This week, Patti is looking at Shapes and Designs as the theme for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. I suspect that, much like snowflakes and humans, no two creatures of any one species are exactly the same. We are all different. Every one of us unique in our own way, according to nature’s design.
Taking advantage of some unseasonably warm weather on Monday, I decided to do some photography at The Grove, a nature reserve, not too far from home, in Glenview, that I had first visited a couple of years ago.
The Grove, preserved and maintained by the Glenview Park District is an outdoor history and nature museum on 150 acres and includes an interpretive Center that houses a nice collection of turtles, snakes and other animals and birds, and several educational buildings such as the Blacksmith shop and a log cabin.
Also on the grounds is The Kennicott House, home of horticulturist and educator Dr. John Kennicott who settled on the property in 1836. His son, Robert Kennicott founded The Chicago Academy of Sciences.
I don’t know why I haven’t visited The Grove more often other than the fact that I am more used to places like Spring Valley and Crabtree Nature Center and get in a bit of a panic when I get lost on unfamiliar trails, even if I’m not more than a long stone’s throw from civilization. I have a terrible sense of direction and tend to resemble not so much a seasoned, experienced hiker as a nervous Hansel & Gretel following a non-existent trail of breadcrumbs. However, I decided to throw caution to the wind and risk a foray out to the back 70 acres and was pleasantly surprised. There was still plenty of autumn color and the trail took me through a variety of woods and wetlands.
I came upon a garter snake beside the boardwalk, wrestling with a toad that managed to hop away as the snake looked up to check my progress. The snake gave me a disgruntled look and slithered away while the toad, no doubt thanking his lucky stars, remained hidden under the boardwalk.
There are a lot of very old trees on the property, many of which have either been blown or cut down. I saw and heard quite a few chipmunks squeaking and scurrying about among the fallen branches and there was a continual rustling of leaves as squirrels foraged about looking for winter provisions.
I had been wondering if there were any deer in the woods and as I stopped by one of the many small pools along the trail, I was rewarded by a sighting of three of them, two females and a young male busy looking for food. They were on the alert but didn’t seem bothered by the fact that I was so close and I tried not to give them any reason to be alarmed. They crossed my path a couple of times as I was heading back to the parking lot.
Before I left, I stopped to have a look around the Redfield Estate which is also on the same property. Both The Grove and the Redfield Estate have been deemed National Historic Landmarks. Our eldest daughter was married here at the Redfield House in 2019 and it proved to be the perfect venue, inside and out, for this family celebration. I’ve promised myself that I will be a more frequent visitor to The Grove in future.
It’s a jungle out there! A jungle of sunflowers, that is. These are the plants that come up every year around the birdfeeder, sprung from seeds that have somehow miraculously been missed by the many creatures that feast in our garden.
Of course, the birds love them! The goldfinches, especially, seem adept at catching onto the stems and digging out the seeds with their eager beaks. But others, like the sparrows, have to really work hard to hold on.
The bees and butterflies are also at home here among these sunny, golden petals, drawn by the abundant pollen supply .
I’m pretty sure there are other plants in there somewhere, but they haven’t seen the light of day for some time. I’m not even sure what’s on the other side but if I push some of these leaves aside and squeeze through………
Ah! “Dr. Livingstone, I presume!”
This week, John, our guest host, is asking us to go On The Water for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. I can’t swim so I never feel very comfortable in or on the water. However, I do occasionally venture out, usually on a pontoon boat, which is how I captured the first two images, one with the Yacht Club in Des Plaines and the other on an excursion around one of Wisconsin’s many lakes.
Needless to say, the next few subjects are totally at home in the water. Images captured at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford and Crabtree Nature Center in South Barrington.
Becky’s Square Photo Challenge is back and this month the topic is Trees. By their very nature, trees are not that easy to capture in a square picture, Most of the tree images in my photo files don’t fit the bill, they’re either too tall or too wide but, by including a bit of scenery or on the odd occasion some wildlife or zooming up close, I think I’ve found a few shots that may work. So to kick off my entries for the Square Trees Photo Challenge, here are some trees at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg.
This week, Amy is thinking about the song “What A Wonderful World” and has carried it through as the theme for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. I agree! It is a wonderful world and nowhere do I feel that more than when I’m outside among the flowers and wildlife in the garden. Everything has been blooming beautifully so far this year and it certainly is gratifying to see some positive results after all the hard work. The peonies have come and gone but they were spectacular while they lasted.
Also gone, for now, are the irises. They really put on a splendid show this year. So many different colors, it was hard to choose a favorite. It looks like I’ll be able to put quite a few out for anyone to help themselves, when I divide them later this year, as I do with the daylilies and other perennials. What I don’t appreciate is people coming into my garden uninvited and pulling up armfuls of plants as I saw one woman doing while I was walking home one day with my youngest granddaughter asleep in her stroller. I was too far away to remonstrate otherwise I would have given this audacious plant pincher an earful. Of all the nerve!!
Caught in the act! A baby bunny eating the nigella plants. No worries! There’s plenty to go around. Nigella reseeds (isn’t nature wonderful?) and comes up again without any help from me, although I do collect some of the seeds to scatter in other parts of the garden. It’s a pretty little flower and even the seed pods are quite decorative.
The possum re-appeared, and a tree in a neighbor’s backyard across the street disappeared. We have lost so many of the large trees in our area over the past several years due to diseases of one kind or another. The Village has replaced many of them on the parkway but it will be a while before they are large enough to provide much shade or attract any of the larger birds like the hawk or the flicker. It’s wonderful how they seem to return to the same places to nest and raise their young and I’m sure there will be a few of our feathered friends that will miss this one-time home.
Poppies added a blaze of color to the garden and the white ones brightened up any shady areas. This is probably when the garden is at its most colorful, with poppies, irises and peonies all blooming at the same time, and we very often see people stopping by to take pictures which is fine by me. I’m out there with the camera myself most days.
The birds have been busy in the garden too. the goldfinches making good use of some nesting material provided while a hawk stops by in search of a quick snack.
After some much-needed rain last night, the garden is refreshed and ready to produce the next lot of blooms which will include daylilies, oriental lilies, coneflowers and phlox among others. We live on a corner lot so every part of the garden is visible from the sidewalk and it’s nice to take a break once in a while and chat to passing pedestrians. I also love it when the little group from the local daycare walk by and wave, with the occasional tiny voice piping up “Hello!” as they go past. They are our future and I hope they will grow up to appreciate nature and perhaps share the interest in gardening that I have enjoyed for so many years. It truly is a Wonderful World.
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.
Yesterday morning we spotted a possum trekking across the snow in our garden. It must have been really hungry to venture out in daylight. Usually we only see them roaming around the house in the evening.
This week, Patti has suggested that any subject starting with the letter S will serve splendidly for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. While strolling around our garden, we see all sorts of subjects starting with S including snapdragons, sedum, sunflowers, scabiosa, snowdrops and squill.
We have also spotted several species of birds, the most common of which is the sparrow, but the sora was a total surprise as it had evidently strayed well off-course.
In summer we see skippers and swallowtails sunning themselves.
And in the fall we may occasionally spot a squirrel snacking on some squash.
This week, Amy is asking us to share some moments Under The Sun for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. If you do any kind of gardening, you know that there are no such things as lazy days. I have an old tee-shirt that I use for working in that says, “I garden, therefore I weed.” Isn’t that the truth! It’s never ending and, at this time of year, done mostly under the sun! But fortunately, with all the spring rain that we had, the plants have grown sufficiently to cover the weeds until I can get to them. And I will…. eventually. Along with the weeds, perennials continue to flourish beside annuals and biennials that reseed and pop up randomly around the garden. Cultivating, deadheading, trimming and re-planting are just a few of the jobs that keep me busy out in the garden.
And I am not the only one who has been active out there in the garden in the summer sunshine. The rabbit explosion has produced several litters of plant-munching bunnies. Luckily there has been enough foliage to go around so I don’t feel too bad when I see them eyeing the flower beds. The coneflowers have been attracting both bees and butterflies and recently there have been hundreds of little skippers too. The sunflowers have had their fair share of interest and it’s amusing to watch the squirrels trying to get at the seeds. They are very resourceful and use the garden furniture to their best advantage.
Just as the sun is starting to go down, I catch a glimpse of a mouse peeping out from under the leaves, and a wren making short work of some hapless insect that is almost as large as the little bird itself.
And when the sun has disappeared below the horizon, there is still plenty of activity in the garden. There’s often a distinct whiff of fox outside, first thing in the morning, and a neighbor has reported seeing a coyote surveying the property with an eye to finding a late night snack. Skunks and possums are also frequent visitors and can be heard scratching about on the stones beneath our bedroom windows at night.
There’s never a dull moment and whether I’m running about wielding a trowel or a camera, there’s little time to sit back and enjoy those lazy days of summer under the sun.