Sunday, January 14, 2018

Happy New Year 2018 - Chicago Street Art

I want to wish all my readers a Happy 2018, may you have good health, good luck and good times this coming year.

Per usual I spent Christmas and New Year's at my sisters in Chicago. For the first part of my visit the weather wasn't too bad so on a couple of days (one cloudy) I was able to get out and about with the camera. Then a cold front came in and it was too cold to spend much time outside and with the wind chill factor dangerous to exposed skin (temps were below 10 degrees F on a couple of days) so my photography trips were called off, it was just too darn cold.

Anyway Chicago has a lot of hmm, lets call it street art. These first two photos are buildings that have been painted to call attention to themselves. Both of these are restaurants, the top one a barbecue place and the one below I think was a Mexican Restaurant.  For the barbecue place they just painted the building over the entrance. In the one below they painted the entire rear of the adjoining building, fake windows, fake arch, fake courtyard and even fake stairs. I am sure that in the summer there are tables in this area and it must be a pleasant place to sit and eat. The fountain is real.

Please don't ask me where these restaurants are, I have no clue other than on the North side of downtown Chicago and toward the lake, Lincoln Park area (I think) I do all my wanderings starting on foot from my sisters and usually walk toward the lake (east) and usually south (toward downtown) but I don't really bother with street names or addresses. If I end up over by the lake and Lincoln Park I know which buses will get me back to her house otherwise I am happy to just wander. 

But Chicago also likes to put up sculptures and other types of art works on street corners and in small parks.

The colorful bends above are to mark one of the areas that make up the City of Chicago, The sign says Lakeview East, different areas have different signs.

Above is one of the Corner Sculptures I found, I don't recall what the marker said about it. It just sits out on a street corner, I would think that they might be worried that someone would try to take it, but then again maybe not.

Near a Children's Hospital I found a small park, there was a sculpture of children playing a circle game in the center of the park, and this one on the corner, not sure what it is supposed to be.

As a final photograph, Chicago has a Nature Museum located a bit north of the Lincoln Park Zoo. It is near a pond and also fairly close to the Lake (Lake Michigan) Instead of a lawn with mowed grass they have landscaped much of the area around the building as native prairie: using native shrubs and plants. The photo above is of some flower heads (seed heads) left from last summer. I don't know what the flower is/was but thought the seed heads interesting.

I have visited the Museum in the past, they have a butterfly room with live mostly tropical butterflies, it was fun to try and photograph them, they also have exhibits showcasing native animals and their habitat.  A good place to visit with young children, when my sister and I visited food was in short supply so I suggest a packed lunch if you are in the area and want to visit.

That is it for today, not sure when my next update will be or what it will be about. I am finding that I don't have a lot of motivation to get out the camera when it is freezing cold or the ground is snow covered. Ah well, per usual comments are welcome.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Rejected Photos and some art

I have been working on next years (2018) calendars. Every year I try to select the best photographs I have made over the past year and create calendars for family and/or friends. This year there are 3 different calendars.: one with bird photographs, another with butterfly photos, and the 3rd with, this year anyway "Landscape" photos. Not that all of the photos in the Landscape Calendar are really of landscapes. Feeling that just landscape photos would get boring (the area I make my photographs in is fairly limited) I included some photos that are more close up photos of nature, not long distant shots so I have fudged a bit.

The bird and butterfly calendars are in a way a bit easier to pull together, I just pull out my best photographs and select from there. Since I need 14 photographs for each calendar I usually don't end up with a lot of extra. Esp. as I don't want to repeat species in each year. But with the landscape calendar there are some months that are harder to make the final selection for. So this blog post includes my "rejected" calendar photos. They didn't make the final cut, but were selected as possibles.

The above photo was a possible March. For the Landscape calendar, photos are made in the month they represent. This one was made in March at Ponkapoag Golf Course, showing the Sugar Maples that line the road leading back to the Bluehills Reservation area around the pond.

The above photo was made in Ames Nowell State Park, Abington, MA in April. Powered boats are not allowed on lakes in the state parks, but some visitors bring inflatable kayaks or canoes such as seen here.

This photo was made in my local city park in August, and shows this year's swan family, parents and cygnets swimming away from me. I used another photo of the swans in the calendar, one I liked better, and didn't want to repeat the image, so this one got cut.

The photograph above was made at the Governor Ames Estate, Easton, MA in July. This is what I mean when I say that not all of the photos are "Landscapes". Still nature, but not a long distance shot. I really like this photo of water lilies, but it just didn't fit in for that month.

This photo was made at Daniel Webster, MA Audubon site in Marshfield, MA in June. It shows the fields where the bobolinks make their nests. The fields are mowed toward the end of every summer so that the trees don't take over, but it is done after the young birds have fledged so are out of the fields. I just liked the range of values and colors in this photo, but it just didn't fit so got eliminated.

Hope you enjoyed this peak behind the curtain so to speak and like viewing my "rejected" photos.

Lately I have been trying to get back to some of my other loves (drawing and sewing) so above are two bookmarks that I have been working on. I painted a made up landscape on some watercolor paper, then cut the paper into strips and added ink work over the painting. There are a couple of more that I need to finish, but these two are the ones I have done so far. I apply acrylic medium to the fronts and backs which not only makes them waterproof but pretty durable.

That is it for today. Per usual comments are welcome

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fall Berries

Every plant that flowers produces seeds, some plants encase the seeds in pulp and an outer cover to temp birds, insects or other animals to carry them away and eat them. Today's blog showcases photos I have made in recent weeks of various berries.

I don't usually see these berries ripe. I think the birds and chipmunks get them as soon as they are ripe, or it could be that I just wasn't paying enough attention. But the above photo made at the Governor Ames Estate in Easton, MA., Sept. 4, of a single remaining berry on a Canada Mayflower plant is an exception. Canada Mayflower is a common native plant of New England woods blooming with white flowers in the spring (usually May).

Roses start blooming in early summer (mid June) and will usually bloom through early July. The fruits of the rose flower are called Rose Hips. We have several native rose species here in MA. and to be honest I am not sure which one is represented in the above photo, made at Daniel Webster MA Audubon, Marshfield, MA. on Sept. 24, 2017. A source of food for birds they are also can be used by humans.

Another native plant of the forest floor is Wintergreen. The red berry above is the fruit of this plant that prefers acidic soils, and is the original source of the flavoring Wintergreen. Native Americans used this berry for many purposes including making a tea. I photographed these plants at Ames Nowell State Park, Abington, MA. on Sept. 29, 2017.

Here is another native plant of the forest floor. You have to be paying attention to notice this small berry growing among the low growing leaves, though the red color does attract attention. This is Partridge Berry and is unusual because the single fruit is formed from the two flowers that bloomed in early summer. I found these plants in my local city park, (Brockton, MA) though it is a common plant in this area. Photographed Sept. 28, 2017.

The above berries are of the Bittersweet Nightshade, also called Climbing Nightshade. This non-native plant can be found in waste places and often in your own yard where soil has been disturbed and weeds allowed to grow. I photographed this plant at the Golf Course at Ponkapoag Pond, Canton, MA., Oct. 3, 2017. They are pretty berries but toxic to humans so should not be eaten.

The red berries above are an excellent winter food source for birds. They are hard so birds seem to prefer them after they have softened due to time and frosts. These are the berries of the Winterberry bush.  There are several species that are called winterberry that have bright red berries, I believe this is Smooth Winterberry as I photographed it growing at the edge of Ponkapoag Pond, Canton, MA., Oct. 3, 2017. A native bush that is a good addition to a yard where the owner wants to have bird friendly plantings. The small white flowers aren't showy but they do attract native pollinators and bloom early summer.

These are the berries of the Pokeweed plant. The berries are poisonous to humans but young leaves can be eaten after appropriate processing. That said they are a food source for birds. The plants are large and bushy and can often be seen along roadsides. I photographed these at Great Blue Hill, Canton, MA, Oct. 4, 2017. Native Americans used the plant for medicinal purposes and the berries can be used as a dye.

As a reversal of how I used to do the blog, above is a drawing I recently made. It is Inktober time, that month in the year where artists are urged to create a daily ink drawing for the 31 days of the month. I don't know how well I will do this year, so far not too well, only 2 drawings finished, but I may do better. In any case I managed this one of a couple of spotted wintergreen plants with their growing seed pods. I used a dip pen and  India ink for this drawing.

That is it for today, per usual comments are welcome. Please note that I have provided links to appropriate pages for each named plant, though the link for the Rose Hips is to a page that discusses uses.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


 It is officially Fall, the autumn equinox was last Friday, Sept. 22.  Here in New England Asters are the native wild flower of fall. They are mostly white flowers with yellow centers, though there are some pink, violet, lavender or purple ones also. They bloom in the woods in the shade, and also in the open fields in the sun.

The photos today are of various Asters I have photographed in recent weeks. Identifying an aster isn't always easy, there are 100's of varieties world wide and about 40 here in New England.

I am not sure if the flowers above are Flat Topped White Aster or Toothed White Topped Aster, I didn't photograph the leaves which would tell me, though I know I photographed the flowers at Nasketucket Bay State Reservation in Mattapoisett, MA. on Sept. 1, 2017

Also photographed at Nasketucket Bay was this Whorled Wood Aster. I lucked out with a splash of sunlight to illuminate this plant as it was growing beside the path in the woods.

I think the above photo is of Calico or Starved Aster flowers, I photographed this in the power line cut at Ames Nowell State Park, Sept. 21, 2017. In this instance the flowers were a pale lilac, quite pretty.

I believe the flowers above are from a Small White Aster, though there is at least one other species that is possible. I suppose I should be taking one of my field guides with me on my walks, but I hate carrying the extra weight. Photographed at Great Blue Hill, in the Blue Hills Reservation Sept. 23, 2017.

These next two photos are both of New England Asters, our largest and showiest of the Native Asters that bloom in the fall. They can have a fairly wide color range from pink to a dark purple. These were photographed at Forge Pond, Hanover, MA. Sept. 24, 2017.

The yellow in the above photo is one of our many varieties of goldenrod. 

I found this web site if you are interested in reading more about Asters, also the New England Wild Flower web site lists all of these species, links to their site are attached to their names above. Please note  my Wild Flower guides are old, recent genetic information has caused the Asters to be reclassified (Latin names) and NE Wild Flower Society uses some different common names. If you garden some of these asters have been developed as garden plants, usually easy to grow, it is nice to have some flowers that wait until fall to bloom.

I thought I would end this post with a Dragonfly photo, this is one of the Autumn Meadow Hawk dragonflies, which one I am not sure, I am told that to make a correct ID the dragonfly needs to be examined under a microscope. Since I never capture what I photograph I have to be satisfied with just a general ID. Still I think it is a pretty picture. I can tell you that this is a male, males are red, females yellow, and it is one of the white faced species.

That is it for today, per usual comments are welcome.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Introduction to some Mushrooms

Mushrooms, we have all seen them, either on our lawns, or in the woods and even in the supermarkets. But there is more to the group than the standard white mushroom with gills that we purchase in boxes at the Market. Depending on the source mushrooms have been broken down into at least 12 groups, only one of which is mushrooms with gills.

I have always been fascinated by mushrooms and when I acquired a digital camera and started wandering the local woods and parks I also started photographing anything that I found unusual or interesting.  Today's photographs are a selection of some of those photos, some made this year (2017) but others made in previous years. I am not going to try a identify these photos with specific Latin names, only the general group to which they belong, nor am I going to address edibility, if you are interested in that I suggest you purchase one of several guides that can be found either on-line or in a bookstore.  It takes more than a photograph to correctly identify a mushroom, smell, spore prints, etc. are details given in books that I am not even going to try to touch here. Note: I rarely pick the mushrooms I see, so correct identification usually isn't possible.

Before I start identifying the photographs I want to say that all mushrooms have a couple of things in common no matter the shape of the fruiting bodies, and what I have photographed are "fruiting" bodies, they are fed and created by fungi networks (mycelium) that live in soil, wood or other organic substances. The second trait they share is they reproduce by spores.  

OK, on to the photographs, the mushroom in the top photograph (by the way the color is accurate, I did not Photoshop this photo other than to resize it for the web) is a member of the Polypore or Shelf Mushroom group. I believe that this is actually a Sulphur Shelf, but since I am not sure the species of the tree it is growing on I wouldn't eat it. I found this growing in my local Brockton, MA park just this past week. I actually pulled the car over as I was driving by so I could walk back and make the photo.

The mushrooms above are a member of the Coral Fungi family. They sort of look like coral don't they. I believe this is a Ramaria Sp. but could be totally wrong.  I found these in Borderland State Park, Easton, MA. in 2011. 

These spiky white balls are a member of the Puffball family. They have no gills, and while some members of this family may have stalks they still release their spores through slits in the outer covering that occur as the mushroom matures. Photographed this summer in my local Brockton Park. I believe this is Lycoperdon echinatum, but can't swear to it. 

One family in the Mushroom category looks like a "standard" mushroom until you look under the cap to find there are no gills. The spores are released through tubes, so the underside looks spongy. This family is the Boletes. This a semi large family and I am not sure what the above is, perhaps chestnut Bolete (Gyroporus castaneus). Photographed in Ames Nowell State Park, Abington, MA. this summer.

These next three photographs are of mushrooms that belong to the Agarics or gilled mushroom family, which includes most of the mushrooms found in the supermarket. This group is very hard to identify by looks alone as their appearance can mislead the identifier at different stages of growth leading someone to think they have an editable mushroom when in reality it is deadly poisonous.

The white dots on the above mushroom are the remains of the volva (the membrane that covered the mushroom as it developed, and ruptured as it emerged above ground). There are so many types of gilled mushrooms that I haven't even attempted to name these three. The one above was photographed in my local Brockton Park this summer.

Gilled Mushrooms often grow in in clumps, above are a trio that I found growing in the woods in Nasketucket Bay State Reservation in Mattapoisett, MA. this summer. 

This larger clump also photographed this summer was found in Ames Nowell State Park. Can I say that I love to photograph clumps, well I also find individual mushrooms interesting but the clumps really spark my interest.

There are other families of Mushrooms that I haven't photographed (to my knowledge), they include Morels, Stinkhorns, Jelly Fungi, Cup Fungi, False Morels, and Hydnums (Tooth Fungi). I took my family names from a Petterson Mushroom guide I borrowed from the Library. Other information comes from a couple of web sites I have found that are devoted to North American Mushrooms. 

David Fischer's American Mushrooms,   Mushroom Expert,
and Merriam Webster Visual Dictionary 

The first two sites are packed with photographs and detailed information about mushrooms and how to identify them. They also both have information about guide books for those who wish to pursue an interest in Mushrooms.  But be warned both sites are complex and finding exactly what you want may take some time and a bit of browsing. The Webster site identifies the structures of a mushroom.

One last photo, and this one has nothing to do with mushrooms. It is a Doe that I photographed in the Power Line cut at Ames Nowell State Park. I rarely see or even hear deer on my walks even though I know most of the locations where I walk have them in residence. On the day I was in the park there were very few other visitors and none of them must have been in the cut prior to my arriving. This deer was eating until she heard me. She stood like that for about a minute (time for me to make a couple of photographs) and then took off. She looks healthy and well fed so hopefully she will survive the coming winter. She was fairly large so I am assuming a mature Doe, White Tailed Deer, sort of wish it had been a Stag but one takes what one can get.

That is it for today. Took me far too long to pull this post together, hope you enjoy it, comments are welcome, esp if you can identify any of my mushrooms.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Wildflowers I have found

I have been trying to come up with the number of years I have spent hunting wild flowers, both before my digital camera (making photographs) and after its advent. Not quite sure but a ball park number of 15 years (give or take a year or two) sounds about right. Considering my age that is not a huge number of years, but since I am not and have never been a professional botanist I think it is a good number. I will of course check out wild flowers anywhere I travel and they can be seen, but the majority of my hunting grounds are fairly close to home in a pretty limited region, Southeast MA, with some excursions a bit further north. Habitat is mostly fields, woods, pond (lake) edges and some boggy areas that I can easily access. I don't have waders so I don't venture deep into bogs. What I am trying to say is that while I haven't by any stretch of the imagination "seen it all" I have seen and identified a lot of flowers/plants I see on my outings.

The flowers in today's post all share one common feature, these are the first photos I have made of the flower. Some flowers I knew about and the photos are just the icing on the cake so to speak. I was/am happy to finally have them, but I didn't have to do much research to pin a name on them. Others I had to look up, and in a couple of instances ask for help identifying. Oh, another common feature they are native to north America if not originally to MA and they have all been photographed in the past week or so. 

The above little yellow flower (and I do mean little) is Northern Yelloweyed Grass. I found this in a boggy area between two lakes at Massasoit State Park, East Taunton, MA, August 30, 2017.  This is one of those plants that I had seen drawings of but had never seen the actual flower until this past week. In one of my Wild Flower Guides the drawing of this flower is on the same page as Stargrass, a yellow flower that I think I have seen every year I have been looking for wild flowers.

Also found at Massasoit State Park, East Taunton, MA, August 30, 2017, Nodding Ladies Tresses. This is one of our native orchids. Not very showy flower like Lady Slippers are, but still pretty, and I was very happy to find it growing so profusely at Massasoit. It was in the same boggy area as the yellow-eyed grass above.

These next two flowers are both types of clover, actually they are both Bush Clovers, and I found these in my local city park, D W Field Park, Brockton, MA., August 31, 2017. The pink flowers above are Slender Bush Clover. 

The above is Round Headed Bush Clover. I have photographed this plant for years, but this year is the first time I have actually managed to find it in bloom. The flowers aren't very obvious and they don't last long. Found along the same path as the Slender Bush Cover above.

Not the best photo but for some reason I had a hard time photographing these flowers. Still is shows a flower and some of the plant leaves so it is representative. This is Partridge Sensitive Pea, and I found it at Nasketucket Bay Reservation in Mattapoisett, MA. Photographed Sept. 1, 2017. 

This last plant had me totally stumped, it is semi parasitic like Indian Pipes as it links to a fungus network in the soil for its nutrients. In this case the associated trees are Oaks. Many thanks to the members of Native Plants of New England Facebook group for helping me to identify it. This is Hairy Pine-Sap, and is my missing 4th Parasitic plant. See my post on Parasitic Plants back in September, 2017. Photographed September 2, 2017, Ames Nowell State Park, Abington, MA.

That is it for new to me plants that I have seen in the past week or so. Actually there were a couple of others but these are the most interesting and the post was getting too long so I will stop here. Please note that there are links to GoBotany for each flower if you are interested in Latin names or other facts, or if you wish to view other images.

As a final image today, above is a young Great Blue Heron that I photographed waiting for dinner to swim by in my local park.

One last comment, on my trip to Mattapoisett I photographed 2 (new to me) butterflies, a Red Banded Hairstreak and a Zabulon Skipper that I have added to the Butterfly page. That is it for today, per usual comments are welcome. Hope you enjoyed this post.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Butterflies, Damselflies, and Goldenrod

Painted Lady Butterfly

It has been too long since my last blog update. Oops though it isn't entirely my fault, I have been sick, very sick, but am now getting better and after about 4 weeks out of the field I have actually been able to get out with the camera. So today's post are some of my more recent photographs. This update was supposed to be about mushrooms, but my research just isn't happening as quickly as I would like so I thought I would post these instead.

These first two photographs are butterflies that are visitors to MA. They can't overwinter here (too cold) so they usually show up later in the summer, some years they never show up in large numbers. This year for some reason Monarchs arrived early and the Painted Lady above has also been seen in larger than usual numbers along with the Common Buckeye which is usually anything but common.

Monarch Butterfly
I photographed both butterflies in my local city park enjoying the Joe-pye weed. Made for a nice first outing after weeks off my feet.

These next two photos are both Damselflies. Damselfies are Odonate's as are Dragonflies. The difference between Damselflies and Dragonflies is partly size, Damsels are usually smaller, but also they can fold their wings. Dragonfly wings are always open, sometimes angled forward or backward but they can't fold neatly along the back. 

The blue Damsel above is a Skimming Bluet. Both Damsels were photographed at Ames Nowell State Park, Abington, MA. Aug. 25th.

This orange beauty above is an Orange Bluet. I have been wanting to photograph one of these for a while so was happy to see them this week.

It is August so it is time for the Goldenrods to start to bloom. There are many varieties, these two photographs represent just 2 of them, and sorry I can't be more exact than that today.  I was going to include a photo of ragweed in flower, but the photo isn't as sharp as I prefer so am leaving it out. But ragweed is also in bloom and is usually the real cause of hay-fever. Goldenrod pollen is really too heavy to float in the air and be breathed in. Ragweed flowers, on the other hand, are small and green so most people don't even notice that the plant is in bloom, so they blame the showy goldenrod that is so conspicuous.

Note that the top photo shows a stalked goldenrod, these plants are often quite tall and showy, the second image above is a flat topped goldenrod, with more bushy growth characteristics. The leaves are also thinner than those on the top image.

Last image today is a Great Blue Heron waiting for dinner at the upper pond/lake in my local park here in Brockton. It stayed motionless while I made my photographs waiting for a fish or frog to swim too close. Hope it found dinner sooner rather than later.

That is it for today, per usual comments are welcome.