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Posts Tagged ‘Saganashkee Slough’

I

have been

chasing sunsets.

Ever since August’s solar eclipse, which cast its spell on random groups of strangers, I have been wandering off our little acreage just before to sunset to bid farewell to the day.

While we reside in a semi-rural area nestled underneath a generous canopy of trees, the windy city’s skyscrapers loom to the east and suburban development rises to the west. We are not in the best of spots for capturing the rising or setting sun.

So it was the other day, with nary a ray of sunshine shining upon on our little prairie, that the Antler Man encouraged me to head down the road in search of the sunset. He reminded me of the many times we’ve driven up the hill only to be blinded by the setting sun as we reached the apex.

Thus encouraged and energized, off I went and sure enough, I was startled by sunlight before making my way around the bend in the road.

I headed over to an unlikely spot on a well-traveled road that the locals frequent. My cell phone app conveniently told me the hour and minute the sun would set, giving me an ETA with ten or fifteen minutes to spare.

There were several cars already parked in the narrow wayside at the Saganashkee Slough. A few fishermen set their lines over the rail while two teenaged girls were having fun with what appeared to be carpool karaoke. I could see them mouthing words, gesticulating and bouncing to music, which I could barely hear (thank goodness) as they politely closed the car’s windows. A serious photographer had what looked like an intricate camera perched on a tripod and other sunset-seekers were sitting on portable directors’ chairs while a few children did what children do – they ran around laughing and shouting and bickering and hugging.

Two boys, around the ages of eight and ten, darted to and fro, stopping to ask “Papa, did you start it?”. “Yes” said Papa, patiently, while another child, a girl, a few years older than the oldest boy read a book in a nearby chair.

I found a spot along the rail, looking toward the descending sun, then turned my back while I engaged my cell phone’s camera.

“Did you set your camera to time-lapse?” a younger voice asked me.

Well, no, I had not, and told the older boy I was just taking photos. He thought I needed to do a time-lapse. I had a few minutes, Papa indicated it was okay, and I was given a mini-lesson in time-lapse photography by a ten year old boy!

I looked across the slough, really a big lake, and told my two new friends that it was time.

“Papa, are you ready?”  He was and I said “There goes the sun. Let’s start counting down from 3, 2, 1!” The sun disappeared as we exclaimed our collective delight. The children’s father thanked me for being nice to his sons and I thanked them all for showing me how to work my camera in a new way. Cars were started, the karaoke kids stopped performing, fishing poles and tripods were dismantled and another day was done.

As I opened the door to my car, the older boy ran up to me and asked if I would come back another time. I told him I would and that I hoped we could all watch another sunset.

There have been other sunsets to chase since then, and there will be more in days to come, but this one sunset gave me a just a few extra rays of hope in this troubled and turbulent world we live it.

 

 

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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.

Wow!

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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IMG_6421My posts seem to be arriving as sporadically as Spring. Business and busyness are wiggling their way into my life these days.  I wonder about your life as well.

We had a quiet Easter Sunday here on the Cutoff. Following a moving church service and a time of fellowship with good friends, we wound our way home, taking the scenic route through towns with estates, down country-like roads. on to the vast acreage of the Cook County Forest Preserves. We do this as often as we can, appreciating the beauty that anchors our lives, feeling fortunate and blessed to live so close nature and thankful of those who came before us who preserved such large areas of forest and prairie, fens and marshes, trees and wildflowers.

We were also on a mission. Earlier in the week I noticed a flock of birds, unfamiliar to me, who had congregated along the shore of the nearby Saganashkee Slough. I will write more about them in another post, but, below is a photo of our migratory visitors.

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Once home, our cameras loaded with nature shots,and a few of my feet or Tom’s nose, we each found a nest of our own to nestle in, relax, read, watch television, even take a little nap. It is good to relax and refresh sometimes.

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A big meal really wasn’t practical for just the two of us, but, a nice dinner, by candlelight, filled with flowers and reflection rounded out our Easter.  It was a simple supper; pork tenderloin (which I stuffed with apples and raisins), fresh, roasted asparagus spears, and baked sweet potatoes. Peter Rabbit joined us, munching on his carrot, and I, dear reader, felt once again the warmth of the season before us, the sacrifice so long ago behind made, and the hope of what lies ahead.

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I hope you are enjoying your emerging season, whether here in the northern hemisphere where the grass is turning greener and trees are showing buds, or you are enjoying autumn and look toward the  winter ahead in the southern hemisphere. I wish you peace as you begin your week, and soon a new month.

 

 

 

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