Sunday, May 18, 2014

Expanding the Balcony Garden and Visiting More Forest Preserves

We had lows in the 30's most nights this week, so the greenhouse cover has had to stay on, but it looks like it can come off sometime this week.  In the meantime, I had to make some modifications to the feeder, as it was at the same height as the balcony top rail and birds apparently couldn't see it.  I bought a metal plant stand, ziptied to the feeder base to the stand and put a planter onto the base by cutting a hole in the bottom of the planter, then slipping it down the feeder pole.  I filled it with soil and sowed Forget-Me-Nots for a nice punch of color.  I also bought some Korean Hot Pepper seedlings at the local Korean market, sowed some lettuce and spinach and planted the orange tree seedlings I sprouted from seeds; the orange came from my in-law's tree in Yuma.  This weekend I found four planters, bought four strawberry plants and two bags of potting soil, paying $1 for each item, so for $10 I was able to plant two pots of strawberries and sow one of the others with Takanotsume Pepper seeds I brought from my home in Arizona.  The other one needs a little more soil, which I'll pick up tomorrow on the way home from work, then I'll sow sage in it.  To add a punch of color, I bought a pot full of petunias, which are one of my favorite flowers.  The lemon grass I've been rooting also got potted and put on the balcony.

Petunias, rose, bird feeder.

Korean Hot Peppers

Orange seedlings

Strawberries and a planter of Takanotsume (I hope)

Lemon Grass

I spent this weekend enjoying the first decent weather in some time and spent some time visiting two more of the DuPage County Forest Preserves, Danada and McDowell Grove.  Saturday was spent at Danada and it was well worth the trip.  Not only did I add some birds to my life list, I found a Great Blue Heron rookery and spent at least half an hour observing the herons coming and going, with the parents taking turns hunting and sitting on the nest or feeding the chicks.  The additions to my life list from Danada were a Bobolink, a Spotted Sandpiper, a Gray Catbird, a Bank Swallow, a Chipping Sparrow and an Indigo Bunting.

Great Blue Heron rookery

A close up of a few heron nests.

A heron getting ready to feed its chick.

Mixed among the herons was a nesting Double-crested Cormorant.

Dolichonyx oryzivorus, Bobolink, breeding male

Actitis macularius, Spotted Sandpiper

Dumetella carolinensis, Gray Catbird

Riparia riparia, Bank Swallow

Spizella passerina, Chipping Sparrow

Passerina cyanea, Indigo Bunting

Danada also has an equestrian center and the horses were out to pasture, so I had to take a picture of the bucolic setting.

There was plenty of flora to be seen at Danada, including wildflowers and fungi.

Mayapple blossom.


Wild grapes getting ready to bloom

Dodecatheon meadia, Shooting Star

Polemonium reptans, Jacob's Ladder

Prunus serotina, Wild Black Cherry

Smilacina racemosa, False Solomon's Seal

McDowell Grove Forest Preserve wasn't quite as productive in terms of additions to my life list, but there were a few notable ones.

Hirundo rustica, Barn Swallow, pair

And here's their nest underneath a freeway bridge.

Piranga olivacea, Scarlet Tanager, male

Piranga olivacea, Scarlet Tanager, female

I also saw numerous Nighthawks, but they fly so fast and so high, I couldn't get a good photo.

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