Posts Tagged ‘Cook County Forest Preserve District’

There we were, two pilgrims, on the southbound side of a narrow road, looking to catch the sunset. We were stopped at a cross road at a red light. There was a cemetery and Long John Slough to the right. Cook County Forest Preserves and Crawdad Slough hung to the road on the left. All but the cemetery are a part of the vast acreage of the Cook County Forest Preserve District.

I was first in line when the light changed, with several cars lined up behind me. I accelerated at a good clip as I crossed the road, only to see something in the middle of it. We both let out a verbal volley of “what’s that” as I swerved into the northbound lane, grateful no cars were coming from that direction, and slowed to just shy of a stop.

“Is that a turtle” and “Yes, I think it is” was exchanged while backed-up motorists were wondering what was going on.

Slowly, ever-so-slowly, I crept past, propelled by a stanza of “ohnoohnoohno“. Turning the car around, I parked close to the embankment. We each tumbled out of the car, waving our hands in a universal gesture of “stop”.

As if on cue from Central Casting, a marked vehicle pulled up. “It’s a turtle” said I while my other half, a patch on one eye from a medical procedure, assessed the slow moving situation. “I think I can pick it up from behind.

Is it a snapping turtle?” came from the marked vehicle, which I thought was a police car.  “Ummmm” and then “Yeah. It’s a snapper” as we watched the now angry turtle snapping and turning, round and around, in super slo-mo. Mr. Turtle was smack dab in the middle of here to there, with cars come from everywhere, an anxious granny and her antler man and some sort of officer, armed with a shovel and didn’t seem to know what to do anymore than we did.

Should we contact a forest ranger?” said the granny.  “I AM a ranger” piped the shovel brandishing, rather indignant one.

(Well, really, how was I to know? We seemed to know more about rounding up turtles than HE did.”  This tale at this point is one almost worthy of Aesop.)

I emptied a box from the trunk of the car and put it gently atop the turtle, who thrashed and pushed and did what turtles do, relieved himself just missing my foot.

Just then, a motorcycle zoomed past – and then came to a stop. In one snappy motion, the young man was off of his bike, handing his helmet to his riding companion, and crossing the road. “What’s the problem?” said he, staring calmly at a box toting granny, a man with an eye patch, and a ranger with a shovel standing at attention.  It was almost, not quite, American Gothic.

The young cycling chap approached Mr. Turtle, escaped from under the box and snapping away. “Well now, I’ll just pick him up from behind and walk him over there to the shore” – and he did! He grabbed the turtle and held him out far enough to escape the turtle’s aim. Slowly, but surely, the easy rider and the turtle crossed the road, went down the slope of Long John’s slough, and snip, snap, snout – this tale is told out!




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Herons and hawks and eagles, oh my!

It has been a mad March hereabouts, with temperatures fluctuating 40 degrees in a matter of a few hours! We have had snow and rain, sunshine and strong winds – March in the Midwest.

The wetlands and ponds and sloughs in our little kingdom have, however, tempered the gloom of this frenetic month, as the great bird migration takes place.

Perhaps it is my own increased awareness and interest in birds as I wander the habitats around me, but it seems that his year, this spring, there have been more birds, especially waterfowl, stopping by for some R & R, courting and breeding and feeding,

I really need to take my serious camera with me on my excursions; that and a bit more patience. I squeal and clap with the glee of young schoolgirl when I need to be still and calm and present.

I was driving, barely pedaling at 10 mph, in the parking lot at the boat dock at the Saganashkee Slough (aka Sag Slough). I thought I saw something. I stopped, looked up through the sun roof, and there he was, in all his glory – a bald eagle. He circled and circled, just over my head, close enough for me to see his white head and distinguished tail. The circles grew wider and wider, with this majestic bird rising and soaring until he became but a speck in the distant sky.

The very next day, parking my car at the grocery store, a red-tailed hawk swooped past me and landed, quite authoritatively, upon an electrical pole. A small field of dormant grasses and a paved parking lot were his domain. I am quite certain he looked at me and winked. While I was shopping, so was he. As I walked toward my car, he swooped off his hi-wire perch, his purchase in his talons as I carried a sack of groceries in my as I headed back to my car.

There was also this drama another day this past week; a day when the wind was still and the temperature warm.

I was at the very same boat launch at the Sag Slough. I rounded the bend and saw one of those puzzles common in a children’s publications with the caption “what doesn’t belong in this picture?”. I drove back around to figure it out. There it was, plumes of white peaking over the launch –  and me in my driving machine. I arrived just in time to see it, a snowy egret, arise from among a gathering of gulls and sweep across the water before resting further along the shoreline.


Sensing the shore was where the action was, I went around the parking lot, again.

I wonder if a drone has been watching me, the goofy granny in a mocha VW, circling a small parking lot, at a boat launch with no boats, going 10 mph).

It was on that third lap of ring-around-the-wildlife that I saw a heron in the grasses.

I stopped, parked, stood next to my car. The heron turned, waded a few yards down the shore, stopped, waited, then in an instant speared his meal. Gulls and geese and ducks and cars went about their noon-time business while the heron prepped his catch, putting it in the water, then out again, repeating the process. He expertly carried the fish a few feet, lifted his head. I watched, in awe as he tossed the fish into the air – and caught it. He swallowed and I could see the fish slowly slide down the heron’s long, elegant neck. It was dramatic, dear friends, and it was nature at its most pristine.


This Great Blue Heron, sated and stately, prepared for lift-off. Like the egret earlier, the heron arose from the water. He flew low and swiftly along the shore. I watched in awe and wonder in this mad and marvelous month of March.

Are you seeing birds in your neck of the woods? Are they nesting? Migrating? Settling in for the season ahead? Leaving for greener pastures?

Bald eagle photo and more information from here



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Singularly, or together, Tom and I often visit this slough; the Saganashkee. Four miles long, it is only about six feet at its deepest spot. There are several pull-offs from the boundary roads for cars and motorcycles to park, a boat launch for kayaks, and canoes On many half-way decent days, fishermen and women can be found on the shore. often young children in tow learning to fish.

Co-mingling along the Saganashkee’s shoreline, waterfowl, songbirds, and birds of prey seek shelter in the trees, take refuge among the cattails, and soar overhead looking for a meal  – or dancing their mating waltzes. Geese, egrets, herons, hawks  – even Sandhill cranes abound, along with their homo-sapien counterparts,who come equipped with cameras and binoculars . At the height of the migratory seasons, tripods and stilted legs are in equal fashion with long-legged Great Blue Herons.  It is an area known by birds and birders alike.

I turned into one of the pull-offs and parked the car, an eye to the sky. My friend Phyllis identified a Bald Eagle in the area and I was hoping to catch a glimpse, which I did. The eagle was soaring in the distance; a magnificent sight to behold.

Cell phone in hand (it counts my steps), I walked a short distance, surprised by a gathering of dozens of birds I did not recognize. At first, it looked like aIMG_6359 herd of black sheep. A few steps later, perhaps wild turkeys?  Closer still, I could tell they were smaller in size than the common geese that were sharing their mid-afternoon snacks.  Eventually, they sensed my presence.  Long-legged and flat-footed, the scurried into the slough, a few fly-skipping.

Were they ducks? Swan? Black Swans have been passing through the area in the past several years, but, they seemed too small.

I asked my Facebook friends if anyone knew what they were, and they commented with some interesting choices. I must tell you, it was really great fun. Guinea fowl, mud hens, mergansers – and several other birds were suggested. I clicked on all sorts of birding sites, hoping to identify this flock.

DSCN9944I even dragged Tom to the area, not once, but, twice, and have returned as recently as two days ago, where these birds are still around. I believe they are migrating north and have stopped for a while to rest, eat, possibly convene for a bird convention.  We estimated around 60 birds as they floated along the shore on Easter Sunday.

It was, in fact, on Easter Sunday that I was able to get close enough to capture enough features; beak, head, coloring, feet, flight.  Coots!

I wonder if they will still be around today?

Have you met a new or interesting bird lately?


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It was an afternoon of perfect temperatures and cotton candy clouds. Tom spent the morning working hard on life while I had been cast under the spell of a garden party. We married the two and went for a ride just a miles off the Cutoff to Maple Lake, where the clouds tipped down and kissed the water

while dragonflies darted mysteriously past children fishing along the glacial etched rocks

and rested upon the soft coat of cattails.

Where have you walked lately?

(Click on the cattails to find the dragonfly)

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We waited quietly along the shore of the pond, then I saw it. Can you? You might have to click on the picture once or twice to see, but there it is. A frog. Silent and still in the shallow rim of the pond. Waiting. It was one of many Tom and I saw as we took a walk on a warm and sunny afternoon in the Little Red Schoolhouse Woods.

When Tom asked if I’d like a walk on one of the rare days it didn’t rain, I said yes. A gal working on getting her bounce back can always use a walk in a 100 acre woods, can she not?

The paths were muddy through the White Oak Trail, but the Trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and May apple were abundant on the forest floor and worth the trudge just to see them.

We swatted away at the filaments of spiders’ webs that seemed to be everywhere we walked, and a banded water snake slithered in front of Tom. Penelope Pitstop saw it, and didn’t panic, saving the Antler Man’s, or maybe the snake’s, life. A gals gotta do what a gals gotta do, I always say.

Ponds are always full of life and fascinate me. Even in winter, there is activity teeming just under the surface. Spring, ah,  springtime finds ponds full of drama, especially in this neck of the woods, and it was so on this walk about.

Several children were watching the schools of fish along the pond’s edge and folks out for a bit of sunshine and fresh air passed by. I noticed something in the center of a patch of lily pads. Still and camouflaged, it must have been standing there the whole tim. We never saw it swoop in. We watched as it perched upon a twig. It looked rather squat and small – until it’s neck slowly telescoped out and it quickly dipped into the murky water for a snack. Finally, this green heron swooped up and across the pond to a branch, sharing it with a turtle, which you can see to the right and down with a click or two on the picture.

We walked along the pond’s edge and wondered what else we could find.

Do click on the picture above. There are at least three frogs here. A regular Froggy Convention.

Isn’t it amazing what flourishes right under our noses?

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“. . . In these beautiful days which are now passing, go into the forest & the leaves hang silent & sympathetic, unobtrusive & related, like the thoughts which they so hospitably enshrine. Could they tell their sense, they would become the thoughts we have; could our thoughts take form they would hang as sunny leaves.”     

“A Year With Emerson”, selected & edited by Richard Grossman, October 9.

We went into the forest on a warm and sunny October afternoon, just a few miles and minutes from our home. We gathered the beauty around us as we admired the sunny leaves. What a joy it was to find this wooded treasure so close to our house – and what a joy it is to have Emerson’s words in this lovely volume.

We wandered around the edge of Maple Lake, where plants were dying back, their seed pods bursting forth with all the promises of another spring. There really is a beauty in the grasses and prairie plants come October. They bring about a restfulness in their hues of brown and yellow. They also give nature’s most amazing backdrop to the fall asters and the butterflies who are still seeking nourishment.

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