Watching Eagles Soar

It would have been enough just to be outdoors again; instead, it was breathtaking.

After several days stuck inside, preoccupied by extreme weather concerns like a dying car battery, a nagging lack of proper home insulation, and a special-order furnace filter further delayed by snow, we were really ready for an outing. So when the weather improved, we mapped out a great one.

I’ve known about the bald eagles that winter at Starved Rock State Park along the Illinois River, and I have always wanted to go see them. This year I read about additional bald eagle sightings along the Fox River which is closer and bound to be less crowded. So even though a sighting seemed less guaranteed, we decided to drive to Oswego, Illinois, and walk on the Fox River Trail. Since we’ve walked on a different portion of this trail before, I figured we’d enjoy the walk, but to be honest, I really never thought we’d see any eagles.

We actually saw two–a splotchy juvenile and an adult. We were thrilled.

Watching them majestically soar high overhead gave me chills.

Resolution Reflections

Even though I did miss a few days of walking, I am calling my Walk Every Day in 2013 resolution a complete success.

To be honest, I’ve never successfully completed a New Year’s resolution before this one. And to think it only took me 50 years! At this rate I won’t complete another resolution until I’m 100 years old. Wait, I guess I wouldn’t have made any resolutions until I was at least 10, so at this rate I won’t complete another resolution until I’m 90. Either way, I really don’t want to go that long before completing another resolution. So before I make any new resolutions, I’ve been reflecting on what made this resolution successful:

  • It was pretty specific–I resolved to take a daily walk in 2013.
  • Despite that specificity, I allowed for variety within the parameters of the resolution–I walked on trails, through my neighborhood and other towns, on a treadmill, and even on a meditative labyrinth. I biked a few times too.
  • It had regularity–even though I got really sick of titling each day’s post with a number (and even messed up a couple of times), it really did make me write something about each day and make up many of the days that I missed by walking twice on a later day.

Some things that surprised me during the year of walking–in addition to actually completing the resolution–were:

  • The Illinois prairie is beautiful. Flat to the horizon, waving grass and fields of wildflowers took my breath away.
  • Even though I did not see my 2013 grail bird, the pileated woodpecker, I saw a variety of new birds, many within just ten miles of my home.
  • I’ve learned a surprising amount of local history.
  • I feel like I am more observant of the world around me. I see color, lines, shapes, and structures with new eyes.
  • I like being outdoors–even in the winter.
  • Walking, hiking, and biking has been a great activity for our youngest son (who’s fourteen and has autism). Moving on quiet trail has been a great way for him to expend some of his energy, and he loves the outdoors.
  • My family got into this far more than I expected. They voluntarily joined me often.

In fact, this year of walking worked because my family supported me and wanted to walk with me, which means it was really more than just about walking.

I set out doing all of this because I felt some nondescript need to be creative in my mid-life. The creativity part was certainly rewarding. I have really enjoyed writing, taking pictures, and learning about photography. But so much more rewarding was spending time with my family and seeing new places and things. And that’s why this resolution has been a success.

I think that this walking thing has become enough of a habit that I will continue to do it almost every day. (I have walked each day in 2014 so far, despite some horrible weather.) I’m sure that my family will still join me on a regular basis, and I’ll keep posting about my walks too–just not every day. I’ll post about the interesting walks and will attempt to take The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge each week.

As for a 2014 resolution, I’ve decided to keep it really simple this year–I’m giving up potato chips.

Day Three Hundred Sixty-four

Yes! One More Walk Outside!

I’m afraid the worst is yet to come, because it really wasn’t that bad today after all. The sun was out and the wind calm while I filled my bird-feeders this afternoon, so I decided to go walking in the neighborhood instead of spending my penultimate resolution walk of 2013 on a treadmill.

It was cold, but not the bone-chilling temperature that the weather forecasters promised–at least not yet. I enjoyed my walk to the bank and around the neighborhood. Although I had my camera with me, nothing of interest really happened along the way.

Upon returning home, I could tell that the birds were enjoying all the new seed that I put out, so I sneaked around back and took a few pictures. The nuthatches seemed especially distracted by the seeds, and one was quite tame.

NuthatchGood day! But, any day that you can use the word “penultimate” is a good day, right?

Day Three Hundred Sixty-three

IMG_2577

Icy!

We’ve known for days that a cold front was coming today. If we left early enough, we thought we’d be able to take a walk before the weather changed. We didn’t quite make it though. Freezing mist and icy trails kept us from actually doing much walking.

We still had a really nice outing.

We headed to a Cook County Forest Preserve, Bemis Woods, near Western Springs, Illinois, to walk on the paved Red/Salt Creek Trail. I walked on a portion of this trail back on Day 336, but north and west of Bemis Woods, in DuPage County.

When we arrived at the preserve, we figured out very quickly that yesterday’s melting snow was definitely refreezing. It was really slippery, and we didn’t get very far on the trail. Instead, we walked around the long drive and the parking lot for a bit, but decided even that was too slippery. So, we headed for Oak Brook Center (a large shopping center) to get lunch!

On the way, we stopped at Graue Mill and Museum, operated by the DuPage County Forest Preserve. Graue Mill was a stop on the Underground Railroad and is still an operating mill and museum. The mill and museum are closed for the season, but we took a look around anyhow. It was slippery here too, so I should say we gingerly took a look around.

Graue MillThe quickly moving Salt Creek runs next to the mill. Some mallards, after riding in the current, came right up to the edge of the water as we walked by. We saw a mature great blue heron in the creek as well.

Graue Mill BirdsBoth Bemis Woods and Graue Mill look like great places to walk when the weather gets warmer! I’ll have to keep them in mind for next spring or summer.

With the weather that’s in the forecast for the next few days, today’s walk was likely my last one outdoors in 2013!

Day Three Hundred Sixty-two

Winter Takes a Welcome Break

We had a second consecutive day of unusually warm temperatures and bright sun today. Thank goodness too; we needed it after the cold, harsh winter we’ve had so far this year.

I did have a little trouble deciding where to walk. We didn’t have a big block of time, so we couldn’t travel far. Also, I did not need another fall this week so I wanted to avoid slushy, slippery snow-covered trails; I needed a plowed paved trail. I chose to go back to Frankfort Square’s Island Prairie and Indian Boundary Park. My husband, daughter, and youngest son joined me.

Island Prairie and Indian Boundary Park

I really like this neighborhood park (and not only because it’s plowed). It has a small lake and wetlands with a boardwalk through it. I’ve seen numerous birds each time I’ve visited. Today was no exception.

Indian Boundary Songbirds1I especially enjoyed the two hawks that circled for about half the time we were walking. When one flew directly overhead, I was glad I had my camera ready, because this hawk put on a show.

IMG_2541We had such a nice walk today. I am so thankful to have had such a beautiful day for one of the final walks of my 2013 resolution.

Day Three Hundred Sixty-one

Great Day!

Today’s weather was a welcome respite from our early, harsh winter, and we took advantage of it. After making a holiday exchange at the mall, my youngest son and I walked at nearby Lake Sedgewick and Centennial Park in Orland Park, Illinois.

We were not the only ones out and about. We saw walkers, bikers, and many ice skaters at the outdoor rink.

Lake Sedgewick and Centennial ParkWe also had a hawk fly-over. What a graceful flyer!

Centennial Hawk

I only have a few days left to finish off my 2013 resolution! It was great to walk outdoors today. Both my son and I really enjoyed ourselves.

Day Three Hundred Fifty-six

One Less Goose?

We were headed in the same general direction to get a gift card so we stopped for a walk around the Monee Reservoir, a Will County Forest Preserve. Most of the preserve is water, and the Canada geese really like the place. There had to be hundreds when we arrived, and wave after wave of noisy new arrivals landed while we were there.Monee ResevoirThe unpaved trail was quite muddy so we stuck to the paved trail, driveway, and empty parking lot. We enjoyed looking around the preserve which seems, not surprisingly, to be used primarily for fishing.

As we turned to walk towards the large picnic grove, my husband saw two coyotes running across the field, likely looking for a goose dinner. I was lucky to get a few shots!
CoyotesIMG_2437Good walk!