Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Year Sunset

Happy February 29th!

During the middle of the night we received another 2 inches of snow. It has been the snowiest winter in several long years. I never tire of it, honest. I know many friends and family are ready to bust out of their cabin fevers....not I! How can you be sick of this....

The blues, greens, pinks, and purples of a chilly winter evening, gave me such unspeakable joy! I can never tire of a beautiful winter sunset. On this leap year extra day, I decided to take a moments to visit Centennial Park of Tinley Park, IL. Centennial Park is basically a park built around a retention pond with a moat around it (shown in picture). At this spot, I spotted a male northern harrier and hundreds of mallard ducks, males and females. I didn't stay too long for it was a very, very windy evening with a strong biting wind.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Good Morning Mourning Dove

I took this photo through my window with my scope, in the morning.
He is looking over his shoulder as if to say, "Are you looking at me? You wanna piece of me?"

No, Mr. Mourning Dove! I just like to watch you, maybe draw you....but definitely not a piece of you!
In fact, the mourning dove is one of my favorite birds. You might want to say, "Chi Nature Lady, why is this boring bird one of your favorites?"

Mourning doves mate for life. When one dies, the other is in mourning.
* They are very gentle to each other beneath my feeder, they take turns and don't fight.
* They make a whistling sound though their wings when disturbed.
* Their call sounds like an owl's.... "whoo-oo-oo-oo"
* The male brings the female twigs. As he stands on her back, she makes the nest.

Gentle mourning dove...peaceful and talented!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Owl Field Trip

When I first found out that the Thorn Creek Audubon Society was going to have an owl field trip, my ears perked up like a puppy that just heard the word, "treat!" Oh Boy OWLS!
Then I realized this trip was in the morning and I thought....Owls in the day? No way Jose! How are we going to find owls during the day?
Well, thanks to leader Juanita, the "owl whisperer" who has been scoping the Bartel Grassland area for 16 years, she knew exactly where to find them!
Speaking about perky "ears".....

This is the long eared owl. Too bad the picture isn't the best. This is the first time I've ever seen them in the wild, so I didn't mind at all! According to the Cornell site, they are endangered in Illinois and rarely seen. I seen it! I seen it!
Juanita states that the long eared is this far south because it's very snowy up north and he has come here for food. We had to walk softly and quietly to his perch because he spooks easily. I never realized how loud the crunching snow is under your feet! We didn't scare him off luckily and enjoyed his presents for a good 15 minutes before we left.
At our next location we found the saw-whet owl...

I saw it! I saw it! Get it....saw-whet!
I love the saw-whet owl! He's a little round ball of fluff. This character didn't mind at all that we were there. He opened his eyes and actually yawned! Yawned! As if to say, "Oh those boring humans again." I had to laugh.
I love this picture of him, too bad that branch is in the way!

If you're wondering how I took these photos (the owls were near the tops of the pine trees), I bought a little toy! It is a Celestron scope. Very cheap! I'm cheap not because I want to but because I have to!
I'm not able to use it with my digital camera but I am able to use it with a 35mm film camera. Needless to say, I raced to Walgreen's to develop the film after the field trip.

This is just a nice picture of the surroundings, the snow is covering a frozen pond. I was very glad to see a mild sunny windless day, about 25ºF. Perfect for an owl field trip. Thanks to Juanita the owl whisperer, we were able to see our owl friends during the day. I would have never guessed!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Just a Pretty Sky

Usually a sunset or sunrise catches my eye. Not this time! This is just a pretty sky. I appreciate the cloud formation and enjoy the disturbance in the lower half of the photo. Even though I took this a few days ago, it reminds me of a nice summer thunderstorm! Oh how I miss a good strong thunderstorm!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Log Carving at Lake Katherine

Just another beautiful picture from Lake Katherine! Doesn't this picture look like it should be located somewhere in Colorado? If you follow this man made stream, you end up at a man made waterfall. Right at this spot it really started to rain. I'm all for walking in the rain when it's WARM...but I was freezing like a popsicle so I ran like it was going to melt me and I went for my car! Needless to say, I didn't make it to the waterfall.
Check out the color tug of war going on in this picture. Green and red are complimentary colors located opposite of each other on the color wheel. The light tan grasses in the middle of the picture is the referee, the green pines at the top of the picture is going to battle it out with the reds from the twigs on the bottom of the picture! Who will be victorious?

Make art not war....Look at what was sitting by the lake! Some very talented artist carved an expressive face into this log. It has beautiful eyes. When I walked passed, it smelled like a freshly sharpened pencil. Oooo, I love that smell.
So much fun at Lake Katerine of Palos Heights!

Monday, February 18, 2008

What's Lurking in that Water?

Don't you fret....that's not a monster about to jump up and get you, only a harmless log. A log with a mean face and stern eyes and pretend mouth at Lake Katherine! Can you see it?
I love, love, love this picture. Whooo Hooo!
There are several highlights here:
First, Being an artist, I immediately noticed the gentle gradation from light blue (top) to light green (middle) then finally dark green (bottom). Color kicks butt.
Second, notice the cracks in the sinking ice. Looks like sharp pieces of glass. NEAT-O.
Third, reflecting trees in the background.....always a plus, thank you trees.
And lastly but not leastly, the creature in the foreground....mysterious, spooky, weird, awesome, all those at once!
Hey...It really doesn't take much to amuse me.
This next picture also amused me....

I love beautiful pictures on a gray day! No sun, no problem!
That green color near the edge of the water just fascinates me! Why is it so green?
I also notice a large crack in the ice in this picture. It appears that the ice sank, then began to crack (or vise versa) due to the warm weather which has quickly disappeared because right now it is only 10ºF!
Oh well, no matter what type of weather is thrown at us we always can find mystery and beauty in nature!
Nature rocks!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lake Katherine and Thunder

Today was another strange weather day. Our warm temperatures of 47ºF brought a mini thunderstorm and high winds. Catching a break in between buckets of rain, I decided to make a quick stop at Lake Katherine in the middle of beautiful Palos Heights, IL.

Lake Katherine is a man made lake which attracts many migratory birds because of it's location next to the Cal Sag River. It is a wonderful hide-a-way with a mile long wood chipped covered trail, easy to walk when you only have a few minutes to spare.
Who lives at the lake? Why these wise guys do....

What did the left duck say to the ones on the right? "You guys quack me up!" AH HAHAHAHAHA!

OK maybe that was a little lame. But look at these guys.....

I love their reflection on the ice, just like a mirror. They were statue still and standing in the middle of the lake which has an island of ice. The ice on the edge of the lake is beginning to melt and crack and has a green ting to it, which was really beautiful...more pictures tomorrow.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Damn Squirrel

This stupid squirrel is enjoying "Nutty Flavor" suet cake by C&S. While his furry body hangs upside down, he is stealing food from Henry and Stella, the Downey Woodpecker couple that visits often. Fortunately, this side hinge suet cage is smarter that the squirrel. He has not figured out how to open it like he did with the bottom hinged one.
Find your own food Mr. Squirrel...least you find yourself in a pot of soup!

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Scale of Things

Ok......the last picture from Starved Rock, I promise!

Inspect the scale of this picture. Notice how tiny the people are to the rocks.
Pretty awesome.
I hear the word "scale" come up a lot in my place of work. Contractors need to review blueprints to scale in order to give an accurate bid on a project. A blueprint in correct scale mathematically converts to a trained eye, the cost of materials needed to build a building. If the scale is incorrect the cost to build is incorrect and disaster in the future is inevitable.

Now, lets ponder this picture and relate to our own human scale.
In our fast paced lifestyles we seem to think we have the control to be in control. These last few weeks with the sad shootings of the customers at a retail store in Tinley Park, Il, and the Northern IL University shooting of students, and the St. Louis shooting over a court case, I wonder......why are these things happening, are we out of control?

I'm afraid the emphasis to take God out of everything, to quiet that light as to not "offend" people, has grown a generation of lost wanderers who are in the dark.
Are we missing the scale?
Look at the rocks. There is something much bigger than ourselves that created this for us, loves us, died for us, and currently wants a relationship with us.
Why do bad things happen? If there is a God, why does He allow it?
Because we are not robots but each of us possess free will. Free to do evil and free to do good. The ones who inflict such horrible pain, are truly without light, who have calculated an incorrect scale with disastrous results.

I pray for the families who have been effected by these recent tragedies and I pray that we can somehow divert future ones.

Monday, February 11, 2008

View From the Rock

Let's Experience This Picture:

You're standing on top of Starved Rock looking west. You can hear the loud roar of water from the dam which is behind you. Small patches of foam on the Illinois river catch your eye as you watch them float further down. Even though the sky is heavy with a thick gray blanket, that doesn't dampen your spirits because suddenly, you hear the bald eagles talk to each other...something you've never experienced before and to the gloomy day's demise, you smile. The smell of water and snow circle around as the chilly wind pushes you like a bully wanting you off the rock. "No," you say, "let me have these moments...let me steal a few more."

I love that picture not only because it's beautiful and I can feel all of those feelings again when I look at it, but I also love how it kicks butt as far as composition! This will definitely turn into a painting some day. Ohhh, so many little time!

Starved Rock has tons of canyons, but unfortunately there were many steep stairs on the trail that were completely iced over. Much too dangerous. Even with my hiking boots, I was all over the place, slipping here, flapping my arms there, trying to keep my balance.
This picture shows a tiny frozen waterfall. Can you see it? It's as if winter came by and stopped time in an instant, like you see on cartoons. Well that's not how it really happens, but it's fun to imagine a character like mean old winter, using his superpowers to create havoc!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Bald Eagles at Starved Rock

Oh Boy! The last few days I decided to get some R&R at the Starved Rock Lodge in Utica, IL. Man was it f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c! It was just what the doctor ordered too. Starved Rock is one of Illinois' seven wonders. I'm not sure what the other six are, I haven't looked that up yet.
Starved Rock is 75 miles from Chicago and has 18 canyons, several waterfalls, lookout points, 13 miles of trails, and is located along the beautiful Illinois River.
The name "Starved Rock" comes from a story about the Illiniwek Indians who were trapped on top of the big rock seeking safety from the Potawatomi Indians, waiting for them at the base. The Illiniwek Indians starved to death on top of the rock waiting for a safe time to make it down. This story was never written down nor verified, so it remains just a story....but a neat one anyway!

I am standing on top of Starved Rock when I took this picture....

This is a picture of Leopold Island #1 and where the beautiful bald eagles like to hang out. They are there right now, can't you see them? Nope. Me either.

Let's zoom in. THERE THEY ARE! 1...2...3 There they are! I've never in my life had the opportunity to see our country's bird. I was sooooo excited. On this island of the Illinois River I spotted about 6 of them at one time. Bald eagles are huge! They're wing span measures between 6-7 feet! Holy Shmoly!

Isn't this just beautiful? He's searching for fish by the surface of the river. In the hopeful event that he can spot one, he'll dive down and grab it with his talons. Unfortunately, I did not see any of them get fish while I was watching.

Another soaring eagle! It was really impressive to watch them fly, so graceful. It's hard to describe, but I like when the tips of their wing feathers flip up as they're flapping down.

This is what the eagles are all excited about, the Illinois Waterway Lock and Dam. The dam somehow agitates the water to prevent freezing and in doing so, the fish come to the top. There were many other types of seagulls, but today we only care about the bald eagle. I felt bad for the little guys because they use up so much energy seeking food and I didn't see them get anything. Hopefully they had better luck when I left!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mammoth Icicle

Warning: Don't stand underneath this!
This message was brought to you by concerned snowmen and women who've witnessed unnecessary injuries to humans.
You'll poke you're eye out.
Or you'll lie and say that you did while hiding the fact that your favorite toy harmed you.

Ha ha ha
Just kidding! This gigantic set of icicles formed when our weather became a little mild after all the snow we received, but before all the snow we received today. Wheeeew!
Some parts of the state was SLAMMED with snow this morning. Gurnee officially received 13" in one day! As if that wasn't bad enough, the wind gust was constant at around 30mph.
Winter is kicking our butts.

Traces of beauty are left to be discovered even in the midst of a treacherous winter. My icicle is beautiful. I like the form and ripples in each spear. The best part was found directly below on the ground....

These are reverse icicles. They were formed drip by drip as the cold air refroze each drop. These reverse icicles were about 3 inches long, they almost look like crystals standing straight up. I'm sure there is probably some scientific name for a reverse icicle. If anyone knows what that name is, please let us know. Don't worry, I won't even call you a smarty farty.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Watercolor Winter Tree

This is a watercolor painting I did after I was inspired at the Little Red Schoolhouse yesterday. It is called, "Little Red Schoolhouse Winter Tree" and was painted on a 12x9 piece of watercolor paper.
There are a few main things I wanted to bring out in this painting. First, I love the shape of the oak and how our heavy snow storm has left a few inches on all major branches. Second, I love the amber grasses peaking through the snow, that was real fun to paint, flick, flick, flick! Third, I also love a misty background and the snow covered fence.
Here is the actual photo I used for reference.....

As you can tell, the real photo does not have a misty background. That's when you just whip out you artistic license! Now the oak doesn't have to compete with the background trees.
I think there must be a painting hiding in every square foot of the Little Red Schoolhouse grounds, it is an endless source of inspiration for an artist, poet, writer, and hiker!

"Little Red Schoolhouse Winter Tree" watercolor painting is available on Christine Kane Art.

P.S. Don't forget to vote tomorrow!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Little Red Schoolhouse Ain't Red No Mo'

My beloved, the Little Red Schoolhouse of Willow Springs, IL is under construction!
I almost gathered a tear. I've never seen her like this before. So stark and naked. "It's for your own good," I said, "you'll be stronger and better than ever."

No trails to the north open during construction, I bet the wildlife is a little bit giddy about this. Oh well, we'll just walk on the south trail, that's all!

Just how beautiful is this?
Too beautiful, I say.
Lots and lots of snow makes for an awesome landscape scenery. This is part of the south parking lot trail of the Little Red Schoolhouse. At this spot there is a pond to your right and a fenced in field to your left. It is neat to see all the wildlife trails and no human trails behind the fence.

Here is a close up of the fence which reveals just how much snow we've received within the last few days. Baby oak saplings are half buried in the background. The weight of the snow is just dropping off the fence. It is very, very quiet now...I hear a chickadee say, "chick-a-dee-dee-dee, chick-a-dee-dee-dee."
I smile.
On the snow of the post, I take my finger and draw a smiley face for the chickadee to view while flying above.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Groundhog: Where's My Shadow?

Today, Cloudy (what an optimistic name!) the Brookfield Zoo's groundhog, poked his head out and said, "Hey, where's my shadow?"
That means, because Cloudy didn't see his shadow...well...because it was cloudy, winter will soon end.

But here is my question: What is winter?

Major Winter Storm

Well, here in Chicago we continue to ride the weather pattern roller coaster that has been the main attraction for several weeks. Tickets are free. Nobody can chicken out and exit the line, you're stuck!
This week alone we experienced a 50ºF drop in the period of three hours and then a continuous snow fall for over 24 hours dumping 6" in my part of town.
Remember just a few months ago I was crabbing that we never get any good snow storms in the winter anymore?

I still love it, even though I shoveled for an hour and was super late to work, slipping and sliding all the way there. Makes for great pictures though! This picture shows snow on every limb and every twig. Just lovely!