A Rare Bird

From time to time during our walks close to home we see a rare bird. Two days ago we were excited to see an American Kestrel in an undeveloped area south of Duranceaux Park which is located on the west side of Griggs Reservoir. A particular treat as this small falcon has been in decline in recent years. As with many birds this is most likely due to the destruction of suitable habit. In years past, when more time was spent bicycling Ohio’s quiet rural roads, this small robin size bird was seen on a regular basis, sometimes in the middle of a “lunch” consisting of a field mouse, but always taking flight from the roadside power lines before one could get very close. If not perched, they were often seen hovering over an adjacent field waiting to pounce on unsuspecting prey. 

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***, (Donna).

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Much more common than the American Kestrel, a number of Red-tailed Hawks have been seen recently. 

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Some of the more usual suspects have also graced us with their presence, providing an affirmation that much is well with the world. We’re endlessly fascinated by their behavior as they go about the day making a living in the trees and low lying brush of Griggs Reservoir Park. 

Female Northern Cardinal

Male Eastern Bluebird, (Donna).

Red-bellied Woodpecker, (Donna).

Song Sparrow

Cedar Waxwing, (Donna).

Downy Woodpecker

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During this stark, seemingly lifeless, time of year it’s not always easy to be optimistic about what will be seen when heading into the woods. But even in December’s landscape we seldom return home with empty hearts.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Thanksgiving

To get some exercise on a pleasant late November day and perhaps to see wildlife we wouldn’t if we just stayed in our immediate neighborhood, we decided to walk the length of Griggs Reservoir Park with only binoculars and lightweight cameras in tow. The binoculars would allow us to enjoy almost anything we happened to see but things photographed would have to be cooperative and very close.

Brown Creepers search for small insects and spiders by hitching upward in a spiral around tree trunks and limbs. They move with short, jerky motions using their stiff tails for support. Creepers have a high, warbling song; they also give a high, wavering call note that sounds similar to that of a Golden-crowned Kinglet. In the winter season, the species moves into a broader variety of forests and becomes much easier to find in deciduous woodlands. Ref: Cornell, All About Birds

Reflection, (Donna).

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We’ve spent a lot of time in this particular park and the adjacent reservoir marking the change of seasons and noting the different birds and other wildlife seen throughout the year. As a way of giving thanks we always carry a small bag useful for holding any trash found along the way, and it always there. There are the regular visitors to the park so there’s usually a social component to any walk taken as we affirm old acquaintances and sometimes create new ones. We pretty much know every inch of the park, the best places to see certain birds, what plants attract certain insects, as well as the location of various species of wildflowers.

Female Ruddy Duck, too far away for a good photo, (Donna). Females and first-year males are brownish  with a blurry stripe across the pale cheek patch. They are a diving duck that feeds on aquatic invertebrates, especially midge larvae. Ref. Cornell All About Birds

Sycamore

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A number of years ago when we first started visiting the park the goal wasn’t to make it special in our lives. It was just a convenient place to be in nature without investing more time and gas getting to areas further afield. In doing this we realized there would be things we wouldn’t see but the idea of keeping tabs on one relatively small green space had it’s appeal. We’ve never seen a black bear in the park, probably a good thing as it’s right in the middle of the city, but what we have seen over the the last few years, from Song Sparrows to a Red-throated Loon, and Gray squirrels to Mink, is simply amazing.

Fungi, (Donna)

At reservoir’s edge, a glacial erratic catches the shadow of a nearby branch.

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Now, this rather ordinary city park has become a part of us. A place of connectedness. Not separate. In some ways like a favorite easy chair, but in others, especially in the context of the larger sphere of nature, a small window into a world of beauty and wonder. A portal into the awareness of something larger than ourselves that in some fashion will live on long after us. A place where time spent has resulted in empathy not only for the endearing Golden-crowned Kinglet but also the robber fly. Each for at least part of the year makes a living in the park and calls it home. We have come to realize that all deserve a place to be and complete the tapestry of life.

A white duck tries to take a nap at waters edge.

Seed pods, (Donna).

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After six miles we arrived back at our starting point tired but with a deep sense of gratitude. Other than the sighting of a Ruddy Duck and a Brown Creeper and some of the usual suspects, it had been a quiet day. But in the mystery of late November light we had had the opportunity to be, under a towering Sycamore as it’s few remaining leaves defied the season, along the edge of the reservoir with the quiet dance of waves as they played with shoreline pebbles, and next to the massive trunk of an oak as it’s gnarly branches wrestled with the sky. We were rich in a enduring way that transcends any monetary measurement.

Park road in November light.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Beauty In Transitions

It’s hard to think of the period between autumn color and the arrival of colder temperatures and a land covered in snow, as anything other than a time of transition. Ohio’s late November sepia-tone landscape makes one wish for somewhere else, past or future. If we find ourselves walking along a wooded trail or stream our curiosity is challenged in ways not encountered as spring unfolds into the warmth of an endless summer day. Better to be home in a favorite easy chair with the warm glow of a fireplace, a cat curled up on your lap, and a good book as the season’s birds occasionally visit the feeder just outside a nearby window. But the magic of late November is that, surrounded by muted color, the endlessly varied dance of birds not present or as easily noticed during other seasons, is hard to ignore. 

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A window into the future, wintry bare branches reflect on the surface of a small pool.

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A year round resident, the cheerful Carolina Wren comes into it’s own as the landscape darkens in late November.

*** (Donna)

Tufted Titmice seem more common this time of year. Some migrants from the north?

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***(Donna)

A Red-winged Blackbird confuses us by it’s presence. Shouldn’t you be further south?

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In perhaps it’s last “voice”, a oak leaf graces the surface of a small stream.

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Few leaves obscure our view as we watch the comical journey of a White-breasted Nuthatch as it forages for food.

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A tidbit (perhaps a spider’s egg sack) is found, (Donna)

Woodpeckers are noticed at almost every turn, some of which are undoubtedly also northern migrants.

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker, (Donna)

Red-belied Woodpecker, (Donna).

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Before being caught by the wind and carried away, a lone Sycamore leaf catches the morning sun.

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Gray Squirrels are common and always easy to spot but they’re not always so busy eating.

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Almost invisible when trees are fully adorned with leaves the nervous movement of Golden Crowned Kinglets catches our eye.

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***(Donna)

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On  mudflats left behind as a nearby reservoir is lowered for the season, a solitary oak leaf comes to rest.

Oak leaf

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With feeders out, other birds brighten the day with their presence.

House Finch

American Cardinal

Blue Jay

Carolina Chickadee

But not far away, a Cooper’s Hawk waits.

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Autumn’s fading color comes to rest among stream-side rocks.

Scioto River landscape.

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In the chill of the morning, birds enjoy the river without complaint.

An American Robin takes a bath.

Cedar Waxwings stop for a drink.

Blending into the bark, unless your eye catches it’s movement, the Brown Creeper is almost impossible to spot.

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“Snowbirds”, the presence of Dark-eyed Juncos alert us of what is to come.

***(Donna)

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Transforming place, an ephemeral first snow blankets the ground.

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As a metaphor for life, the passing seasons, particularly early spring and late autumn, may have something to teach us when in the midst of life transitions we wish for somewhere else. Perhaps the key is to look closer, be open to the beauty of the present time and place, and then in that moment allow ones self to be caught in it’s embrace.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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A Autumn Notebook

I thought folks might enjoy a few glimpses of autumn near our home. The below images didn’t require travelling to distant places but instead reflect what was seen as nature spoke to us in the intimacy of our own “neighborhood”. Unlike the maple covered hillsides of Vermont, autumn in central Ohio, with it’s more subtle colors, speaks in a soft voice. Putting this post together I imagined a notebook where thoughts and impressions of the season would be written down and, pausing for a moment, contemplated.

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This path along the reservoir is walked many times during the year but only on one day did it look like this. 

Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna)

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A quest for autumn migrants was momentary interrupted as we stopped to watch the bare branches of a Black Walnut “conduct the music of the sky”. (1)

Tree and clouds, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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In the canoe, fishing for over an hour without a bite, I started looking at the water’s autumn reflections. A unexpected catch.

Griggs Reservoir

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Something sacred, as if transported inside a gothic cathedral? Under a blue dome, we look through “panes” to colors beyond.

Griggs Reservoir

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On the water’s blank canvas of color, mallard art.

Griggs Reservoir

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Patterns in bark, leaves, and shadows, the endless allure of a Sycamore.

Griggs Reservoir Park

In the mystery, with their small voices, warblers made themselves known overhead.

Along the Scioto River, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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Just now, with the help of the faintest breeze, the water’s surface reinterprets.

Griggs Reservoir Park.

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With light and shadow the leaves of a mulberry play their tune.

Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

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A quiet park road beckons us to travel into the magic of the moment 

Griggs Reservoir Park.

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Sculpted by the river, autumn graces the twisted shape of a tree at waters edge.

Scioto River, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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In defiance of the coming winter a Sycamore splashes the landscape with muted color.

Scioto River, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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With it’s own beauty, a leaf on the water’s surface takes us beyond what we think we know or perceive.

Griggs Reservoir

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A light rain enhances shape and color but brings with it a sense foreboding of what has been and what is to come.

Griggs Reservoir.

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The afternoon sun punctuates shoreline trees. We wish for it to not end.

Griggs Reservoir.

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Overhanging trees embrace the river with a warmth that betrays the coolness of the day.

Scioto River, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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Reflection on the water’s surface, an autumn impression.

Little Darby Creek, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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Sunny, not to cold, nice day for a picnic, but we’ve moved on.

Griggs Reservoir Park.

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An early morning hike graced with shafts of light and color.

Clear Creek Metro Park.

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Cold descends, days now short, and among dark shapes the few remaining leaves twinkle.

Hocking River, Clear Creek Metro Park.

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That one last leaf in the fall as winter’s cold grips the land has always been a romantic image for me. Perhaps it’s because although we should look forward to the promise of every season we should also never be too quick to let go.

“The Last Leaf”, Battelle Darby creek Metro Park.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Note (1): The idea “conduct the music of the sky” was suggested to me by a friend when she looked at the photograph.

Having Done Their Good Work

In autumn,

having done their good work,

leaves celebrate

what has been and will come

and embrace the season

with shades of gold, orange and red.

Some hang on,

rattling faintly through wind and rain,

to punctuate the coming starkness,

others, explode in fiery color,

deserting branches overnight

to blanket the ground with their warmth.

RSP

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Beech Leaves, (Donna).

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

A Primal Experience

Later wishing for a more serious camera, I stuffed a small travel zoom into my pocket as I left the house just in case something of interest was spotted. Loading the 14′ Hornbeck and associated fishing equipment I was on a quest for central Ohio’s elusive Smallmouth Bass in the river near our home. The small camera was a concession. When fishing, it’s important not to be encumbered by “serious” photographic equipment. Either fish or photograph, it’s hard if not impossible to do both justice.

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A cloudy, cool, and quiet late October afternoon offered conditions where you would almost expect the fish to jump into the boat but even so it had been over an hour since two reasonable sized fish had paid attention to any of my offerings. I was thinking about calling it quits for the day. But perhaps just one more pass along the west bank of the river was in order. You never know.

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It was then that a small dark brown fury creature with a white chin was spotted enjoying a mid-afternoon snack. A Mink! As I moved closer it showed no intention of abandoning it’s meal, which turned out to be a recently deceased and very large Channel Catfish. It alternately glanced my way then pulled and tore at the hapless creature’s flesh each time backing away with a healthy mouthful.  A unambiguous reminder that in nature almost everything is dinner for something else. The Mink looked ferocious and seemed even larger when fully engaged with the catfish so I was glad to be in the canoe.

The catfish is considerably larger than the Mink. What caused it’s death is unclear. (Scioto River just below Griggs Dam)

The Mink may not have been the only creature that stopped by to enjoy the catfish.

There are also Coyotes, Racoons, Bald Eagles, and vultures in the area.

It’s hard to imagine any of these other creatures trying to horn in while the Mink worked on the carcass.

The Mink with it’s distinctive white chin.

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Over the years we have seen a number of these fascinating creatures along the shore of Griggs Reservoir. They usually move quickly with short pauses as they explore the shoreline rocks and exposed tree roots for their next meal and we are often in a moving canoe when one is seen. Getting a good picture has always been a challenge. Never has one stayed in the same spot for so long. The reasonably fresh catfish sushi was apparently just too enticing.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Just Outside Our Door

Golden-crowned Kinglets are a favorite bird to observe this time of year as northern migrants move into central Ohio. Unlike warblers, some kinglets will spend the winter in the area. To date it had not been a good autumn for Golden-crowned Kinglet sightings.

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Yesterday as we left the house to visit local park with the intention of seeing these elusive little birds, and what ever else was lurking in the trees and bushes along the river, we noticed nervous movement in trees next to our driveway; and after closer inspection:

***, (Donna)

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***, (Donna)

***, (Donna)

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Entranced for almost an hour, we watched these small fascinating birds forage in the trees for insects, and in that time, without even trying, they transported us out of ourselves on a journey into the larger world of nature’s wonder.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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