When we think of the outdoors and the sounds we hear around us, the first thing that usually comes to mind are the birds and their songs. Of course, we delight in hearing these wonderful songs. However, there is much more out there to hear and learn about. Over the course of time, I have become familiar with some of these other sounds and the habits of the creatures that create them.

Most of the time, while doing my daily walks, I will be observing things from my height and perspective which is pretty close to the ground. However, many surprises have occurred to me over the last year because I have on occasion – looked up!

Each day I have my binoculars handy in case I hear or see something that is unfamiliar. Always on the lookout for a glimpse of the wildlife. Often when I am not prepared special things happen.

Autumn is a magical time of the year. Suddenly, as the air becomes crisp, the trees and other vegetation take on new and brilliant colors previously hidden in a green haze.

It is one of my favorite times of the year. Even though it means an eventual end to the growing season, it still holds many surprises and rewards for a gardener.

Tucked into a corner of my house on a gravelly hill, is a small shrub planted several years ago when I first arrived in Knox County.

This shrub is known as Clove Current or Ribes odoratum and it certainly lives up to its description! About this time every spring, it's spicy fragrance becomes quite noticeable. Bearing yellow tubular flowers along the length of its stems, it perfumes the springtime air like no other plant. An irregular growing shrub, it stands at about 5 feet tall and has a suckering habit but flowers quite abundantly on all branches.

Since moving to western Illinois, in close proximity to the Mississippi River, I have been amazed to witness the fantastic comeback of the Bald Eagle.

The year is coming to a close now and outdoor tasks are winding down as cooler weather moves in. The summer birds have gone to their winter homes and the chickadees, juncos, woodpeckers, and cardinals dominate the bird feeders. I delight in seeing these birds as much as their summer counterparts. My morning walks bring different experiences in the world that has changed its colors now.As the leaves fell and the chill came many creatures were busier than ever preparing for the long winter months.

Stepping out of my street clothes

Into the not quite warm enough water

Of the frog people who sang of desire

In the unique way of their kin.

 

The Chorus Frogs

The Bull Frogs

The Leopard Frogs

The Green Frogs

 

Others competing for the attention

Of a lady, perhaps seen, perhaps not.

The persistent songs shattering the

Quiet and calling others for back up.

 

The Barred Owl

The Coyote

The Crickets

The Katydid

 

Just about this time every winter, subtle changes begin to occur in the natural world. There still may be snow on the ground and in the air but that doesn't seem to affect the invisible clocks of the creatures around us.

As a child, I was very fortunate to have grown up near a creek. The small stream known as Springbrook Creek that flowed by my house and through rural DuPage County was a child's paradise! Little did I know then that it would prepare me for becoming a naturalist and that I would be living alongside another creek later in my life.

Over the years, I have tried to provide good habitats for the animals that live alongside me on this land. Despite my efforts though it seems that some of these creatures prefer to dwell in or on the house that I built for myself! They must find it as comfortable as I do.