Tag Archive | wildlife

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.

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.

Playing Possum

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.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – The Letter S

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.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Lazy Days Under The Sun?

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.

Spring at the Arboretum

Since there seemed to be quite a bit of rain in the forecast, I decided that Friday would probably be the best time to visit the Morton Arboretum in Lisle for my annual dose of daffodils and magnolias.  It was sunny with reasonably mild temperatures but I could see the wind was going to be a bit of a problem.  These conditions require some patience, waiting for things stop dancing about.

The place is packed!  Probably because The Trolls are still on display and there happens to be a plant sale going on, plus the appealing sight of daffodils and magnolias in bloom has brought people out by the hundreds. The car park is almost full when I get there and I end up pulling in next to this guy, with the hope that my car doesn’t suffer the same fate.

The magnolias are, as usual, spectacular! It’s too bad that their blossoms don’t last longer. Timing is everything when visiting for the specific purpose of seeing something at the peak of blooming and some of the pink flowers are past their best but others are just gorgeous!  I love magnolias and even bought our girls magnolia charms for their bracelets this Easter.

You never know what you’re going to come across when walking down a woodland trail at the Arboretum.  And it’s rather creepy, sitting among the trees, listening to them creak and groan in the wind. Looking down, I can see evidence of branches that have come crashing to the ground and hope that I’ve picked a safe spot to take a rest.  And while I’m gazing around I spot a bird that I don’t think I’ve seen before.  Other than the usual cast of characters, robins, sparrows, cardinals and a few others that I recognize, I have no idea what this one is, so any suggestions as to its identity are welcome.

Over at Lake Marmo everything is basking in the sunshine. A turtle paddles by, while a goose enjoys a snooze on the bank and a gigantic fish peers back at me from the gloomy depths below the bridge by Hemlock Hill.

The Troll that overlooks Daffodil Glade is in for a rude awakening. There are almost as many visitors as there are daffodils. Lots of kids rushing about, trampling the flowers underfoot. Well, you’re only young once, and I guess the temptation is probably just too great to resist.  How quickly things change! I’m glad I went to the Arboretum yesterday. It’s snowing today!

 

Whistling Ducks and Dancing Turtles

Hermann Park covers some 445 acres and is one of the oldest public parks in Houston.  It features an enormous reflecting pool, various gardens including a beautiful Japanese Garden, a recreational lake and a golf course. The park is also home to the Houston Zoo, Miller Outdoor Theater and the Houston Museum of Natural Science.



As always seems to be the case when we are on the road, our time in Houston was all too short, so we weren’t able to explore the entire park but we took in as much as we possibly could, given our tight schedule and the extreme heat which made walking any great distance rather a chore.  And I have to admit that I was on a mission. I was looking for a duck. And not just any old duck.

When our daughter and her husband first moved to Houston they sent us a blurred picture and a brief description of a rather unusual bird that they’d seen in Hermann Park. After some research we determined that what they’d probably come across was a whistling duck, which actually isn’t a duck at all, although it appears to be part of a subfamily that includes ducks, geese and swans. Not to be outdone and being a bit of a smart-arse, I sent them a picture, telling them that we had our own whistling ducks here in Chicago.

But this exchange of pleasantries got me thinking that if we ever visited Houston I would go in search of their whistling duck and see for myself what this bird was all about. And sure enough there, snoozing by McGovern Lake in Hermann Park, it was. It was apparently too weary to whistle but it afforded me the opportunity to get up fairly close, or as close as I was prepared to get to any bird, and capture some images. 

Having seen the whistling ducks we moved on to the Japanese Gardens where we saw some dancing turtles. At least, they appeared to be dancing.  With the temperatures at approximately 95 degrees in the shade, I imagine the rocks in the pool were getting pretty darned hot and the turtles, who were loath to give up their place in the sun, had to keep moving their feet or flippers or whatever they’re called, so as not to get scorched. These two seemed to coordinate their movements rather like dancing partners. They were soon joined by a third who wanted to get in on the act, while others watched from the bank, picking up tips on style and presentation, and another, who appeared to be the judge, got a closer view from a nearby vantage point.



Despite the heat, it was quite pleasant walking around the Japanese Gardens since much of it was in the shade. However, time and tide wait for no man and this visit, with its whistling ducks and dancing turtles, signaled our farewell to Houston as we would soon be on our way to San Antonio.


Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge – Animals

The squirrels in Texas are very bold, let me tell you!  I didn’t need a long lens for this shot, in fact I was half-inclined to take a step back, as this feisty little critter gave every indication that he was about to run straight up my leg!

For more on Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge go to Any Animal (no birds)