be seeing more of the outdoors in the weeks to come, now that Spring is finally here.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Shadows

This week, Tina Schell at Travels and Trifles has chosen Shadows as the topic for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. There were surprisingly few of these in the photo files, or at least ones that I thought added anything to the overall picture. There were some, however, that I thought might just fit the bill. I selected the first shot, taken at the Chicago Botanic Garden, as I rather liked how the tree’s shadows led the way over the bridge as though reaching out to its counterpart on the other side.

Shadow symmetry by the McGinley Pavilion at The Chicago Botanic Garden.

Shadows standing out in the snow at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg and on the path under a pergola at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.

Biltmore Mansion casts a large shadow over the landscape in Asheville, North Carolina.

Hard To Believe

In view of all the dreary, grey days that we’ve experienced recently, it’s sometimes hard to believe that the sun has actually put in an appearance from time to time.  One such occurrence presented itself last week and I took advantage of the opportunity to go for a walk around Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg.

The one slippery spot that I came across during this trek was the observation deck that overlooks the pond, but luckily I had hold of the railings otherwise I might have had difficulty obeying the sign.


The Volkening Heritage Farm area is closed until March1st (unless you call ahead to gain admittance) but, leaning over the gate that blocks off the path, I got a good view of the horses enjoying some welcome sunshine outside the barn.

 

There were quite a few people at the Center, parents with their children, photographers, nature lovers and walkers, all making the most of the relatively fine weather, as the footprints on the paths and trails attested. We were all smiling, clearly pleased with the way the day was going and obviously hoping that the sun would continue to shine down on us, at least for another hour or two.


The sun stayed out at least long enough for us to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.  Now we are back to cloudy skies and the threat of snow later on today, but looking on the bright side, this may present us with more photo opportunities.


Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Blending

This week, Ann-Christine asks if it’s better to blend in or stand out in a crowd. Frog and Toad evidently feel it’s a good idea to blend in with their surroundings. They know their lives may depend on it, the frog in a pond at Spring Valley Nature Center and the toad crouching on a dry river bed in Lafayette, Indiana.


The monarch butterfly, however, enjoys flaunting its gaudy patterns in the open and doesn’t seem too concerned about standing out in a crowd. These two, in downtown Chicago and at the Morton Arboretum couldn’t resist showing off their true colors.



So is it better to blend in or stand out? The next picture was taken in our garden and shows another creature who likes to remain inconspicuous among the leaves, a praying mantis, and its hapless victim, a monarch butterfly. So I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

For more on the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge go to Blending In – or Standing Out?

Frog Soup

The color for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is lime or light green and since I was hoping for an opportunity to share the following pictures this seemed like the ideal time, even though they may not strictly be considered that exact shade.


On a still and steamy day at the tail end of August, the turbid waters of the pond at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg resembled nothing so much as frog soup. Everywhere you looked there were hundreds of these curious little creatures, peering out of the water or perching on lily pads.


There has always been a special place in my affections for these little guys. They have kept me company during many peaceful moments at the water’s edge in various nature centers, gardens and parks. There’s something very companionable about spending time with a frog, both of us sitting there thinking our own thoughts.


“What is this woman doing???  She’s been sitting here for ages, just watching! I don’t think she’s a threat but every once in a while that shiny thing she’s holding gives off a flash of light that, I have to say, is a bit disconcerting. Any of you chaps know who she is?  No, well just ignore her. Perhaps she’ll go away.”

For more on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge go to Lime or Light Green.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Twisted in the Wood

There is something incredibly beautiful and dramatic about trees unadorned by their leaves, especially when they are gnarled and twisted with age.  Twisted in Arches National Park, Utah.

Twisted driftwood on the sands at Whitefish Point in Michigan.

Twisted in springtime at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois.


Twisted in autumn at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg, Illinois.  The clouds seem to mirror the contortions of the branches.


For more on The Weekly Photo Challenge at The Daily Post go to Twisted

Is It Spring Yet?

I thought it was, a couple of weeks ago, when I was walking through Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg. The snowdrops were in bloom, birds were singing and everything looked poised, ready to leap into action but apparently Mother Nature had other ideas as evidenced by a thin film of ice on the outer edges of the lake when I visited there yesterday.

I thought the patterns in the ice would make an interesting picture so I balanced precariously on the edge of the observation deck in a chilly wind to capture these images.

There were several school groups visiting the Center while I was there and while I’m absolutely delighted to see the younger generation getting healthy exercise in the fresh air and looking at something other than their tablets and smartphones, it doesn’t bode well for spotting any kind of wildlife that’s easily scared off by the sound of about 50 screaming kids.  However, it didn’t deter a flock of chickadees that were flitting back and forth among the trees down by the creek.

As many of you are aware, I have a  life-long fear of birds which is a bit of a handicap when I’m out on these nature rambles, but a long lens is an extremely useful tool which makes such pictures possible. It certainly came in handy when I got to the tall trees by the farm where a woodpecker was bashing away at the bark at the very top, next to what appeared to be its nest. This supposition was confirmed when a second bird arrived.

Moving on to the farm, there didn’t seem to be much activity. Even the horse had decided it was too cold to venture outside and gazed morosely back at me from the barn door, as though it was somehow my fault that the weather had taken a downturn.

I was so busy looking at the horse that I was almost taken by surprise by a ruthless gang of chickens. They are my worst nightmare! When I was much younger, I tried to conquer my fear of birds by going into a hen house to collect some eggs.  The results were disastrous, for me and the eggs as I ran screaming back to the farmhouse.

I backed away as the last, a beady-eyed thug, made straight towards me and, with a final click of the camera, I beat a hasty retreat down the path, passing a robin busy looking for its next meal.

The weather forecast doesn’t offer much improvement for the coming week, with rain and chilly temperatures being the recurring theme for our area so it may be a while before I venture into the Valley again.

Spring in the Valley

I went for my first walk around Spring Valley this year the other day. The sun was shining and although it was still chilly, there were definite signs that spring is in the air. The lake is no longer frozen and although there aren’t any leaves on the trees yet, they look as though they are getting ready to burst into life.

With all the rain that we’ve had just recently, the little creek was fairly rushing along. I could hear it even before reaching the bend in the path.  Add to that the shrill trilling of red-wing blackbirds and the unmistakable sound of a large flock of geese flying high overhead and it seemed like spring really was a reality and not just something that we keep wishing for.

The animals at the farm were outside enjoying the unexpected warmth.  They’ll back in the barn next week if the weather forecast is anything to go by.

Because of recent rains, many of the trails and paths were flooded or exceedingly muddy but fortunately the farm is on high ground so I managed to get there without getting my feet too wet. I returned the same way, just to be on the safe side.

After visiting Volkening Farm, I went in search of the one thing that I knew would be a sure sign that spring was on its way.  Down by the old Redeker Cabin I found them. Snowdrops, only just in bloom but a welcome sight.

Further down the trail I came across something that must be a new addition to the Nature Center. This little area is called a Natural Play Pocket that encourages children to play and create things from the natural materials available. Someone had evidently been very busy.  The sign at the entrance says that children should be permitted to create and build with minimal adult input but wisely adds that adults DO need to supervise.