Nature Walk – Humboldt Park

I actually did this walk at the end of May but life got a little busy so I didn’t finish writing about it until now. In the meantime we have found a new apartment in Logan Square and will be moving in July 1st. So in a way this is a bit of a goodbye to Humboldt Park, I’ll miss the park and the green space and the relative quiet of our street. Other things I won’t miss at all and I welcome the return of my sanity! ūüėČ

Sears Tower in the Early morning light

Sears Tower in the Early morning light

So as promised I woke up at 5:30 this morning and went on a wildlife walk. I didn’t find as much as I did last time but it was still a good walk and there were a lot of birds. The first thing I did standing on the porch was take a picture of ¬†the Sears Tower as it was being lit by the early morning light. ¬†I caught a gull flying by and the street light pole that, as far as I can tell, ¬†got hit by a car. I went down the stairs stopping to look at the carnage that was our front garden. The landlady had her brother cut the lawn (finally after like 2 months of having the most¬†embarrassing¬† garden on the block!)¬†But instead of just cutting the grass, he hacked all the ground cover on the sides down to the bare dirt! It looks terrible and I would care more but I am only here for one more month anyway so I don’t really.

Wetland Ponds

Wetland Ponds

I crossed the road and into the park. ¬†My first stop is always the wetland ponds. In high summer last year they were mostly empty, but right now they are full of water and surrounded by wild irises. ¬†I didn’t know what kind they were until I saw the Halcyon River Diaries where they were planting them along the river. ¬†They are Yellow Flag Irises and unfortunately they are not native to North America and are a highly invasive species here. ¬†They are pretty though! I didn’t see the¬†raccoons¬†this time but there were quite a few crows making a rackets as I passed by. ¬†I think a lot of the birds like the crows and later blackbirds have nests or something because they were all very loud and keep an eye on me while I was in their territory!

Funny Tree at the Wetland Ponds

Funny Tree at the Wetland Ponds

As always I took a photo of the funny tree next to¬†the bridge (I should really find out what species it is) and I am pleased with the way the light hit it, early morning and late afternoon light is always the best! I stoped to take a picture of some of the irises that looked whiter than the rest, I don’t know if they are just faded or a mutation. The crows kept up their vigil cawing at me and flying from tree to tree¬†until I moved away from¬†the¬†ponds and towards the Stables. ¬†Their territory must have extended only to Division St or thereabouts because when I crossed it they stopped following me.

A very concerned crow

A very concerned crow

I headed for the Rose Garden to see the roses blooming, the climbing roses were in full swing but the white bush roses were almost finished, I’ll have to go back and see if they bloom more than once. I am sure that bush rose isn’t the correct name, but they weren’t floribunda, they had blooms like wild roses do. I’ll have to look them up as well. I am kind of surprised they don’t have more varieties of roses, no hybrid teas or anything. It’s kind of disappointing actually. So I moved on from the rose garden, crossing under the tall trees until I reached the Prairie river. It seemed a bit stagnant, but perhaps since there was no wind or enough sun to run the pump the water hadn’t started circulating yet.

A light yellow iris at the wetland ponds

A light yellow iris at the wetland ponds

I did find arrowhead plant which I thought was kind of neat as Native Americans used to eat the roots like ¬†potatoes. ¬†I also noticed the path was lit up by the early morning light so I snapped a pic to add to my forked path collection ūüôā The path here is well shaded and cool, a welcome respite from the noise and bustle of the city. You can almost forget you aren’t in the middle of the country here. I crossed the bridge heading for the¬†Field House¬†and back into the sunlight. I was taking pictures of the light playing on the water when I saw on the far bank a female mallard duck and her ducklings! She had them in a clever spot, it’s very inaccessible which is why I had to take my photo from all the way on the other side.

The Arbor in the Rose Garden

The Arbor in the Rose Garden

As I was watching, the male flew back from where ever he was and landed on the water and swam up to his little family and stood protectively over them and I then noticed there were some gulls and other birds (as yet unidentified) that did look like they might be interested in baby duck for breakfast! I also saw big splashes and ripples from something in the water, if you recall I thought it was some sort of mammal but no, I finally saw some fins and it turns out they are big fish! Far bigger than I thought they would be (as I would later find out) but I see why people fish in the lagoon now as I always thought it was a bit pointless thinking that the fish would be tiny things.

Iris and Arrowroot in the Prairie river

Iris and Arrowhead in the Prairie river

After watching the ducklings until the parents moved them deeper into the weeds to save them from the aforementioned birds of doom I went under the Humboldt Dr bridge and over to the lagoon. There I watched the Barn Swallows dip down catching bugs over the water, I tried to photograph them but they were too fast! I did find some very pretty water lily pads though, no blooms yet, but the leaves are a kaleidescope of colors on the water, with the ubiquitous irises, it looked like an impressionist painting, I see why Monet enjoyed painting them so much now. It makes me want to get out there and start painting, something I have been thinking about for a while anyway.

The fork in the road...

The fork in the road...

I went all the away around the lagoon this time, and I saw the Black Locust trees in bloom, many ducks as always, about a million blackbirds, but I didn’t see the Brown Creeper I saw in April. In fact the trip around the lagoon was mostly uneventful until I came around to the shore across from the fishing island. There in the tree canopy were at least 20 or so baby squirrels running around like crazy things up and down the trunks and leaping from tree to tree. It was hard to photograph them even though there were so many because they wouldn’t keep still! I don’t think I have ever seen so many in one place though, the trees were noisy with them. I went on the fishing island and didn’t really see much but I got a nice shot of one of the blackbirds.

Mallard duck with ducklings

Mallard duck with ducklings

There was one man fishing and he seemed vaguely disturbed by my presence so I left him to it and crossed the bridge back to shore.
I then noticed more huge splashes and more fins sticking up out of the water. Suddenly a huge fish swam into the shallows and the reeds at the edge of the water and I realized that this fish was probably at least a foot and half long and maybe eight inches around (it’s hard to estimate but it isn’t a fish story really!) I tried to get the camera ready in time, but again nature proved much quicker than I and in a second he splashed his way back out to the middle of the lagoon and disappeared.

Ducklings, close up

Ducklings, close up

Knowing that my river/lagoon monsters turned out to just be fat trout doesn’t bother me though, I finally got to see one more animal that lives in the park, even if they aren’t otters. Who knows, maybe there are some otters I just haven’t seen yet! Anyway, I continued around the lagoon, scaring the ducks that were sunning themselves outside the boathouse when I heard a familiar honking ¬†and I looked up and saw a huge V of geese flying from the south (of course) over the western edge of the park. I snapped a few photos but only one came out. I wonder where they were going, I only saw one goose in the whole park that day which is probably just as well, I don’t want to run into a nesting goose they tend to be extremely cranky and I don’t want to get pecked!

Yellow Flag Irises

Yellow Flag Irises

I went back under the bridge and walked along the other side of the Prairie River enjoying the lush greenery and being very glad it was spring! I chatted with a lady walking her dog about the fact they filled the swimming lagoon next to the Field House up with water this year. We both agreed we would never swim in it especially when we realized how much geese poop in a day (up to a pound!) and how undiscriminating they are in their choice of toilet! I kept on with the plan of seeing if the waterfall was up and running ( it wasn’t in April when I was there last) but I could see that it was still empty with no water running down it, so I continued on back towards home.

Waterlilies and the Wildlife Island

Waterlilies and the Wildlife Island

I made my way across the street back towards the wetlands ponds, where I took a zillion more pictures until my camera started to run out of batteries. I did finally find a purple Iris! It looks different than the yellow ones so I thought it was a Japanese Iris, but in fact it is a native Blue Flag Iris.  They seem to be less prolific than the Yellow Flag, since I only saw the one at the ponds and one very light purple one near the river, they are probably being taken over which is a shame. I wonder if there will be an effort to re-establish them in the park.  Upon leaving the park, I saw a tree that had lost a huge a branch in the latest thunderstorm. The branch was lying on the ground and it looked as big as a whole tree!

Squirrel

Squirrel

Looking at the branch and the jagged bit it left on the tree it was easy to see why the branch had fallen off, most of the inside was rotted away, probably eaten by bugs. I’ve noticed that a lot of the Catalpas have huge dead bits sticking off of them in the park and up the Boulevards and in the summer you always see them losing huge rotted branches after storms, it’s a bit depressing actually. This one was a Maple and I hope it’s just something that happens to trees and it’s not something like Dutch Elm disease or something. The Ash tree in front of our house looks like it lost a branch some years a go and it’s fine, if a little lopsided.

Red Wing Blackbird on the Fishing Island

Red Wing Blackbird on the Fishing Island

I’ll probably do one more major walk through the park before I move because even though I am only moving about 2 miles away, it won’t be the same as being a block away. I will definitely swing by during the autumn so I can photograph the beautiful foliage as it changes. And having lived near Logan Blvd before, it is almost like a small park itself, with trees and flowers and some people even plant vegetable gardens on the medians. There is also Palmer Square which is a small but pretty park as well as Haas Park although that one is more utilitarian than scenic.

It does look like I will have some more opportunities to observe and photograph nature further afield this summer however.

A *big* fish!

A *big* fish!

For Summer Solstice Wild Onion Grove is going to Illinois Beach State Park in Zion IL for our Festival of Dionysus. As the name implies, it is on the beach, far north of the city and it features dunes and forests, so I am very much looking forward to it.

I am also hoping to convince my friends to go back to Jackson Park as well as when we went there the first time I didn’t have my camera on me. I would like to get some shots of the Osaka Japanese Garden, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Clarence Darrow bridge, which is supposedly haunted by his ghost! The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (the same man who designed Central Park in New York City) for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.

Mallards sunning themselves at the Boathouse

Mallards sunning themselves at the Boathouse

At the Solstice planning meeting S and I were talking about the parks Olmsted designed and how they had the TARDIS like quality of being bigger on the inside, and having been to both Central Park and Jackson Park I can say this is indeed true, the man was clearly a magician or a genius!

Both J and ¬†the G’s want to go on camping trips this summer, J wants to go on a small trial run trip and then a big trip to somewhere like Starved Rock which besides being a place of great natural beauty and historical significance is also reputedly haunted.

A line of Canadian Geese

A line of Canadian Geese

The G’s and the gang have been talking about going somewhere in Wisconsin, possibly somewhere with archaeological sites and probably a lake. ¬†I think we decided on Door County up in the North East corner of the State. It’s a peninsula and has many state parks, ancient villages, a German WWII ¬†POW camp, 12 lighthouses and is known as the Cape Cod of the Midwest. Sounds good to me! ¬†I also would like to go somewhere and stargaze at some point, you can hardly see any stars in the city. The Milky Way and the Summer Triangle are both visible at this time of year. ¬†I am not as familiar with the summer sky as the winter one so it will be interesting to learn more about it and it’s a lot more pleasant to be outside in July than January! I will have to borrow some good quality binoculars and if I am very lucky I might find someone with a working telescope!

The Prairie River

The Prairie River

To round out what is beginning to sound like a very busy summer, I’d like to go out to the countryside somewhere at night and watch the fireflies. ¬†Obviously we have them in the city but I’m told that to truly appreciate them you need to get out into the wilds where they float over the meadows and fields by the thousands! I’ll try my best to capture them with my camera, but I expect I’ll have a lot of pictures of green streaks on a black background! Still it’s worth a shot, maybe get a video camera out there make a nice video set it to some classical music. It’s an idea worth thinking about anyway.

I finally found a purple Iris!

I finally found a purple Iris!

At any rate, I will have some new photos and new nature walks to write about; Lake Michigan and the dunes, the canyons and waterfalls of Starved Rock and the Illinois river, new animals, hopefully some lighthouses, and possibly some new stars and even galaxies! As much as I love Humboldt Park, it will be exciting to see some new places!

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~ by Caroline on June 16, 2010.

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