Thursday, October 22, 2015

Nelson Lake nature walk with Graci

On our last day in Illinois our granddaughter Graciela finally had time to get out on a bird walk. Between school and volleyball practice and games (and homework) there never had been enough time and she was getting desperate. We visited Nelson Lake/Dick Young Marsh in Batavia, beginning at 9:00 AM. I brought along recordings of some common birds, hoping to enhance her experience. She wanted me to try and photograph all of her sightings, including bugs and flowers, and even a dead Northern Short-tailed Shrew! I followed her orders. Later she e-mailed me her commentary (italicized here) to accompany the photos. When Graci reads this post she will also learn the answer to a puzzle she inspired me to solve!

"Hunting Princess:"

Graci the Hunting Princess 20150926

Entrance Sign:

Nelson Lake sign 20150711

 Graciela writes:

The last day Granma and Grampa were here (before heading back to Florida) I requested a bird walk. My sister had a volleyball game, but I wasn’t really interested in going. I requested the place where we saw the Bobolink. Granma wanted to see Cari play, so it was just me and Grampa. Before setting out on the walk, we made a quick pit stop and checked a trail map. After confirming the trail, we began to walk.
Prairie Pothole:

Graci at Nelson Lake 20150926

Northern Harrier male "Gray Ghost":

Northern Harrier male gray ghost 20150926

At first, we didn’t see many birds, but we did see other things. I spotted a moth crawling on the ground. Curious, I looked closer. I realized, with amazement, it was being dragged by an ant! I called back Gramps, who had gone farther up the trail, to come look at what I found. He was amazed and told me that I had a good eye.

Watching an ant carry a moth:

Watching ants carry moth 20150926

Ant dragging moth 20150926

Monarch butterfly:

Monarch butterfly 20150926

We continued to walk, the sun beating down on us the entire time. We passed by a side trail, and I noticed a bird flutter down the trail. Grampa saw it too. He set up his camera and got ready. When the bird didn’t move, I began to cautiously move down the trail. Gramps followed, and suddenly, the bird popped out of hiding and went into a nearby tree.

American Goldfinch:

erican Goldfinch 20150926

Swamp Sparrow:

Swamp Sparrow 20150926

Palm Warbler:

Palm Warbler 20150926

Tennessee Warbler:

Tennessee Warbler 20150926

After getting some good shots along the way, we decided to head farther down the trail, into the woods.

Canada Geese:

Canada Geese 20150926

Canada Geese 2-20150926

Pearl Crescent butterfly:

Pearl Crescent 20150926

Common Buckeye butterfly:

Common Buckeye butterfly 20150926

Orange Sulphur butterfly:

Orange Sulphur 20150926

In the woods, I saw a frog hop across our path. We heard sandhill cranes calling, downy and hairy woodpeckers chattering and drilling, black-capped chickadees singing, as well as other bird calls.
Downy Woodpecker:

Downy Woodpecker 20150926

Red-bellied Woodpecker:

Red-bellied Woodpecker 20150921

Black-capped Chickadee:

Black-capped Chickadee 20150926 

We called in the famous upside-down bird, who, I’m telling the truth, literally landed on a branch right above Grampa’s head! My eyes went wide and I pointed at the bird. Gramps turned around, sadly scaring the bird. Excited, he got out his camera, but the bird decided to have some fun. It flew back and forth, sometimes hiding in the leaves. Eventually, it got bored, so it then landed upside-down on a nearby trunk, going in circles up and down. While the bird was doing that, we managed some pictures.

Looking for the nuthatch:

Graci finding nuthatch 20150926

White-breasted Nuthatch:

White-breasted Nuthatch 5-20150926

White-breasted Nuthatch 4-20150926

We continued on our way, meeting a family and their dog. After a conversation, we went our separate ways. Me and Gramps came across a tree, which housed some northern flickers. We successfully called in those, complete with photos.

Northern Flicker:

Northern Flicker 20150909

Shadow Darner:

Shadow Darner 20150926

New England Aster:

New England Aster 20150926

There was also a morning glory, which lives up to its name.

Morning Glory growing through the fence :

Morning Glory 20150926

Flying Grasshopper:

Flying grasshopper 20150926

We continued following the path, then followed another path that went to the main trail. I noticed something…. odd. I leaned close to inspect it, and freaked out. It was something dead. Grampa said it was like a field mouse, but not the first he’s seen. Apparently, something was killing them, but what? It couldn’t be an owl. It could be a cat. Perhaps, a disease?

[Ken here-- Over the years I have encountered several dead shrews along the paths at Nelson Lake. It was a mystery to me why they had not been consumed by predators or scavengers. They must have been killed and left there in plain sight, but why? Graci took this on as a puzzle which needed to be solved. I haven't told her yet but... Happy to say, I think I found the key to the mystery, thanks to Wikipedia. The shrews have scent glands which repel many predators and they may simply refuse to eat them! From Wikipedia-- "It is notable in that it is one of the few venomous mammals... Three well-developed scent glands are present, one on each side of the animal and one placed ventrally; the scent may be used for marking territories, though the shrew's sense of smell is thought to be poor... The saliva of the northern short-tailed shrew contains a kallikrein-like protease, used to paralyze and subdue its prey... The toxin is strong enough to kill small animals, up to sizes somewhat larger than the shrew itself, and results in painful bites to humans who attempt to handle the shrew... This shrew is consumed by many predators: trout, snakes, raptors, canids, cats, mustelids, skunks, raccoons, and opossums, though mammalian carnivores appear to be deterred by the musky odor produced by the shrew's scent glands." ]

Northern Short-tailed Shrew:

Northern Short-tailed Shrew 20150926

We reached the main trail, and headed back to the car. There was still some time before Cari’s game was over. I asked if we could go to the bridge, and so we did. When I opened my door, I noticed a millipede. Grampa got some good pics. Being careful not to squish it, I climbed out.

Millipede in parking lot, east side of Nelson Lake:

Millipede 20150926

We met up with the same family, and the father said there was a pigeon in the crumbling silo. He wasn’t kidding. There was a pigeon in there! Because of the light reflecting off the grate, Grampa had trouble getting a good view.

Rock Pigeon behind protective grating at base of old silo:

Rock Pigeon 20150926

View from Audubon Bridge at Nelson Lake:

 From Audubon Bridge-Nelsons Lake 20100630

Interesting clouds over the perimeter path:

 Nelson Lake east perimeter path HDR 20150923

Silo at Nelson Lake east side:

 Nelson Lake east entry HDR 20150923

At the bridge, there was nothing of interest there. A few crows and a blue jay were all that could be heard. Disappointed, we went back to the car. We then went to get gas and swap places as mom was just starting to drive back from the game-- me, heading to my mom’s car, and Granma, heading to join Grampa in the Caddie. Cari’s team won!

 "Secrets of the Soils:"

Graci at Nelson Lake 2-20150926

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

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 BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to I Heart Macro by Laura


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



  1. Hello Ken, what a great post from your granddaughter Graci! Wonderful bird and butterflies. Thanks for sharing your outing! Happy Thursday, have a great weekend ahead!

  2. Very interesting!
    Great photos!

  3. Wonderful commentary....I enjoyed it so much.

  4. What a fun post. I just love that Graci enjoys spending time with you out in nature and has such a good eye for spotting interesting critters. - Loved those butterflies. How neat to learn about the Shrew. Also a very pretty morning glory growing through the chain link fence.

  5. Hello Ken!:) I thoroughly enjoyed the photos and your granddaughter's brilliant commentry. Graci spotted so many things of interest, and it is great that she can share these things with you. The ant is stronger than it looks, and the info about the shrew was most interesting. The Common Buckeye butterfly stood out for me with it's impressive wing design.

  6. she's a very good writer and a wonderful nature spotter/lover. i know you're very proud of her.

  7. Beautiful presentation of very beautiful birds!
    I particularly enjoyed the Harrier, which does look as majestic the plane by the same name.
    The photo of the dove is also very nice.
    Have a Great Day!
    Peace :)

  8. What a lovely post. Loved the variety you saw and captured. Thanks for sharing! Have a great weekend!


  9. What a wonderful time out! Lots seen!

  10. Love your series of photos. It reminds me to visit these bird sanctuary here in MI where birds from Canada will stop by for the season before heading to Florida. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Lovely shots of a lovely ramble with your granddaughter. Thank you for sharing.

  12. A fun time with the granddaughter, and great photos!! Have a good weekend.

  13. Hi Ken, just stopping back to say thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Have a happy weekend!

  14. I've seen dead shrews on the trail in MD and VA too, sometimes without any clear injuries as if they simply fell over dead. Apparently their metabolism is so high they can starve to death if they don't eat every few hours. Wow!

  15. What a wonderful array of photos. As always I like the bird shots ;-)

  16. Great birding and nature hike. But the greatest part is being with your granddaughter of course! And what a good naturalist she I'd turning out to be!

  17. Nice post - all kinds of everything. I watched an ant moving a butterfly wing this afternoon - pictures did not work!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  18. Great job, Graci! Wonderful photos and comments on the awesome sightings! And to learn about the shrew was so interesting!

  19. First of all, your granddaughter is so cute in her birding garb, and loved reading her narration of the day out on your last day in Illinois for the season!!!! I'm sure her interests in nature will take her far into the future and perhaps even a career in some science/nature facility!!! Well done Graci.

    And Ken!!!

  20. Lovely pictures of insekt, bird and fllowers!

  21. Wonderful photos from your walk. You saw lots of interesting flora & fauna.

  22. I love that Northern Harrier flight shot.

  23. Beautiful plae with such lovely birds and butterflies.

  24. Thanks all, for your nice comments. Good news-- both granddaughters' volleyball teams made it to the playoff tournament. Bad news-- both lost their semifinal games. Graci's team finished third and Cari's team ended in fourth place. They have some nice big trophies to show!


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