Friday, August 31, 2007

A Handsome Weed

This is a Cut-Leaved Teasel. They grow very, very tall, about 6 feet tall and bloom little white flowers on the heads. Another teasel is the Common Teasel which does not have "cut-lobed" leaves and bloom purple flowers. You're probably asking, "handsome?" Well, I think so. They remind me of barbarian weapons too!
Teasel is very aggressive and will take over a prairie, meadow, field, etc., if left unchecked.
For that reason, it's probably not a favorite to many, but from an artist's perspective it sure would make a nice graphite drawing!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's Coming!

Yes that's right, I can smell it in the air. That distinctive swirl of leaves, the dance which releases an earthy aroma and the playful sounds of leaf "tag" fills the air. Who doesn't get excited over Autumn? I can actually see some change start at the tips of some branches even though the official start of autumn is still a month away. People in the North are probably enjoying even more color change than Chicago right now, because Autumn arrives earlier for them. I love Autumn, it's my favorite season by far. So here is a little watercolor pencil and ink tree to enjoy in order to hold you over until you can start to see the color change in your area. Let's celebrate Autumn, it comes and goes too fast!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Gentle Mourning Dove

Have you ever heard the gentle "cooooing" of a mourning dove? I love that sound. "Cooooo, coooo, coooohhhh. It's a very soft and delicate sound. This one I found resting on a bench. I have pairs of them around my house. In Chicago and much of North America they're year round dwellers, finding a mate and keeping him/her for life. Another example of animals "getting it right". Anyway, I know from watching the morning doves by my house that they're ground feeders, meaning they rather eat the seeds from the ground than at the feeder. I've also noticed that they'll back away when there is a crowd competing for seed, even if the crowd consists of sparrows less than half their size! Don't let those guys bully you around!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Trail Time! Moraine 2 of 2

Ok! Let's continue our trail through the Moraine Valley Nature Study Area in Palos Hills, IL. If you remembered yesterday, I described Grassy Trail #1. Today, I'll describe Grassy Trail #2 (see yesterday's watercolor map). You're going to love trail#2 as much as I did! It has the same grassy covering in the beginning with some different highlights. Let's start with this beautiful Queen Anne's Lace.

Yes it's true, Queen Anne's Lace is a weed, you can find them in fields, road sides, along trails, by garbage dumps, pretty much anywhere. This is a true story: When I was just starting to garden, I actually asked for Queen Anne's Lace at a very expensive nursery (Sids) to which the employee laughed, "Why, that's a weed!" That really happened. I am not ashamed. I didn't know it but I still love them. We can't just love the beautiful ones (there's a life lesson in here somewhere), it has beauty in its own way, with that teeny, tiny little purple flower in the middle. Next on our trail are the more "beautiful ones" the wildflowers.
Here is a delicate Fascicled False Foxglove. I know it because my field guide told me so. The book I'm referring to is Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers, Doug Ladd and Frank Oberle (A Falcon Guide). I like this book because the flowers are grouped by color. It allows you to quickly identify your flower in seconds! Most rewarding. Notice the fuzzy edges of the petals, reminds me of a comfy sweater in the fall. I'm sure there is a reason for the edges, maybe we'll learn that someday. Just steps away from the foxglove we see our next wildflower. This is Obedient Plant, I really like this one. It gets the name "obedient" because if you wrap it around the the stem, it remains like that. Had I actually brought my wildflower guide book with me, I would have learned that and been able to try it out, but it was another object at home collecting dust! A few feet along our trail, suddenly the trail goes from grassy to..... sandy! Doesn't it look like the bottom of a lake? Or maybe the shore? Is there water near by? From the observatory deck I could see water, but because we've had sooo much rain, I just thought it was flooding. I didn't know...... there was a secret water entrance!!!!! Yes! Boy, I just hit the jackpot. Do you remember when you were a kid and you discovered something new all by yourself? I was feeling that way! I might have done the "happy dance", I'm sure the wildlife thought I was nuts.

This is our reward. The treasure at the end of the journey or at least Grassy Trail #2. The water so calm, the sky so blue, the air abundant with fragrant. Here is where I can find peace and where I talk to God our Creator, who placed the Queen Anne's Lace (because He loves the "not" so pretty ones) and the foxglove, and the obedient plant just for us to enjoy.

Thank you for taking this trail with me!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

It's Trail Time! Moraine Valley Nature Study Area 1 of 2

Today's "Trail Time" adventure part 1 of 2, takes us to the Nature Study Area of Moraine Valley Community College, Palos Hills, IL. This section of trail represents only 1/4th of the study area section. There are two trails I walked, Grassy Trail #1 and Grassy Trail #2. Trail highlights: 100 year old oak tree, observatory and deck, sundial, Queen Anne's Lace (yes, I know it's a weed but I like it still), cattail, tall goldenrod, wildflowers, and pond.

Click on the watercolor map for larger image. Map is not to scale.

Let's begin. I tried to enter the trail off of the campus parking lot, far east on the map, but because of all the rain we've received this section was flooded and I had nothing waterproof with me!

Much too flooded, must go around to the west side or swim.
That's much better! Here you can see that the trail is completely covered in grass. There is the observatory in the distance.

Here is a 100 year old oak tree, this landmark starts our trail. Look at how large it is! The grasses off trail were so large that you cannot get close to it. Better for the tree that way.Here is the observatory deck and sundial. The telescope was built and donated by Tom McCague, retired associate professor and department chair of Biology, and he hosts open viewing nights once a month for the public! Much fun, For more info and calendar click here. The sundial was built and donated by retired professor Roger Carlsen. It's pretty hard to see but it is in the lower right hand corner of the photo, camoed by the deck.
I was here for 2 hours by myself! Peace and tranquillity not a soul around. I'll pick this over a mall anytime. Let's continue on our trail.

Continuing North on Grassy Trail #1 I could feel the moist heat radiating from the grass. With every step I took crickets jumped for their lives. I couldn't believe how many there were. Many wasps were conducting their daily activities pollinating wildflowers, I was careful to avoid them. While two American Goldfinches seemed perturbed that an invader (me) was around. They kept flying overhead, back and forth, frantically chattering. But I didn't mind because at the end of Grassy Trail #1 was this beautiful scene of cattail (top), goldenrod (middle) and boneset (bottom). Many worker bees and wasps shopping for pollen in this section. It is about 50' away from 107th st. So this concludes trail #1, I turned back and began my walk on trail #2, which will be continued tomorrow.

Hope you enjoyed.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

God's Painting in the Sky

Last night's sunset. What words can I form to describe? My feeble thoughts cannot compare.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Chicago Storms

Picture #1 Radar at 6:30pm
Picture #2 Green Sky and Buckets of Rain at 6:43pm
Yesterday, Aug. 23rd, Chicago was hit with 2 very large storms. The news is calling it the "one, two punch." At around 3:30pm the first and more impressive storm hit. I was at work when suddenly the sky turned black. Now, you know it's something big when it happens real fast. We all stood outside and witnessed a very large wall cloud coming fast. WOW! A wall cloud looks like it sounds, a cloud from the sky to almost the ground. Of course my camera was at home collecting some dust, what do ya know. Anyway we quickly, with much excitement (we like storms), moved inside when the blast hit. The weather people measured 70mph winds! The rain came in buckets, sideway buckets! Then, the happiest moment in an employee's life - no power! "Yeahhhh!" We shouted. "Goin' home early."
Unfortunately, on the way home many trees and power lines were down causing much delay. Then around 6:30 we were hit with the second punch! I tried to take a picture (#2) of what it looked like outside when storm #2 hit. The sky was completely green and more buckets of rain came. This storm however was not as strong and much slower in movement, but still was exciting to watch as I ate my gourmet Hamburger Helper.
In the Chicago area we have had rain everyday for the past 9 days (global warming??). Not just rain but tons of rain. This has made the ground soggy and explains why there were so many trees down. The northern part of the area has been hit much harder causing much flooding. There are worse places in the midwest that are completely flooded and have lost lives because of it. I'm sure you have been hearing a lot about the Midwest on the news lately. Maybe we can say a prayer for all those families affected.
If you want to see pictures of the storm from abc news viewers, click here. I'm not sure how long this link will be good, maybe for a few days.
My dad, who loves storms and has caused me to love them too, unfortunately lives in Arizona, which receives rain for about one minute a year. Too bad dad, you missed a good one! :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Where are U Honeybees?

"Hey Bert bear!", "Yes, Bill bear." "Where did all our friends go?" "I don't know, I hope they figure it out beefore it's too late!"

OK, I had way too much fun with that one! The fact is there seems to be a phenomenon of missing honey bees and we haven't fully understood why. That's not fun. Not just a few are missing but a lot. This is a big problem since they pollinate our trees and plants, which produces our food! I have noticed this in the Chicago area, or maybe it's my imagination? I did see one yesterday in the parking lot of Super K-Mart. Silly bee, there are no flowers in the parking lot; those yellow stripes are not filled with sweetness! He was probably chasing after some body's pop can.

Please watch Nightline (ABC) tonight, they are having a special on this bee problem.

On a happy note, here is a bumblebee doing her job in my garden on my purple salvia (perennial). Lovely fuzzy lady. Actually, there were three of them on this plant, the other two flew away as I approached. I try not to spray pesticides on the plants which may contribute to bee problems.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Nature Lady Goes Back to School

It's official, yesterday was my first day back to school. I'm going to study earth science, in hopes that it will benefit my fine art, helping me to really understand what I'm painting and also this nature blog too. Eventually, I want to earn the title naturalist and not just claim to be one:)

Look at this beautiful pink weed! I don't know what it is. Do you see why I need school? This attractive thing grows behind my garage where I let nature take its coarse. No mowing or weeding allowed. It's only a little section of land about 8' x 20', but when left alone, really interesting plants grow. I would encourage everyone if you can, to have a little plot of "left alone land". The pink color variation is striking, some little bulbs (?) are dark pink, med. pink, light pink and white. This plant is about 4' tall but I have others that are short, 12" with flowers. If anyone knows what this is, it would be greatly appreciated if you can leave a comment! Thanks.

Monday, August 20, 2007

He Visits Me at Dusk

This is a watercolor I did from the picture I took a couple days ago of my friend the cardinal. He visits me everyday right at dusk, when I think its too late for birds to be out. I love him.
I love watercolors too, although my favorite is pastels. Pastels because of the pure pigments in your hands, they translate such bright and true color; and watercolor because they're free and mysterious. You don't really have total control of the watercolor. It's like a compromise dance, I place you here (the color) and it moves where it wants. Don't get me wrong, artists can control watercolors and make a photo realistic painting, but if I want a photo, I'll take a photo. Let the paint be free and lose a little control and you'll be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. When you release control the painting gains emotion. Very fun.

Here is a little poem about the cardinal, I hope you enjoy:

He visits me at dusk,
To bid to me goodnight.
I hear him in the pines,
Of scarlet his disguise.
He brings me to the window,
A smile acquired at sight.
I'll look for you tomorrow,
My little fleeting prize.

© 2007 c.kane

If you would like to enjoy more paintings and poems, you can visit :
Enjoy nature and enjoy what God has made you!

Friday, August 17, 2007

American Carrion Beetle

Remember this picture? I didn't know what these were. While searching still for their identity, I came upon, they offer a service to identify your bug if you supply them with a picture. Just for kicks, I uploaded this picture and in literally 10 minutes was given the answer to my quest. Thanks guys at Bug Guide!!! Now, the American Carrion Beetle may be as common as an ant, but I really had no clue, and they didn't make me feel less of a bug person for not knowing this. If you have a bug and don't know what it is, this service is great.

Let's learn about the American Carrion Beetle. This beetle is less than an inch long. True, mine was about .75". They feed on dead and decaying matter as well as larvae of some insects. These may have been munching on tree sap. They help break matter down and return nutrients into the soil. Very important guys.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Polite American Goldfinch

This is my backyard finch feeder. Yesterday, I talked about the front yard feeders, so its just fitting that I show the backyard one too. This feeder has thistle seeds in hopes to attract the goldfinch and the house finch. I really love the American Goldfinch, he always seems so polite and happy. Perhaps it is just his sunny costume or his soft cheery melody, who doesn't crack a smile when encountering one of these?

I went through much grief to get this picture. I sat on the garden floor, I didn't mind waiting a while for the goldfinch to land as I focused on the feeder, but just as the goldfinch landed on a telephone wire scoping me out to make sure I was safe, ants started to crawl all over. I felt one on my leg, one on my left hand and one starting up my back! If I freaked out, I wouldn't get the picture and he might be too scared to return, so I bit my tongue and just let the ants have free reign. I finally took the picture and let the goldfinch witness a human freak out, jumping and spinning and brushing ants off!

Let's learn about the American Goldfinch. In Chicago we are fortunate enough to have them all year round. In the summer, the male is a bright yellow and the female is a drab yellow with some olive tones. In the winter, the goldfinch molts (new colored feathers emerge) into an olive color. When flying, the goldfinch has an up and down pattern like a roller coaster. Interestingly, they only have 1 brood (set of young) a year and they wait a real long time to lay eggs, like the end of July. The theory is, they want to establish enough food to raise their young. Smart! Sometimes animals are smarter than humans. Anyway, goldfinches are pretty timid and easily bullied by sparrows who are larger and more aggressive. I find that the male and the female goldfinch stick together and both like to show up at the feeder in the late afternoon, early evening.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Friend Mr. Cardinal

Here is a picture of my feeders in front of my living room window. I have two shepard hooks, one holding a suet cage (I think the peanut butter flavor is in this one) and the other holds seed. I love these feeders. Many visitors stop by for a snack and I never tire from sitting in my lazy boy with a nice cup of joe watching my winged friends. Today, my friend Mr. Cardinal stopped by. Isn't he handsome? Mrs. Cardinal came first, she's a beautiful olive and yellow color, but very camera shy. Every time I tried to get a little closer for a pic, she took off in a flash. We went at it 3 times! They usually stick pretty close together and call out to each other with their distinctive "chip", "chip."
Here is a close up. Look at that crown! Just amazing. This isn't the best quality close up, I really need a zoom lens, I'm using a Kodak Easy Share and it took a good pic through the window though. I think tonight I'll try to make a painting of him.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Common Whitetail Dragonfly

This picture I took Friday at Centennial Park in Tinley Park, IL. He was resting on the ground near a retention pond. Centennial Park has a bridge that goes over a little stream which leads you to a nice paved trail around the pond. Many varieties of trees, grasses, and wildflowers grow on this large property. I have viewed much wildlife here, birds, hawks, butterflies, dragonflies, finks, bunnies, groundhog, etc. Tinley did a good job reserving this area as a natural refuge in the midst of suburban houses, condos, and way too many strip malls.

Lets learn about the Common Whitetail Dragonfly. This one photographed is a mature male. He has a bright white abdomen which is used to display around other males in order to defend his territory. The female is brown. They have nearly a 360 range of vision, they live by ponds, marshes or waterways, and eat insects around this area. Whitetails rest on objects near water or on the ground, which is were I found this guy.

I drew this sketch of the wings because when I first spotted a whitetail, I thought his wings were scalloped on the edges like the bottom "incorrect" sketch. Fact is, the tips are transparent and unless you find yourself a few inches away from him, you cannot see it. Too cool.

Watch out whitetails, because the birds, fish and frogs want you for dinner!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Nature in the Country

Here is my uncle's back fence. Ha, ha, ha, why that's not a fence, it's a row of corn! That's how they do it in the country, where my property ends your corn begins. There are a lot of trees and bushes in this area. I identified many barn swallows, watching their cinnamon bellies fly over my head with a distinctive fork in its tail. My grandpa, he lives here too, witnessed some deer and a fawn right in this spot. On occasion they can also hear the coyote pack!
Ummmm sweet and good. We had these for dinner. Don't worry they weren't picked off the neighbors fence, they were bought on the side of the road by a local farmer. That's the great thing about visiting the country, fresh, inexpensive locally grown produce!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Going to the Country for Meteors

Saturday, I took a trip to my uncle's house in Grant Park, IL., so that I can view the meteors on their greatest viewing days, August 11 & 12. Because I live 20 minutes from Chicago, the sky is lightened by all the city lights, making the stars pretty dim. Grant Park is in the middle of nowhere. Nice farm land and dark skies. I first went out at 9pm and spotted a really fast meteor out of the corner of my eye. Wow wee! After about 10 minutes, another. Yeah boy! I kept hearing on the news that the best time to view is after 3am. 3am! OK, I'm doing it. I set my alarm, and quickly got out of bed when it went off. I was so excited. I stepped outside and what's this??? 70% cloud cover, and quickly more clouds coming! OH NO. Luckily, I viewed two more meteors before 3:23am when the clouds took over. By 4am we had a thunderstorm with high winds, I didn't want to think the "T" word (tornado), but I was thinking the T word on a count that I was literally in the middle of nowhere! Thank God none of the sort happened.

August is for the month for meteors and also the month of "The Tears of St. Lawrence." St. Lawrence (Laurentius) was a Christian deacon who was martyred by the Romans in 258AD. He was burned alive and the meteors have become known as St. Lawrence's fiery tears.
Interested, I decided to look up what it says in the bible about stars. I found 2 references about God and His stars:

"He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name." Ps 147:4

"...He calls them all by name.... Not one is missing." Is 40:26

All are named. All. I could not have counted them all if I tried. Then I remembered another counting verse. Jesus was trying to explain how much God loved us when he said, "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered." Matt 10:30. We are very fortunate and sometimes in the rush of things, forget.
I couldn't take a picture of the meteors, so I painted this watercolor called, "St. Lawrence Tear."
More country pictures tomorrow.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Ailanthus Webworm Moth

Look at what I found on my house this morning! Now, I'm not a smarty farty when it comes to insects, I wish I were. THANK GOD for a good description and Google Images!!!! That's how I found out that this 1/2" little friend of mine is the Ailanthus Webworm Moth. He's from Central to South America and migrates north to the US and Canada. Whooo, what a trip! Anyway, they mate at dawn, visit flowers during the day and lay eggs at dusk. Pretty strange since moths are nocturnal and usually only out at night. Isn't he handsome? I wish I could have witnesses him open his wings.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Attention Artists - Breathtaking Hibiscus

Here is a close up of another wild hibiscus. Notice the delicate veins and the folding of the petal ends. That's what I'm talking about! Artists go nuts for details like this. If any artists out there wants to use this hibiscus photo for a painting, go right ahead. Isn't our Creator awesome??? We do nothing to deserve such beauty, but it's given greatly.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Canadian Geese

Here in Chicago we have Canadian Geese pretty much year round. They usually summer in Canada and winter in the southern US states, but I see them all the time. Once, (about a year ago) I woke in the middle of the night to (it seemed like thousands), of migrating geese flying over my house. Their calls sent shivers because I knew there must have been hundreds at least. I ran to the window and the sky was blackened with geese. Much excitement! Anyway these geese were spotted at Little Red Schoolhouse and the middle one was NOT happy with me. They will "hiss" when disturbed. He kept a vigilant lookout, making sure I didn't get too close. The other two were feeding on aquatic grasses in St. John's Slough. They submerge their heads when feeding under water.
Notice the pink wild hibiscus to the left of the geese. There were many of these light pink and dark pink ones dotting the shore line.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Interesting Findings

Here is an oak tree with "the 17 year" cicada larvae damage. Here in the Chicago area we were invaded by the 17 year cicada. This means every 17 years these red eyed cicadas emerge from underground, climb up everything, mate, lay their young, and drop back down. When they lay the young, the female cuts a slit in the twig of outlaying branches and the larvae feed on the sap, causing little damage to some leaves. We also have annual cicadas which do not do as much harm. This tree is at The Little Red Schoolhouse, Willow Springs.

What are these beetles? Maybe they're not even beetles? I know little bug facts. Aren't they interesting? I found these guys at Little Red Schoolhouse on a young oak tree near an open field about 2 weeks ago. If anyone can identify these guys please be kind to let me know. Thanks! I don't know if they are eating bark or kissing? They had very little movement.

Monday, August 6, 2007

First Post My Favorite Place

For my very first posting, I'm going to talk about my very most favorite place, the Little Red Schoolhouse in Willow Springs, IL. This picture is a pastel painting I did while sitting outside, en plein air. I have been going here ever since I was a small fry. This little gem of a place is an old schoolhouse converted into a nature center. The house has live and previously living stuffed wildlife. Some of which are: turtles (live), frogs (live), snakes (live), crow (live), and fawn (stuffed), etc. You can also find much information about whats going on in the wilderness at that particular time in the season. The Little Red Schoolhouse also host many classes for young and old alike. Next, we'll move outside. The grounds hold 3 main trails, the longest being about 1.25 miles long. I love, love, love to go on days when slightly raining when NOBODY is there. Just me and the animals. I've encountered deer, finks, several species of birds, fish, snakes and so on. Right in back of the house are three cages, two house owls and one houses a red tail hawk. Next to the cages is a large fence-in garden with arbors and a bench and really neat things growing which I cannot nearly do as well in my own garden. The best part about the Little Red Schoolhouse is that it is FREE. What do we like better than free? They are open 7 days a week 8-4:30pm but the schoolhouse is closed in Fridays. Maybe you would like to pay a free visit?