Eagles and turtle soup

On Sunday last we drove up the River Road, above Alton in Illinois. Crossed over the Illinois River on the Brussels Ferry at Grafton, over into Calhoun County, where we saw a few eagles, a few pelicans, and thousands of snow geese massing up on the river and Canada geese flying overhead in chevron after chevron. We also went to Meppen, where Dennis used to go every August on his motorcycle to eat turtle soup and drink beer at the annual festival at the Catholic church, where he visited the many Droeges in the graveyard there.

Brussels Ferry
Mature bald eagle in a pecan tree by the Illinois River, Calhoun County, IL
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Full moon and fox, January 28, 2021

Snow yesterday, full moon this morning. And Dennis saw a fox in our back yard this morning. Its prints are all over the yard in the snow.

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New Year

New Year- We have a new President and the vermin that infested that office for four years is gone, thank God, if not the people who somehow thought he actually represented them and was worthy of their support and a bunch of cynical or reality-challenged politicians, not sure which is worse. Everyone I know, myself included, is smiling more, sleeping better, feeling lighter, even in the midst of the other storms we are facing- pandemic, sour economy, racism, polarization. There is at least some hope again that things can get better.

On the home front, the goldfinches are beginning to change from their winter olive green to goldish-green, to be followed by their brilliant gold. There is a Carolina wren who has been around all winter. I have seen him recently diving into the old sherbet tubs that we fill with food scraps and put out at night for the possum. There are still lots of juncos and white-throated sparrows and woodpeckers and cardinals and crested nuthatches and chickadees. And of course house finches, too many house finches, and squirrels. The eagles are here and we will go on the weekend to see them up on the river in Illinois.

So 2021 begins.

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Creek bottom walk

I took off this morning for a much-needed walk in the woods with Dennis. It was raining little ice pellets most of the time we were out. They looked like little white fertilizer pellets:

And when we got down by the creek we saw an amazing collection of frost flowers.

In the background, coming up under the leaves, it looks like Erigenia bulbosa (Harbinger of Spring). Must’ve come up recently during warmer weather.

And to top it all off, we saw TWO pileated woodpeckers!

Here’s hoping for a better 2021 than 2020. The bar is not too high.

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Full moon, October 1, 2020

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Forest Park walk, Sept. 6, 2020

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Full moon, pandemic hair

Time passes surprisingly quickly in this time of pandemic. Without the daily to-and-fro of the gym, work, meetings, with being mostly inside the boundaries of home and immediate neighborhood, I function in a sort of suspended reality, and have missed the full moons in recent months. An occasional bicycle ride or trip to the store is exciting these days. The daily monitoring of garden, birds, insects is a joy. A good counterpoint to the crazed and often frightening news of late; the unleashing of all sorts of evil for all to see. I only hope, and my husband assures me, that it is all part of a transition to a new era, the rising of the feminine principle in the collective, in Jungian terms, and the current awful state we are in a manifestation of resistance to it.

At any rate, here a few photos to document our small recent history.

Full moon, September 2, 2020
We grew tomatoes in pots on the porch this summer, the only place that gets enough sun. We surrounded them with chicken wire to prevent the squirrels from eating them. A young reddish squirrel would visit every day, and when he could reach a tooth through the chicken wire would scrape off as much tomato as he could reach, evident by his tooth marks. I think he had wet dreams every night about the tomatoes.
Ms. Bumblebee at work on the physotegia, August 2. This type bumblebee I haven’t seen much of, with her furry yellow and black abdomen. Most I see are more black than yellow.
The cardinal flower that is jealously guarded by the alpha hummingbird who hangs around to chase away all the other hummers. Occasinally they come in bunches and some of them get to sip nectar while he chases the others.
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Linden blossoms

This morning early I rode my bicycle to the park because I noticed a sweet smell in the air yesterday and realized it is from the linden tree across the street, currently in bloom and attracting lots of bees and butterflies. I wanted to see if the linden at the top of the long hill up Skinker Blvd. was also blooming and sweet. Before I left, though, I had to deal with the uglier side of nature. Kitten Britches, now 16 or so years old and the last former alley cat, or any cat, I will ever allow to go outside (Dennis and I have agreed if we have another cat it will be an indoors cat) had caught a young rabbit. I managed to pull her off but the poor rabbit was injured and in for a slow death otherwise so I let Britches go to kill it. I had been entertaining the happy notion that she was getting too old to hunt, but her mother taught her well and she is still in good shape. So. On with the bike ride, during which I saw a dozen or so other rabbits, and some chipmunks. The linden tree I had in mind had already bloomed but others throughout the park suffused the air with that sweetness. I wish I could bottle that smell. I remember in the movie Harold and Maude, Ruth Gordon has some sort of smell machine to hold her olfactory memories and keep them fresh.

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Garden update

Well, the arboretum is still closed, so I will settle for a garden update. The plant growth presents quite a contrast with last month- it’s been a slow, cool spring with plenty of rain. The chickadees who inhabited the wren house raised and fledged 3 clutches of young. They moved out on a Saturday, May 9. That morning there was a fog of chickadees all up in and around the sycamore tree where the house hangs, a regular chickadee caravan forming up to head out and learn to fend for themselves. By that afternoon I saw the wren who inhabits the second house we put up staking claim to the former chickadee house. He was carrying out the chickadee nesting material and carrying in his own. Now he appears to be raising two separate families, as I’ve heard they will do. He is an aggressive little bugger- it is amusing to watch him chase the squirrels who come near his house. He dive bombs them, you can actually see the impact when he pecks them with his sharp, curved beak. I do miss the cheery little chickadees, but every now and then I hear them chattering close by in the bushes at the back of the yard, or even in the sycamore tree. Hummingbirds are now regulars in the garden, and we have had several interesting warblers migrate through, and once a rose-breasted grosbeak for 2 days. There is also a pair of catbirds who have nested nearby, and we see them and their young in the yard frequently. The most fun is in the early mornings, when I hear a group of young barred owls hooting and chuckling and chortling with each other like they do. That always makes me smile.

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Coronavirus spring update

We cannot go our usual walks at the arboretum to watch the wildflowers unfolding this spring, as it has closed, along with many other local areas. So the best I can do for now is a tour of our back yard, which we have transformed over the years from a euonymous-covered mess to garden beds, a rain garden, and a rock garden. As we are stuck at home for the most part, we take great pleasure in the garden and the birds who come there. We have lots of goldfinches just now, and it seems a good number of juncos have decided to stay here for the spring. And white-throated sparrows, doves, house finched, wrens, and the chickadee inhabitants of the wren house. I think they have fledged their first clutch already. Upcoming projects include ridding our front yard of grass (see Dennis in photo below) and busting out the concrete that underlies the back part of the rain garden, a reminder of the house’s first owner’s love of concrete.

Dennis continues the front yard grass-removal project
Rain garden with Celandine poppies
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