A Walk In The Woods

Clear Creek Metro Park, about 40 miles southeast of our home in Columbus, is a different world. It is an area where the glaciers of the last ice age stopped their southward advance. It is a world of hills, deep ravines that quietly resonate with the gurgle of small spring streams, imposing hemlock and beech, and spring wildflowers that are hard to find closer to home. Birds, such as the secretive Veery, are different also. In this rugged landscape, undisturbed by the glacier’s advance, a hike feels like a journey back to an earlier time. In a world bathed in ambient noise, there is quiet mystery.

The Hocking River flows through the park.
Along the river we spot a not often seen Hooded warbler.
Solomon’s Seal, (Donna).

Fiddleheads
Early Saxifrage is a flower I had never seen before.
Large Flowered Trillium were in abundance.
After a long steep uphill, we stop to “look for birds.”
The delicate Rue Anemone, (Donna).
Chickweed, (Donna).
A partially leucistic Eastern Towhee was one of the few birds seen.
Very few fungi are as pretty as emergent Dryad’s Saddle, (Donna).
The very tiny flowers of Miterwort, (Donna).
It’s hard to include only one trillium picture.
Jack in the Pulpit
Jacobs Ladder
Veery
Foamflower

In a world that often wants to know why or seeks and demands explanation for much of what happens, weather in one’s own life or in the greater sphere, it’s a treasure to find that in the quiet beauty of a place no answer is required.

Thanks for stopping by.

A Spring Paddle

At a graceful 17 feet long our Sawyer Cruiser canoe left the east shore of Griggs Reservoir just above Fishinger Road like a racehorse wanting to run even though it had been several months since we wet the paddles 1000 miles south in Florida. The plan was to follow the sunlit west shore north as far as we were inclined to see what migrating birds and other wildlife we might find. The choice of the Sawyer was dictated by the trip back to our launch site which would put an increasing wind in our face. None of our other canoes does “wind in the face” better than the Sawyer.

The plus side of looking for birds from a boat is that you have a continuous wall of trees and bushes of various sizes at water’s edge in which you might find them. The disadvantage is that the action of wind and waves must be dealt with in an effort to keep the canoe in position long enough to observe or in our case also photograph a small bird flitting about. Almost all of one’s creative paddle strokes are required. So, as with most of our birding by canoe outings, I handle the boat while my wife has all the pressure of trying to get a good picture.

Black-throated Green, (Donna).
White-eyed Vireo, (Donna).
Donna takes aim.
Painted Turtles, (Donna).
Yellow Warbler, (Donna).
Another view, (Donna).
Great Egret flies overhead, (Donna).
Our first Green Heron of the year, (Donna).
The Barn Swallows nest in the boat enclosures, (Donna).
Pie-billed Grebe, (Donna).
One of a number of Great Blue Herons seen, (Donna).
Take off, (Donna).
Pull out at Hayden Run, our northern terminus.
Male Wood Duck, (Donna).
Female Wood Duck, (Donna).
White-throated Sparrow, (Donna).
Hayden Run

Our first paddle of the year in Ohio had been a little over five miles, half of which was into a sometimes brisk wind. We felt good as we hauled the boat out, but we were glad we hadn’t decided to go further. The several hours spent had been a wonderful blend of appreciating nature coupled with the satisfaction of knowing it had all been accomplished under our own power. Our whole self had been engaged in the adventure.

Thanks for stopping by.

Trout Lilies

During spring in central Ohio, before the overhead canopy leaf’s out, magic might be found at your feet off well-traveled paths near home.

The less often seen yellow.

Thanks for stopping by.

Migrating Into Spring

For some living things it is a migration through time that ushers in their seemingly too brief visit each spring. For others it’s a journey through both time and space. In each case April brings “magic” to the central Ohio woods and meadows. It’s a time of beauty in small things as the grander landscape has just begun to put on its coat of green.

With the cool spring it wasn’t that long ago that we saw Snow Trillium, now the Large Flower Trillium have started to appear.

Despite the cold spring in nearby trees we now notice early spring migrants, flowers of another kind.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, (Donna)

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to look. Up or down? Wildflowers capture our imagination, but when we look down as our feet shuffle through last year’s leaf litter and see Twinleaf or Cutleaf Toothwort, how many warblers fly by overhead? A good problem to have.

Twinleaf, (Donna)
Cutleaf Toothwort

Almost too small to notice with the naked eye several objects are in constant erratic motion in the nearby brush. We pursue them with our binoculars, which often only brings a bare branch into focus, but finally succeed in identifying them as a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Showing its crown. A few moments earlier, in full display and missed by the camera, the top of its head had exploded into ruby flame.

Most of what interests me in nature, a wildflower at my feet or a warbler in a tree, is small. Much of it would go unnoticed if I didn’t pay attention and even so there is much that is missed. Wildflowers not as often, but birds really do benefit when viewed though a decent pair of binoculars. However, having said that, the start is really about paying attention. But how does one care enough about things, that have never been experienced or even seen, to pay attention, to look, to listen? For me that’s the wisdom that time spent in nature graciously provides.

An emergent Bloodroot flower is embraced by its leaves, (Donna)
Toadshade Trillium, both the leaves and flower compete for our eye.
Virginia Bluebells are starting to appear, (Donna)
When one looks at Dutchman’s Breeches it’s hard not to smile.
Some wildflowers are very common and unlike trillium can be seen just about anywhere. Such is the case with Spring Beauty.

Along with those that may be passing through, other birds also compete for our attention.

A curious male Eastern Bluebird
Tufted Titmouse plays peek-a-boo.
Female Northern Cardinal
The Eastern Towhee is one of the more striking members of the sparrow family.
Northern Flickers are one of the woodpeckers seen excavating nesting cavities in a nearby park, (Donna)
This Broad-winged Hawk appears to be nesting near Griggs Reservoir not far from our home.
Will this Brown Thrasher make central Ohio home for the season or move on?
Field Sparrow, its song is sublime.
This male Red-winged Blackbird will nest in central Ohio.

The natural world speaks to us in a voice without words. In the “year” of human history it’s been less than four hours that technology and our modern lifestyle, with its illusion of wellbeing and comfort, has isolated us from that world. For many of us its voice is no longer heard. For most of our history we have been an integral part of nature, we have been nature! So, it may not be surprising that it is a voice that truly speaks to our soul. It’s ironic that technology now lets us share its sights and sounds in ways heretofore not imagined. When it comes to appreciating birds, modern binoculars have only been around for a little over 100 years and capable digital photography not much more than 20. Fortunately, if we just get out of our houses and cars and venture into nature without any modern technology, there is much that it has to say.

Thanks for stopping by.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Takes Up Residence

So far this spring it’s been colder than normal and rainy. Migrating birds and the resident wildflowers that would have enchanted us in the first week of April continue to be illusive.

A couple of days ago we returned from a local metro park with just the barest of photographic evidence that spring is actually here. Today, as I write this, snowflakes can be seen outside the window fortunately disappearing on contact with the ground.

Virginia Waterleaf adds color and design to a sea of last year’s leaf litter.
Purple Cress does it’s best to bloom.
One Virgina Bluebell blossom braves the cold.

But despite the disappointments in the field something that we’ve not previously experienced was taking place much closer to home. From time to time during spring migration our very urban front yard has been a stopover for some fairly exotic migrants that stay at most an hour or two before moving on. However, recently we observed a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker foraging for food in our Sweetgum tree and it continued to do so for four consecutive days and counting! This male bird seemed to spend the whole day in the tree because just about any time we looked out there it was. Where it spent the night, we cannot say. We were astounded!

Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
What are you looking at?
Preening

Why the bird hung around for such a long period of time we cannot say. Perhaps its normal behavior and just something we’ve never experienced. The mystery remains.

One evening while we watched the sapsucker, a little higher up in the same tree another bird caught our eye. It was in the middle of dinner!

Fortunately for the sapsucker this Cooper’s Hawk was busy dinning on dove.
Do you mind if I finish eating?

Sometimes after paying our dues with long hikes though the seemingly barren early spring woods nature comes to us. Go figure.

In nature it would seem that there is always a lot more going on than we know.

Thanks for stopping by.

Spring Walk

Despite a colder than normal spring with some trees showing just a hint of green, the longer days and the now more persuasive rays of the sun continue their call for nature to awake. Recently our walks in the wooded areas of local city parks have carried with them the unavoidable expectation of the season.

Bloodroot, so fragile to forces of wind and rain and hear so briefly as if a dream.
A migrating Golden-crowned Kinglet announces the season.
A cloudy cold day is not enough encouragement for the flowers of the Twinleaf to open.
High in a tree this Barred Owl will be impossible to see in a few weeks when the leaves are out.
It’s flower looking tired, it was still exciting to find more evidence of the rare Snow Trillium in a local park.
A migrating Ruby-crowned Kinglet refuses to show its crown but is still a welcome sign of the season.
A Northern Flicker ignores our presence as it works on its nesting cavity.
On a day that’s apparently just warm enough for the insects, an Eastern Phoebe waits.
Arriving a few weeks after the males, a female Redwing Blackbird is entertained by their suitors’ calls.

Sometimes with the expectation of the season comes the unexpected, a Fox Squirrel that appears to be Break Dancing (click on panes for a better view):

Much of what brings real meaning to life are the acquired tastes that must be pursued with intention after just the smallest beginning flicker of interest. In nature, as with most of life’s experiences, the more you look the more you see and then appreciate, becoming richer for it.

Thanks for stopping by.

Whisper Of Spring

On some days in early spring the whisper of life is not heard above the howl of wind through still bare branches of waking trees. A warm embrace under sunny blue skies one day turns into a gray freezing flurried rebuff the next.

With it’s fits and starts spring makes doubters of us all.

The woods do not yet invite. A stark barren seemingly lifeless landscape is now revealed by the absent blanket of snow.

Against what feels like our better judgment we dress for the unexpected and journey into the woods. If we walk slowly and pause, look closely and listen we can discover in the season of expectation and disappointment small signs and voices of our larger being.

At a distance all is quiet.
But here and there a Snow Trillium break through last year’s leaf litter.
The Downy’s world is always open for business.
A bee takes advantage of the Hepatica’s flower
A Carolina Wren gets organized for the day.
Skunk Cabbage that first emerged through the frozen ground of February, begins to leaf out.
In wooded vernal pools Spring Peepers heard quietly in the distance deafen as one gets close.
For a short moment in time the tiny Harbinger of Spring welcomes the coming season.
A male Red-winged Blackbird unambiguously announces the season.

Nature seldom gives graciously to plant, animal, or us. It offers just enough. In early spring that just enough often leaves us with mistaken discontent wishing for more.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wonder Close To Home

We do a fair amount of exploring of natural areas farther afield. Recently an unexpected development brought us back to Ohio from warm and sunny Florida a month ahead of schedule. Burr!!! Our trip south each winter is a real treat as we spend almost all of our time outdoors, hiking, canoeing, and photographing critters we see.

Tricolored Heron, Myakka River SP, Florida

***

A couple of days after our arrival back in Ohio realizing that the frozen reservoir near our home might mean that waterfowl would be concentrated in the unfrozen river below the dam, we decided to check it out.

A male Wood Duck shares a log with a female Hooded Merganser
A Pied-billed Grebe blends in with female Hooded Mergansers
There were a fair number of Ring-necked and even a few Redhead Ducks, (Donna)
Male and female Goldeneye Ducks, (Donna)
Takeoff! (Donna)
A male Hooded Merganser isn’t interested in sharing.
Female and male Hooded Mergansers
Fishing success!
Perhaps the real surprise of our spur of the moment outing was seeing this male American Wigeon.

Seeing waterfowl so close to home that spend much of the year in locations further north and because of that are usually not seen in our “backyard” was a real treat. Our spirits were elevated after the disappointment of Florida. Setting aside our love of sunshine and warm temperatures, we were reminded that “other places” aren’t the only place to witness the wonder of nature and that there is magic right under our nose. Our local Ohio haunts once again made more precious.

Thanks for stopping by.

A Moment of Magic

The central Ohio winter landscape seldom beckons with snow draped conifers or the flowing design of a meandering creek through a landscape blanketed in white.

Still, if one looks closely there is beauty. “Flowers” in a season when there are none.

Female Northern Cardinal
Tufted Titmouse
This Merlin makes it’s living in the abandoned section of an operating quarry. We only recall seeing them in central Ohio during migration and in the winter.
Female House Finch
We’re always on the lookout for the tiny Golden-crowned Kinglet in the winter but sometimes we only get a fleeting glimpse.
White-throated Sparrows are winter residents that make their living in thickets.
This Song Sparrow really blends in.

***

For several days temperatures struggled to get out of the teens.

Surrounded by ice chandeliers the mallards don’t seem too concerned about the 15F temperature.
With its feet in the water and surrounded by ice this Great Blue Heron looks cold
Cold temperatures and flowing water may mean ice pancakes.
Maybe these Hooded Mergansers are just trying to stay warm.
Icy water.

***

Yesterday it finally warmed into the thirties. Even though our social schedule meant we only had time for a quick look along the river before darkness fell, given recent activity, we thought it was worth checking out. Perhaps the mergansers would still be there. After walking about a half mile along the river, we were not disappointed.

(Photo by Donna)
(Photo by Donna)

Not only did we see mergansers, but there was more than the day before, and most mature males were engaged in breeding displays. Thinking back, we couldn’t remember a time when we had seen such an extensive display. Had the increase in temperature of some twenty degrees triggered the behavior? We could only guess.

For us finding nature’s magic in the woods, on a river, or secluded lake has never been hard, but in the embrace of Ohio’s stark January landscape it’s truly something special.

The Nuthatch Speaks

Somewhere in the overhead branches of a neighborhood tree a Nuthatch is speaking. They do that often in a voice that leaves little room for reply so we content ourselves just to listen. Try as we might we never did see that particular bird. A voice evoking mystery in a tree’s tangled up-reaching branches. Such mystery is accepted because we know, given enough time, one will undoubtedly descend to an eye-level branch and pursue a more formal introduction.

White-breasted Nuthatch

The Brown Creeper’s presence often only becomes apparent when small subtle movements are detected on a tree trunk or branch. Stopping, they often seem to disappear and in doing so say “pay attention there is more to this place than you are aware!”

Brown Creeper
What creepers eat.

Sometimes we just smile as, in the midst of our observing, it becomes obvious that we are also being observed.

Fox Squirrel

Illuminated by the low December sun, the vibrant color of an Eastern Bluebird contrasts with the dull muted landscape and reminds us that beauty is an exception and wouldn’t be if it were otherwise.

In the winter, as if by magic, some birds just appear. We don’t see them arrive and we won’t see them leave. In this brief moment in time, they are with us and become part of our lives should we choose.

Dark-eyed Junco, (Snow bird)

Sometimes the realization doesn’t match the expectation. By December most migrating warblers are long gone but the Yellow-rumped enjoys food items other than just insects so many remain in central Ohio through the winter.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Our awareness has its limits as the nearby presence of an immature Red-tailed Hawk remined me. While I was distracted by another bird it remained unnoticed until it moved its head. How much do we miss or are never aware of?

Red-tailed Hawk-

In the winter woods it is often our intention is to see Golden-crowned Kinglets. It’s a bird that is no stranger to us so part of its allure or that of any other charming, but often inconspicuous, creature must be that they draw us into a world that embraces and also transcends us. Unlike spring when the scent of a flower may grab our attention, in December we must rely on the limits of our hearing and sight. With these meager tools we will find our boundaries expanding if we pay close attention. Each visit to the habitat of kinglets allows us to become part of a world that continues on in an unfolding mystery.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

***

Wishing everyone a very Happy Holiday!

Northern Cardinal

***

Masque & Spectacle

An arts & literary journal

Endless dreams and boundless imaginations!

We only live once. Hence, let's not stop dreaming

Florida Rambler

Getaways to the authentic Florida

Wandering Around the Block

An exploration of walks, hikes and other experiences

Nature Views

Learning to embrace nature and appreciate the beauty around us every day

Ohio History & Travel

You can find a rich experience close to home.

Into the Light Adventures

By Sandra Js Photography - Make the rest of your life the best of your life.

Bay Photos by Donna

Chesapeake Bay's Nature & Wildlife Beauty Through My Lens

Londonsenior

The life of an elderly Londoner and her travels.

Tootlepedal's Blog

A look at life in the borders

Eloquent Images by Gary Hart

Insight, information, and inspiration for the inquisitive nature photographer

gordoneaglesham

The Wildlife in Nature

Through Open Lens

Home of Lukas Kondraciuk Photography

My Best Short Nature Poems

Ellen Grace Olinger

through the luminary lens

Only the Sense of the Sacred can Save us

talainsphotographyblog

Nature photography

Mike Powell

My journey through photography

The Prairie Ecologist

Essays, photos, and discussion about prairie ecology, restoration, and management