Monday, April 28, 2014

April Update

Since my last post a lot has happened, I've been back to Mesa for Easter weekend, I've added some plants to my collection in Lisle, and I've been out taking in the sights offered in the surrounding forest preserves. Let's start with my trip back to Dove Manor, where despite my absence and some benevolent neglect, all of the plants survived.  After spending the day after Easter working on the yard, mowing, weeding and watering, I made sure that both my wife and son understood what needed to be done in terms of watering and what was to be left exactly as it was.  I also trimmed the grapevines and tied them up to new wire supports that I strung between the poles.  The wire replaced the twine that I used last year, as it had rotted away in the sun.  The lemon tree is loaded with fruit and still blooming away; the grapes are loaded with new bunches, the Anna and Ein Shemer apples have fruit, there are even a couple of nectarines and peaches and the Boysenberries look like they'll produce the first crop this year.

Eureka lemons already the size of supermarket lemons, with 8-9 months before they'll be ripe.

New Red Flame Seedless grapes on the vine

Anna apples

Babcock peaches

The first Boysenberry

The flowers that are blooming look great, but the irises and glads have failed to bloom yet and the Siberian Iris bloomed while I was gone.  

Climbing America is blooming profusely

Climbing Don Juan is also blooming well and also producing rose hips

Despite not getting enough water, the red double hollyhocks are in bloom

Both red and blue salvias are blooming profusely, as they are fairly drought tolerant

One of the plumerias has an inflorescence that should bloom soon

The birds have already been feasting on some of the sunflowers

The wild sunflower seeds I collected last year has produced spectacular results

Even some of the succulents have gotten into the act, with Haworthia cymbiformis and Euphorbia ferox blooming and Euphorbia obesa producing seed pods.

Haworthia cymbiformis inflorescence

Euphorbia ferox flowers

The mason bee condo has been an unparalleled success, with dozens of them filling the open "apartments" with pollen balls and eggs. I expect 25% of the available spaces will be filled by the end of the season.

Mason bee loaded with pollen to feed its larvae when the eggs hatch

Bee getting ready to lay eggs.

The mason bees aren't the only ones that have been busy, as leaf cutter bees have been cutting the rose leaves, which seem to be one of their favorites.  I'm pretty sure they're also using the bee condo.

Leaf cutter bees leave tale tell semi-circular cuts in the rose leaves.  If you look closely, you can see a lacewing in the center of the photo.

The elephant ear has sprouted and should be quite a showpiece in a few months

Things have been a real roller coaster here in Lisle, with snow as late as the 14th of this month, lots of rain and the occasional rainy day.  The only seeds that have sprouted so far are the radishes, but I suppose that's to be expected, since highs have been mostly in the low 50's.  Despite the lack of flowers on the balcony, there are still plenty to be seen out and about.

Viola sagittata, Arrow-leafed violet


Lamium purpureum, Purple Dead Nettle

Glechoma hederacea, Ground Ivy

Erythronium albidum, White Trout Lily


Fruit tree blooming on the edge of the forest

Water lily pads

Orange seeds sprouting

Dwarf Japanese Red Maple, future bonsai

There have also been lots of fauna, including birds, butterflies and reptiles.  Yesterday I saw a garter snake and a mud turtle, but was unable to get a photo of either of them.

Ardea alba, Great Egret

Butorides virescens, Green Heron

Charadrius vociferus, Killdeer

Hydroprogne caspia, Caspian Tern

Melanerpes carolinus, Red-bellied Woodpecker

Quiscalus quiscula, Common Grackle

Tringa melanoleuca, Greater Yellowlegs

Tringa solitaria, Solitary Sandpiper

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tramping Through The Woods

The weather yesterday was forecast to be perfect for spending time in the great outdoors, so in preparation, I went on-line to research recreation areas around Lisle and found that DuPage County has 60 Forest Preserves encompassing 25,000 acres, with 145 miles of trails.  One of the closet ones to me is Herrick Lake, with 896 acres of land that includes four different habitats, Lake/Pond/Waterway, Prairie or Grassland, Wetland and Woodland and 7 miles of trails, so Saturday morning I headed out.  After a short 15 minute drive I pulled into the parking lot, grabbed my camera and binoculars and headed off on a paved trail that quickly gave way to a gravel path.  The path was 6' - 8' wide in order to accommodate hikers, runners, bikers and horseback riders; I didn't see anyone on horseback, but there were families on bikes, runners of all ages, even a youth group picking up litter.  The air was filled with the calls of Spring Peepers, a scene that was repeated at almost every bog or swamp within the Preserve.  At Herrick Swamp, their calls were so loud, there must have been hundreds of them, but they were so deep in the tules that I never saw a single one.  It was hard to believe a frog that only gets 1.5" long could be responsible for the cacophony of sound emanating from the swamp.

This is a recording of the call of Pseudacris crucifer, Spring Peeper

The system of trails is well marked, with a map at each point where they intersect showing the trail name, length and direction.  I went off trail a few times on unmarked side trails, some of which were easy to traverse and some a little more difficult, though none of them overly strenuous.  By getting off the beaten path, I saw some flora and fauna I would have missed from the main trail.  Unfortunately, about half an hour after I arrived it turned cloudy and the lighting for photos, other than closeups, poor at best.  I saw vultures, a Blue Jay and several Cardinals, but the quality of the photos was such that they were unusable.  I did manage to get photos of several different types of mushrooms, but I have been unable to identify them.  I also got a photo of a Pied-billed Grebe, a Song Sparrow and a Red-eared Slider.

Podilymbus podiceps, Pied-billed Grebe

Melospiza melodia, Song Sparrow

Trachemys scripta elegans, Red-eared Slider


Trillium cuneatum, Toadshade

A boggy area that attracted several Spring Peepers

A hollowed out tree

Twisted vine climbing a tree trunk.

This morning I went out for a walk around one of the lakes on the property and found an Eastern Spiny Softshell turtle taking advantage of the sunshine before the rainclouds moved in, it's shell was about 20" long and it was one of the largest softshell turtles I've ever seen and my first Eastern Spiny Softshell.

Apalone spinifera, Eastern Spiny Softshell