Spring – Where ARE you!!???

Mother Nature gave us another 2.5 inches of snow yesterday; not a lot, true. But now we are waiting for the next TWO storms, the first of which is supposed to bring another 6-8 inches of snow. We are used to snow in the Midwest. But we, like everyone else, grow increasingly weary of winter, cold, snow and the biting wind. While we haven’t received anywhere near what Boston has (kudos to Bostonians for having to deal with that!), I frankly cannot wait until Spring arrives. This next storm is coming in on March 1st – and as the saying goes, “If March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb.” If that’s true, by the end of March, perhaps we’ll see pretty spring flowers, like this Iris after a gentle spring rain.

Iris

After the Rain – Iris

 

Who’s Ready for Spring???

Last night we dodged a bullet – the snowstorm went south of us where it dumped up to 11 inches of snow in some areas! Whew! Glad we missed that! It’s nearly the end of February and I’m looking forward to Spring! How about you! This little tree is just off my deck. It’s a flowering crab apple tree. In Spring, it has pink rose like buds that open to pretty white flowers. Last Spring the tree was covered in them and the bees took advantage of that! In the fall, cherry-like red berries appear that last well through November. The birds love them! It’s rather ironic though that when the flower petals drop to the ground, it looks like it snowed – again!

Silver Drift Crabapple

Silver Drift Crabapple Tree

Urban Wildlife – Whitetail Deer Fawns

Can I get an “Awwww” ? This pair of whitetail deer fawns were regulars in my back yard from the time they were born and their mother let them come up from the ravine to play. They ran all over my yard and my neighbor’s yard, chasing each other and just having fun. The following summer, they, their mother, and a new set of fawns came up to visit. The third year, the doe only had one fawn, but all of them were in the yard at different times, enjoying the berries, leaves and even parts of my garden.

Whitetail Fawns

Whitetail Fawns

Wildlife of Sedona

Well, there just wasn’t much “wildlife” to be seen in Sedona, except for these little lizards, that were everywhere. I photographed this Spotted Whiptail Lizard early one morning as I was photographing the beautiful view just outside Sedona. On that cool morning, all he wanted to do was warm himself in the sun! These little creatures were everywhere! I even had one in my motel room. He didn’t eat much, didn’t complain, or take up much space – so I let him stay.

Spotted Whiptail Lizard

Spotted Whiptail Lizard

Black Chinned Hummingbird

I attended an art fair in Salida, Colorado in 2009. Outside our motel room there were several hummingbird feeders. Early one morning I was able to photograph these little birds as they fed from one of the feeders. We have ruby throated hummingbirds in Central Illinois where I live but I haven’t been able to get a really good picture of one of them.

The Black-chinned Hummingbird is a habitat generalist, found in the western United States in lowland deserts and mountainous forests, and in natural habitats and very urbanized areas as long as there are tall trees and flowering shrubs and vines.

Black Chinned Hummingbird

Black Chinned Hummingbird

Urban Wildlife – Coyote

This coyote was a regular visitor to my back yard in 2007. My property was surrounded by a deep ravine with a creek below, but we were also on the corner of two busy streets. Every evening or very early morning, he would come up from the ravine and hunt around in the bushes for moles, voles and mice. It was so much fun to watch him each day. He never came close to the deck, but he could see us sitting on the bench and didn’t seem to mind our presence, as long as we sat still.

Coyote

Coyote

Bald Faced Hornet

Bald Faced Hornet

Bald Faced Hornet (Wikipedia)

Bald Faced Hornet's Nest

Bald Faced Hornet’s Nest

The Bald-faced Hornet gets its name from the characteristic white markings on its face. Their nest (photographed in my yard late fall) is comprised of layered hexagonal combs covered by a mottled gray paper envelope. Bald-Faced Hornets create this paper envelope by collecting and chewing naturally occurring fibers. The wood fiber mixes with their saliva to become a pulpy substance that they can then form into place.

This nest was hidden from view in the trees for most of the summer. We found it one day when we watched where the hornets were going. They would come from the nest and chew on the wood on the back of a bench on my deck. They were never aggressive towards us, although they are protective of their nest (which we never approached closely) and they will sting. However, we were never stung or even afraid of being around them. We sat on one end of the bench while they would chew the wood on the other end. We kept the location of the nest a secret because we didn’t want anyone tearing it down just because it was a hornet’s nest.

Bell’s Landing – Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

About an hour’s drive from my home is a place called “Bell’s Landing.” Its part of a wildlife preserve but folks are allowed to fish there with certain restrictions. I like to go there because of sights like this. The day I photographed this Great Blue Heron was quite windy as you can see from the raised feather patches on his body. Both he and I were fighting to stand in the strong wind and I was lucky not to get blown over as I tried to capture this bird with my camera.

Predators

Went out to my car one afternoon last fall and notice something large in my yard. I realized it was a Cooper’s Hawk. I went back into my house to grab my camera, only to realize the long lens was in the camera case and the battery was on the charger. I hurriedly put it together and luckily he was still there when I went back outside. The picture isn’t the greatest, but it was a once in a lifetime shot!

Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Furry Critters

One of the things I greatly miss about my old house is the wildlife that frequented my back yard. While not totally void of “critters”, my new home doesn’t have the variety I was used to seeing. So, every critter I see, I truly appreciate! This cottontail lives close by. There is a little garden in front of my deck with hostas and a bush or two. Last fall, we covered the plants with leaves, and every day he comes to sit under the bush where he can barely be seen, but still gets to enjoy the afternoon sun.

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