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.

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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:

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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.

A Big Buck

It promised to be a pleasant mid-October day with little wind. Cool 45F morning air was the price of admission as we started our paddle on a local reservoir. Seeking the sun’s warmth we headed for the western shore as the canoe moved through the still water with a graceful confidence. The outing was prompted by a favorable forecast and the realization that, given the time of year, one never knows how many nice day’s are left. Leaves still adorned trees with subtle hints of central Ohio’s fall color. In a month, should we be blessed with a equally warm day, branches would be bare the landscape brown and gray.

Exploring the shoreline of Griggs Reservoir.

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The west side of the long narrow reservoir is populated by numerous large homes set back (for the most part) a reasonable distance from the shore. A few small interspersed wooded areas provide a nice habitat for deer, beaver, mink and various species of birds. As we headed north, warblers, blue jays, and robins flitted about at waters edge in trees warmed by the morning sun, none cooperating for a photograph.

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However, we hadn’t gone far when a young male Wood Duck was spotted. It wasn’t sure which way to go as we approached and it’s ever changing direction caused it’s blue wing feathers to light up.

Immature male Wood Duck, (Donna).

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Other things were also seen during our paddle and as we briefly explored the north end of the reservoir on foot.

North end pull out, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

We watched this Downy Woodpecker spent quite a bit of time working on one particular tree, (Donna).

A warm October afternoon and a smiling Map Turtle, (Donna).

This Great Blue Heron had something to say, (Donna).

North end landscape, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

Fiery Skipper, one of the few butterflies seen, (Donna).

Field Sparrow, (Donna).

A beautiful White-crowned Sparrow, our first sighting of the season, Kiwanis Riverway Park, (Donna).

A pile of turtles enjoy the autumn sun, (Donna).

Previous frosty nights had done little to curb this Monkey Flower’s enthusiasm, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

One of the numerous Great Blue Herons that took flight during our paddle, (Donna).

A north end “paddlescape”

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We have seen our share of Whitetail Dear along the reservoir. In fact they are so common we hardly take notice. But at one point during our paddle what we saw stopped us in our tracks. At first, with only the tip of one antler visible, it wasn’t clear what it was, but as I slowed the canoe, and my wife got ready to shoot, it looked up.

The big buck, at least 14 points, White-tailed Deer, (Donna).

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We had never seen such a large buck and it made our day!

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Nineteen mile an hour winds will keep us off the reservoir today so perhaps I’ll actually get some things done around the house. Thanks for stopping by.

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Neighborhood Migrants

Warm days, now noticeably shorter, are giving way to colder nights with the landscape increasingly graced with the colors of autumn in Ohio.

Autumn reflection in central Ohio.

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During the past couple of weeks we’ve made a concerted effort to look for birds passing through Griggs Reservoir Park on their southern migration. We’ve avoiding the temptation to travel further afield thinking it would be fun just to see what is or isn’t passing through our “neighborhood”. There have been reports of birds that have eluded us, such as the Blackpoll and Yellow-throated Warbler, but all in all the effort has been rewarding.

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The Black-throated Green Warblers were very cooperative:

***, (Donna)

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***. (Donna)

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Only one Cape May Warbler was seen:

Female Cape May Warbler

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A fair number of Northern Parula Warblers were spotted:

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This Yellow-throated Vireo is not sure he wants to eat a stink bug:

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We had only one sighting of a Black-throated Blue Warbler:

Good enough to ID the bird but that’s it.

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The fairly common Yellow-rumped Warblers are often seen eating poising ivy berries:

***, (Donna)

 

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A Nashville Warbler was also part of the mix:

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One Ruby-crowned Kinglet tries it’s best to hide while another jumps right out and poses. To date more kinglets have been heard than seen.

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Contrasting with last year, this has not been a good year for seeing Black-crowned Herons on the reservoir. However, on a resent paddle we were rewarded:

Juvenile, (Donna).

Adult, (Donna).

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While looking for warblers a group of very active Blue Birds was hard to ignore:

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A young male Wood Duck has been hanging around the park for the last couple of weeks. By it’s association with a group of mallards it appears to think it’s one:

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We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge some of the other birds that have fascinated us while we looked for fall migrants.

An immature Red-tailed Hawk seemed curious about what we were up to.

Something has this Juvenile Red-bellied Woodpecker’s attention, (Donna).

A Mallard Duck, bathed in autumn light, swims across the reservoir.

A pair of Northern Flickers, (Donna).

A Tufted Titmouse acts cute like titmouse do, (Donna).

A White-breasted Nuthatch goes about it’s day.

One of the many Cedar Waxwings seen in the park in recent weeks.

A female Downy Woodpecker poses for a picture.

A Great Blue Heron strikes a graceful pose along the Scioto River, (Donna).

This Blue Jay has quite a mouthful, (Donna).

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It’s a dark gray rainy morning as I finish writing this so it’s hard to imagine what nature will offer in the coming days and this is the time of year when things tend to wind down. However, if past experience is any indication, it will only take another walk in the woods to again experience the magic. Thanks for stopping by.

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A Journey Through Early Autumn

Perhaps it’s the flowers or the number of sunny blue sky days that have populated the last few weeks, but so far our journey through early autumn, perhaps a bit warmer than one would expect, has been a wonderful celebration of the time of year.

The low autumn light filters through New England Asters.

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Blue Jays, along with migrants from the north adding to the local population, are commonly heard engaged in their noisy banter as we explore local parks.

Blue Jay, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

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By late morning and early afternoon there are always butterflies and dragonflies keeping us company. It has been a banner year in central Ohio for the Common Buckeye. It’s difficult to remember a year when we’ve seen so many. Several years ago it was late September before we saw our first one. At the other extreme we’re not sure we’ve seen even one Morning Cloak this year.  Could the same weather patterns or events be responsible for both of these outcomes? One can only wonder. One interesting bit of information we recently uncovered is that, depending on the severity of the weather, Buckeyes can successfully overwinter in Ohio. This could explain this year’s early sightings.

Common Buckeye, Blues Creek Park.

The underside of the wings, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

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With fields of golden rod in bloom there’s no question about the time of year, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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A few days back, while I was fishing, my wife was excited to find a Dainty Sulfur in Griggs Reservoir Park. To make matters worse not only did I miss the butterfly I didn’t catch any fish.

Dainty Sulfur, (Donna). The last time this butterfly was seen in central Ohio in observable numbers was 2012. Griggs Reservoir Park.

Little Yellow butterflies, while not as uncommon, were seen in another area park. We usually observe this butterfly in Florida during the winter.

Little Yellow Butterfly. Blues Creek Park.

Other butterflies were also present:

Eastern Comma, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

Eastern-tailed Blue laying eggs, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

Monarch. Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

This Viceroy seen at Blues Creek Park can be easily mistaken for a Monarch but it is slightly smaller, a faster flyer, and has similar but different markings on it’s wings.

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In recent days, no doubt due to the extended warm weather, we’ve noticed more dragonfly activity.  The following images are of some of the more noteworthy ones seen. The Wandering Glider is not uncommon but hardly ever lands so it was a real treat to get a picture. This aptly named carnivorous insect is the widest ranging dragonfly and can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

Wandering Glider, Griggs Reservoir Park.

A Illinois River Cruiser perches not far from the river in Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. We believe this is a first sighting for us.

This beautiful Blue-faced Meadowhawk was also a new dragonfly for us. This one was seen not far from a wetland in Blues Creek Park.

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Prairie Dock is a member of the aster family and can grow up to eight feet tall, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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The small furry creatures all seemed busy, usually with a nut in their mouth, and were hard not to notice.

Fox Squirrel. Griggs Reservoir Park.

Chipmunk with a real mouthful, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

Curious chipmunk, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

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The autumn nights, now longer than the days, usher us too quickly through the season. In keeping with this journey the next post will be about fall warblers as they make their way through central Ohio. Thanks for stopping by.

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A hover fly investigates a thistle flower. Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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