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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Crops & Clips: Birds and a Japanese Garden

With rain threatening, Mary Lou and I decided to drive over to Fabyan Forest Preserve in nearby Geneva, Illinois. There we could park in the middle of the preserve and take short walks to see two target birds. A pair of Great Horned Owls are raising a single owlet near the parking lot, and a Yellow-throated Warbler had recently been reported in the Japanese garden.

The garden is a beautiful feature, open to the public on a limited basis and also provides a setting for small private functions such as weddings. A footbridge is reflected in one of the ponds: 

Japanese Garden 04-20160506

Japanese Garden HDR 09-20160506

We started at the owl tree. Sure enough, both a parent and the owlet huddled in their "doorway." Since the nest is so accessible, its fame has spread among the general public and there are barriers and signs which keep visitors at a safe distance from the nest. My telephoto lens compensated for the distance, yet even though I was only one among the crowd, the adult looked surprised when I pointed my camera:

Great Horned Owl and Owlet HDR 01-20160506

They relaxed and snuggled together for a nice portrait:

Great Horned Owl and Owlet HDR 02-20160506

Despite intermittent sprinkles, we walked over to the garden. Almost immediately we heard the distinctive song of the Yellow-throated Warbler. At first all we could see were his undersides, but he briefly alighted on a lower branch to quickly catch and devour a caterpillar. I fired a burst of photos during the couple of seconds he was in plain sight:

Yellow-throated Warbler HDR 04-20160506

Yellow-throated Warbler HDR 03-20160506

Yellow-throated Warbler HDR 05-20160506

This is one of my favorite warblers. Its bright yellow throat contrasts beautifully with a smart black and white body. Rather uncommon during migration here in Illinois, I have seen it at almost this same spot during three past years. It has also appeared during autumn migration in our local Florida wetlands several times. I saw this one last fall:

Yellow-throated Warbler 20151015

They seem to enjoy showing off their bright throat, as this one is doing (September, 2012):

Yellow-throated Warbler 10-20120924

Once satisfied with my views of the warbler, I enjoyed peeking through the shrubs at the Japanese Garden, taking photos at every angle. Looking over this fence, I felt I was seeing an oil landscape created by a Master Painter:

Japanese Garden HDR 06-20160506

Indeed, I treated a portion of this image as an oil painting in Corel PaintShop PRO x8. Here is the crop before and after editing (click on images for more detailed views). The plantings and even the  placement of rocks are very artful.:

Japanese Garden DETAIL HDR 06-20160506

Japanese Garden DETAIL OIL 06-20160506

The skies were too gray for this week's sky shot, so I am showing one I took on April 25 at Nelson Lake, shortly after arriving in Illinois from Florida. The trees had not yet started to leaf out:

Nelson Lake to south HDR 20160425
= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy

Linking to WEEKEND REFLECTIONS by James

Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue
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Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Owls and eagles in Illinois

After enduring a South Florida winter which felt more like summer, it was refreshing to experience cool (even cold) nights and clear skies. Now we slept with the windows open, which was possible only a few times this entire winter in Florida. Each morning we were out early on nearby wilderness preserves and parks. 

This is a view of a slough along the Fox River at Les Arends Kane County Forest Preserve:

Fox River slough HDR 20160421

Moments later the still water was disturbed by a busy Muskrat...

Muskrat 20160421

...and a pair of Hooded Mergansers:

Hooded Mergansers 20160421

Eastern Bluebirds were a sure sign of spring:

Eastern Bluebird HDR 2-20160421

American Robins foraged on the lawns:

American Robin HDR 20160420

This Red-winged Blackbird displayed its epaulets as it burst into song:

Red-winged Blackbird singing HDR 2-20160420

A female Mallard rested in the flood plain, casting a fine reflection:

Mallard 20160421

Bluebells flourished in the shade:

Bluebells 2-20160421

Violets, both blue and white, further evidenced the advance of the seasons:

Blue Violets 20160418

White Violets 20160421

At Fabyan Forest Preserve, a Great Horned Owl again nested in an old snag:

Great Horned Owls HDR 2-20160420

The adult groomed its single owlet:

Great Horned Owls HDR 20160420

A pair of Bald Eagles started nesting near our second home in Illinois just after we moved there in 2007. After about three years their nest fell down and for the last three or four years they have been breeding successfully in a native pine tree which is right in the middle of a residential school parking lot. The cars park right up to the tree trunk, and crowds often watch from very close by:

Bald Eagle nest 20160420 

Unfortunately, the tree started declining and by last fall it was nearly dead. Now it is completely lifeless: 

Bald Eagle in nest 20160420

There are at least two eaglets which look to be about 3 weeks old. Dead pines have soft wood which rots rapidly, and this tree will quickly become a hazard to those who park or walk near it. The tree probably starved because its roots were nearly entirely covered by the asphalt pavement. I do not think anything was done to speed its demise. I wonder what will happen if the eagles  continue to use the tree-- at some point it may need to be taken down: 

Bald Eagle 2 eaglets 2-20160420

Bald Eagle 2 eaglets 3-20160420

Bald Eagle female and eaglet HDR 20160420

Interestingly, this was the first nest in Kane County since before  DDT was banned, and the Pembroke Pines (Florida) nest near our permanent home was also the first in Broward County! 


= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy

Linking to WEEKEND REFLECTIONS by James

Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Today's Flowers Friday by Denise

________________________________________________

Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display

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