Monday, October 25, 2010

Splashes of Color as the Season of Gray Approaches

We're up in Illinois enjoying our time with family and relaxing at "Ketelsen East". We just missed the peak of the fall colors, though there are certainly some isolated spots of bright yellows still. A hard freeze is yet to arrive, so there is a widely mixed range from green to bare trees that have already lost their foliage. Earnest yard raking has started, but with so many still on the trees, it hardly seems worth it...

The "brightest" tree around is likely the maple between our house and neighbor Elaine's. I've always enjoyed the trees that not only display the bright colors, but retain a gold puddle of leaves that have fallen below as well.

In a walk the other day through our local neighborhood Tekakwitha Forest Preserve, I was dismayed to see the 20 acres of prairie reduced to shades of gray - none of the goldenrod, Queen Anne's Lace or aster remained from a couple months ago. There were only isolated bits of color to be seen with a careful search. Most of the milkweed seeds were long gone , but a couple pods still showed off some drab colors, if not interesting textures. As I ambled, I was lucky to spot a couple red-banded leaf hoppers on the leaf of a mulberry tree. They were patient enough to pose for me as I took a few photos, and certainly added some color to the mostly drab scenery. These were the only ones spotted, and fortunately I had the macro lens along.

Finally I saw it! Pretty much the only flower still in bloom - a freak-of-nature Goldenrod a good 7 feet high, double the size of normal plants. This one was still a bright yellow, and obviously still viable, hosting a swarm of wasps, ladybug beetles, and other flying insects taking advantage of just about the only source of pollen and nectar in the prairie.

As I departed the prairie section of the preserve and headed into the woods, a downy woodpecker flew right past and landed about 15 feet away (there is a slight chance it is a hairy woodpecker). I had the 85mm at full zoom to snap a shot before he took to his senses and flew on. The spot of red on the back of it's head marks it as a male...

Finally, in the fully wooded section, it was nice to enjoy the subtle remaining color of the trees and the leaves already fallen. The path follows the Fox River for nearly a half mile before coming out on a paved bike trail and many more walkers out enjoying the weather. No sign of white tail deer or anything larger than the woodpecker. With winter coming, it was nice to see some signs of color in familiar territory!

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