Wednesday, July 30, 2008

More Killdeer Babies

Just pure cuteness for todays post.

Growing into those long legs must be a clumsy ordeal.

Even though those legs are long, the babies seem to handle them just fine. They can sure run when they want to.

The fluffy lil cotton balls are a favorite find for me every year.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Caspian Terns

The Terns were here at Braidwood Lake in big numbers on monday. I didn't officially count them, because I don't officially count anything or keep track of bird counts...

But...if I had to guess, I would say around 40, give or take...

I love hearing the sound that they make...It's quite raw and obnoxious...Once heard, you will never forget the sound, and smile at it's familiarity the next season, when they first arrive...

The juvies wait for their parents to bring back fish, while they wait on shore...

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP ALL BIRDS: Never leave fishing lines, lures, or hooks on beaches and shorelines; entanglement kills numerous terns each year.

Don't dump garbage or fishing bait which feeds predatory gulls.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Goose Lake Potpourri

A few left over photos...

Are you ever walking along a path, and a huff/snort comes from a nearby bush, and out leaps a deer? Who can resist a photo op, although my intent is never to disturb...

Splashes of texture and color in this one...

This very cooperative wren has taken up residence in a nearby birdhouse to start a family...

I believe this butterfly is an American Lady...

Cragg Cabin is always a draw for photographers at Goose Lake Prairie State Park...

When walking a trail, I flushed what I think were 4 grouse. Obviously by the photo I couldn't get a good ID.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Let's Get Ready to Ruu-m-ble!!

Spending some much overdue time at a neglected hotspot of mine, the visit produced a few interesting battles. This first bout was the Great Blue Heron in the Gray trunks, and the Double-breasted Cormorant in the Brown trunks. They went to their corners and waited for the bell. They came out fighting! (--over the prime fishing spot known as the whistle.) Right under the heron is a very large drainage pipe which produces high water flow from the backwaters to the river or vise-versa. The swift current caused by the rush creates prime real estate for fishing. The finned ones gather in the eddy to fish for minnows and other teensy food & their predators fish for them. The food chain is pretty short at the whistle. The cormorant approached from the water, dove down for his breakfast, within harpooning range of the herons bill, but the swift swimming skills kept him from ultimate demise. We watched them battle for quite a long time...

The next fight on the card was the Green Herons. Theirs was more like fencing. It was a fast fight, bills clacking eachother, then jumping to a new branch for another angle, clack some more, and eventually fly off.

There were no winners or losers. Every fighter walked away unscathed!

It was a nice place to come back to, but the fishermen of the human kind have discovered this prime piece of wildlife heaven. If they are here, the wildlife aren't, so driving 20 minutes to get here is usually pointess, unless pre-sunrise is an option.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Velvet Racks

I've run across a few bucks lately, and boy are they beautiful. Not only is the whitetail deer in a beautiful coat in general, and looking quite healthy, but the racks for the matured bucks are close to being full size before shedding the velvet, which happens sometime in August-ish.

While in the growth phase, the antlers are covered in "velvet", a layer of skin that supplies the budding antlers with the nutrients needed to build the bone mass. The antlers will grow rapidly for 2-4 months. When the velvet is no longer needed, a ring at the bottom of the antler shaft forms and cuts off the supply of blood and nutrients. The velvet withers and begins to fall off. As a rule this process is facilitated by the deer by rubbing his antlers against trees. The whole process is repeated every year for the rest of his life. (Source:

While the antlers grow, the bachelors hang out together until the competition for does begins.

This interesting rack has double brow tines, which is unusual. Most bucks have a single brow tine on each side or none at all.

Both of these bachelors have interesting racks, and are both non-typical, I believe. I still cannot count the points with the angles I got, but the tines are not balanced on both sides for hunters scoring purposes.

It looks to me that there are at least 7 on the left and possibly 4 or more on the right. I would love to get a closer look at either of these guys, so I will definately be on the lookout when I am in the area again.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

More Bluebirds!

I had so many shots, I decided to showcase the rest of the crop:

Another grasshopper bites the dust!


I just liked the dark green background.

Fluffing makes for good manscaping!

Don't watch me fluff!

Shh...I'm stalking gwasshoppas!

This post is mine, from here to here!

I liked his upturned eyebrow! How you doin?

Who dat!?!

Hi! Welcome to Goose Lake Prairie, I will be your guide for today...Over here is the...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Goose Lake Flora and Fauna

Going to the marsh every day led to plenty of interesting photos along the way.

Black-eyed Susans are a common prairie plant, giving color to the tall grass palette.

Another "lifebird" for me, the Orchard Oriole couple gave clues to their presence with their song. Thanks to Bird Girl for mentioning that these are immatures &/or females!

The Marsh Wren, another "lifer", was singing at the marsh where the bitterns resided.

The Geese flew in to the first lake that you encounter at the beginning of the trails.

In the heart of the prairie, Cragg Cabin can be viewed in the distance.

As the sun rose, the geese woke up and flew to a new location for breakfast.

Another "lifer", Greater Yellowlegs fished the shoreline.

This particular one caught a bullfrog!

The landing gear is down, please put your seats in their upright positions...

On a foggy wet morning, the cabin can take on a different look, which made for a nice monochrome.

On our path to the marsh, "Ridge" found some honey bees making a branch their temporary home, while the scouts looked for a new site.

We learned later, that when bees congregate in a tree with no hive, it's because their old home was most likely destroyed, so they wait patiently (up to 24 hours), until the scouts select a new site to be built.

They were gone by that evening.

Not knowing a thing about either the plant or the winged insect, I labeled this photo butterfly plant. I do not even know if it is a butterfly. But...there were hundreds of these white winged creatures all over plants like this.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Goose Lake Bittern Chase

I have been hinting about good things to come out of Goose Lake for over a week now, and delivered on the bluebirds, but the intent was the bitterns that I was very excited about, and I'm surrendering the best photos I have, which isn't anything to brag about. But...Here's the story of the chase for bittern photos...

American Bitterns and Least Bitterns have been on my short list of "Life Birds" (if you want to talk in "birderspeak"). I have heard of American Bitterns being at Goose Lake for years, but have never ventured to the marsh for that particular reason, although I would scan the lake if I was walking by, only half-believing they were there...This year was different. Being that the last month has been dry--photowise--It was worth a look to make the hike. I took my buddy "Ridge" with me, and upon first approach, something small and "least bittern colored" flushed within the reeds. Ridge thinks to this day that it was a green heron, but I stand firm on its coloring being the bittern. How exciting! We took our seats at the top of the hill overlooking the lake and waited. We didn't venture down to the walking bridge as of yet, fearful that we might scare something else. As we sat there, we heard semi-distant calls from what we thought must be the Goose Lake-famous Sandhill Cranes. Oooh! This is getting good! It was absolutely amazing to hear the calls to eachother, but to see one within the reeds was impossible. We have been back since, for 3 straight days, and have yet to see one in the open. Come On! Anyway...We decided to walk down to the broken bridge after an hour or so, our luck would have it, an American Bittern flushed! This is the dark shot that I got:

Since that evening, we have been back 3 more times, 2 in the evening before sunset, and once at sunrise. No Sandhill Crane shots...But...We did hear them each day! O.K. Now lets talk about the next picture. The Least Bittern. We didn't expect to see one. But we did! We saw one flush almost every time we approached the lake. Least Bitterns are far less common than the uncommon American Bittern, so excitement at the prospect of finding one is an understatement. This is the only shot that has come out:

It just so happened, that on 2 occasions, as we were walking away from the lake, 2 Black-crowned Night Herons flew over our heads. And...If you don't know it, Black-crowned's are extremely shy birds, so for that to happen twice was unbelievable!

This Juvy followed its parent into the reeds. I don't think they were used to people being near their home.

It was very difficult, to say the least, to go out to the lake every day. Each day heated up to excede the 90 degree mark, which is why we chose the morning/evening hikes. The deer flies were horrible,--I mean it--Horrible! I put on all kinds of bug spray, with extreme deet content, which depreciates my health I am sure, and practically soaked a ballcap in the stuff to deter them away from my ears, face, and eyes. Believe me when I say they were all over my head! Swarmin' I say! Oh, and they bite...Hard! Every single step of the way was miserable! I have now decided that I just can't go back out there for awhile. I do want the Sandhill Cranes, but I am waiting for the deer flies to calm down. My head has been itching from the spray from 3 days ago, so I suspect the ballcap was saturated just a little too much and caused irritation to my scalp. Geez...I can whine alittle can't I? Sorry! But did I mention the ticks? No? We had a total of 8 of them on us... I will be back though...when the bugphobia subsides...maybe in a few weeks...the chase has only begun...