Tag Archive | wildlife

Sightings At Spring Valley

Last week, the weather warmed up sufficiently to give us a brief reprieve from winter, so I thought I’d make the most of it and take another walk around Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg. The lake was still frozen over.

Because of all the damage done by the beaver, the staff at the Center have started putting wire cages around some of the trees. Unfortunately it comes too late for some.

Walking through the woods, I saw quite a few birds including nuthatches, woodpeckers and, enjoying a bath in some open water, a group of robins.

Still not much action over at the farm, but as I was walking back down the track I spotted a hawk sitting on a low branch of a tree. Usually, when presented with this kind of opportunity, I take a picture right away, just in case I’m not able to get any closer, but this time it obliged me by staying put, and allowed me to creep up quite close until I was almost underneath it. Great!

In fact, at one point, I thought I’d let myself in for more than I’d bargained for, but it eventually settled down and I continue to take dozens of shots.

Eventually it moved off to a tree further down the trail but it waited for me to catch up and I was able to keep on shooting. It really seemed to be enjoying having its picture taken and even turned around to give me a different angle.

All the time this was going on, the ducks in the nearby creek were kicking up quite a racket. I think they must have been aware that the hawk was nearby and you could almost see the hawk thinking to itself, “Hello. Grub’s up!”

Finally, after quite some time, it flew off, and as I turned to look back up the track, three female deer stepped out of the trees. The perfect end to a successful afternoon.

Warmer Days In Spring Valley

Although you couldn’t exactly run out there in your bathing suit, the weather was certainly warmer yesterday than it has been for quite some time. This prompted me to take a trip to Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg and, although it was still rather icy underfoot, it was quite a pleasant walk.

There was no sign of activity over by the beaver lodge but there was clear evidence that it had been quite busy since the last time I was here. It had made short work of some of the smaller trees and I was surprised to see that even the larger ones had come in for some attention.

Because the pathways were still slippery, I didn’t take my usual route but stayed down near the cabin area. There was just enough snow left to make the wintry scene appealing.

Midway through the walk, I came upon two deer, one with an impressive set of antlers, the other with only one. We were both wary of each other but they didn’t run off and we followed each other along the path almost all the way back to the parking lot where we said our farewells.

Hello, Hawk

Visits from the hawk are sporadic, so I’d better be ready with the camera when it does arrive. We count ourselves lucky if we see one and it’s even better when a pair land in the garden.

I’m not very good at recognizing the different types of hawk but I’m pretty sure the one on the left in the next picture is a sparrow hawk. It was much smaller than the ones we usually see.

I used to feel guilty about feeding the birds, thereby providing a sitting target for the hawk to zoom in and chow down on, but I’ve noticed that, more often than not, it doesn’t actually catch anything when it swoops in. I guess the others around the feeder have become quite proficient at making a quick getaway.

Fortunately, or not, depending on your viewpoint, it does stay longer when it is able to snag something, which gives me a much better opportunity to get some reasonably good shots. These are certainly not as gruesome as some of the pictures in the photo files, but they do serve to illustrate that it’s not all ‘hearts and flowers’ in the world of nature.

The most recent sighting was a few days ago. As I was sitting by the window, I spotted a hawk, way up in the treetops on the next block and figured it was sure to have spotted all the birds clustered around the bird feeders, so I grabbed the camera. I was right. It came swooping down and landed right on top of the feeder pole. Awesome! It didn’t catch anything but stayed long enough for me to get a good view of it.

The first two pictures in the next set are not that clear (naturally these things never occur in a convenient spot) but they do show an interesting piece of interaction between a hawk and a squirrel. The hawk had already caught a sparrow and was in the process of tucking in, when a squirrel, either very young or very stupid decided to challenge it. The hawk is on the far left and squirrel to the right. The squirrel went right up to it, I don’t know what on earth it was trying to do, and eventually the hawk got rather annoyed and chased it off.

The Botanic Garden Up Close

This year, the Chicago Botanic Garden is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. I have been visiting the Garden for almost that many years and have been a member for a good many of those. And for the past eleven years I have included posts featuring the Garden here on WordPress.

Naturally, many of the pictures are of flowers, although with most posts I have tried, not always successfully, to stick to a single theme, be it color, season or one particular area of the Garden. This time I’d like to present my close-up view of the Garden.

There are 12 featured areas in the Garden which include:- Bulb, Circle, Crescent, Enabling, English Walled Garden, Evening Island, Fruit and Vegetable Garden, Heritage, Japanese, Native Plant, Rose and Sensory Gardens. Each one of these is beautifully set out and maintained with a colorful array of flowers and plants.

But the Garden is about so much more than just the flowers. It’s about the buildings and bridges, the statuary and structures such as the bell tower and its ‘command center’ hidden among the treetops.

There are also three natural areas in the Garden including:- McDonald Woods, the Prairie and the Nature Reserve. So let’s not forget the wildlife. The larger birds are easy to spot, but the smaller ones like the mother hummingbird with her baby in its nest are not quite so easy to find. And watch out for the giant fish lurking underneath the Serpentine Bridge by Evening Island.

This probably won’t be my last post on the Chicago Botanic Garden this year, but I will certainly endeavor to come up with a fresh angle and new pictures in future features.

The Grove

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!

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!”

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – On The Water

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.

Square Trees At Spring Valley

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.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – It’s A Wonderful World.

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.