When I lived on the Wisconsin border on Lake Michigan, I knew Wisconsin like the back of my hand. In the mid 1980’s, my weekend path started out with a drive through Illinois Beach State Park and ended at Hawthorne Hollow with a few more stops in between.
I loved the Hollow. It was like a Garden of Eden set aside in the middle of a burb. In the winter time is was cold and snowy…..oh so cold. However, no matter how cold, one could always find images to shoot because of the huge number and types of bird feeders always filled to over flowing with both seeds and partakers of those seeds. It was because of that spot, I created my own feeding station and still maintain one today.
It was one of these cold mornings that I met Wayne. I was standing there trying to get the birds to stay in one spot long enough to capture their image on film, when around the corner of the nature center, Wayne appeared. We exchanged “Howdy dos” and talked a few minutes. Then he asked if I minded if he set-up too. The rest of the morning was more concentrated on getting to know each other than on shooting birds images. It was the start of a long and dear friendship. If on that day someone would have said that we would end up taking 7000-8000 mile trips together, we would have probably laughed in their faces.
In the spring with snow still on the ground, the first woodland wildflowers would appear. Marsh marigolds meant that spring was here. As one walked the trails, every one of the woodland spring flowers were there to shoot. Trilliums, trout lilies, violets, bleeding hearts, hepatica, shooting stars, and many more would grace the eye of the lens.
As the wild flowers waned, the early perennials cultivars started to appear. They were in manicured beds and were just as brilliant to admire as the wildflowers. Many species were there to shoot. Along with the perennials were all the flowering trees. Several natural and even more of the cultivated fruit trees. These blossoms yielded food for the resident birds. The blossoms also yielded food for the migratory birds. Late April brought about the influx of warblers that would be picking the pollinators from the blossoms. This was my first introduction to many species of warblers. This is where I saw my first scarlet tanager and indigo bunting. The goldfinches were changing their garb from dull to flashy. The orioles started to appear and would eat from the orange slices provided.
I was elated when I saw my first scarlet tanager and I just had to have its image on film. I became obsessed with its capture and spent many days at the hollow. This went on for many years and even though I now have images of it, none came from Hawthorne Hollow. Then came the nesting season and the birds creating homes in which to raise their young. It was at this time Wayne and I crossed paths again. I was set up focused on a woodpecker hole and trying to get a shot as it stuck its head out of the hole. I had been there a long time when Wayne walked by. Again we spent more time talking than watching for the woodpecker to appear.
It was on one of the trails that I started to walk that I noticed movement of a big animal. I dropped to the ground and saw a doe deer turning in small circles. I could see she was hurting. She would lay down and stand up and repeat the process. Then I noticed a large protrusion from under her tail. She was in the process of giving birth. I sat very still and watched. This is where I saw my first deer being born.
I went back and told the nature center to block off the trail, and they did. The following weekend I went back to get the baby deer on film. I walked past it ten times before I spotted the little spotted creature…..Camouflaged to the hilt and laying perfectly still. About that same time, I noticed a den of foxes too, one year. It happened to be a time when I did not have my camera with me, but just sitting and observing was maybe more interesting and definitely more entertaining than trying to take their picture.
In the summer, there is an open field around old school houses. This was great for summer wild flowers.
So one can see that Hawthorne Hollow is dear to me. It was where a lot of first transpired. It was home to many and varied wildlife, birds, and flowers. And most importantly, it created a true dear friend.