Early Autumn On Griggs Reservoir

After not picking up a paddle for over a month, having been otherwise occupied exploring the American west, the canoe moved slowly. We were pushing southward into a gusting breeze and hugging the shaded shore on the east side of the reservoir as we made our way back to the launch site. A planned “out and back” six mile paddle had turned into eight, sometimes being out in nature is that way. It was an unusually warm sunny September day so the breeze felt good even though it strained our muscles and meant the return leg would take longer.

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Preoccupied with our halting progress we were surprised by an immature Black-crowned Night Heron as it took flight from a shoreline tree and quickly crossed the narrow reservoir. It’s a bird we had hoped to see as it had not been a good year for sightings on the reservoir. So altering course, we headed to the place where it appeared to have landed. It had positioned itself well into it’s intended destination, and while we did confirm it’s identity, wind, obstructing branches, and bad light made a photo impossible. Sometimes a photographer must celebrate the bird in words only.

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However, the morning into early afternoon paddle on the very quiet reservoir did reward us. It was nice being home, experiencing what we think of as our own special place in nature. No long drives required to enjoy a quiet autumn day on Griggs Reservoir.

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We pull out near Hayden Run Falls to stretch our legs. With the recent lack of rain, the falls were more of a trickle.

Pulled out at Hayden Run Falls.

False Dragonhead.

Black and Yellow Lichen Moth, (Donna).

Wolf Spider, (Donna).

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North of the Hayden Run bridge we continued to see wildlife.

Donna takes aim on a Kingfisher.

Not the easiest bird to photograph, (Donna).

Another view, (Donna).

A Double-crested Cormorant dries it’s wings, (Donna).

On this particular day the usual large number of Great Blue Herons were not seen. Could it be the time of year? (Donna).

Several Green Herons were seen but eluding the camera’s lens. Finally, this one paused long enough for a picture, (Donna).

This male American Cardinal said, “What about me?” as we tried to get a picture of the Green Heron, (Donna).

As I steadied the canoe this Spotted Sandpiper cooperated for a picture, (Donna).

Another view, (Donna).

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A few Map Turtles were seen, no Eastern Spiny Softshells or Snappers, but this large Painted Turtle really stood out.

Painted Turtle, (Donna).

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It’s easy to “throw the switch” in autumn and move on to other things, leaving nature until next spring. But don’t do it, there are always treasures to be found.

Bare branches frame a hint of autumn across the reservoir.

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Thanks for stopping by.

A Celebration of Color and Form, Capital Reef and Bryce Canyon NP

We were looking forward to cooler weather as we left Arches and Canyonlands on our way to Capitol Reef, and Bryce Canyon National Park . Several days of waking up at 4 AM to beat the heat, and sometimes the crowds, had taken it’s toll. In addition, shorter drives to trail heads and points of interest, as well as a shuttle bus at Bryce, promised a more relaxed pace.

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Capitol Reef embraces a geological formation called the Waterpocket Fold which is a nearly 100-mile long warp in the Earth’s crust, a step-up in the rock layers. The most scenic portion is found near the Fremont River where one can see white domes of Navajo Sandstone and the park’s colorful cliffs. Three steps, each of which occurred over millions of years, created the captivating landscape: deposition, Colorado Plateau uplift, and finally erosion. The erosion that sculpted the current landscape occurred within the last 20 million years with the major canyon formation probably occurred between one and six million years ago. Putting this into perspective, the oldest human fossil is 2.8 million years old while at the other extreme some of the oldest surface rock in north America, between 2500 and 3800 million years old, can be found in the Canadian Shield.

As one hikes the park trails some rock looks as though it was just placed there yesterday.

The Grand Wash Trail.

Along Cohab Trail.

Shaded and sunlit rocks, a challenge for the photographer.

Indian Paintbrush.

Along the trail through the Grand Wash.

“Capitol” and a tree.

Petroglyphs and grass along RT 24 in the park.

More petroglyphs along Rt 24.

Bristlecone Pine.

Capitol Gorge, once the only east to west route through the park.

Chimney Rock near sunset.

Tree and sculpted sandstone.

The Reef.

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Leaving Capitol Reef and travelling about 100 miles to Bryce Canyon takes one to a very different world. Situated along a high plateau at the top of an area known as the Grand Staircase, the park includes a series of natural amphitheaters and contains the earths largest concentration of irregular columns of rock (hoodoos). It’s geology is unique but along with sandstone formations the stretch the imagination the park is home to numerous beautiful wooded and meadow landscapes.

Along the rim trail, a lone pine looks down into the hoodoos.

Hiking down through “Wall Street” from Sunrise Pt.

Looking up.

Along the Swamp Canyon trail grass sparkles in the early morning sunlight.

A Limber Pine casts it’s shadow at the canyons edge along the Rim Trail.

Flowering Rabbit Bush contrasts with the colors of the rock.

Bristlecone Pine.

A view from the edge along the Rim Trail.

Juxtaposition.

Fallen tree, rock, and sky along the trail below Sunrise Pt.

Hoodoos frame a long dead Bristlecone Pine.

Looking up along the trail below Sunrise Pt.

Hanging on at the very edge.

Natural Bridge.

Along the Mossy Cave Trail.

View from the Bristlecone Trail loop.

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As we explored the parks, and hiked the trails, we were always on the lookout for wildlife and we were usually not disappointed.

Desert Spiny Lazard, (Donna).

Black Phoebe, (Donna).

Connecticut Warbler, (Donna).

Young Short Eared Lizard, (Donna).

Hummingbird checks out a flower, (Donna).

Mountain Chickadee, (Donna).

Steller Jay, (Donna).

Eastern Fence Lizard, (Donna).

Weidemeyer’s Admiral, (Donna).

Black-throated Sparrow, an active an elusive bird, (Donna).

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, (Donna).

Utah Prairie Dogs had their “towns” not far from the Bryce Canyon NP Lodge. The Utah Prairie Dog is the western most of the five species that inhabit North America. Limited to the southwestern quarter of Utah, the Utah Prairie Dog has the most restricted range of all prairie dog species. (NPS), (Donna).

Clark’s Nutcracker, (Donna).

Sagebrush Lizard, (Donna).

Immature Western Bluebird, (Donna).

Mature Mountain Bluebird, (Donna).

Hedgerow Hairstreak, (Donna).

Melissa Blue, (Donna).

Rock Wren, (Donna).

 

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As we wrap up our stay at Bryce, our westernmost destination, we look forward to a different type of adventure at Mesa Verde NP where we will travel back in time. Thanks for stopping by.

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Arches and The Canyonlands

Before leaving Montrose, a check of the forecast for Arches and Canyonlands National Park for the time we would be there indicated that midday temperatures were going to reach 100F. With that in mind it was obvious that getting an early start each morning would be the plan. It had been at least twenty years since I last visited Arches. At that time I was touring on a BMW motorcycle which was a concession to the fact that I wasn’t going to live long enough to see the American West using my favorite mode of transportation, a bicycle. However, as with most motorcycle trips it had essentially been a “fly by”. We would try to dig a little deeper this time.

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The arches are the reason folks come from all over the world to Arches NP and they are certainly worth the effort. Some are more spectacular or beautiful than others while some seem to defy anything we thought we knew about how arches and the laws of gravity work. However, to really appreciate the park’s uniqueness, it is also important to notice the other things. Strange, sometimes human-like, rock formations grace the landscape. At first glance one might think that the wind has sculpted the sandstone but that is not the case, rather in this arid place it is the endless effect of water, it’s freezing and thawing, that works the artistry. Shrubs like blackbrush and purple sage favor the shallow sandy soil, while greasewood and Mormon tea favor the alkalinity of the soil in this unimagined place. The dominant plant community in the parks, the pinyon-juniper woodland, find a home in the fractured bedrock.

The unique landscape of Arches NP.

Tunnel Arch.

Landscape Arch.

Rockscape.

Broken Arch.

Delicate Arch at sunrise.

Another view.

Tree

Signs from the past chipped into the desert varnish that often covers the rock. What signs will we leave?

Skyline Arch.

Tower of Babel

Purple Sage.

Sculpture.

The hardscrabble evidence of an early settler.

Double Arch.

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Our visit to Canyonlands differed from Arches in that we were mostly looking down at spectacular views from high mesas. In Arches, the sandstone, the result of an ancient sea, is a light yellow-orange in color. All of the formations consist of Navajo Sandstone dating from about 174 to 163 million years ago. In the Canyonlands, more layers are usually visible. Ancient sand was blown into the area from sea beds forming the white bands in the Cedar Mesa Sandstone. Red bands came from sediment carried down by streams from adjacent mountainous areas long since gone. These layers of sand were laid down on top of each other and created the park’s distinctive rocks.

Before sunrise near Mesa Arch.

Grand View trail, Canyonlands NP.

Morning sun.

Distant mesa.

The Colorado River.

A cave provides shelter from the heat.

An old cowboy camp took advantage.

Sunrise at Mesa Arch.

The canyonlands.

The Grand View point overlook.

Early morning along the canyon rim.

The Needles Area, Canyonlands NP.

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To take a journey back in time on the human scale Newspaper Rock was a mandatory stop as we left the Needles Area of Canyonlands NP. 

What’s the person in the middle doing?

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While I was captivated by the landscape my wife was looking for any critters that might appear.

Prairie sunflowers defy the arid landscape.

Longnose Leopard Lizard, (Donna).

Desert Spiny Lizard, (Donna).

Western Whiptail Lizard, (Donna).

Pale Evening Primrose.

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As I write this, we just finished exploring the 800 year old cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people in Mesa Verde NP. When I think of the fascinating geology, beautiful scenery, and intriguing history of the America west, I am in awe and we have barely scratched the surface. I hope this post wets your appetite for new adventures, perhaps in the American west. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

A Little to The West – Black Canyon of The Gunnison

We were heading west to the mountains and deserts of Colorado and Utah. Our new to us Lance 1995 travel trailer and GMC Yukon tow vehicle were acquired primarily, or so we thought, to explore and photograph the natural wonders of Florida for two months each winter. But now in the high plains of eastern Colorado where interstate 70 finds little reason to alter it’s course we were to encounter the first bit of “exciting” western scenery. In a place where the all encompassing sky and the land meet at an uninterrupted horizon, a wall of black clouds as far a the eye could see presented a seemingly impenetrable barrier between us and the small half ghost town of Siebert which was to be the day’s destination. Crawling along into the “wall”, with heavy rain and some hail pounding the car and fragile plastic vents and other pieces on the trailer’s roof, we passed cars stopped by the side of the road and even one or two that had found the ditch. Then almost as quickly as it began it was over, fortunately having sounded much worse than it turned out to be.

As we left Siebert the next morning what appeared to be relatively new grain elevators attested to the fact that someone in the town, who’s center is now comprised largely of abandoned sun bleached weathered storefronts, must be making some money. About seven hours later, after crossing the continental divide at Monarch Pass, a task that severely tested our until now very competent tow vehicle, we arrived in Montrose, Colorado about six miles from the entrance to The Black Canyon of The Gunnison NP.

Since no one in our party was in shape for extended hikes into the interior of the park or a 2000 foot near vertical descent into the canyon our exploring would be done by driving to trailheads and doing less ambitious day hikes to points of interest. Even so the trails ranged from easy to moderate in difficulty with the 8000 feet elevation contributing to the difficulty for us usually near sea level hikers.

Below are some pictures that we felt in a very limited way captured the essence of the park. To really do such a place justice would take many more years than we have.

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The canyon rim:

In places flowing 2000 feet below the canyon rim the distant roar of the cascading river is all that betrays it’s presence.

The two sides of the canyon are often much different due the accumulation of snow on the shaded side and subsequent growth of trees and erosion.

Most but not all overlooks have guardrails.

Along the rim trees struggle for existence in the hot dry climate. Some pinyon pines in the park are over 2000 years old.

The Werner Point trail, probably our favorite, offered many outstanding views.

In the early afternoon before one side of the canyon is completely shaded the Painted Rock Overlook offers a dramatic view.

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Along the river:

Outside the park boundary, and close to Cimarron, the Mesa Creek trail offers a great way to experience the Gunnison River.

Along the trail.

East Portal is within the park at river level. This small lake, created by a diversion dam, allows a reliable water supply to flow through the mountains via the Gunnison Tunnel to Montrose, CO and surrounding area.

At one time providing transportation when other options weren’t available this restored Denver and Rio Grande narrow gauge locomotive and cars sit on display near Cimarron. The railroad ran regularly through the upper Black Canyon of the Gunnison until 1940.

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There were an interesting variety of critters as well as wild flowers along the park trails. While we saw birds they were much more dispersed than what we are used to in central Ohio. 

A Scrub Jay perches along the trail.

A Mule Deer fawn is curious as we pass by.

Probably the most striking reptile seen while hiking in the park was this Collared Lazard, (Donna).

Another view, (Donna).

A type western aster was often seen along shady parts of the tail.

While visiting an arboretum in Montrose we saw this beautiful Sphinx Moth.

Along the trail this entertaining and noisy Clark’s Nutcracker made it’s presence known.

This not found in Ohio fly caught my wife’s attention.

A number of very interesting butterflies eluded the camera lens but not this Little Wood Satyr, (Donna).

Eastern Fence Lazard, (Donna).

A Orange Meadowhawk poses, arboretum in Montrose.

Western Tiger Swallowtail, arboretum in Montrose.

Great Spangled Fritillary, (Donna).

Western Branded Skippers, (Donna).

As we eat lunch a Pinyon Jay waited, (Donna).

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As we left western Colorado and headed for Arches NP we couldn’t help but wish for just a few more days to explore the canyon and surrounding area but have the suspicion that no matter how long our stay we would always want just a few days more. Thanks for stopping by.

 

While I Was Away Fishing

With the arrival of a granddaughter and my annual fishing trip to Michigan photographing the wonders of nature in central Ohio has been a bit neglected. Fortunately in my absence my wife took up the slack and was busy finding fascinating things closer to home. In fact, considering that it’s usually the slow time of year, there have been an amazing number of things to see.

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Numerous Kingbirds nest along the reservoir in Griggs Reservoir Park and while the babies have fledged they still expect their meals to be catered. Fortunately, ample fresh berries and cicadas make the work a little easier.

Bringing dinner home, (Donna).

Trying to get noticed, (Donna).

Finally! (Donna).

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When not being entertained by the kingbirds; vireos, numerous Great Crested Flycatchers, and even a Yellow Warbler were spotted.

A Warbling Vireo which is not often seen this time of year, (Donna).

An immature Red-eyed Vireo, (Donna).

Great Crested Flycatcher, (Donna).

Yellow Warbler, a rare find in the park in early August, (Donna).

Barn Swallows engage in a heated discussion about sharing a dragonfly, (Donna).

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A first of the year Buckeye Butterfly and a seldom seen Royal River Cruiser were also spotted.

Buckeye, (Donna).

A Royal River Cruiser not often seen along Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

and not to ignore some of the more usual suspects .   .   .

A Eastern Tiger Swallowtail at waters edge, (Donna).

Amberwing Dragonflies are common but due to their small size are often hard to photograph, (Donna).

Monarch, (Donna).

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It’s always hard to compete with my wife’s discoveries but as usual the Rifle River Recreation Area did not disappoint with some nice Large Mouth Bass caught. To eliminate as much trauma as possible the barbs were removed from the hooks which doesn’t seem to effect the catch rate and I’m sure the fish are much happier as they swim away.

A beautiful morning on Devoe Lake.

Typical of the Large Mouth Bass caught. This one was on Au Sable Lake.

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There were often a pair of Trumpeter Swans not far off while fishing on Devoe Lake. In addition there were always loons to enjoy. An encouraging discovery was not only the number of loons seen on the lakes within the park, where they nest due to the absence of motorboat traffic/wakes, but on the cottage lined lakes nearby.

Common Loons, Devoe Lake.

Au Sable Lake

Rifle Lake

As can be seen from the above screen shots Rifle Lake does not have suitable habitat for nesting but Au Sable Lake does with a considerable amount of sheltered natural shoreline. To my joy immature loons were observed there.

Lily pads on Devoe Lake.

Trumpeter Swans, Devoe Lake.

Near sunset on Devoe Lake.

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As I finished this post a task required that I briefly venture outside. In our front yard a hummingbird briefly hovered close by and then went about it’s business. Such a serendipitous occurrence caused me to stop for a moment, and as I did, ever so faintly, the call of a loon on Devoe Lake could be “heard”. I was left again with the realization that nature’s wonder can be found in many places. Whether on a lake in Michigan or in a city park of Columbus Ohio, all we need to do is open our eyes.

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Thanks for stopping by.

The Rifle River and A Mystery Bird

It’s that time of year again when we travel 6.5 hours north from our home in central Ohio to the Rifle River Recreation Area. Usually we enjoy checking out different areas for new adventures but this park’s unique beauty keeps us coming back. Whether paddling on the park lakes or hiking the trails there is always something to discover. From one week to the next different wildflowers can be seen. Spring warbler activity is complimented by the evening call of a Whippoorwill or Barred Owl and there’s always the distant call of a loon on Devoe Lake.

(click on images for a closer look)

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This year’s late June visit meant that in addition to increased warbler activity we’d also see blooming lady slippers and pitcher plants. Of course there would also be more mosquitoes to deal with and they’re always particularly pesky when one crouches down to study a flower or take a photograph.

A shaft of sunlight highlights a fern along the trail.

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My wife was nice enough to contribute the bulk of the pictures for this post as much of my time was spent fishing. However, to start the post off on a curious note I did notice something interesting one afternoon while hiking.

These rolled up birch? leaves littered the forest floor.

A closer inspection revealed a small caterpillar within the shelter of the rolled up leaf. It was in the process of eating it’s way out. Another egg sac near by? Based on an educated guess it would appear that a moth deposited it’s eggs on the underside of the leaf which then caused it to roll up and fall to the ground. Inside the leaf the caterpillar is safe from the prying eyes of birds until it escapes into the leaf litter and pupates soon to emerge as a moth and continue the cycle.

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When my wife wasn’t hiking and I wasn’t trying to catch a fish we did a fair amount of exploring by canoe.

Yours truly with a Devoe Lake Large Mouth Bass.

Exploring Grebe Lake

Common Loon, Devoe Lake.

Take two, (Donna).

Yellow Pond Lily, Grebe Lake.

Painted Turtle, Loud Pond, Au Sable River, (Donna).

Paddling trough the lily pads, Grebe Lake.

Trumpeter Swans, Grebe Lake.

A Mink checks us out along the Au Sable River, (Donna).

Au Sable River Walleye.

While Water Lily, (Donna).

Kingbirds entertained us as we paddled the Devoe Lake shoreline, (Donna).

Morning on Devoe Lake.

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One day as we drove back to our campsite after a morning paddle we came upon an unusual discovery in the middle of the road.

Our first thought was to move it along before it became the victim of a less observant driver.

But a closer look revealed that it was a Blanding’s Turtle something we’d expect to see in a nearby lake but not in it’s present location. Since it’s not a turtle we often see we were pretty excited, (Donna).

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However, perhaps the most unusual thing seen during our week long stay was the bird spotted while hiking along Weir Road.

The best ID we could come up with was a partially leucistic White-breasted Nuthatch but it’s beak didn’t look right. The mystery remains.

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We’d be remiss if we didn’t give special mention to the Ovenbirds and Yellowbellied Sapsuckers that entertained us each day at our campsite.

Ovenbird, (Donna).

With a white moth.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, taken while hiking but representative of the activity around our campsite, (Donna).

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While on the subject of birds, while hiking a park trail my wife was excited to see a Black Billed Cuckoo. It was a life bird for her.

Black Billed Cuco, (Donna).

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Finally, below is a summary of other things seen as we explored the park trails.

A recently emerged mushroom translucent in the sunlight.

A family of very colorful but small mushrooms.

Wild Columbine along the trail.

Hawkweed and fern.

The Rifle River

Showy Lady’s Slippers along the park road. A real treat to see.

A closer look, (Donna).

Bunch Berry Flower

Spotted Thyris Moth on fleabane.

Deep into the woods.

Red-spotted Purple

Another view, (Donna).

Yellow Lady’s Slippers were also seen, (Donna).

The flower of the Pitcher Plant. The plant gets it name by the shape of the leaves at the base of the plant which trap insects in water the leaves collect.

Overlooking Pintail Pond

Hover fly on dogwood blossoms.

This fairly large moth has yet to be identified.

Fleabane

Eastern Wood Pewee, (Donna).

Elfin (not Slaty) Skimmer.

Yellow Goats Beard, (Donna).

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, (Donna).

Another view.

Sheep Laurel, (Donna).

American Redstarts were fairly common, (Donna).

Blue Flag Iris, (Donna).

Dot-tailed Whiteface, (Donna).

River Jewelwing (M), (Donna).

River Jewelwing (F), (Donna).

Cedar Waxwing, (Donna).

Four-spotted Skimmer, (Donna).

Wood Frog, (Donna).

Coral Fungus, (Donna).

Chaulk-fronted Corporal

Wild Geranium, (Donna).

Little Wood Satyr.

Indian Pipe (before), (Donna).

After? (Donna).

A Green Heron stalks prey along the Devoe Lake shore, (Donna).

Black-shouldered Spinyleg, (Donna)

Another interesting plant we have yet to ID, (Donna).

Dead Mans Fingers, (Donna).

Delaware Skipper, (Donna).

Baby Robin, (Donna).

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As each day passes nature evolves. A wishful thought would be to spend one week each month in a place such as Rifle River Rec Area. Then one would truly appreciate it’s wonder. Thanks for stopping by.

Misty Day, Devoe Lake.

The Show

Recently we were flattered with an invitation to exhibit some of our photographs at the church we attend. The invitation was undoubtedly the result of this blog as well as various Facebook posts that friends and acquaintances have seen over the years. A friend commented that they might not be able to get over to the exhibit so the thought occurred that perhaps a post showing the pictures was in order. We hope you enjoy them.

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Lilly Pads, Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park, FL.

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Blackburnian Warbler, Magee Marsh, OH, (Donna).

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Wild Geranium, Glenn Echo Park, OH.

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Hummingbird Moth, Griggs Reservoir Park, OH, (Donna).

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Leaf, Griggs Reservoir, OH.

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Wood Duck, Griggs Reservoir, OH, (Donna).

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Squiggle, Griggs Reservoir, OH

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Prothonotary Warbler, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

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Branches, Griggs Reservoir, OH.

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Red Winged Blackbird, Griggs Reservoir Park, OH, (Donna).

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Misty Morning, Devoe Lake, Rifle River Recreation Area, MI.

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Spring Azure on Phlox, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, OH, (Donna).

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Tree, Salt Fork State Park, OH.

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Cedar Waxwings, Griggs Reservoir Park, OH, (Donna).

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Tree and Rock, Big Bend Natl Park.

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Purple Gallinule, Lake Kissimmee SP, FL, (Donna).

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New Art Exhibit at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus 93 W. Weisheimer Rd. Columbus, OH 43214-2544, “The Eye of the Beholder,” July 2- August 25. Join the artists for a reception: Sunday, July 14, 11:30-1pm. Food, conversation and photos.

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Approach photography playfully, you’ll have more fun, and your photographs will speak with a new voice.  Thanks for stopping by.

Photos by Donna

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