Tag Archive | birds

Ah, Home Sweet Home!

This is my front door. I took the left side photos May 30th and the right, June 20th.

Most of April and all of May was a rain-out. We had 10 inches (25cm) of rain in those 8 weeks. Even when it wasn’t raining, Sweet Sol was hiding behind her fluffy, white shawl. There’s not even a trace of her shadow on the wall. At least, the foliage looks green and lush in this light!

June 9th it got hot… like Hell Hot. I’m not complaining… Yet.

Things grew very well until the heat. Things were looking really sad and I even had to water my established perennials.


We don’t use our front door. It’s too awkward to enter here. No overhang. No space. No where for shoes… It’s so much easier to enter from the garage. It’s like having a huge foyer! So, this year we finally decided to embrace our inner Red Neck and start sitting on the porch. It’s so nice to enjoy all the beautiful things that fill our senses. The flowers smell so sweet, the fountain sounds so melodic, the birds look so joyful and the chipmunks make us smile.

Ah, Home Sweet Home!


© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Reed-Turner Woodland Preserve – Spring Blooming Flowers 4-5-2017

Last weekend, my hubby allowed himself to get talked into a quick jaunt around Reed-Turner Woodland Preserve in Long Grove, Illinois. It’s a pretty small preserve at 36 acres. It was donated to the Long Grove Park District by Barbara Reed-Turner. It’s a fabulous little gem with so much diversity and wildlife to see. The town of Long Grove does have many activities such as Strawberry & Apple Fests, along with it’s quaint feel, makes for a great day trip. All of the following flowers were captured at the preserve. Since I’ve not had another blooming flowers in the past that’s remotely close to this one, I’m not linking back to any past blooming posts.

Winter aconites – Eranthis hyemalis

Aren’t they adorable? They look like little ballerinas.

Pussy willows ~ Salix discolor

Scilla Siberica – Siberian Squill or Wood Squill

Vinca minor ~ Periwinkle

Salem Lake

Bird Log – Lots of birds fly through here!!

Natural Stadium Seating

More Squill

Indian Creek

The only bird I can pick-out here is the White-breasted Nuthatch. An maaaybe a red-breasted. Their noise is a bit higher pitched.

I hear Redwinged Blackbirds, Robins and many loud ‘Clicky’ birds. I could see it was a midsize bird, but that’s it with the dank gray skies.

Lots of clean-up going on this spring.

Common snowdrops ~ Galanthus nivalis


© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Rock Stack Pondless Fountain

This fountain may look familiar to you if you were around when I first started my blog in 2013. It was one of my first few posts. What started this whole fascination with pondless fountains was my husband bringing home a large clay pot from a client’s house. I looked at it, thinking to myself, “Gee, this would look cool laying on it’s side, spilling out water.” And the rest is history.

After having him install that first fountain, we were addicted. When I started my garden design business, I was approached by a client wondering if I installed these type fountains. I said, “Heck yeah!” and showed her the clay fountain we had installed. She had found some copper pots and hoped my artist hubby could figure something out for her. He did and it is so unique. (check out the link above to see it).

Since then, he’s been putzing around with other designs. He likes the ‘rock-stacked’ look and this one was created. I love it! It was placed in the front of my house. When the windows are open, I can hear the splish-splash of the water. I like to sit in the window on weekends and see all the wildlife that visits it. Bees, wasps, birds of all sizes (saw my first flicker!!), squirrels, bunnies and chipmunks all take their turns enjoying the water.

I was so excited to reinstall it after having to temporarily remove it so I could redesign the front garden. After two long years, its back in operation at the Farrell house! Woo-Hoo!!



I’m not the only one to see it back in operation!!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Sex… I Mean Spring is in the Air!


Mr. & Mrs. Downey Woodpecker

Ah, spring is in the air here in the Midwest! I’m just starting to see the animals start their mating games. I love watching…I’m such a romantic!!

The female birds act like baby chicks, demanding to be fed.

The dominant males fighting off the young bucks for the females.

Doves cooing and preening each other.

Chattering, dancing squirrels.

House building materials are at a premium.

Male birds donning their spring colors.

Elaborate songs can be heard along with seeing fancy flight patterns of returning snowbirds.

I’ve always felt like the animals retained more knowledge of nature than we humans did. We began to lose it when we decided money was more important than simpleness. With that being said, I observe the animals to tell me how they feel nature will be treating them in the near future. And they are saying to me… “You’d better dust off your flip-flops, as it will be an early spring!!”

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Downy Woodpecker ~ Picoides pubescens

imageDowny Woodpeckers are the smallest in the woodpecker family. Just a tad smaller than the Hairy Woodpecker.

Downy Woodpeckers don’t sing pretty songs, however they drum rhythmically against pieces of wood or metal to impress their mates. So, if you hear an even rhythm drum solo on your house, no worries, it’s just Romeo belting out a ballad. If you hear random poking and prodding, then your home may have bugs.

Male and female have separate feeding areas in fall and early winter, with pairs forming by late winter. The nest site cavity is excavated by both sexes, usually in a dead limb or tree, usually 12-30′ above ground.

In the winter, Downy woodpeckers roost in tree cavities. They forage on trees, picking the bark surface in summer and digging deeper in winter. The Downy Woodpecker eats foods that larger woodpeckers cannot reach, such as insects living on or in the stems of weeds. You may see them hammering at goldenrod galls to extract the fly larvae inside. They mainly eat insects however, also seeds and berries. In winter, Downy Woodpeckers can often be found in suburban backyards with trees and love suet feeders.

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© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Chain O’ Lakes State Park – Fox River Kayak Trip

We decided to camp a mere 14 miles from home last weekend. Funnier still is we’ve not came here to hike or kayak either. Sometimes the best places are right in your backyard!!


The Chain O’ Lakes State Park, is located in northeast Illinois in both McHenry and Lake counties and became a state park in 1945 when the State of Illinois made an initial purchase of 840 acres. In the 1930s, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp became the Chain O’Lakes Conservation Area, and was incorporated into the state park in 1957.

The Chain O’Lakes is located in northeast Illinois and is made up of 15 lakes joined by the Fox River and man-made channels. The collection of lakes is 7,100 acres (29 km2) of water, 488 miles (785 km) of shoreline and 45 miles (72 km) of river. “The Chain is the busiest inland recreational waterway per acre in the United States…” states the Fox Waterway Agency.


Fox River

The Chain O’Lakes were formed when the Wisconsin glacier melted. The land of Chain O’Lakes State Park is primarily freshwater bog over deep peat layers. No worries drowning here… just stand up!! The river bluff slopes softly to the moraines that rise about 200 feet. Chain O’Lakes has a mixture of oak and hickory near the waterway, then going inland; cherry, elm, birch, sumac and spruce, plus some scattered pine stands.


If you zoom into this photo, you may be able to see the swallow type birds (maybe a purple martin?) that were catching fish and dragonflies.


Time to relax, crack a beer…


Sloooowly creeping up on the  American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea). I didn’t want to damage any of the two foot wide lily pads. I was using my hands to paddle up to it.

The area was originally inhabited by Algonquian, Miami, Mascouten and Potawatomi tribes, then during the 1880’s, Europeans started settling in. Later, in 1901, the train came to the area from Chicago, which opened up the area to tourism. Historically, Grass Lake was once almost entirely covered with American lotus each summer, which brought in boatloads of tourists.The area is also legendary for its hosting of 1920’s prohibition gangsters, including the infamous Al Capone, who owned a cottage on Bluff Lake near Antioch.


There was a very large stand of them.

Nymphaea odorata  ~ Fragrant Water Lily

I wish I had known they were smelly, I would have stuck my nose in it!!


We weren’t sure what type of insect this was, possibly a robber fly?


If you squint really hard there is a kildeer bird and a sand piper in there. Gesh, maybe I could use a real camera with a zoom lens…




Two hundred acres of restored native prairie provide nesting habitat for grassland bird species. A check-list of the nearly 200 birds that have been identified in the park is available at the park office. Other wildlife that call the Chain home: white-tailed deer, rabbits, ground squirrels, chipmunks, mink, opossum, skunks, raccoons, gophers, foxes, badgers, beaver, coyotes and groundhogs.


We finally got to a great little bar that had wonderful, refreshing margaritas!! AND a Clean potty =-)


Chimney swifts build their mud nests under route 173.


Pretty dragonfly.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

How to Build a Nest With Love

Last week I started to offer nesting material to the birds near the feeders. Many birds build many different types of nests. The female house finch builds the nest with Mr. looking over her. The male sparrow builds his nest, hoping to attract a sexy female.





Species Average Clutch Size Average Incubation Period (in days) Average Nestling Period (in days)
Acadian Flycatcher 3 14 12
American Crow 4-5 18 35
American Goldfinch 5 13 14
American Kestrel 4-5 30 30
American Robin 4 13 15
American Tree Sparrow 3-5 13 10
Ash-throated Flycatcher 4-5 15 17
Bald Eagle 2 41 75
Baltimore Oriole 4 13 13
Barn Owl 4-6 31 32
Barn Swallow 4-5 13 21
Barred Owl 2-3 31 32
Bewick’s Wren 5-7 14 14
Black Vulture 2 36 62
Black-capped Chickadee 6-8 13 25
Blue Grosbeak 4 12 11
Blue Jay 4-5 17 19
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 4-5 15 13
Bobolink 5-6 12 12
Boreal Chickadee 4-9 14 18
Brown Thrasher 4-5 13 11
Canada Goose 5-6 28 5
Carolina Chickadee 6 13 17
Carolina Wren 4-6 13 13
Cedar Waxwing 3-5 13 17
Chimney Swift 4-5 19 19
Chipping Sparrow 4 13 11
Dark-eyed Junco 3-5 13 12
Downy Woodpecker 4-5 12 21
Eastern Bluebird 4-5 14 17
Eastern Phoebe 5 15 16
Eastern Screech-owl 4-5 26 31
Eastern Towhee 3-4 13 9
European Starling 5-7 14 21
Field Sparrow 3-5 11 8
Gray Catbird 4 13 11
Great Blue Heron 4 27 77
Great Crested Flycatcher 4-5 14 15
Great-horned Owl 2-3 31 34
Hairy Woodpecker 4 13 29
House Finch 4-5 13 15
House Sparrow 3-5 13 15
House Wren 6-8 14 15
Indigo Bunting 3-4 13 11
Killdeer 4 25 precocial
Lesser Goldfinch 4-5 12 11
Mallard 10-12 28 precocial
Mountain Bluebird 5-6 14 20
Mountain Chickadee 6-12 14 21
Mourning Dove 2 15 14
Northern Cardinal 4 12 10
Northern Mockingbird 3-5 13 13
Osprey 3 33 55
Pileated Woodpecker 3-5 18 27
Prothonotary Warbler 4-6 13 11
Purple Martin 4-5 16 28
Red-eyed Vireo 4 13 12
Red-tailed Hawk 2-3 30 30
Red-winged Blackbird 4 11 11
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 4 13 11
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2 16 19
Say’s Phoebe 4-5 13 15
Song Sparrow 3-5 13 10
Spotted Towhee 3-4 13 9
Tree Swallow 4-6 15 20
Tufted Titmouse 5-6 13 17
Turkey Vulture 2 39 77
Violet-green Swallow 4-5 14 24
Western Bluebird 4-6 14 20
Western Screeh-owl 2-4 26 28
Western Scrub Jay 2-3 16 18
Wild Turkey 8-12 28 precocial
Wood Duck 8-10 30 precocial
Wood Thrush 3-4 13 13

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Yellowfinch ~ Spinus tristis

These little guys are so cute. They cling to the nyjer sock like little circus performers. During the winter, the males colors are muted, but sill brighter than the females. These guys stay here all year.

Goldfinches are very strict vegetarians. They will wait to nest until June/July when the thistle, milkweed and other fibrous seeds are in abundance. Other birds augment their young’s diet with insects, but not Goldfinches.


Here’s Mr. & Mrs. at the ‘sock’. His bright yellow coat is a joy to see after a long. cold winter.

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Almost, not quite… Stay tuned, he’ll be all yellow soon.

© ~ Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Spring Birds ~ Welcome Back to the Midwest!!

Last Friday was the first day of Spring and my first Robin sighting! Contrary to popular belief, they don’t all migrate to warm weather. Many stay and roost in trees, making it more difficult to spot them. Of course, right after the 60F/15C weekend Mother Nature gave us, Jack Frost had the last laugh on Monday when he delivered 5″ inches of snow! I got to tell my boss “I told you so”, after he had taken off all the plows on the trucks.


This was also my first sighting of MR. Red-Bellied Woodpecker. I’m sure Miss is happy to see someone that looks like her!


Mr. Downy Woodpecker has been around for awhile. He and his lady take turns at the suet.

Here’s a nice photo of everyone playing nice at the feeder! Mr. Mourning Dove, Mr. White-Crowned Sparrow and of course, Mr. Cardinal.


Suet for everyone!! I’m not sure who’s who with the three doves, however one is a lady and the other two are suitors.


Mr. House Sparrow and Morning Dove. Two Yellow Finches start to get their YELLOW on!


The White-Breasted Nuthatch, my favorite. The hardest working bird around, IMO. The Starlings also love the suet. I’ve got to tap on the window to scare them away. If it gets out there’s suet here, all I’ll have is Starlings!


© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl