Friday, July 24, 2009

AS THE SUN SETS ON LAKE SHABBONA

During my visit to Lake Shabbona July 2009, the sun was just beginning to set. Beauty is as they say 'In the eye of the beholder'. Today's beauty is from my point of view. The eye behind the camera.


A nice place to bird watch and enjoy nature




  • A baby bunny sit silently as we enter the park.
  • Mulberries near the campground are the perfect supper for this cardinal.
  • (Probably) the most photographed spiderweb in Shabbona ... shimmers as
    the sun filters through the silky threadwork.
  • The sweet song of the Indigo Bunting is music as the sun begins to set tonight.


  • While hoping to see a Eastern Bluebird in the nesting box ... I found a gyspy European Tree swallow peeking out at me...
  • A Common Yellowthroat rests peacefully on a fallen roadside branch.
  • The American Goldfinch has it's eye on an e vening snack.
  • Ready to line the nest with a choice feather, this House Wren keeps busy.


  • Golden sun beams on the pond and the juvenile Hooded Merganser.
  • A juvenile American Goldfinch is a treasured gem in a weedy patch.
  • Today I found a pot of gold at the end of the sunset.
Shabbona Lake is a state recreation area. It is southwest of DeKalb, Illinois.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I NEED YOUR VOTE TO COMPLETE THIS SET

Vote and enter in drawing
for the new boxed set of Kitty Kitty Cards



Above you see the first three cards to be part of a New boxed set of Nature-ally Beautiful Cards. This set features the Dabluz shop cat 'Button'. While visiting the boutique one afternoon, shop owner Laura was playing with her 'Kitty Kitty'. Kitty loves beads and became very frisky and pleasantly playful with her 'Laura'. It was a joy to watch and photograph them. The experience reminded me of this heartwarming cat quote. When I play with my cat, who knows if I am not a past time to her more than she is to me. -Montaigne .
This boxed set of KITTY KITTY cards is intended to represent the feeling behind that quote for cat lovers everywhere.

To Vote: Viewers View the choices #1 #2 or #3 - When you have made your choice locate Voter's Box to the right and click your favorite choice.


To be entered in the drawing email me your contact/shipping information. Good Luck!

Voting deadline is July 31, 2009 at 11:59 - Viewers Choice will be announced on August 2, 2009

One voters name will be pulled, that voter will receive a complimentary set of Kitty Kitty Cards. Eight cards/blank inside with envelopes, two of each image in a clear plastic box to store them. A $15.00 value. (To be in voting pool make sure to click email me link above for name shipping info)




Friday, July 17, 2009

VIEWERS WILL CHOOSE

Vote to Win a Boxed
set of Kitty Kitty Cards
An avenue t
o creating a new set of Cards
Celebrating 'Button'
the Dabluz Shop Cat

How and where I found this gem
The Dabluz Boutique is a charming shop located on the first floor of the Historic Hotel Glenview in Mount Carroll, Illinois, built in 1886. I came upon this shop a few years ago when birding with my husband. We were on our way to Mississippi Palisades in search of Pileated Woodpecker. As we came into the town of Mount Carrol we passed the corner of Market and Clay St. on Hwy 78. A bake sale benefiting cancer was being advertised in front of the hotel. We thought that was a wonderful place to grab a few snacks for our trip. We paid for our goodies and stepped inside the hotel to check things out. A warm smile attached to a woman named Laura welcomed us into her shop, which at the time was hidden in a back room on the first floor. Upon entering it felt like I had just unearthed a hidden treasure grounds. I was surrounded by a variety of eclectic jewels, everything ranging from unique collectibles to homemade and recycled greeting cards. One particular card caught my interest immediately. The denim pocket card. The owner Laura made the card herself. I told Laura that I too make cards featuring mostly my nature photography. She was intrigued with my work and put some of my cards in her shop. Her quaint shop/my unique line of photo note cards a perfect fit. It turned out to be a fabulous day. I had a new place for my cards to be sold! .... The cherry on top was seeing a Pileated Woodpecker that day too!


In the past year it has been my honor to design a set of stationary, bookmarks and cards featuring the beautiful poem 'Morning Coffee' written by Laura Miller.


The boutique has since moved into the entire first floor and now has elbow room to spread out the many treasures inside. A trend setting Dabluz motto states 'blue is the new green', they pride themselves in recycling. Reuse, reuse, recycle ... anything from vintage jeans to old windows.

During one of my visits to her boutique I photographed 'Button' the shop cat. Now Button IS her name, but as the story goes .... she never answers to that. She responds well to Kitty Kitty. She has been living in Dalbuz boutique for the past two years after being rescued from a tree outside the hotel. Kitty Kitty is always somewhere in the shop. She is well loved by the boutique owners and customers. Many customers come to see her first, then shop. Button is the 'poster cat' for the shop. A can welcoming donations for Heartland Pet Welfare (a no kill organization for homeless cats) is always on the counter, look for it during your visit.

I have created a boxed set of cards featuring Button .... or Kitty Kitty the DaBluz shop cat. A set contains eight cards / two of each image. Three of the cards in the set are complete. The last image to be part of this set will be a viewers choice. I will be blogging the contest with choices to vote on in a few days. Voters will be entered into a pool, the winner will receive the first set of Kitty Kitty Cards. Here is a peek at the first three cards for the set.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wren Refuge


Weeds for Wren-t
... TO WEED OR NOT TO WEED THAT IS THE QUESTION

Letting my weeds go this year in my backyard for the sake of Wren-topia is my excuse ... and I'm sticking to it! My back yard is weedy this year, a bug infested smorgasbord for insect eating birdies. This was one of the easiest decisions I have ever made. Yes, having an excuse to not pull weeds did factor into this decision, but the real pull happened very early this spring. A Wren couple returned to my yard singing as only the House Wren can.


I had this aha moment (flipping through those stored files in my head) ... when I remembered reading that the House Wren prefers overgrown gardens when picking a palace to raise their young. Now last year was the first year a House Wren had built a nest in my yard. Unfortunately the fickle female said, "Um, no thanks ... there's not enough shelter, and where are all the little beasties to feed the babes, babe?" It was not the best nest.

This year I wanted my yard to be 'approved' by Mr. Wren's blushing bride. By not pulling the weeds, I hoped 'my garden of weedin' would entice and enchant the female into singing, "Yes, Yes Yes! This nest is best!", as her hardworking honey led her across the threshold.

Fortunately Mr. Wren did just so happen to collect the perfect arrangement of twigs, and sticks, grass and weeds to build this 'best nest' in the birdhouse on my Garage. My overgrown garden and the growing clematis on my garage was just what the Mrs. was looking for! They raised a family of five in my yard this year. All season long I had the pleasure of listening to the happy family. The sound makes you feel like skipping. It is fruitful, crisp and clear. It alone is enough to brighten even the cloudiest day.

Quietly I would sit watching these captivating cinnamon brown birds. They would dart out of my pear tree and dance about my garden before returning with ... well anything from a thick juicy caterpillar bulging from it's beak, to long legged spiders and curled up slugs. Did you know that the House Wren is capable of singing with a beak full of bug? On key! Can you Karaoke with a mouthful of mayonnaise?


IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED
When the big day finally arrived, the babies spent an entire morning and afternoon discovering the big new world in and beyond my backyard. The first fledgling just popped out of the bird house and took off! It was gone before I raised my camera.. but they don't go far and aren't quite able to navigate with ease. The second one sat on the edge of the birdhouse and visually soaked in it's surroundings for quite some time. It's first attempt at flight was a heaving jump start landing itself on the clematis vine growing up my garage. It flapped then fell and flopped then flew and fell and flapped and flopped .... until all of a sudden it just took off into the big beautiful beyond. There are many more captivating images from this shoot. You can see them in my smug mug gallery at http://nature-allybeautiful.smugmug.com/ in the backyard bird category.

Fun Facts - A little Wren-formation:
  • Wrens nest in cavities ... and love weedy overgrown yards with many birdhouse choices. They will also nest in other odd choices like old boots, as long as it is a cavity.
  • The male House Wren will begin to prepare several different nesting sites to attract the female to the nest. He adds a few sticks to each cavity.
  • The female House Wren chooses the nest she likes best. When pleased with a nest she will then help finish building it by adding small sticks and grass.
  • Wrens eat and will collect bugs for their young all day long ... from dusk till dawn.
  • What man considers a pest the wren considers a delicacy.
  • If you are lucky enough to have the House Wren nest in your backyard ... your garden will benefit from a natural pest control ... wren patrol. Don't spray pesticides during their stay, it may harm them. You scratch their backs they scratch yours as the saying goes.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bank Swallows Exhibit the Value of Kinship

St. Louis Canyon Starved Rock State Park in Illinois
June 2009
While exploring in the St. Louis Canyon this June .... I came across a baby bank swallow just sitting in the sand among many rocks at the bottom of the canyon. After our initial impact of startling each other, it began to flop around the ground. Obviously it had recently left the nest and was just learning how to use it's wings. I froze in my hiking boots mesmerized for a few moments before taking a few robotic reaction snap shots with my camera. Then very carefully, almost tiptoeing backwards I retreated to give it the space it needed. As I backed away I noticed an adult, probably the mother, sitting on a rock staring at me. My movement caused her to take flight. Her action caused me to look up. I became instantly aware that a community of swallows were hovering above me. They were all twittering at me as they hovered. I had been so unexpectedly preoccupied by the baby that I didn't even notice all these adults paying such special attention to my every step. I was too close for comfort and needed to rectify that. A rock and bush nearby was just the camouflage I needed. It was far enough away to appease the adults and close enough for me to watch them. I had goose bumps watching so many adults rally together to care for the fledgling. This helpless fledgling had a lot to learn about this big new world, it was vulnerable but not alone by any means. It seems that bank swallows care for each others young as a village, protective when necessary and are nurturing until they are sure it can care for itself. Adults came to the baby two or four at a time while others hovered above forming a protective barrier as the parents fed it. I took several photographs of this bond of kinship they so beautifully demonstrated for me before leaving with that warm fuzzy feeling that starts in your toes and ends up being a smile on your face. To view more pictures from this shoot visit Nature-allyBeautiful.smugmug.com and check out this gallery.


Did You Know:
  • That the scientific name for Bank Swallow Riparia means "riverbank".
  • Another name for Bank Swallow is Sand Martin
  • Bank Swallows nest in colonies along rivers and lakes in vertical cliffs or sand banks.
  • Males use their small beaks and feet to dig burrows in the banks that are sometimes up to five feet long!
  • The female builds a flat platform type nest inside the burrow provided by the male by using sticks, dried grass, leaves, rootlets, and weeds before lining it with feathers.
  • Generally there are 4 - 6 eggs per clutch and one brood per year for a bank swallow pair.
  • The smallest swallow in North America is the Bank Swallow.
  • Bank Swallows eat flying insects. From dawn to dusk they fly around and catch insects like mosquitoes and even bees.
  • Both parents feed their young and will continue to feed them for several days after it leaves the nest.
  • Bank Swallows were abundant this June at St. Louis Canyon in Utica, Illinois.