Saturday, September 29, 2007

Hawk Action!

Holy smokes did I have hawk action this morning! Can you see him sitting in this tree? (This is the walnut tree that has been prematurely loosing it's leaves in August.)
It all started when I noticed I had absolutely no birds around. None. Now that's strange because my neighbor and myself have several feeders out in the joining yards and we have birds constantly. So when everything was silent and I didn't even hear any, I though it was strange, but oh well, I'll live.

Just then, at 6:55am, I saw the biggest hawk I've ever seen, swoop down and try to get a squirrel. WOOOOH. When he didn't have success he flew around my neighbor's house and was chased by hawk #2. WEEEEEE! Two ginormous raptors playing catch in our yard! They flew up, soared down, twisted, turned, and rested in a tree. I must have looked like a big dummy with my mouth hanging open standing at the window in my PJ's.

Remember when I told you my neighbor feeds the squirrels? Well he left several nuts on his red picnic table where the feast was on, however, this became the hawk's bulls eye target! Stupid squirrels. Now I don't like when they mess with my flowerbeds, but the whole time I'm saying, "Your gunna get it squirrels, your gunna get it. Be smart like the birds and hide!" as if to warn them. I really didn't want bloodshed, even though I know it's a part of life. Well those guys are really quick and every attempt on the hawks part failed and he looked exhausted. Now I felt bad for the hawk.

A minute later, stupid squirrel was walking the telephone tight rope, when Hawk #1 went for him. Now enters Hawk #2 for the same squirrel. I thought, Oh this is it, this is how he's going down. BUT NO! Smart squirrel now flips upside down on the wire and monkeys his way to safety, reaching the telephone pole. The hawks disappear and the squirrel flicks his tail angrily as if to say, "How dare you try to eat me!"

35 minutes later all birds return: sparrows, male and female woodpecker, starlings, morning doves, grackles too. The birds are happy, the squirrels are happy and the hawks go hungry, for now anyway.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Greetings from Percy in Wilmington

These pictures were taken by my friend, Spaz in Wilmington. She has a friend hummingbird who visits her often that she affectionately named, Percy. We love Percy. I assume he's a male, for no other reason but the fact that she named him Percy :) Enjoy him before he's gone. I zoomed in on the first two pictures so you can get a better view.

Oh my! Percy is mooning us. To give him privacy, I did not zoom in!
Great photos Spaz, Thanks!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Artistic License

Inspired by the Orange Jewel Weed from the other day, I decided to paint a little watercolor picture and write a poem, giving their trumpets reason to sound.

As His gentle breath breathes,

They begin to wave and nod.

Their trumpets make a sound

Of Autumn growing near.

Not to human ears they sound…

But to bees, to trees, and the deer.

“Find food fast my friends.

For Autumn’s hold is broad.”

“Least she finds you not prepared

And leaves you nothing but awed.”

In this poem, I tried to describe how the jewel weed's trumpets warn the animals and plants to prepare for the coming cold. And how does the trumpets sound? By the breath of God of course. Now, I know that probably doesn't really happen, but I'm using an artistic license to escape reality and create whatever I want! HA. It's soooo much fun to use an artistic license, it never expires and you renew it every time you use it. I highly recommend using yours. Don't worry if you feel as if you don't have one yourself, you're never to old to receive one!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fungus Among Us

This is a Stinkhorn Mushroom of the Mutinus Caninus kind. It grows happily in my garden. Several of them actually. Despite what you may think, I like them, I don't mind if they like my garden even though they actually do stink as their name states. I know this because you cannot just tell me they stink, yes, I must find out for myself, gross as it may sound, however, I do not eat mushrooms, I do not like the taste or their rubbery texture. Yuck. Mushrooms are very attractive looking though, growing on the forest floor or like this one, in my garden.

Let learn about the Stinkhorn:
Very common in the Chicago area
Grows from a white egg shape capsule, mine was underground
They really do stink
Brown slime on top contains spores which attach to flies and insects and travels to reproduce
It really is slimy, I checked
Not harmful to any gardens or grasses

My infestation of stinkhorn may have come from the mulch I purchased for my garden or from the slimy feet of a visiting fly. In any case, I don't mind, by afternoon the sun shrivels them up and they disappear faster than they came. An interesting part of nature.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Woodpecker Treat

Good Saturday morning! Look who just payed me a visit at the suet cage. The very creature I was trying to attract 2 months ago when I purchased the cage! Finally the reward, the quest accomplished. It all started a few months ago when my husband and I were sitting in the backyard, when suddenly, a male woodpecker (I know because I saw a little red on his head) landed on the walnut tree next to our property and began softly pecking away. I was so excited when I pointed it out to my hubby, who does not get excited over birds, but I guess a little excitement rubbed off because he was thrilled too, I could tell. So started my quest to make the woodpecker a regular guest at my home. However, 2 months pass and no woodpecker, I attracted tons of starlings, ants, a squirrel, maybe a cardinal, but no woodpecker. Then......

Oooooh, Aaaaaah. Now, I know this is a female because of the lack of red on her head. I'm not quite sure if it's a Hairy or a Downy. Downy maybe because it looks about 6" long and has a smaller bill, I think. Hairy maybe because it announced it's arrival with a few loud "chirps" before it landed, which is a tell-tail sign (get it? ha, ha) in Stan's Notes from the book, Birds of Illinois, by Stan Tekiela (my favorite field guide book).

Here she is again resting in the pines. Isn't she beautiful? She is however very fidgety though, flying away with any movement I make inside my house. Don't worry Miss, you are so welcomed here!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Determined Little Goldenrod

I made my cousin take this picture with her cell phone yesterday behind our place of employment. If this doesn't translate into determination, I don't know what does. There is not a plot of grass for 200 feet. He is growing in between a building and a driveway. No friends except for some broken glass and sawdust.

Isn't that how we feel sometimes? Stuck between a building and a driveway? I know I do. But wait! The crazy cool part - nothing is impossible with God, and that's how I know he exists.

Luke 1:37
For with God nothing shall be impossible.

With all reasoning going against this poor goldenrod, a way was made. :) That makes me happy. Thank you little guy for helping me remember with God's help nothing is impossible.

Happy Friday 'yall

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Orange Jewelweed

I was just about to name this post, Another "I Don't Know Specie". However feeling rather lucky, I did an amateur search on google images in which I typed, "orange horn wildflower." Tadaaaa.... I just recognized this flower as Orange Jewelweed.

Just beautiful, delicate, precious. Amazing orange, yellow and browns! I was so excited when I spotted these, of course I didn't know what they were, that will come in time, I just knew I had to find them out when they stopped me in my tracks. Funny how a plant has that kind of power to stop a giant human in her tracks. This Orange Jewelweed was growing on the side the trail that went over a small creek. Creek is the key word because Jewelweeds like to grow by water, as I now have learned.

Bad picture but good side view. Here is where I got the "horn" description. They all look like little trumpets dangling in the breeze. Here is an interesting tidbit, Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds and long tongued bees like to visit, but it's the bumblebee that will sometimes chew a hole near the spur of the flower to steal nectar. YOU GO bumblebee, that's using your fuzzy little head! My kind of worker, get straight to the good stuff, no waisting time!

Here is the big picture. Lush and healthy. These will bloom from mid-summer to fall, so we have a little time left to enjoy them still. They will reseed themselves and hopefully we'll see them again next year. Hummmm... orange seems to be my color lately.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Nature in Wilmington

My friend Spaz (an affectionate nickname, not mean) lives in Wilmington. She is my NBF (Nature Best Friend).We love to get lost on some hiking trails even taking day trips to places like Starved Rock in Utica, IL or Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL. While walking around her hood, we came across this pod which is 15 inches long. After searching in my Trees of North America book, I found a match for Northern Catalpa. It has large heart shape leaves and produces this large brown capsule which can be anywhere from 9 to 20 inches long! It's big! This one was laying on the ground and unopened. There were many strewn on the sidewalk and grass, much of which were open. I was expecting to find beans or something but could not find any.
Silly me, there are no beans but seeds with fringed fuzzy sides! Millions of them.

I tried to get a close up of the seed. Isn't it beautiful? There is a tiny "T" shaped seed in the middle. Feathery fringe makes it easy for flight, no doubt. Looks almost like a hairy plant cell, doesn't it?

This next picture was taken by Spaz's man Mike. It is a beautiful picture of St. Rose steeple and moon. Too cool!

So impressed I had to borrow his camera (left mine at home again, arrrgggggg) and take some St. Rose pictures myself. His camera rocks anyway, much better than mine, a Canon with 12x zoom!
This is an awesome sky picture. I must paint this sky in some painting. Can you spot 3 crosses in this picture? Clue: only one is on the church.

How about this partial night scene? They have an orange light shining on the side walls. I love this picture. Mainly because it's mysterious, partly because blue's complementary color is orange, and one more because it reminds me of autumn.

Spaz was so nice, she gave me this car smelly thing with a boo ghost on it. Her favorite season is also autumn so many candles, oils, and smelly things of autumn find their way in her home. This sent is spiced pumpkin and is a perfect compliment to crisp air. Thanks Spaz!!!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My Monk Parakeet Friends

It is 49 degrees and sunny this very morning, perfect fall weather and guess who came for a visit to my house? That's right, it's true, my Monk Parakeet friends!!! I heard their loud screeches with all of my windows and doors shut. I love that sound. I could tell there was more than just three. Your can't see from the pictures but there were five! One must have been above my house, I could hear him but couldn't see him, another was above the three on the branch, but too many leaves blocked my view. Then we have these lovely three that were so gracious to pose for some photos. It was so cute they all huddled together.

The photos are not the best, I was in my house facing east and the sun is directly behind them. Plus they are about 20 feet away, I had to zoom in on the computer for these cropped shots.

Let's learn about the Monk Parakeet:
They are originally from South America.
They either escaped or was released around 1970.
They have adapted to our wicked winters by building huge stick nests, I mean huge, on man made structures like telephone poles, electrical poles, or on tree branches not in tree cavities, and are able to withstand temps below zero. Crafty!
They have flourished and colonized in urban areas but rely on human feeders and ornamental plants for year round food.

I am so lucky to have these tropical jewels visit my house. I hear them a lot in all seasons, but usually only see them at feeders in the winter months. This weekend is starting off on a good note!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Start Collecting Those Leaves!

It's 60 degrees right now! I love it. The smell of Autumn is definitely in the air and with it sparks an energy of excitement in the atmosphere. Gone are the sweaty dog days of summer. Good ridden! I love my garden like the next guy and the long hours of sunlight, but an uncontrollable serge of happiness overtakes me when I see the first autumn leaf float to the ground. I will actually run to tell people. My neighbor has several black walnut trees. For some reason they're the first in the neighborhood to loose its leaves. Unseasonably early actually, I notice them start to fall in early August. That only gets me more excited about fall!
Anyway, on one of my walks, I picked up this sugar maple and white oak leaf that I ended up making a painting of. I like the insect eaten sections. One from the upper right hand side and a hole right beneath it. Insect evidence is beautiful. Nothing should be perfect I believe. Blemishes give character and makes for a more interesting subject. And it's real. There is such joy in things that are not fake.
Even though I like these paintings, the watercolors ended up being a little too tight for what I wanted. I was searching for a more flowing, free feel to it. It's amazing how attitude transfers into a painting. I painted this in the morning after much caffeine, mistake number one. I had a lot of running around to do that day and I think I was stressed, mistake number two. Lesson learned: Don't force a painting out before it's time!
I still like them and I'm thankful for the talent God has given me. I hope it brings autumn happiness to many. Start collecting those leaves now before they're gone with a blast from winter's breath!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Falcon Fun

Today I went to Little Red Schoolhouse in Willow Springs, IL. They had a free presentation called Falcon Fun. Oh, I had fun alright! Here is the Falcon of the night, Ms. Kestrel. She is 8 years old and has a broken wing. This kestrel is 8 inches long and weighs about 4-5oz. The schoolhouse takes care of her and other injured birds because otherwise she wouldn't have a chance in the wild.
This beautiful lady eats young "fuzzy" mice provided by the schoolhouse nature center every day and leaves a wonderful pellet as a present. Pellets are regurgitated hairballs with intact prey bones. So cool. Much more interesting than the hairballs I find around the house left by my kitty.
The Kestrel is the smallest of the falcons and a permanent resident here in Illinois. Sometimes it is referred to as the "sparrow kestrel" because of it's small size. Naturalist Steve also talked about some other popular raptors in our area....
Ahhhhhhhh! What on earth? This is a real owl skull with fake eye balls. Notice the bone around the eyes. It's called something that I forgot. The main point is that this bone prevents the owl from moving his eyes, therefore he moves his whole head. Contrary to popular belief he cannot move his head completely around (360 degrees) but really only 270 degrees, so says Naturalist Steve. He can hear up to 7x what humans can and flies silently thanks to....
His wings! You can't tell from this photo but it's really huge! If I had to guess, about 2 feet. The very top has a fringed edge, not shown in picture, this awesome built in, standard feature in all owl models, keeps them silent when in flight. Easier to sneak up on you my prey!
Here is an owl talon compared to a red tail hawk's. You don't want to be in their grasps! Notice how "hairy" the owl's leg is to the left. For two reasons, probably more than that but I only remember two; one is another silent mechanism to prevent a noisy flight, they're not the most gracious fliers and need all the help they can get, and two for warmth. I had the best time and really learned a lot thanks to the the Little Red Schoolhouse and Naturalist Steve:)
Hope you enjoyed too!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Deer, I love you!

Nice back side! Here is a mom whitetail and her babe feeding on grasses from the side of a prairie. I really love the deer. They must have felt comfortable because they allowed me to get pretty close. There were a total of three, one mom, two children. This was near a popular trail for runners, bikers and slower people, like myself. I think they've become quite brave and have adapted to people ooohing and aaahhhhing. Eat up little ones, winter is around the corner!!!
What a beauty! Is this cool beans or what? Look at his lovely white spots. I love his ears at attention, he's probably wondering what that strange human is doing. Nice goldenrod in the background, I couldn't ask for a better backdrop.
Here is his brother, (I just say that, I really don't know if it is he/she) notice his white spots too? He has the cutest black nose. After a stressful week this is the perfect ending!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Trail Time! Tinley Creek Woods

This is the beginning of our PAVED trail in Tinley Creek Woods, Tinley Park, IL. This trail definitely has something for everyone. You can see the black topped trail to the left and to the right a prairie, a lovely sea of goldenrod growing right now. Isn't it beautiful? There were deer feeding in the distance, too far for me to get on camera.
Here is our first stop on the left side of the trail, away from the prairie, there are more trees on this side. I love the shadows and sunlight playing off each other. The tips of goldenrod illuminate from afternoon sun. This will be a painting one day.
OH BOY, Tall Coreopsis, these wildflowers can grow up to 8' tall but these were only about 4' tall. This picture was taken in shadow light and seem more blue than in real life.
Man made vs. God made. This is at the edge of the prairie right before the scenery starts to change. You can hear the buzzz sound from the high wires when standing in this spot. Probably not the most healthy place to be, I don't know why the wires buzzz, I'm not sticking around to find out! It is a pretty sight, the architectural structure riding in the distance. In this spot I heard many blue jays and spotted 3 crows. Go Crows! Go Blue jays! I say that because Wst Nile virus killed many of these in our area. Crows and blue jays are related which explains why both were affected.

This trail now goes under a major busy street. It's fun to walk under the cars into the forest........WOW! Just steps away, quiet peaceful forest! Look at how the light peaks through the branches. Just the best fun one can have! This is about as far as I got, about 1 mile. If I had more time I would have gone on, we'll save that for another day!
Hope you enjoyed!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Who Me?????

Yes, you. Caught in the act, the very act of attempted birdie seed theft.
Just as he was about to climb those poles to seed heaven, I tapped on the window. In his failed attempt to look cute and innocent, he rose up and pointed to himself as if to say, "Who, me?" Your cuteness doesn't work with me, Mr. Squirrel. I know your game plan.
My neighbor hand feeds them. Grrrrrrrrrrrr. Needless to say they've multiplied like crazy, inviting their friends and relatives to partake in Squirrel Feast. They like to take their hand fed little peanuts and dig them in my flower pots, removing the Flowers to make more room for harvest burial. Grrrrrrrrrrrr.
There are some preventive measures you can take to live in harmony with these rascals. You can buy squirrel proof feeders, which have domes on top or beneath the feeder to prevent him from reaching the seeds. They also sell squirrel proof seed, which has red pepper mixed in. The squirrels taste it and don't like it, the birds can't taste it. You can actually mix it yourself to save money. Another measure it to lay chicken wire over pots and beds in spring to insure they won't go digging around.
I don't hate them. They are a little cute, on a count of all that fur and all. I guess I can learn to live with them

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Watercolor Goldfinch

Here is the male American Goldfinch. I painted this over the week-end. There is a happy accident going on here, which unfortunately you can't see because the scanner didn't pick it up. A happy accident is when you make a mistake that turns out good instead of bad. My mistake was that I mixed my green color with a little yellow that had glitter in it. Actually it's Iridescent Medium, Winsor & Newton, you mix it with your watercolor paint and it makes it nice and shimmery. It's very subtle and not obnoxious. It was on my pallet from the last watercolor painting of the meteor.

The male Goldfinch makes me happy and glitter makes me happy. I always buy Hallmark, or whatever brand cards, with glitter on it. My Christmas cards, if it has snow, better have glitter on it. It's just better.

So, after this watercolor dried and I realized the forest was shimmery, I was ever so glad, because the American Goldfinch brings happiness where ever he goes!

Here is an appropriate verse:
"I know every bird of the mountain, and everything that moves in the field is Mine." PS 50:11
God knew my happy accident before I made it. He knew which direction this goldfinch was going to face before I painted it. He knew whether I was going to hate it or like it and I'm glad. He's always in control and I'm not, nor do I want to be. Let's take comfort in knowing we have a God that is in control, even if it sometimes feels like He's not, and we can turn to Him for strength when we've run out.

Sunlit Beauty

I got so excited when I saw this picture! When walking on a trail I can take up to 30 pictures, 5 will be good, 2 will turn out great, and maybe one I'll say, "that needs to be a painting!" This one falls under the painting section.
This is a grass head with sunlight from behind. It really illuminates the whole thing. This picture was taken closer to sunset, which is perfect when trying to capture dramatic mood lighting, good for pictures and paintings. I love the individual "hairs" and shadows of the seeds. It can almost be an end of summer sparkler, couldn't it?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

What Thistle am I?

This is thistle. Of which kind I don't know. I thought I knew, but now am thouroughly confused! At first I thought I identified this as Pasture Thistle, in the blue/purple section, from my guide book, Tallgrass Prairie Wildflower, but looking at the pink section, saw Prairie Thistle. Oh no. But now the book mentions Tall Thistle???

To make matters worse, I thought I better get the definition of field, prairie, and pasture straight and perhaps I'll solve the matter that way. Nice try. OK, I know a pasture is for livestock but the dictionary also labels it as a field and prairie. A meadow is a tract of grassland used for pasture, and a prairie is a tract of grassland; meadow. So a pasture is a prairie and a field, and a meadow is a pasture......AHHHHHHHHH.

Here are the stats:
It was in a field, prairie, and pasture (there were 4 deer feeding in the distance).
It was about 3-4' tall.
In the picture we can see some white underside of the leaf? Maybe the white hairs noted under Pasture Thistle

My friends are probably rolling their eyes right now thinking, who cares it's a thistle. But this thistle really wants to be identified. He's saying, "Please identify me, please, make me real!" OK, maybe not. If anyone has an idea that would be wonderfull.

Oh, the adventures of a nature lover!