Archive for the 'Other Illinois Parks' Category

Fridays are Golden


140425_022_n1_p_e_1It has been a long week.  After work I moved some flower pots around the backyard and enjoyed seeing what prairie plants are popping up in my backyard.  Then for a little relaxation in the big chair in the living room.  Two episodes of Duck Dynasty to set the mood for the rest of the evening.  Grabbing camera I headed for Spitler Woods State Park.  The woodland flowers are coming up all over.  Bluebells, trout lily, dutchmans breeches, and red trillium are what you can see.

Not long before the sun set, I was looking for something that had the glow of the setting sun on it.  Most of the forest floor was in the shade.  Gold, I see.  Great light on the flower and background.  Getting the legs spread out to get my tripod on the ground, I lay down on the ground.  Then the unthinkable.  Coming down the trail are a mother and young son.  I just took all the effort to get down here and they show up.  I gave in and moved some and they gave in and walked around me.  I am grateful for that.

Back to the flower, getting out a reflector to add more light and time to capture light.  That is what photography is all about.  Capturing light.

Heading home, I put the canopy over the swing in the backyard.  I took it down for the winter.  Then I sat in the swing for an hour listening to all the sounds and spending some time reading a book on my phone.

The end of the week was great.  I found the pot of gold in several ways.  I hope you enjoy the one part I can share and I hope it brightens your day.

Short Time at Spitler Woods State Park

I took a short jaunt at Spitler Woods tonight.  The flowers are really popping out of the ground now.


I am not sure what the above plant is, but they were all over.  Soon, I will probably know when they start blooming.  As of now the only thing blooming is the Dutchman’s Breeches.  There are not many, and the cold had an effect on them, but they has started Spring at the park.


The weekend looks to be nice.  I am hoping to spend more time outside.  Going to spend time with family celebrating Christ this Easter.  I hope everyone’s weekend is full of Christ’s Blessings, family and friends along with some time to relax.

Grasshopper and Gold

Grasshopper and Goldenrod – Guzy Prairie – Shelby County, Illinois


Just north of the Findlay blacktop on the West side of Rt. 128 is a tract of land that is a pot of gold for photographers.  The site is called Guzy Prairie and in the summer will flourish in wildflowers.  A prairie so rich, but know by locals as the Shelby Weed Patch.  For those who drive by daily, in a hurry to arrive somewhere, this must look like a bunch of weeds.  But stopping, and looking around, a feast is in store for those who slow down.  Taking a camera can be rewarding even after the peak of wildflower display.  Goldenrod fills the area and as the picture shows, grasshoppers inhabit the land.  Every step you take sends dozens of hoppers to a new site to continue their quest of survival.  If you are patient and don’t move too fast, you may even have one sit and join you for  a photo session, rich in color and life.  If I would have taken more time, I would have found more to enjoy, I am sure.  Even 20-30 minutes is rewarding for those who see beyond the unmanicured site.  A pot of gold is hidden in plain site in a small weed patch in Shelby County, Illinois.

Another From Tallgrass Butterfly House in Pana


Going through some more images from last weekend and I came across this one.

Tallgrass Butterfly House in Pana, Illinois

Sometimes we need a little time away.  Not very long, but just a little drive to see some of the countryside and a destination with something fun.  Tallgrass Butterfly House is one of those places.  Site Manager David Nance will greet you when you arrive.  Talking with David is a download of butterfly and natural history information.David will share what he knows with those willing to ask and listen.  He will point out butterflies, plants, caterpillars and the like for you to enjoy, or will let you  enjoy at your own pace.

The butterfly house is an enclosure of a mesh like or screen material.  This blocks a little of the sun, but allows a feeling of being outdoors.  You feel the breeze and breathe fresh air will wandering the paths inside.There is a small pond with lotus and goldfish.  There is even a bench to sit on when you need to rest next to the pond.  A very nice place, this spot to just sit and watch activity that might be missed if you were walking around.

Kids and adults all will enjoy this site.  There are even trails you can walk.  The site is an old Railroad right of way.  Walking the trails you can see butterflies and hummingbirds along with many other thinks including native prairie plants.  I have made the trip several times and plan to go back more. Everyone that has made the trip with me has enjoyed it, also.

This is one of the many jewels tucked away in the Prairie State of Illinois.  Hopefully you can stop by and enjoy the site and even ask David a few questions.Entrance is free, but donations are accepted.Take time to enjoy a few hours this summer at the Tallgrass Butterfly House in Pana…  A visit will be an interesting afternoon.

Ballard Nature Center

Fourth of July weekend I took Saturday morning and headed to Ballard Nature Center   Ballard has a rich display of wildflowers.  This year was not as rich as in the past.  I think the trip was made 7-10 days too early.  There were wildflowers, but the area was not full of them.  The trip was still worth it.

Downy Sunflower at Ballard Nature Center – Altamont, Illinois

Rolling out of bed at 3:00 am is not my idea of fun.  But I wanted to arrive around sunrise.  It was a warm morning, but not as warm as it would be later that day.  Besides having better light to photograph by, the cooler morning made the trip much easier.  We had the park to ourselves till about 8am, then people started to arrive taking walks and just viewing the wildlife on the ponds.

There were compass plant, white wild indigo, swamp milkweed, purple coneflower, pale purple coneflower, rattlesnake master, spiderwort and many other prairie flowers blooming. 

Spiderwort plant with water droplets at Ballard Nature Center - Altamont, Illinois

 Spiderwort is a plant that blooms early morning.  If you wait till noon, you will be too late. Each flower blooms for only one day.  It is a flower that starts in the spring and continues into the summer.

White Wild Indigo at Ballard Nature Center - Altamont, Illinois

 White wild indigo is another plant that starts blooming in May and lasts through August.  It does not seem to grow in clusters of plants, but seems to pop up by itself around the prairie.  Native Indians used it to externally treat skin wounds.

If you have a chance to stop by Ballard you are in for a treat.  Their paths are wheelchair accessible and are truly what you think of when thinking prairie.  There are no hills to speak of, so it is an easy walk.

Have a Happy Fourth of July and enjoy some outdoors.

A Couple Recent Times of Enjoying Nature

Sportsmans Club Gazebo on Lake Decatur and Water Blur

  A few weeks ago after work I stopped by a place on Lake Decatur called the Sportsman’s Club.  It is my understanding at one time there was a club in this location.  Now it is a park with a small boat ramp to the lake along with a walk way out into the lake leading to a gazebo.  It was getting close to dark and the other two photographers (and friends) had left.  We had been photographing pelicans across the lake.  I decided to stay and play around with long exposures to allow the water to blur.  It gives it a soft pleasing look.

Tree Swallow Sitting on Bluebird Nesting Box at Rock Springs Macon County, Illinois

Yesterday during lunch I drove to Rock Springs Conservation Area ( ).  I went to pick up a few things and to look at the artwork hanging in the galleries.  There are some great pieces to see if you have time to stop by.  While driving the road out of the park, I was able to take this photograph.  I would guess this tree swallow has taken the bluebird nest box over.  I would rather see a bluebird, but still enjoy this one.  Macon County Conservation District puts many bluebird boxes out on their properties.  I hope to have some time to photograph some of the blue birds in action at the boxes this spring.  

Flowers at sunset at Rock Springs Nature Center

 After work yesterday I took a more time to do some photography.  I stopped by a few sites and came back to Rock Springs.  It was a few minutes before sunset and I grabbed this shot.  Walking to my vehicle I enjoyed the quietness of the prairie at dusk.  With a little bug spray an evening in the prairie can be rather enjoyable.

Central Illinois Wildflower Display

Prairie Coneflower in Morning Light

If Summer wildflowers in Illinois is something you want to see, then Ballard Nature Center is one place to visit.  Ballard is located just outside Altamont, IL.  I came accross this place two years ago while participating in a photography workshop led by Richard Day with Daybreak Imagery.  Since then I have returned twice to photograph the flowers and insects that make this place a must place to visit for local photographers.

It is very unusual for me to get up before sunrise on a weekend.  This morning I woke up at 4am to get ready for the trip to Ballard.  Plans were to be there at sunrise, but it was about an hour or so later that I arrived.  Wanting to have softer lighting and cooler tempertures was the reason for the early start.

I spent from 6:45 am till 9:00 am photographing the fields that day.  Durning That time I did not cover more than .25 -.5 miles of trail.

There were conflowers all over the place.  Along with that were birds sitting on top of some of the plants and others making their way around in the mesh of stems and leaves that made up this habitat.  You could here the song of Redwing Blackbirds and others all around.

After photographing flowers I started looking for dragonflies to photograph.  I came upon this one early.  At first it was not very cooporative.  As I moved closer it would fly away.  As I slowly moved into position it accepted my presence.  I spent around five minutes working with this creature.

It amazes me what can be seen if we just stop in one place and just look to see what is there.  The park has many users.  Those users have different needs.  Early in the morning there were runners and walkers doing their daily excersise.  Later in the morning there were some that were walking and observing spending small amounts of time stopping and looking.  Then there was the photographer that would find and area and spend 20 minutes working and area to capture an image.

All these people and others are what makes Ballard so great.  It is a beautiful place to run and have sites and sounds encourage your run.  It is a great place to take a stroll and be mesmorized by the flowers and small insects that make up Ballard.  Then there are the people who just sit watch and wait to see what interations happen in a small area over a longer period of time.

Ballard and other places have many purposes.  Each of us can enjoy a place in our own way.  Each place offers many people many opportunities.  Places like this are rich in resources bringing joy to those who use them.