We used to hike much more than we do now. Even so, when we are traveling and there is an opportunity to take a walking tour, we take advantage of it! Also, we go on day trips in the Chicago area, to a variety of places to find something artistic or unusual.
On our first day in Tanzania, we spent the morning on a genuine hike! This ficus tree captured my interest.
On that same hike, our guide stopped to pick up something off the ground – a giraffe turd! Holding it in his open palm, he told us it was the turd of a male giraffe, because of its somewhat football shape. Female giraffe turds are flat on each end! Several of our group of hikers crowded around to get a close-up of this unusual find! The guide patiently waited, while with his other hand he looked at something on his cellphone!
Where there is giraffe poop, you can be sure there are giraffes nearby! This one walked nonchalantly away from us – since it was also a male giraffe, I wonder if his was the deposit we had been examining!
Later during that trip, on the day we arrived at Serengeti National Park, another hike had been arranged! I love to walk because that is when I see the small things that would be missed on a bike or traveling in a vehicle! I took photos of these three small things on that hike.
Most of my walks are short treks either around campus or somewhere else in town. On campus one day, which happened to be my birthday, Dale and I were taking our usual walk around campus, when we came upon two other residents who were walking their dogs and had stopped to chat (while social distancing!). It’s common for residents to greet each other or chat on these walks, but before long, someone says, “Well, I need to keep walking” and they go their separate ways.
During the pandemic, we’ve taken day trips to far-flung suburbs and nature reserves.
Some of my favorite walks are in sculpture parks! Our walk at Morton Arboretum, which happened to be on my birthday this year, was in search of a new installation of sculptures by a South African artist.
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)
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)
Lightscape light show installations for the holiday season, (Chicago Botanic Gardens, Dec. 2019 and Dec. 2020)
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!)
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.
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!!
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.
Lens-Artists’ photo challenge this week is Colorful April. Becky’s April Squares are bright. And Cee’s FOTD is about anything that flowers! (My FOTD is this tiny bright pink one that makes a colorful ground cover.)
April’s colors range from the green of new grass and plants whose flowers have not yet bloomed to bright yellows, fuschias, and whites to the gentle hues of lavender and pink. The first photos (which are square) are of a ground cover flower that is a brilliant fuschia – I don’t know the name of this flower, however. All of these beauties are my daily finds as I take walks around our community’s campus.
Zooming out further, you can see the entire patch of this flower.
April makes me think of daffodils, which are one of the first flowers of spring. I think of them as miniature trumpets, heralding the arrival of spring!
By mid-month, we are beginning to see the first tulips, in bright hues of red and yellow, as well as many other colors.
Gentler colors are the hues of hyacinths…
and the breathtaking canopies of white and pink of flowering trees – crabapple, pear, and in Washington D.C., cherry blossoms.
Some people add color to the front of their houses with potted flowers, such as these bright yellow and orange pansies.
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #140 is called A Change of Scenery. This week’s host, Wandering Dawgs, says:
I have the honor of hosting this week’s Lens-Artists photo challenge. If you are able to do so, we are challenging you to get out and look for a change of scenery. You don’t have to go far from home. It can be in your neighborhood, town, or even a car ride away. Maybe there is a nearby park you haven’t been to in a while, or maybe you’ve been wanting to try a different route on your walk, run, or bike ride. If you are unable to get out right now, we’d love for you to browse through your archives to feature images from places you have visited in the past when you needed a change of scenery.
We have made a few day trips into the city of Chicago and out to the western and northern suburbs. Here are some “changes of scenery” that we experienced during the pandemic.
In April, we got into the car and just drove. We ended up in Woodstock, IL (where Groundhog Day was filmed). We turned right at this bridge to get to the town.
It was early in the pandemic and few people were out. Woodstock’s downtown has many historic buildings, including an opera house turned theater where musicals and plays are performed. This photo shows the historic town hall – the little building to the right was the original town hall!
In May and June, we visited natural wildlife areas, hoping to get some good photos of birds and other wildlife. We went to Cuba Marsh Forest Preserve twice.
We also went to Volo Bog wildlife preserve, but saw mostly frogs and some pretty flowers, including some wild irises.
In September, we drove out to the western suburbs to see a few places we had read about in the local newspaper. In Wheaton, we explored “Cantigny,” the estate of Col. Robert McCormick, named for Cantigny, France where McCormick had shown exceptional leadership and bravery during World War I. He and his wife are buried on the estate, above the scene of the gardens and pond.
The Inverness Town Hall is notable for the four silo-like towers that dwarf the building itself.
Twice in the fall we visited St. Charles for a sculpture park there. The first time it started to rain before we had seen all the sculptures, so we went back a second time. The main attraction is a sculpture of the Humpty Dumpty-like Mr. Eggwards, who sits on a stone fence alongside the park.
The Chicago Art Institute had reopened with an extended stay of a Monet exhibit, but we went on the one day of the week that it was closed! So we went to nearby Millennium Park instead, and took in the Art Institute on another day. Although it was a beautiful sunny day, we saw few people, because it was during the autumn surge of Covid-19. Most people were not venturing out in order to avoid crowds – which we avoided too, since there weren’t enough people there to be a crowd! Here is the famous “Bean,” our nickname for the Cloud Gate sculpture. Usually one can walk around and under it, but it was roped off.
Now that spring is here, we will soon be venturing out again to explore more of our environs. Since we are fully vaccinated, we may even risk a 2-3 day weekend trip!
And what do you know?? All my loves for this post start with the letter S, which is the subject of/Lens-Artists Photo Challenge!
Feb. 23: I love…sunsets (and sunrises, although I’m hardly ever awake for those! 🙂 ).
Feb. 24: I love…spring! I already included summer as one of my loves, but the spring is special too, because it is the season of hope and anticipation. The cycle of life begins, emerging from winter snow and cold, producing new life in flora and fauna. Last spring, I took photos of my daffodils on the side of my house in March, from shoots to blooms.
Feb. 25: I love…singing. I never had good manual dexterity to play an instrument but I’ve always loved to sing. When I was a young adult and needed a spiritual outlet, I turned to singing by joining a community choir. After moving to Des Plaines, I joined the choir at First Congregational Church and still participate in that! It’s rather hard during the pandemic to do group singing, but we use Zoom and a music software called Upbeat to practice and then record the pieces we sing. So I’d like to end with a song about singing (with a virtual choir that may also use Upbeat software!):