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Trying to catch up with hiking posts before I forget everything. We try to hike every week but have missed a number of weeks because of the weather. But here's another one we managed.

Last week Raphael and I were very reluctant to leave the house, but we decided to go somewhere nearby and possessed of varying degrees of strenuousness. We went to Hyland Park Reserve, which is part of the Three Rivers Park District. We started at the lake where they rent out canoes and kayaks, hoping to see some Eastern Amberwings. We did see some; they are always both so familiar and so startling, small but very intense. Then we drove to the Nature Center, and after admiring the garden around it, set off through the woods to our first destination. We passed the Creative Play Area, which was a sea of mud, and Raphael remarked that either children would not be playing there or their parents would be very sorry that they had. We sat down on a bench that faces but doesn't really have much of a view of a pondy area. There's a screen of sumac and wildflowers in the way. The sumac was richly and abundantly going to seed in a very deep red. I remembered seeing deer down there a few years back, but the area where they'd been grazing was all water now. We stood up and used binoculars for a bit, but the light was dazzling on the water. There were some smaller ducks and some larger ones. On the way back to the car when the light had changed, we saw some identifiable wood ducks and some smaller dabbling ducks.

We headed for a little path that leads to the edge of another pond, but it had become a stream. We accordingly went on a more official path through a patch of woods and sumac. A woman running by remarked that she was seeing a lot of butterflies today. When we got to the pond, one ramp of the dock was waterlogged and the other muddy. We took a brief look at the water-covered approach, and some kind of heron flapped out of the grass at the pond's edge and back into it again further on. "Was that a heron?" I said, but it was hidden now.

On the muddy but passable side a woman, two children, and some toys were disposed in the sun. We edged past them, exchanging greetings, and the larger child showed us what he had caught in an ice cube tray. I remarked that the ice cube tray was a good idea, and he came after us to say that he had also caught about six leeches, so we shouldn't go swimming. We promised we wouldn't.

We've often seen kingbirds and swallows, as well as many dragonflies, swooping over this pond. Today dragonflies were a little scarce, but the turtles were out in force, dozens of painted turtles sunning themselves on a number of fallen logs and tilting snags. It took us a little while to notice the snapping turtles; the more remote ones looked like rocks and the nearer ones like swellings in the tree trunks and longs. But there were three snapping turtles lying along the logs. Raphael thought they looked like jaguars on branches and I thought they looked weirdly like wombats. They were too wide for the logs, so they were dangling their legs over the sides. Two remained alert, with their heads up; the third let its head dangle too. One of them was arranged across rather than along a branch, so its long tail also dangled. They were both imposing and very funny indeed.

We hung over the railing, looking at a few damselflies, watching a turtle swim up to the surface and put its nose up to breathe and another one climb onto a log and slide back again. Then I saw the heron again. It was shaped like a green heron but its markings were off. It had a streaky breast and its back was dark but not exactly green. I pointed it out to Raphael, "Green heron?" "Or is it a bittern?" said Raphael. When it stuck its neck out it looked very like a green heron, but they are usually so shy that I'm never sure of my identifications. The heron perched on a log, occasionally walking along it and stretching out its neck to look for food. Then I noticed the second one, some ways further along the shore. That one stalked into the reeds and came out with a frog, which it either washed in the water or kept having to get a new grip on before it could finally swallow it. The other heron preened itself extensively and then started flipping its very short tail around and suddenly puffing up and deflating a crest on top of its head. "I think they must be juveniles," I said. "The only other time I got a good look at a green heron it was a juvenile."

Shortly after the crest-puffing, the further heron flapped towards the near one, then veered off and flew away, followed by the second heron. We took another long look at the snapping turtles and turned back to walk around the tiny prairie restoration adjacent to the pond. There were dark-winged grasshoppers and meadowhawks. Goldenrod and yellow coneflower were blooming, along with some stiff coreopsis and a few white asters. As we climbed the hill towards the upper part of the prairie, we began to see monarch butterflies. I managed to see six or seven all at once, which was many more than we'd seen together for some time.

I was not having a great day physically -- it turned out that the pollen count on the Weather Underground page was wrong and I should have taken an antihistamine before leaving the house. While I do get drippy and stuffy with allergies, sometimes my main symptom is just a dragging fatigue. So we sat on several benches and enjoyed the rolling layers of tall grasses in their autumnal rich brown, broken here and there by clumps of goldenrod and bordered by dark green oak trees.

There's another trail we often take and we discussed it, but neither of us felt really up to it, so we looked up the green heron when we got back to the car -- indeed, our birds had been juvenile green herons -- and drove home through the summer evening.



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