L-APC: Spots and Dots

Spots and Dots is the creative topic for Leya’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge.

flowers (2 orchids at Chicago Botanic Gardens, sunflower at Cantigny Park-Robert McCormick estate, Wheaton, Illinois)

animals (Tanzania)

art: sculpture (dalmations in Sao Paulo, Brazil; abstract sculpture in St. Charles, Illinois; giant pumpkin somewhere in Japan – this photo was a screenshot; Chinese lion at Cantigny Park, Wheaton, Illinois)

museum art (tapestry, light display)

Leda Catunda, Onca pintada No. 1, 1984, (at museum in Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Exhibit at Museu do Futuro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

public art

Lightscape light show installations for the holiday season, (Chicago Botanic Gardens, Dec. 2019 and Dec. 2020)

CFFC: Old vs New

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge has a great topic this week: Old vs New. In keeping with Cee’s order, the old is on the left, new is on the right.

People

Flowers: Black-eyed susans

Cats: my grandcats

Tall man-made structures (ancient Egypt, modern Chicago)

Pink vehicles

Big churches (Cologne Cathedral, Moody Bible Church)

Art (Rembrandt, Warhol)

Bird Weekly: Perched

Lisa Coleman’s Bird Weekly photo challenge this week has the topic of birds perched up.

Crows on a roof, Arlington Heights, Illinois
Woodpecker, probably female (Arlington Heights, IL)
What are these birds looking at?? (Masada, Israel)
This superb starling gave me a penetrating look! (Serengeti, Tanzania)
These guys were so well camouflaged, I almost didn’t see them! (Serengeti, Tanzania)
Storks hang out in an acacia tree at sunset. (Serengeti, Tanzania)
I’m sure I’ve posted these lovebirds before, but they’re so cute! (Ndutu, Tanzania)
Hornbill in Arusha National Park, Tanzania
Black & white ibis in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

L-APC #146: The Beauty Is In the Details

I think I am late for this one, but I’m participating anyway! Lens-Artists’ Photo Challenge #146 is to focus on the details.

In 2019, we took a Viking river cruise, which started in Amsterdam and took us down part of the Rhine River. Our first stop in Germany was in Cologne, with its fabulous cathedral. Its imposing towers can be seen rising above the rest of Cologne’s buildings, this photo taken from our cruise ship as we arrived in the morning.

Officially named the Cathedral Church of St. Peter, this Gothic architectural wonder took centuries to build. Construction began in 1268 but was halted around the middle of the 16th century. It was finally finished in 1880, remaining true to its medieval plan, and at 157 meters (515 ft) it is the third tallest church in the world. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

Its façade contains a dizzying number of carved details, none of which are the same. (And these are all on its exterior!)

I was surprised to see these dark stripes up close.
I was amazed to see the ladder going up this spire! I can’t imagine someone actually climbing up it!
There is a sheep in the middle of this flower-like design – I have never noticed it before!
With so many intricate details, it’s no wonder that it took many centuries to build!
I zeroed in on this skull, somewhere on the panel above.
A stained glass window, viewed from the outside.
Above each archway is something different.
Similar to one of the flower-like patterns above, but with no sheep in the center!

Historical details from Cologne Cathedral – Wikipedia.

Life in Purple

For Jude’s Travel Words, Life in Colour, this month’s word is the color purple.

Purple hyacinths

A more vibrant shade of purple are these rhododendrons.

Purple displays at Lightscape, a holiday event at Chicago Botanic Gardens

Marine life (corals) at Brookfield Zoo

Faux flowers

Purple in sunrises and sunsets (sunrise in Tanzania, sunsets on Chicago expressway and the Caribbean Sea)

Purple signs (Quebec City & Rio de Janeiro)

SONY DSC

L-APC: Getting to Know You

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #145, hosted by Scillagrace, has the theme “Getting to Know You” (I am already singing the next line of the song from My Fair Lady in my head: Getting to know all about you…).

This is how Scillagrace describes the theme: My invitation to you is to present a “Getting To Know You” post showing your relationship with a subject you’ve photographed. The subject could be a Person, a Place, a Culture, an Object…anything that has captured your attention, won your affection and taught you a thing or two.

I have chosen a selection of my photos and observations of the birds on the ponds of our community, especially the swans, but I enjoy the ducks too! While observing these birds (which was one of my main entertainments in 2020 during the pandemic), I was curious about some of their habits, and did some research to learn more.

We have two pairs of swans that arrive in March to occupy our ponds until late fall. Last year there was a contest to name the swans, but I had my own names for the swans, especially those on West Pond: Sidney (cob) and Celina (pen). Swans mate for life and we were able to observe their mating rituals. One afternoon in March, we actually saw them mating. I was so awed I didn’t even think to pull out my camera and take pictures, although I did get their post-mating “heart” – where they put their heads together and form a heart shape – it’s like their kind of kiss!

Two weeks later, Celina began laying her eggs. Swans lay one egg at a time, usually two days apart. Even though they may lay several eggs, their method of incubation causes the cygnets to be born about the same time. The pen doesn’t spend as much time sitting on her eggs until all have been laid. She pulls feathers out from her belly so that the clutch will have direct contact with her skin to maximize their warmth. One of our photographer friends spent a lot of time observing this pair, and he not only got photos of their actual mating, but even one photo of Celina in the process of laying an egg! With my cellphone camera, I only got a photo of her with two eggs, and then 5 eggs when she was temporarily in the water feeding. (She laid a total of 6).

To keep us entertained during the pandemic, there was another contest to predict when the eggs would hatch! I’d found out that the incubation period is about 35 days, so I calculated May 21 as the date we would see the hatchlings! Unfortunately, there was a huge storm that swept in on May 18 with high winds and rain. Alas, all the eggs were lost, blown into the water where their precious cargo immediately drowned! (Bird eggs cannot be saved from the water – since oxygen does permeate the egg shell, once they fall into the water, the babies drown.) It was a great disappointment to many in our community, since we were greatly looking forward to watching the cygnets grow. Because of the pandemic, their loss was particularly devastating for us.

But Sidney and Celina carried on, not laying any more eggs to replace those they’d lost (sometimes swans will do this). The photo below was taken the week before the storm. Sidney had been vigilant about keeping potential intruders away from the nest. Here he chases a Canada goose out of the water. (Once the eggs were lost, both swans lost interest in chasing geese away.)

More tranquil scenes, in July

A daily visitor to our ponds last year was this heron – he’s back again this year, but I haven’t taken any new photos of him (or her – I don’t know which it is)!

Sidney and Celina were returned to us this spring, but within two weeks, Sidney died of unknown causes! Instead of taking the pen back to choose another mate, a substitute cob was brought to the pond two days later. This year, Celina has laid 7 eggs, but I am unsure whether these were fertilized by Sidney or the new mate – perhaps a few of each. I haven’t been able to find out whether this is possible. As a stepfather, though, it remains to be seen whether the new mate will bond with the cygnets once they are hatched (if in fact, he is not the real father). Surprisingly, Celina and her new mate (I will have to come up with a name for him) seem to get along well, so I hope things will work out between them and their new family!

Although we had no cygnets last year, we did have plenty of ducklings! Ducks, unlike geese and swans, do not mate for life. In fact, they can be quite promiscuous, mating with multiple partners during one season! But usually they are seen in pairs, until the hen is ready to make a nest.

A mallard couple last April

Once the female goes off to nest, the male stays behind and doesn’t participate in duckling rearing. Over time, as the females went off to nest, there were an increasing number of mallard drakes (males) hanging out together, which I dubbed “the bachelor club!”

I loved watching these families grow – the ducklings were so cute!!

This is my favorite photo of a duck family – the ducklings were so adorable, always following Mom!!
As the ducklings grow, you can begin to see their tiny wings, and gradually they take on the colors of male or female adult mallards.
Two duck families – usually they didn’t swim so close together.
A mallard hen preens herself.

It’s a new season and the life cycle of our swans and ducks has begun again. Celina has seven eggs, but the swans on East Pond, in spite of diligently working on their nest, and even squeaking at us when we got too close, have not produced any eggs – they didn’t last year either, but it was their first year as a couple. Often swan pens don’t produce eggs until three or four years old.

A pair of Canada geese – I don’t know where their nest is, since they are not “permanent” residents here. Still, geese tend to return to the place where they were born, so these two quite possibly were born here a year or two ago. Last year, we had one family of geese that was always around – the parents and three goslings.