Now that it’s March, and Daylight Savings Time is just around the corner, I have every confidence that this will be our last weekend of snow on the ground here in Chicago…you hear that, weather gods?!!
Well, after making that pronouncement from my armchair this morning, I decided I had better get out and finally do some winter photography before the last of the snow had melted. So, I headed out to a favorite tiny patch of nature to try out my new camera and a new lens.
Elgin’s Bluff Spring Fen is an Illinois Nature Preserve, and one of the few remaining calcareous fens in Illinois. Unlike a bog (which gets its water supply mainly by containing rainwater), a fen’s water source comes from beneath the ground—in this case, a spring that remains a constant 50-degrees throughout the year to nourish an amazing variety of flora and fauna within its small 100 acres.
True to it’s word, the spring-fed stream was flowing like clockwork. No ice here!
While most of Illinois is flat as a pancake and stripped of it’s natural habitat, this mighty little fen with it’s hilly kames and tall oak savannah endures. Perhaps because you must drive through a big, old creepy cemetery to get to it’s only access point, or maybe because the park is surrounded by an industrial park and a gravel pit, Bluff Spring Fen doesn’t roll out the welcome mat very easily so it’s rare to find other more than 1 or 2 visitors to the park at the same time…and that seems to suit it’s delicately preserved ecosystem just fine.
I finally upgraded my beloved old Canon 5D full-frame digital SLR with the new Canon 6D, and today was it’s first field trip. Still trying to get the hang of all the new controls and wiz-bang features, but so far, I’m really liking it’s lightweight body and great image quality. The new lens is a fully manual Samyang (Rokinon) 14mm f/2.8. Really quite impressed at how sharp it is—don’t think I’ll be needing to buy the Canon version (that costs $2000 more)!
I hope to spend much more time at the Fen this Spring and Summer (and a few other local parks as well) doing volunteer work as I’ve just been accepted into the Illinois Master Naturalist training program that starts in April…ya-HOO!!!!! I can’t wait!
In return for committing 60 hrs of volunteer service, we’ll receive 2 months of classroom and field training from the University of Illinois Extension in a wide range of natural science subjects to better prepare us as park volunteers and stewards.
To gear up for my training, I’ve been downloading some nature reference field guides onto my iPad and iPhone. So far, I’ve gathered the full set of Audubon Mobile Field Guides (really great stuff!). Are there any others that you kind readers might recommend? I’d like to stick with just e-books and mobile apps if possible. I’m also thinking it’s time for a proper set of binoculars. Any avid birders out there with some good recommendations?
It’s fun getting ready for school again! Now if Spring would just hurry up and get here!!!