Autumn Song

High overhead an Osprey gives no notice but now as we walk along the shore sycamores sing in a tenor voice as they respond to the ebb and flow of a weightier October wind. Gone is their murmur in the gentleness of a moist summer breeze. In a fight to remain on ever barer branches the rattle of their autumn dryness soon gives way to a silent pirouette as one, losing it’s hold, lands quietly at my feet. The sun slowly warms the the day and the last intrepid dragonflies venture out in search of smaller “others” that have also awakened.

Osprey
The color of windblown grass betrays the season
With it’s tired wings this Eastern Pondhawk graces us with it’s fleeting presence.
Halloween Pennant, (photo by Donna)
Widow Skimmer
The quiet lee shore.

***

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An Ever Changing Miracle

Looking at the forest floor in early October it’s hard to imagine that in the same place just a few months earlier spring beauties and trilliums enchanted. With the exception of the tapping of a distant woodpecker and the call of a much closer Carolina Wren, it’s quiet. The banter of spring birds is not heard. Initially asked if you were in the same place you might answer yes and then after a moment’s reflection laugh at the thought. The woods cry out, “All is change, birth life then death, be in my moment”.

Autumn leaves and reflection.
In autumn a Song Sparrow has a tough time living up to it’s name.
A fallen tree, fungi, and just a hint of color.
A closer look reveals a slug checking out a puffball, (photo by Donna).
Under a group of conifers Yellow-orange Fly Agaric mushrooms were everywhere. 
Looking as though it had been placed there, a leaf with Turkey Tail fungus.
A Carolina Wren apparently didn’t get the memo and had no problem announcing it’s presence.
Autumn light brings mystery.
With gills that glow in the dark, poisonous but beautiful Jack-o-lantern mushrooms put on quite a show this time of year.
Against a dark hillside, with a morning fog just lifted, piercing sunlight illuminates a moisture laden web.

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A Record Day

Yesterday, the 26th of September, on a long walk through residential neighborhoods near our central Ohio home and then along a city park bordering our local reservoir we saw more Monarch butterflies than we’ve ever seen in one day.

. . . and it wasn’t as though we were just looking for Monarchs, Great Egret along the Scioto.

If we had kept counting the final tally would have been over 30 with four seen on just one small cluster of asters. At a time when their demise is often, perhaps accurately, predicted, it was nonetheless cause for real celebration.

Monarch Butterfly, Griggs Reservoir Park rain garden.
A shadow embellishes an already beautiful butterfly, (photo by Donna).
Three in view, (photo by Donna)
Posing, (photo by Donna)

On what seemed like it would be an ordinary September day in our “ordinary’ part of the world we found ourselves enchanted.

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A Michigan Meditation

An epiphany occurred a few years ago when I realized I was never going to to see it all no matter how far and wide my travels took me so perhaps a more satisfying approach would be to strive for more intimacy and dig a little deeper in familiar places closer to home. With that in mind for the past ten plus years we’ve travelled to Michigan’s Rifle River Recreation Area. A wonderful way to mark the passing of time, things gained and things lost, and to embrace change in seasons of the year and in life. The areas major draw is that’s to my knowledge it’s the closest location from central Ohio, where nesting loons can be observed.

Grousehaven Lake overlook.

Other than the ample food supply and clear water that makes it easy to locate, the reason loons are found here is that their nests are built right at water’s edge where they can easily access them with a short slide as their legs are located too far back on their body to facilitate walking. This makes the nests venerable to motor boat wakes but no motor boats are allowed within the park resulting in happy nesting loons. The relative quiet resulting from the lack of motors whether on the lakes or trails results in a great place to observe nature. A significant added bonus is that the Ausable River and Huron National Forest located nearby offer many additional natural areas to explore.

By late August the immature loons are too big to ride on their parents back but still unable to fly they never stray far. In just a few weeks the adults will be gone and shortly there after the young will also take flight to ice free winter waters further south. The lakes and adjacent woods will wait quietly until next spring to again be graced by their haunting call.
The adults’ are busy making sure their young are well fed. in this case a little salad appears to be on the menu. (pic by Donna)
Exploring Huron National Forest

During time spent in the canoe other birds also enchant.

Kingbird along the shore of Devoe Lake, (photo by Donna)
Bald Eagle, Loud Pond, (phot by Donna)
Takeoff!
Caspian Tern with friends, Loud Pond
A closer look.
Trumpeter Swan family on Lodge Lake. When walking along the shore they allow one to get amazingly close, not so when in a canoe.
Another look.

In addition to the birds there are other things that establish a sense of place.

Kalm’s Lobela, (photo by Donna)
Alone the water’s edge no flower speaks of a sense of place better than the very common grass-of-Parnassus
Along the shore of the Ausable River’s Loud Pond we spot the much less common bottle gentian, It takes a strong bee to pry open the closed petals of this flower. (photo by Donna)
Indian Pipe
The always fascinating Turtlehead were seen in a number of locations, (photo by Donna)
Dolls eyes, (photo by Donna)
Water Lily
Blazing Star, (photo by donna)
A yet to be identified wetland flower. Any ideas?

While paddling yours truly couldn’t help but see if there was a fish in the area

Ausable River Smallmouth Bass. It went swimming after Donna took this pic.

Along the Ausable River we take a break.

Lunch stop. For those interested the canoe is a very light Bell North Star

The parks numerous trails offer ample opportunity to discover fungi.

Coral fungi.
A colorful mushroom, (photo by Donna)
Stinkhorn, something a little different.
Slugs on a mushroom. We often see the result of their visits on partially devoured specimens.
Along the trail

A few insects also caught our attention. Ever try to photograph a small insect from a canoe on a windy day?

The American Rubyspot likes flowing water, (photo by Donna)
A small Common Ringlet along the trail. Not a common sight in Ohio. (photo by Donna)

Stepping forward a week. The other day walking in a park close to home we were enchanted by the sight of a large colorful dragonfly.

Royal River Cruiser, Prairie Oaks MP.

A reminder that one need not travel even as far a Michigan to discover the magic.

Loud Pond

In a journey through space and time each year as we arrive we also leave. Should we be so blessed next year we will return to again be embraced by what has become a sacred place. The experience of this year is all the more precious as the place as well as we ourselves will never be quite the same as together we travel into the newness of the next.

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Uncommon Beauty

I didn’t even have a serious “bird camera” with me while hiking in Florida a few months back when a very common Sandhill Crane captured my heart, posing as if waiting for Audubon.

Sandhill Crane

When we least expect it, nature enchants.

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Early September Walk

On any given day we wonder what will be seen as we set off to explore a local park. In this case it was Prairie Oaks Metro Park a few morning ago. Wondering now in the past tense, we were not disappointed.

One of the park’s small lakes. Dragonfly heaven!
A sunflower that was hard not to notice,
Along the Big Darby as it meanders through the park.
Phlox is seen along the trail. I always think of it as a spring flower.
Nothing says late summer like sunflowers.
A Royal River Cruiser swoops in and perches nearby. Not a common sighting.
A more common Halloween Pennant was also seen.
Being rather late in the season I was charmed by this lone Swamp Milkweed, but what were those small objects growing/crawling on it’s stems? Aphids?
Blazing Star. Very different than late summer sunflowers.
At waters edge something smaller than a average grasshopper launched itself about three feet across my path then poses for a picture. It was a Cricket Frog
Leaving the pond shoreline and continuing along the river a Green Heron tries not to be noticed.
In a dead tree high overhead a discarded snakeskin catches the breeze. Curtesy of a Rat Snake?
Ebony Jewelwings were still in the neighborhood.
So tiny but yet so beautiful, a Summer Azure poses.
Perhaps not so beautiful but fascinating nonetheless, mating robber flies. Be glad you’re not a small insect when one of these creatures flies by!
The deep purple of Iron Weed.
The fascinating flower of the Spotted Jewelweed can be a tough one to do justice to, but we try.
What would a hike but without a turtle sighting? In this case probably a map with a smaller painted.
With it’s many shades, in a month the river’s pure green canopy will be no more.

Other things seen eluded the camera’s lens but that’s okay because the above images are more than enough to hint at the riches found and the wealth accrued.

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Just One Thing

It occurs to me that I often end up trivializing nature by always seeking the next bird, butterfly, or landscape. Perhaps a better goal would be, that when in nature or whatever the endeavor, to seek to truly appreciate one thing.

Perhaps a first step is to walk a little slower.

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Early Summer Meditation

Below are things that caught my eye during walks in central Ohio parks over the past few days. It is quieter now with the spring migration seeming like a distant memory. Many birds are going about the business of nesting and trying not to draw too much attention to themselves while insects are now more likely to draw one’s attention.

Early morning along the Big Darby.
House Wren
Loaded with pollen a Green Bee works over a Cone Flower
A Bold Jumping Spider devours a daddy longlegs.
Sunflowers at Battelle Darby Creek MP.
A bee mimic robber fly waits patiently for lunch.
Low water along the Olentangy River
In the middle of the city along the Scioto River about a mile and a half from our house a Bald Eagle surveys it’s realm.
A mother Wood Duck with little spare time.
Another morning view of the Big Darby
A Grackle enjoys the water.
Eastern Meadowlark
Looking out of place a Green Heron waits for lunch in the middle of the Scioto River.
A Baltimore Oriole across the river an exclamation point for a beautiful morning.
A Dragon Hunter poses for it’s picture. It’s name a hint about what constitutes at least part of it’s diet.
A baby wood duck finds a comfortable spot on top of a turtle.
Common Mullein in flower.
The Michigan Lily is rare in central Ohio.
Male Eastern Bluebird.
Against the deep shade of the river bank a Great Egret takes flight.
Great Blue Heron
Song Sparrow
Female Blue Dasher, considerably smaller than the Dragon Hunter.
A very healthy looking male House Finch.
The Unicorn Clubtail is small and is not a dragonfly we remember seeing in central Ohio before
A quiet morning along the Olentangy River

In the woods walk slowly with a quiet heart and let the the wonder come to you.

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Tiny and Seldom Seen

Early spring wildflowers in late March and early April continue to enchant us. In some wooded areas flowers almost cover the the forest floor. Spring is not new experience in our lives but every year with it comes a renewed sense of wonder. Recently, during a hike at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park a bonus was seeing a very small butterfly and it was one we had never seen before. Adding to the joy of looking at wildflowers is the reward gained trying different angles, light, and compositions as we try to capture their unique beauty. A meditation of something fast passing.

A cardinal sings as we look for wildflowers.

Northern Cardinal

In the last few days hiking the trails at Battelle Darby Creek MP, as well as a few other locations in central Ohio, our search has been rewarded.

Small wildflowers caress the base of a tree.
Purple Cress
Spring Beauty
White Trout Lilies. Research into the medicinal and culinary uses of this plant is a bit confusing so caution is advised.
Twin Leaf. Reportedly a formulation of the leaves have been used to treat chronic rheumatism, nervous and spasmodic problems, neuralgia, headaches, especially headaches with dizziness and feelings of tension, stress, among other conditions.
Yellow Trout Lily
Rue Anemone. Interesting medical facts: a tea made from the roots is used in the treatment of diarrhea and vomiting and a preparation of the root has historically been used in the treatment of hemorrhoids.
Hispid Buttercup
Sharp-lobed Hepatica. The leaves, located at the base of a fairly long stem, are hard to include in the photograph.
A four leaved Toadshade Trillium. Not often seem.
Virginia Bluebells almost cover the ground in some areas,
Dutchman’s Breeches as Bloodroot looks on.
Scarlet Cup fungi. Not a wildflower but beautiful nonetheless.

To complete the enchantment as we made our way back to the trailhead we spotted a tiny dark and seldom seen butterfly. It was a Henry’s Elfin and a new butterfly for us. It uses redbud as a host plant and is an early spring species.

Henry’s Elfin, (Donna).
Another view, (Donna)

Each time we enter the spring woods it offers us something new. The season’s gift of which we never tire.

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The Earliest Central Ohio Wildflowers

Skunk Cabbage which can emerge through the snow in early March is followed closely by the arrival of Snow Trillium. In recent years we’ve missed the Skunk cabbage as we are busy exploring nature future south. More about that in future posts. Just a week or so after the Snow Trillium, a few other wildflowers, emerging through the dullness of last year’s fallen leaves, grace us with their beauty. An early awakening to the beauty that follows.

The Snow Trillium is localized, and not the common, in the Midwestern states of Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.
The very tiny Harbinger of Spring.
The fragile flowers of the Bloodroot are here for a very short time.
Dutchman’s Breeches are fairly common in central Ohio and hang around quite a bit longer than the very fragile flower of the Bloodroot..
Cut-leaved Toothwort is a small woodland wildflower that is easy to miss.
Toadshade trillium is common woodland wildflower occurring in the eastern part of Kansas and Oklahoma, in the lower Midwest to the upper south, New York to North Carolina.
Virginia Bluebells are a common woodland wild flower in the Midwest and can be seen of a period of several days.

Everything has it’s time and there is no better example than the early spring wildflowers. In a few weeks as you walk through the woods don’t look for Dutchman’s Breeches but as if never to disappoint there will be other things to fascinate.

Thanks for stopping by.

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