Late Summer Along The Rifle River

In northern Michigan, early September weather has a edge to it. Nights can be cold, and even when it’s sunny, mornings are slow to warm. Just a few weeks earlier, the midday sun meant a warm embrace. Now lower, it warms only one side of our face, pierces the landscape, and evokes a feeling of uneasiness and foreboding of things to come.

Early morning on Devoe Lake, Rifle River Recreation Area.

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We were spending a few days at Michigan’s Rifle River Recreation Area to explore nature and do a little fishing. What birds would we see? How about wildflowers? What other wildlife would be spotted on this later in the year visit? Would any fish be caught?

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Amazingly there were a good variety of late summer wildflowers to enjoy. The most striking may have been the Burr Marigold that lined a creek explored by canoe. On this year’s trip we found a wonderful natural area adjoining Au Sable Lake, a short drive outside the park boundary. The launch site is surrounded by cottages and hardly an encouragement to the explorer, but it wasn’t long before we were exploring a creek flowing from Au Sable to Little Au Sable Lake and beyond. An area with no development and unique natural beauty.

Blue Vervain, not only lovely to look at but a herb that can be used to treat depression and promote sleep, (Donna).

Burr Marigolds along the shoreline of Little Au Sable Lake.

The closed flower of the Bottle Gentian make entrance to feed on pollen or nectar difficult for many species of insects. Those strong enough to enter through the top of the flower include some digger and bumblebee species. The eastern carpenter bee chews a narrow slit at the base of the flower and “steals” nectar without pollinating the plant, a behavior known as nectar robbing. The holes in the petals created by this carpenter bees allow smaller insects to also access the nectar and pollen, including the honeybee, the green sweat bee and the eastern masked bee. Ref. Wikipedia, (Donna)

The fascinating turtlehead is a plant used in natural medicine. Traditional practices create a tonic that is claimed to be beneficial for indigestion, constipation, and stimulating the appetite. It is also an anthelmintic (de-wormer) and a salve from the leaves may relieve itching and inflammation. Ref. USFS, (Donna)

The berries of Jack in the Pulpit.

In the woods, asters add a splash of color.

Exploring a wildflower lined creek that flows into Little Au Sable Lake.

A late in the season water lily showing some signs of wear, (Donna).

The seeds of the Yellow Pond Lily were frequently collected by native Americans as a nutritious raw food source. They were also used in the making of bread by grinding the seeds to create a flour, (Donna).

Brook Lobelia, (Donna).

Near the end of it’s blooming season, the beautiful flower of the Grass of Parnassus, (Donna).

Swamp Loosestrife was found along lakes and wetlands in the park, (Donna).

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Our campsite was in the woods, surrounded by maple, poplar, and birch. In their embrace the light of the late summer morning came slowly, and unlike the openness of the lakeshore nearby, evening seemed to greet us before it should.  Only occasionally would the sun find it’s way through a small isolated opening and warm my face. But as I sat there in the shade of early evening after a good day, sunlight and a soft wind played in the leaves high overhead, and in a quiet voice reached out as if to say, stay a little longer, be here with us, don’t leave.

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It’s just you, the canoe, the paddle, a pole, and the fish. A beautiful aesthetic for those so inclined.

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It was a great time to see fungi, albeit sometimes impossible to positively identify. Recent wet weather was undoubtedly the reason for the profusion. Fortunately, given the cooler than normal temperatures, the rain was very light and sporadic during the day which actually made for good hiking weather.

Along the trail colorful but tiny unidentified mushrooms emerge, (Donna).

Three, what we believe to be, Parasol mushrooms.

Yellow Patches Mushroom.

Different stages of development.

Another tiny mushroom, perhaps Orange Mycena, pokes through the leaf liter.

A bolete with a few friends.

Recently emerged Emetic Russula.

A striking display of Sharp-scaly Pholiota.

Another bolete.

Perhaps a type of chanterelle, (Donna).

Jellied False Coral, (Donna).

Toxic False Morel, (Donna).

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Lodge Lake, Rifle River Rec Area.

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The first few days of our stay, warm sunny afternoons really brought out the insects.

Autumn Meadowhawks were common along the park roads, (Donna).

A Slender Spreadwing perches along the Rifle River, (Donna).

Milbert’s Tortoishell, a first ever sighting for us, (Donna).

American Copper, (Donna).

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We were concerned that by early September the loons normally inhabiting the park’s lakes earlier in the year would have already headed south. With the exception of the one juvenile seen on Little Au Sable Lake, that proved to be the case. We did see kingfishers, bald eagles, and a few warblers, but the eastern kingbirds, so common around the lake in midsummer, were gone. Fishing on Devoe Lake one cloudy damp afternoon it was a real treat to see a merlin, perhaps a migrant from further north, as it flew from tree to tree noisily protested a group of harassing blue jays. A snapshot in time passing.

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In the late afternoon near weeks end I found myself paddling into a stiff breeze on a wind swept lake having recently left the shelter of a lee shore at it’s far end. A contest between muscle and wind where there there could be no truce, no middle ground. I was glad only a few waves broke near the canoe as spray blew over the windward gunnel. It was such a contrast with the glass smooth surface that had greeted us in the early hours of that day. The cool quiet of the September morning and the wind and spray of the late afternoon, as the sun hovered above the horizon, was once again a summons, a reminder, to embrace the present and live life fully.

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Creek flowing into Little Au Sable Lake, (Donna).

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Thanks for stopping by.

Robber Fly

In central Ohio it’s been several weeks since we’ve had any appreciable rain. Add to that numerous days with temps greater than 90F and you have the recipe for a very dry landscape. On concrete hard ground, if it has been walked on at all, as dust rises grass seems to break apart under foot. For the grass it’s hard to believe life will return before next spring. In what seems almost a miracle, the green of most trees continues to contrast with the brown of the grass. Perhaps we should plant more trees. The water level in the reservoir near our home has held up well, and is amazingly clear with little rain to stir it up. In contrast a reservoir a little further away, that supplies water to the city, is down over six feet. Now, with it’s expanse of dry clay lake bottom between the water and shoreline trees, I tell myself it looks better if I just imagine it’s “low tide”.

Trees do their best to maintain the green canopy along the Big Darby, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

It’s hard to have high expectations for seeing wildlife in these conditions. But in the middle of the day, as we cower in our air conditioned homes, life goes on. Unlike buzzards, smaller birds, that typically don’t catch thermals to the higher cooler air, are more likely to restrict their activity to the morning and evening. On the sun baked ground at noon I try to imagine what it would be like for an ant to travel any distance. I don’t see many travelers. However, as long as they have access to sources of food, the airborne insects seem unfazed by it all.

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Recently, in the morning’s relative coolness, we found ourselves walking at waters edge in the park near our home, Only a couple hundred yards into our walk a very small bird or large insect was spotted hovering, flying around, then perching on the branches of a partially dead tree. It was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and a “free range” one at that, how exciting. It’s always so much more rewarding to see a creature, not all that often seen in it’s natural habitat, in it’s natural habitat.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird takes a brake while on the prowl for insects.

Another look.

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After the hummer just disappeared into thin air, as they have a habit of doing, we wondered what the rest of our time in the park would offer up.

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New England Asters

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Actually I’ve wandered of topic a bit because I started out with the thought of highlighting the really good day we had with robber flies. They seemed to be everywhere on a recent hike of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. They’re not an insect that other members of the bug world are happy to see. From the perspective of other insects they are a very efficient killing machine usually waiting in ambush and going after just about anything no matter it’s defenses. Click here for more information. What made the day really good was not only seeing numerous robber flies, but seeing a number chasing and then with captured prey. At one point one loudly buzzed the top of my head as it unsuccessfully pursued a Zabulon skipper. The erratic flight pattern of the skipper undoubtedly contributed to it’s escape.

Red-Footed Cannibalfly perhaps 1 1/2 inches in length. There are over a thousand species of robber fly in the US.

Robber fly with a moth in it’s spiny, not easy to escape, clutches. Barely visible is the piercing-sucking proboscis which is used stab and paralyze it’s prey, inject liquefying enzymes, and then extract the nutritious snack.

. . . with what appears to be a grasshopper nymph.

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Morning light faintly touches Crimson-Eyed Rose-Mallow

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Robber flies weren’t the only insect on the prowl.

Unlike the robber fly, solitary wasps do not consume their prey but instead lay their egg(s) in a nest near or within an insect that has been captured and paralyzed with venom. If all goes as planned, as the larva develops the insect will be it’s food, (Donna).

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Other creatures were also eating other creatures.

Low clear water in the Scioto River made crayfish easy pickings for this Great Blue Hero, (Donna).

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Green-Headed Coneflowers with a visitor.

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Nature always seems to be generous as long as you hold your expectations in check. Often when looking for one thing other things will become part of the mix. It’s usually best to just see what you see.

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail hides in the foliage.

When one thinks Monarch one thinks milkweed, but there are a variety of other flowers they enjoy. In this case it’s thistle.

The only Little Wood Satyr seen during a hike of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Question Mark Butterfly, Big Darby Creek Metro Park

A tiny, but very common, Pearl Crescent on a New England Aster, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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In the summer I sometimes just like to sit in my small canoe or walk slowly with no particular focus but only to let nature speak with a more all embracing voice. Realizing at that moment just how much is going on around me that I have no knowledge of, much less understanding. Perhaps a lesson in life in these trying times as I strive not to be ignorant of my own ignorance.

How you choose to look at something determines what you see.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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August Ramble

In August insects catch our attention more often than birds. Compared to the frenzied activity of spring it can seem very quiet unless you look closely. In some ways feeling a bit like the “dead of winter” except that it’s summer. During a recent visit to Prairie Oaks Metro Park it was hard not to notice the toll that a few weeks of dry weather had taken on a wetland that relies on regular rainfall to stay healthy.

I would have been standing in water to take this picture a few weeks ago.

But as the water disappears a lone immature wood duck, with a few friends peering above the waters surface, holds out for the promise of rainy days to come.

This pic leaves a little to be desired in terms of sharpness but can you see the wood duck’s friends?

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Not far from the wetland are three ponds (Darby Bend Lakes) formed when old quarries filled with water from underground springs. Surrounded the ponds, and interspersed with plant life, is fine gravel undoubtedly left over form the quarry days. We were looking for dragonflies but were immediately stopped when we noticed a number of very large wasps. They were Cicada Killers, a member of the family of digger wasps that make their home underground. As the name indicates, this one provisions it’s nest with the cicadas.  One one egg gets implanted in each cicada. The female is noticeably larger than the male, up to 2 inches long, and of the two, it is the only one able the catch the rather large cicadas. Click here for more information.

Cicada Killer exits it’s nest, (Donna).

Cicada, (Donna).

Wasp with cicada, (Donna).

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This time of year at waters edge the landscape is graced with the large flowers of the Swamp Rose-mallow.

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We weren’t disappointed in our quest for dragonflies. No new discoveries but the fascination is always there. I was once again reminded that it’s truly a jungle out there when a catbird swopped down to snatch a dragonfly as I moved closer hoping to identify it. No matter what one thinks about the level of consciousness of a dragonfly, this one, now a nutritious snack for the catbird, no longer exists. It’s demise, the flow of life from one from one creature to the next.    

Eastern Pondhawk, (M), (Donna).

Eastern Pondhawk with prey on Blazing Star.

Halloween Pennant, (M), (Donna).

Halloween Pennant, (F) .

Common Whitetail, immature male.

Widow Skimmer (M).

Eastern Pondhawk, (F).

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Black-eyed Susan’s are also part of the Darby Bend Lakes habitat.

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Moths and butterflies were also enjoying the sunny day.

Monarch on Swamp Milkweed

A Monarch and Hummingbird clearwing moth enjoy the flowers, (Donna).

Hummingbird clearwing moth, (Donna).

A Great Golden Digger Wasp also enjoys the swamp milkweed.

Zabulon Skipper (M) on Chicory.

A female Zabulon spurns the affection of a male.

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Great dragonfly habitat adjacent to one of the Derby Bend Lakes, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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Mid-summer flowers and other critters made the day complete.

The unique beauty of False Dragonhead is part of the cicada killer habitat..

It was a real treat to see a Red-headed Woodpecker in the tree right at the edge of one of the Darby Bend Lakes. The first I recall seeing at Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

Purple Prairie Clover is also part of the cicada killer habitat. it’s occurrence in this habitat can be explained by the fact that it “is used for revegetation efforts on reclaimed land, such as land that has been strip mined. It is good for preventing erosion and for fixing nitrogen in soil. Though it is often found in mid- to late-successional stages of ecological succession, it may also be a pioneer species, taking hold in bare and disturbed habitat, such as roadsides”. Ref: Wikipedia

A small Painted Turtle enjoys the morning sun.

This year early August has been a great time for Ironweed.

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It’s been a good year for Red-headed Woodpecker sightings which, due to their rarity, are always very special but seeing the very large cicada killer wasp was what really created a sense of wonder on this day.

Mid-summer and low water along the Big Darby.

Thanks for stopping by.

Measuring Wealth

Certainly not an original thought, but most would say that if you have your health, enough resources to ensure adequate food and shelter, some leisure time when you are not dealing with “resources”, and good friends with whom you enjoy sharing life’s adventure, additional wealth is probably not going to contribute to life’s meaning or happiness. It also doesn’t hurt to have a curiosity about life as It will keep you engaged and seeking until the day your number gets called.

So what does any of this have to do with nature and where is Central Ohio Nature going with this? Well to get to the punch line without further delay, it has to do with an awareness of wealth that was experienced after a recent outing in the canoe. Of course this awareness doesn’t just drop out of the sky, it is facilitated by reading and enough research to appreciate what is being seen and experienced, good health and fitness to undertake the adventure, and last but not least, the company of a willing co-conspirator (in this case my wife) never hurts.

So what exactly contributed to the awareness of wealth on this particular day?

First, there’s the aesthetic of the canoe, it’s graceful purposeful shape, and the way the paddler and the canoe become one as they quietly move through the water with only the sound of the paddle as it brakes the water’s surface, is drawn back, and then, with droplets shed from the blade playing the stroke’s final notes, it leaves the water and returns to the beginning. A meditation; paddler, canoe, and water.

The north end of Griggs Reservoir. It’s hard to believe we are in the middle of a metropolitan area. We had the place to ourselves that day.

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Secondly, along with a good cast of supporting characters, at the north end of the reservoir in a stand of dead trees we had our first ever sighting of red-headed woodpeckers at that location.

Red-headed Woodpecker

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The supporting characters, not all of which are pictured, included osprey, juvenile spotted sandpiper, great blue heron (common), green heron, great egret, black-crowned night heron, belted kingfisher, great-crested flycatcher, wood ducks, double-crested cormorants, mallard duck, map turtle, large eastern spiny soft shell turtle, and a large snapping turtle.

Spotted Sandpiper

Great Blue Heron

Green Heron

Great Egret

Black-crowned Night Heron

Female Belted Kingfisher

Great Crested Flycatcher

Mother Wood Duck with young.

A large Eastern Spiny Softshell.

With the exception of the canoe all other photos are by my wife.

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The well connected lawyer or successful entrepreneur measures their wealth in a different way than most equally successful individuals who love nature but may have a less demanding career. The “buy in” on a wealthy street in our area may require that one to be engaged with a community of like minded individuals who have also attended prestigious institutions of higher learning. This coupled with a family legacy, and the “cross pollination” with other like minded established families may be key stepping stones to shared values and wealth which include the necessary hard to fake accoutrements, such as a large beautiful house and luxury cars, which signal one’s membership in the tribe. 

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But we are all destined to travel a narrow path and are all members of a some tribe. A path taken often excludes others. There is only so much life we can live. While there are undoubtedly exceptions, one would not expect that a successful high net worth entrepreneur would consider it a worthwhile use of their limited free time to walk a wetland path learning about dragonflies. Perhaps a business ski vacation to Colorado would serve their purposes better. However, is the person with more limited resources, for whom Colorado ski vacations are a bit out of reach, but who spends their time in the company of dragonflies and thus the interconnected web of life, any less “wealthy”?

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So the challenge for us all is to increase our wealth in ways that speak to our soul. The sacrifices that an entrepreneur makes to be successful in their realm are significant. From the point of view of a lover of nature they will miss out on at lot. The wealth bestowed from time spent in nature comes from a deep sense of connectedness that transcends our own self, allowing us to no longer think it terms of boundaries but instead to embrace the whole. It is something that money cannot buy and is beyond valuing. Perhaps Thoreau said it better than anyone has since:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
 
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden; Or, Life in the Woods
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Thanks for stopping by.
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A Quiet Voice

One of the wetlands in Prairie Oaks Metro Park, a park located not far from our home, is easy to pass right by as you drive into the west entrance. Unlike the grand vistas of Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon that overwhelm one’s senses making it hard to look away, wetlands speak with a quiet “voice”. A voice that can only be “heard” if one gets close, stops, listens, and looks. Usually at first little will be seen, but as one waits life will slowly announce it’s presence.

Wetland, heavy vegetation around the perimeter made getting to the waters edge difficult.

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It was a hot steamy early July morning that, given the recent prolonged hot spell, possessed nothing to set it apart from the day before or the day after. With the warm temperatures the goal was to see what we could see during a relatively short visit.

Not far from the water in an area of restored prairie, White Wild Indigo, “It’s habitats include moist to dry black soil prairies, sand prairies, thickets, edges of marshes and sandy marshes, borders of lakes, limestone glades, and dry clay hills. Bumblebees pollinate the flowers and the caterpillars of some skippers and butterflies occasionally feed on the foliage, including Wild Indigo Duskywing, Hoary Edge, Southern Dogface, and Orange Sulfur. The caterpillars of the Black-spotted Prominent moth can also be found on the foliage. The Wild Indigo Weevil and their grubs also feeds on this plant. White Wild Indigo is poisonous to mammals“. Ref: http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info

At water’s edge a very tiny Blanchard’s Cricket Frog that the casual observer could easily mistake for a grasshopper if it weren’t for the water. “Ohio Distribution: Occurs in the western 2/3 of Ohio. Appears to be more common in southwestern Ohio than in other parts of the state. Status: This species is declining rapidly across much of its entire range. In northern Ohio it appears to be less abundant today than in the past. No apparent declines in southern Ohio have been noted to this point“, Ref: OhioAmphibians.com. (Donna).

The wetland is an oasis for dragonflies.

Male Blue Dasher, they are most common around shallow marshy ponds, (Donna).

Female Widow Skimmer, common around rivers lakes and ponds, (Donna).

A striking male Twelve-spotted Skimmer.

Bull Thistle adds color to the wetland environment.

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With the prolonged hot spell and little rain the wetland’s days may be numbered which may pose a challenge for this painted turtle.

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Milkweed flowers and leaves attract numerous insects not the least of witch is the Monarch Butterfly.

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Perhaps to become a gray tree frog, a tadpole rests near the water’s surface.

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A Green Heron lands in a tree overlooking the water. We wonder if he sees any tadpoles.

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Nearby it was hard to ignore the striking color of a male American Goldfinch.

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The Big Darby flows through the park not far from the wetland.

Lazard’s Tail, with it’s lovely fragrance, is currently very common along the river.

This Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly was seen along the muddy banks of the Big Darby. I’m always grateful I’m not a gnat when I see those eyes.

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Water Willow, with it’s small but beautiful flower, is a very common aquatic/semi-aquatic plant in Ohio and can be found along most reservoirs and rivers. “Habitats include sandbars, gravel bars, or mud bars of rivers, low islands in rivers or ponds, shallow water or muddy banks of ponds and rivers, shallow water of rocky upland streams, shallow water or wet areas of swamps, and sandy marshes. Water Willow occurs in wetlands with either stagnant water or slow to moderate currents of water. The flowers are cross-pollinated primarily by bees. Other floral visitors include various wasps, flies, small butterflies, and skippers. These insects obtain primarily nectar from the flowers, although some bees collect pollen and some flies feed on pollen. Water Willow is one of the host plants for the caterpillars of Hydrangea sphinx moth which feed on the foliage. This plant is also a minor source of food for muskrats“. Ref: http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info

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We hope you enjoyed this brief early July visit to Prairie Oaks Metro Park. The wetland left us with the heightened realization that nature contains universes within universes, all interconnected, but each with a magic and beauty all their own.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Canoeing And Red-headed Woodpeckers

It’s always fun when one can combine two loves. In this case canoeing and birds. My wife and I are blessed with a fondness for the active engagement of moving under our own power, be it it hiking, cycling, or paddling. It turns out that this type of quiet activity enhances the chance of seeing birds and other wildlife.

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The last week found us at the north end of Alum Creek Reservoir twice. The reservoir comprises a large portion of Alum Creek State Park. The first of two fairly long paddles was to see what birds we might find and the second was to get a better look at the red-headed Woodpeckers seen a few days before. Red-headed Woodpeckers are always a treat to set because their numbers have decreased significantly in recent years.

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According to Cornell’s All About Birds: “Red-headed Woodpeckers declined by over 2% per year from 1966 to 2014, resulting in a cumulative decline of 70%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 1.2 million, with 99% spending part of the year in the U.S., and 1% in Canada. The species is at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action. These woodpeckers were common to abundant in the nineteenth century, probably because the continent had more mature forests with nut crops and dead trees. They were so common that orchard owners and farmers used to pay a bounty for them, and in 1840 Audubon reported that 100 were shot from a single cherry tree in one day. In the early 1900s, Red-headed Woodpeckers followed crops of beech nuts in northern beech forests that are much less extensive today. At the same time, the great chestnut blight killed virtually all American chestnut trees and removed another abundant food source. Red-headed Woodpeckers may now be more attuned to acorn abundance than to beech nuts. After the loss of nut-producing trees, perhaps the biggest factor limiting Red-headed Woodpeckers is the availability of dead trees in their open-forest habitats”.

Loading camera equipment into our fast but stable 18 foot Sawyer canoe. Unless you are near shore. it’s hard to appreciate this boat’s speed when you really want to get somewhere, as it leaves virtually no disturbance in the water.

Getting ready to depart on a very quiet morning.

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Not our primary objective but it wasn’t long before Prothonotary Warblers were spotted at waters edge.

Protonotary Warbler

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The next meal, (Donna).

Not a good day for the spider, (Donna).

Shortly after our encounter with the Prothonotary Warblers we spotted an Eastern Kingbird on it’s nest on a branch overhanging the water.

Eastern Kingbirds are common along Ohio reservoirs in the summer.

Along with Wood Ducks, Osprey and one Bald Eagle and an Indigo Bunting, there were many Great Blue Heron sightings. However, in what was somewhat of a surprise, no Green Herons were seen.

A mother Wood Duck heads for cover, (Donna).

Great Blue Heron, (Donna).

Indigo Bunting

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Further up river:

Our first look in the area where we had seen the Red-headed Woodpeckers an few days before didn’t turn up much, so we headed further up Alum Creek to see what else might be found.

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On the return leg we stopped at what appeared to be a Red-headed Woodpecker “hotspot” and were rewarded with a number of sightings.

The habitat at the north end of the reservoir.

A juvenile was the first to permit photographs:

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***, (Donna).

.   .   .  and then after some repositioning and jockeying the canoe looking for better views and better light we were able to get some shots of an adult!

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We’ve paddled to the north end of Alum Creek Reservoir many times over the years and this was the first time we’ve seen Red-headed Woodpeckers in these numbers, perhaps three adult pairs. Was our timing just bad in the past, were we just not looking for them so they remained unseen, or were they not there, at least in the quantities observed? We’re are not sure but hopefully future trips will answer the question. Meanwhile we will rejoice in having seen them and may even pay them another visit before the year is over.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

Butterflies That Don’t Look Like Butterflies

In the last few weeks butterflies have become a lot more common, especially during warm late spring afternoons. To the casual observer some don’t even look like butterflies.

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Below are some seen recently where there’s no question what they are.

The very small Banded Hairstreak, (Donna).

Another very small butterfly, the Summer Azure, (Donna).

Hackberry Emperors are a very common medium size butterfly that shun flowers but on a warm day will often land on your skin.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a large butterfly that’s easy to spot and usually easy to get a picture of.

The profile of the medium size Eastern Comma is a bit confusing but in flight there is no mistaking it for anything but a butterfly, (Donna).

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But then there are some where we’re not quite sure, a moth, butterfly, or something else?

The Silver Spotted skipper is one of the largest of the skippers and for that reason fairly easy to spot. It is a fast flier not floating like the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Habitat: Disturbed and open woods, foothill stream courses, prairie waterways. Range: Extreme southern Canada and most of the continental United States except the Great Basin and west Texas; northern Mexico. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

The Zabulon Skipper is very small, common but easy to miss. Habitat: Brushy openings near moist forests and streams. Range: Massachusetts west through southern Michigan to central Kansas; south to central Florida, southern Louisiana, and northeast Texas. Strays to New Mexico, South Dakota, and southern Quebec. A separate population ranges from central Mexico south to Panama. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

Two very small and seldom seen Crossline Skippers. Habitat: Open grassy areas including prairies hills, barrens, power line cuts, old fields, forest openings. Range: Western North Dakota east across central Minnesota, southern Ontario, and southern Quebec to central Maine; south to northeast Texas, the Gulf Coast, and northern Florida. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

A Peck’s Skipper on a dandelion. A very small fury butterfly. Habitat: Many open grassy habitats including meadows, prairies, lawns, marshes, landfills, roadsides, vacant lots, and power line right-of-ways. Range: British Columbia east across southern Canada to Nova Scotia; south to northeastern Oregon, southern Colorado, northwest Arkansas, and northern Georgia. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

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And then there’s this rather unusual specimen.

American Snout, Habitat: Forest clearings and edges, thorn scrub, brushy fields, roadsides.
Range: Argentina north through Mexico and the West Indies to southern United States. Migrates to central California, southern Nevada, Colorado, and most of the eastern United States. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

While fascinating it’s not clear what purpose the snout serves, (Donna).

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Given that many butterflies are very small and some fly very fast it can be a challenge to spot them. However once spotted, they transport one into a world that few visit and get to appreciate.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

Getting Along Just Fine

At first, as we looked across the river, there appeared to be a Double-crested Cormorant hanging around with a bunch of turtles. But a closer look revealed that one turtle didn’t resemble the others. The others, Northern Map Turtles, were almost too many to count. The unique turtle was a Spiny Softshell Turtle which, while not uncommon, can’t compete with the map turtle when it comes to shear numbers in central Ohio. 

With it’s neck almost fully extended, it’s almost as though the softshell wants to be a cormorant. The cormorant and softshell made the picture interesting, but it was fascinating to see that they were getting along just fine.

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As opposed to just two weeks ago, the brilliantly colored male Baltimore Orioles are much harder to spot with trees leafed out. However, one obliged by landing on the exposed branches of a nearby sycamore. 

Enjoying a tasty meal in a sycamore tree.

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We’ve transitioned from spring to early summer wildflowers. Two of my favorites, both anemones are Canada Anemone and Thimbleweed. The Spiderwort was photographed in bright late morning sunlight, not the best conditions, but the dark background made it work. The flower of the ninebark is amazingly beautiful considering the plant’s rather ordinary name. 

Foxglove Beardtongue “grows in moist, sandy soil in full sun in meadows, prairies, fields, wood margins, open woods and along railroad tracks. Its bloom period is from late spring to early summer. The plant is known to attract butterflies and hummingbirds“. Ref: Wikipedia.

This small bee is only a little over 1/2 inch long.

Thimbleweed

Spiderwort

Canada Anemone, “in the past used medically by North American Indigenous peoples as an astringent and as a styptic for wounds, sores, nosebleeds, and as an eyewash. The root was respected by Plains tribes and used for many ailments”. Ref: Wikipedia

Wild Raspberry

Ninebark

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Along the reservoir small regular waves under overhanging branches create a fascinating pattern of reflections.

Waves and reflections.

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Sometimes just an inadvertent glace in a direction not planned draws one into an adventure of unexpected wonder.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

A Warbler Fascinates and Delights

We are blessed to have Prothonotary Warblers nesting in central Ohio. Much of the nesting success can be attributed to the numerous nested boxes that have been installed and maintained in the habitats favored by this delightful bird. During hikes and while canoeing we also see nesting activity in abandoned woodpecker cavities. It is always a little more special to observe the prothonotary’s behavior in a natural setting. Especially for the photographer.

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Some interesting facts: “Prothonotary Warblers forage in the understory, slowly hopping along branches, twigs, and on the ground in search of food. Sometimes they climb up tree trunks and pick insects off the bark similar to the way a Black-and-White Warbler forages. When the male establishes his territory he searches for potential nesting sites in standing dead trees and places a layer of moss in each hole. He selects a few good spots and displays in front of each site for the female. He flies slowly up above the tree canopy with tail spread and slowly flutters back down. To entice the female to check out potential nesting sites, he enters and exits the hole several times. As soon as the female selects a site, she starts building a nest. On the breeding grounds males and females aggressively defend their territories, chasing away intruders with snaps of their bills and sometimes with physical attacks. They are monogamous and maintain their bonds during the breeding season. –  –  –  Prothonotary Warblers are uncommon to fairly common in good habitat. Their populations declined over 1% per year from 1966–2015, resulting in a cumulative loss of 42% over that period,”. Ref: Cornell All About Birds.

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One such area not far from our home is the O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve Twin Lakes Area along the Scioto River watershed north of Columbus. We decided to use a canoe to explore the area thinking that it would provide the best access to the birds. Many of the birds in this area seem to be using nesting boxes.

Excellent Prothonotary habitat.

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You never know what birds will do and even while shooting it’s often not obvious because one to preoccupied making sure the subject is in focus, especially when you’re in  a moving canoe. Having said that, we were excited to find a prothonotary in the process of obtaining a meal.

A tasty morsel, an orb weaving spider is spotted, (Donna).

Without much hesitation.

Down the hatch.

Burp!, (Donna).

Yum!

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A little later, and not more than 100 yards from where the spider used to live, another sighting. Could it be the same bird? This one decided to sing, perhaps energized by a recent meal?

Getting ready.

A quiet beginning.

. . . and then as if working towards a grand finale, singing with some stomping (actually scratching).

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As mentioned in previous posts many warbler pass through central Ohio but we are blessed to enjoy this one just a little longer.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Bringing Up The Rear

It’s been over a week since we’ve seen a significant number of spring migrants passing through our local park. For this year at least, female Redstarts and Black-throated Blue Warblers trailed their male counterparts by a few days. It was exciting to see Yellow-billed Cuckoo along the edge of the reservoir again this year.

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When the Blackpoll Warblers move through Griggs Reservoir Park it’s usually a sign that spring migration is near it’s end. “Blackpoll Warblers breed in black spruce and tamarack forests (further north) in Canada’s boreal forests. In western Canada, they also use thickets of spruce, alder, and willow. In northern New England they breed in wet areas with evergreen trees. During migration they stop over in scrubby thickets and mature evergreen and deciduous forests. On their wintering grounds east of the Andes in South America, they occur in forest edges and second-growth forests below 10,000 feet. Blackpoll Warblers are numerous throughout their range, but their numbers have declined severely in recent decades. Much of their far-northern breeding range lies outside of the area covered by the North American Breeding Bird Survey, making it hard to estimate population trends precisely. Nevertheless, the NABBS records suggest an extreme decline of nearly 5% per year from 1966–2015, resulting in a cumulative decline of 92% during that time period.” Ref: Cornell All About Birds.

*** (Donna)

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The ruffled feather look.

*** (Donna)

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The female Black-throated Blue Warblers were also part of the late migration mix. “Black-throated Blue Warblers breed in large tracts of mature deciduous and mixed evergreen-deciduous woodlands with a thick understory of shrubs including hobblebush, mountain laurel, and rhododendron. In the Appalachians, they tend to occur at elevations of 2,600–5,250 feet, but they occur at lower elevations in hilly terrain farther north. After breeding, individuals often move to shrubby young forests (i.e., early successional habitats) with their offspring. During migration they occur in all types of woodlands, parks, and gardens. On the wintering grounds they inhabit dense tropical forests, woodlands, shade-coffee plantations, and second-growth areas with trees. Black-throated Blue Warblers are common and their populations increased by 163% between 1970 and 2014, according to Partners in Flight“. Ref: Cornell, All About Birds.

Female.

Male for comparison.

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We’ve been hearing Red-eyed Vireos more in recent days. The White-eyed and Warbling Vireos have  apparently moved on.

Red-eyed Vireos often make their presence know by their almost constant repetitive calls, (Donna).

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Eastern Wood Pewees are still seen, but many may head further north as they don’t seem as common in the park in the summer.

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Occasionally we still see a Yellow Warbler.

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The mallard babies are growing up and amazingly, considering they are usually victims of various forms of predation, their ranks haven’t thinned much.

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Breeding in the park, Eastern Kingbirds haven’t been nearly as rambunctious the last few days. Perhaps they are busy with nest building.

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An immature Red-tailed Hawk was seen near it’s nest at the north end of Griggs Reservoir during a recent paddle.

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The water was certainly not enticing but the fresh green of spring made up for it.

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The highlight during that same paddle was spotting a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. A bird we don’t often see. Some nice shots were obtained due to a very light wind and smooth water. “Yellow-billed Cuckoos use wooded habitat with dense cover and water nearby, including woodlands with low, scrubby, vegetation, overgrown orchards, abandoned farmland, and dense thickets along streams and marshes. In the Midwest, look for cuckoos in shrublands of mixed willow and dogwood, and in dense stands of small trees such as American elm. Yellow-billed Cuckoo populations declined by about 52% between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey”. Ref: Cornell, All About Birds.

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Note the beautiful tail feathers, (Donna)

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Due to Covid-19 no birding “hot spots” such as Ohio’s Magee Marsh were visited, but even so it’s been a great spring migration.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

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