Paddling Into Nature On Griggs Reservoir

This post is a partial summary of the wonderful diversity of life seen during a recent nine mile paddle on Griggs Reservoir. The reservoir is located within the “city limits” of Columbus, Ohio. Except for a few isolated cases where (Bob) is under the photo my wife was kind enough to handle the photography.

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It’s been a wet spring with not many nice days to beckon one out into nature. The wet weather in central Ohio has given many rivers and reservoirs a “chocolate milk” appearance, not the preferred aesthetic when paddling. But finally with a good forecast, wildflowers blooming, and the landscape turning evermore green, we decided it was time to get the boat in the water and do some exploring. Over the years we’ve seen many wonderful things in and along the reservoir but given it’s urban location we always try keep our expectations low. If nothing else we’ll get some exercise and we’ll be outdoors.

We enter one of Griggs Reservoirs small coves looking for Black-crowned Night Herons. The rock outcroppings are a favorite place for Wild Columbine, (Bob).

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The first clue that it might be a better than average day in nature was seeing the Wild Columbine along the reservoirs many rocky outcroppings.

Wild Columbine, (Bob)

A closer look, (Bob).

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While on the subject of wildflowers we also noticed Wild Stonecrop in the same area.

Wild Stonecrop, (Bob)

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A little further on we spotted a snapping turtle in the shallows of one of the reservoir’s small coves. The first of many turtles seen.

A Snapping Turtle checks us out from the safety of the water, (Bob).

Not far away a snapper was also observed sunning itself, a rare behavior for this always submerged creature that only occurs in the spring.

Snapping Turtle.

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Not seen as often as Red Eared Sliders or Map turtles a few softshell turtles were also seen.

Eastern Spiny Softshell.

A second later it disappeared below the surface.

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We probably shouldn’t ignore some of the other turtles:

A Map Turtle catches some rays.

A very small turtle surveys a big world.

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We expected to see more water snakes but only one was spotted.

Northern Water Snake.

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While no Green and Black-crowned Night Herons were seen, a few Great Egrets and countless Great Blue Herons made up for it.

Great Blue Heron.

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Something not fully appreciated is that four species of swallows make there living along the reservoir; Tree, Cliff, Barn and Rough-winged. The Tree, Cliff, and Barn Swallows are fairly numerous and easy to observe. The Rough-winged don’t seem to be as common.

Barn Swallow, (Bob).

On this particular day the Cliff Swallows were putting on the best show as they busily went about building their nests under the Hayden Run bridge.

Cliff Swallow nest building, (Bob).

Caught with it’s mouth full!

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We were really excited to see a pair of Wood Ducks because getting a great picture of this duck usually involves using a blind as you can seldom get close enough in a canoe.

Male and female Wood Ducks.

A slightly closer look.

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Along with the Wood Ducks a much more common and approachable female Mallard is seen with babies.

Female Mallard Duck.

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Remembering an area at the north end of the reservoir where a nested Prothonotary Warbler was observed last year, we headed for that location and were not disappointed.

Prothonotary Warbler.

With nesting material.

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As if in comic relief we couldn’t help but notice a Canada Goose that seem ready to set sail while perched high overhead their mate wondered what was going to happen next.

Canada Goose.

 

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A Spotted Sandpiper was spotted and seemed to be in a cooperative mood as it didn’t immediately take flight as we approached.

Spotted Sandpiper.

Eventually it did get tired of the attention.

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A few other birds were also seen:

Eastern Phoebe.

Tufted Titmouse.

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Over the years we’ve seen Gray, Red and Fox Squirrels but on this day it was a not uncommon Fox Squirrel. They always seem a bit curious about what we’re doing.

Fox Squirrel.

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Near a large beaver lodge at the north end of the reservoir we spotted what we first thought was a young beaver but was probably a Muskrat.

Muskrat.

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It had been awhile since we had seen one along the reservoir so our “Wood Duck” excitement  was more than duplicated with the discovery of a Mink making it’s way along the shore. It’s rapid movement made getting a sharp image a challenge.

Mink.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some Griggs Reservoir nature. A canoe or kayak can be a great tool for exploring and seeing things that would otherwise not be possible. As a platform for observations with binoculars it’s relatively straight forward. Should you decide to try canoe/kayak nature photography be prepared for more challenges than would be encountered shooting from land and a higher failure rate. The best scenario would be to have someone that loves to paddle handle the boat when you are taking pictures. But even if you are solo it is possible to get some great shots.

Hayden Run Falls framed in spring’s green and with a nice flow, (Bob)

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Thanks for stopping by.

A Spring Wildflower Wonderland

A few days ago we thought we’d better take the hour and a half drive south from Columbus to Miller Sanctuary State Nature Preserve and Highlands Nature Sanctuary to check out the spring wildflowers before they bid us farewell for the year. Both destinations are located within an area commonly referred to as the Arc of Appalachia which is comprised of numerous beautiful undisturbed natural areas no matter what the time of year you choose to visit. 

An area map showing the location of access points for the areas we explored.

Our first stop was the Miller Sanctuary which has about three miles of trails. Even though the trails are not long one should allow plenty of time as the number of wildflowers is truly amazing and it will take time if one wants to adequately appreciate them.

Remember: you can click on the images should you desire a better view.

Golden Ragwort, common throughout Ohio, was one of the first wildflowers to greet us as we started down the trail.

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When one thinks of the Large Flowered Trillium one usually thinks of a white flower but the images below show the change in color as the bloom ages.

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In a very small area one can see a variety of wildflowers.

Blue phlox, rue-anemone, trillium.

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A closer look reveals the delicate beauty of Blue Phlox.

Blue Phlox or Wild Sweet William.

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The Rue-anemone blossoms were hard to ignore.

Rue-anemone, (Donna).

From another angle.

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Fiddleheads grace the bank of the Rocky Fork River.

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A little further on there was another nice grouping.

Virginia Bluebells, Large Flowered Trillium, and Miterwort.

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The Miterwort flower is so small that from a distance it doesn’t even appear to be a flower but if one takes a closer look  .   .   .

Miterwort or Bishop’s Cap.

.   .   . and closer still, (Donna).

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While certainly not uncommon throughout Ohio, Virginia Bluebells were also present in the sanctuary.

Virginia Bluebells.

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Redbuds accent the Rocky Fork landscape.

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The large boulders and rocky cliffs provided an excellent habitat for Wild Columbine.

Wild Columbine, (Donna).

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A real treat were the Shooting Stars, a flower we don’t often see closer to home.

Shooting Star, (Donna).

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May Apples carpet the forest floor but we were a bit early to see their flowers.

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We were greeted by more wildflowers as we continued along the trail.

Very tiny Bluets

Goldenseal, (Donna).

Emerging Squawroot. A native perennial, non-photosynthesizing parasitic plant that grows from the roots of mostly oak and beech trees, (Donna).

Large-Flowered Bellwort, (Donna).

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The sanctuary contain a sizable stand of large Tulip trees.

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Canada Violets, (Donna).

Blue Cohosh, the yellowish flower clusters ripen into berries that eventually turn deep blue.

Nestled under the plant’s leaves close to the ground one really needs to look to see the flower of the Wild Ginger plant, (Donna).

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Trilliums line the bank of a small feeder stream.

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Wild Geranium.

Star Chickweed.

Moving in a little closer, (Donna).

Jack In The Pulpit, (Donna).

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The beauty of wildflowers complimented by the sight and sound of a small waterfall.

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Just on the other side of the Rocky Fork River were trails contained in Highlands Nature Sanctuary. We choose to hike the spectacular Barrett Rim Trail. While many of the wildflowers were the same, the dramatic rocky outcropping brought an additional dimension.

One section of the trail runs between the river and these cliffs.

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Certainly not the showiest the blossoms of the Pawpaw were just emerging.

Pawpaw.

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As with Miller, Large Flowered Trillium lined the trail in many places.

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The extensive groups of Celandine or Wood-Poppy were a real treat. A plant we didn’t see in the Miller Sanctuary.

We were surprised by their number.

Wood Poppy, a closer look.

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It’s easy to see how the Rocky Fork River got its name.

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Perhaps the most exciting discovery on our two-mile hike was one solitary flower that was new to us.

Wood Betony.

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After five miles of hiking and countless wildflowers we returned home excited about the possibility of a return visit. For those interested in checking things out this year there have still been reports of wildflowers, some of which are “new arrivals” that we didn’t see, as I post this a week later.

Another view along the Rocky Fork River.

There are times when a walk in the woods provides more than it’s share of encouragement to again be in nature. Thanks for stopping by.

Florida Wrap-up

After a week at Mike Roess State Park  we travelled a short distance to what has become one of our favorite parks for wildlife viewing, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. After a week there we would travel to Blackwater River State Park which was a new park for us and recommended because of the beauty of the river. We planned on being there for a week before traveling home to Ohio for what we hoped would be just a brief period of winter before spring arrived.

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Paynes Prairie is not a great paddling destination but does offer good hiking within the park and good bicycling opportunities in the park as well as on nearby roads and bike trails. The park offers great opportunities for viewing nature and is highly recommended if that is your passion. Just a short drive away the Bolen Bluff Trail, Barr Hammock PreserveSweetwater Wetlands Park, and the parks north entrance with a boardwalk along Alachua Sink are an added bonus. We had no problem keeping ourselves busy during our one week stay.

Remember: you can click on the images should you desire a better view.

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The Bolen Bluff Trail turned out to be a great “wildlife” trail but in our case did require use of the car to get to the trailhead.

The area contained excellent habitat for a variety of birds.

Bald Eagle

A young Sharpe-shinned Hawk with a Yellow-rumped Warbler, (Donna).

Meal time!

. . . and feathers fly.

There were also a number of Red-headed Woodpeckers looking for something to eat.

Found a bug! (Donna).

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There is no need to get into the car as we found plenty to see on park trails that can be accessed right from the campground.

On a trail not far from the campground a Barred Owl is spotted.

There is a huge expanse of wetland in the park which among other things is home to bison and wild horses.

Cloudless Sulphur on a large thistle.

Palamedes Swallowtail, (Donna).

Giant Swallowtail.

Zebra Swallowtail.

Eastern Towhee.

Pileated Woodpeckers are often seen on the park trails.

A large katydid visits our campsite.

Northern Parula.

A Northern Parula sings it’s heart out in the woods near our campsite.

Another look.

A paradise for large wading birds.

Always fascinating to watch, a Great Blue Heron stalks its next meal.

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Paynes Prairie Preserve north entrance, Alachua Sink was another excellent natural area just a short drive away.

A Live Oak casts shadows on the waters surface near Alachua sink.

Graceful and beautiful an Anhinga preening, Alachua sink.

Alachua Sink.

A very small (and cute?) Alligator enjoys the sun.

Looking across the wetland, Alachua sink area.

Immature Little Blue Heron.

Mature Little Blue Heron.

It was a real treat to see these immature Great Horned Owls, Alachua sink area.

With mom nearby.

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Finally another excellent area that is even a shorter drive is Barr Hammock Preserve. The preserve trail consists of a large loop circling what used to be farmland but which is now at least partially flooded.

Landscape.

A Tri-color Heron tidies up, (Donna).

Patterns in tree bark.

Immature White Ibis, (Donna).

Reflections

Largeflower Primrose-Willow

Little Yellow, a butterfly we don’t remember seeing before, (Donna).

American Bittern

Alligators large and small.

No hike in Florida would be complete without a turtle, Florida Cooter.

Swamp.

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Compared to other parks visited, wildlife sighting were not nearly as common at Blackwater River SP. However quality made up for quantity with a rare wildflower sighting and the pleasant surprise of a Red-cockaded Woodpecker sighting. Also the river did live up to its reputation for being a beautiful and during our one paddle a bonus was enjoying the many turtles that had taken up residence on shoreline logs. Our stay in the park was a quiet one so walking along a park road or a trail offered an equal opportunity to see wildlife.

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker’s habitat is the Southeast’s once-vast longleaf pine stands. They also occur in stands of loblolly, slash, and other pine species. The birds dig cavities in living pines and live in family groups working together to dig cavities and raise young. Due to habitat loss the species has declined drastically and was listed as Endangered in 1970.

Not far from the woodpecker, but in the brush at ground level, a Brown Thrasher made an appearance.

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Patterns in the sand, Blackwater River.

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.   .   .  and at river’s edge:

River Jewelwings, in this case males, were a real treat to see, (Donna).

Female

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Enjoying the river’s beauty.

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In the order of carnivorous insects, Odonata, we were also fortunate to see a beautiful Green Darner one of the larger dragonflies.

Green Darner

Another view.

.   .   .   and also a pair of mating Cypress Clubtail Dragonflies.

Cypress Clubtails

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Some low-lying areas along the trail required boardwalks.

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Dragonflies weren’t the only insects mating, a pair of Carolina Satyrs were also seen, (Donna).

A beautiful Queen butterfly, (Donna).

Dubious Tiger Moth, (Donna).

Where there are butterflies there are often wildflowers.

Yellow Butterwort, a very rare sighting for us, this carnivorous plant is a Florida threatened species.

These purple flowers (False Rosemary?) were relatively common during our hikes.

Sky-blue Lupine

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Due to weather and river flow conditions we only paddled once but it was energy well spent.

Tannins color the otherwise clear water.

A peaceful view.

The low winter sun highlights budding trees.

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The next post we will be back in Ohio in search of Ohio’s spring wildflowers but whether it’s nature in Florida or Ohio we remain amazed and enchanted.

Blackwater River

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Thanks for stopping by.

It’s Spring!

While working on a blog post pertaining to time spent in Florida earlier this year I was interrupted. However, unlike many interruptions this one was good. Spring wasn’t just knocking, it was banging on the door, calling us to come out and play. In just the last few days nature has exploded in central Ohio making it hard for my wife and I to contain our enthusiasm. Hopefully this post will convey just a little bit of the excitement.

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One of the first clues that things were changing more rapidly were the wildflowers.

Redbuds.

Virginia Bluebells, (Donna).

Another look.

White Trout Lily

Dutchman’s Breeches.

Yellow Trout Lilies, (Donna).

A closer look. (Donna).

Emerging Buckeye leaves, not a flower but beautiful in their own way.

Spring Beauties, (Donna).

Newly emerged spring fungi, Dryad’s Saddle, (Donna).

Translucent green.

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Then there were the birds, all of which seemed very busy.

From it’s nesting cavity a Red-bellied Woodpecker checks us out.

A Canada Goose on it’s nest at water’s edge. Hopefully there will be no heavy rains in the near future.

An argumentative pair of Blue Jays announce their presence. Could they be discussing nest location?

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Some behavior seemed odd.

This Canada Goose was trying a different menu item. Something we’ve never seen before.

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Other birds were just enjoying the warmer weather.

A Tufted-titmouse makes itself know with a voice much bigger than the bird.

A common but hard to photograph Carolina Chickadee is nice enough to pose.

Sunlight warms a male Mallard in breeding plumage.

Redbuds surround a female Cardinal.

A Great Blue Heron soars overhead along the Scioto River, (Donna).

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The Great Egrets in their breeding plumage continued to enchant us.

Preening.

Another look.

Striking a beautiful pose.

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But the days real excitement was generated when we spotted a newly arrived spring migrant.

This curious Yellow-throated Warbler flew down to see what I was up to.

Too cute for just one pic.

And perhaps one more.

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As if the wildflowers and birds weren’t enough, more turtles than we’ve ever seen on one log decided to get into the act.

Turtles along the Scioto River, How many do you see?

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We hope our enthusiasm rubs off on our readers and everyone gets out to witness springs transformation in their neighborhood.

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Walking in the freshness of an early spring morning

along a path lined with trees just clothed in translucent green

with the sights, sounds, and smells of nature

I am reborn.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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A Rare Duck

Based on a reported sighting we recently we found ourselves at Prairie Oaks Metro Park gazing intently out across one of the park ponds looking for Long-tailed Ducks. It’s a species that breeds in the far north and is otherwise usually found along the Atlantic and Pacific coast and if seen would be a new bird for us. After a tip from a fellow birder, and with the use of a spotting scope and binoculars, one bird was located without too much trouble. It must have found something to its liking in one particular location because after numerous dives it always surfaced in the same general area. While I enjoyed watching the bird’s behavior through the scope my wife did her best to get some shots despite the less than optimal light.

My wife managed to get some shots showing the long tail.

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While observing the Long-tailed Duck a pair of Horned Grebes made an appearance.

Horned Grebes, (Donna).

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As a bonus just a day before while looking for migrating waterfowl a Bufflehead proved to be unusually cooperative.

Male Bufflehead, Watermark Quarry.

At least for a while  .   .   .

Taking flight.

Airborne

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But as if the Long-tailed Duck wasn’t enough, the most magical moment may have been right after seeing the Bufflehead when a much smaller but no less charming bird appeared in a bush not far away.

While it appears larger, the Golden-crowned Kinglet is about the same weight as a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Too cute for just one picture.

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Several years ago we were paddling on a reservoir just northeast of our home when a Bald Eagle flew overhead. They were not all that common in central Ohio at the time. A few minutes later, hugging the shore, we entered small cove, and the very next bird we saw was a hummingbird darting from flower to flower. To see an eagle and a hummingbird in such close proximity in time and space left us in awe of the incredible diversity and beauty of birds.

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Thinking about what nature means to humankind and considering for a moment the size, shape, behavior, habitat, and abilities in just the world of birds stretches our mind beyond what we ever thought possible and I believe beckons us to hold all that is part of nature sacred.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

Journeying On Through Florida

After leaving Lake Kissimmee State Park we headed north, ran the Orlando metro area traffic gauntlet, and arrived at Blue Springs State Park which was a new park for us. After spending a week there we would take relatively quiet back roads further north to Mike Roess State Park. The two parks couldn’t be more different. Blue Springs is a heavily used “day use” park with a small campground near Orlando while the larger Mike Roess SP was quiet and lightly used during our stay. Part of the popularity of Blue Springs can be attributed to the Manatees that inhabit the springs during the winter months and which had started to leave while we were there due to warmer weather. When one ventured away from the campground after mid-morning parking lots were pretty much full and there were always more than enough people in the park’s general use areas. However, once on the water paddling into a secluded creek or cove things changed dramatically and the area felt like wilderness.

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The big find while hiking the parks limited trails was the endangered Scrub Jay which is a bird we’ve been in search of for some time without success. Habitat destruction appears to be the main reason for its decline.

Scrub Jay.

Another look.

Yellow Star Grass occurred periodically along the trail in single blossoms.

This Eastern Towhee was seen in the same scrub habitat as the jay, (Donna).

This Pileated Woodpecker was also seen along the trail as we searched for the Scrub Jays, (Donna).

Spiderwort.

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St Johns River near Blue Springs SP.

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The extensive wildlife seen while canoeing was the big draw at Blue Springs SP. Our favorite paddle was the eleven mile loop that incorporated Snake Creek. The creek is a true celebration of the richness and beauty of nature.

A small alligator checks us out, (Donna).

An immature Black Crowned Night Heron along Snake Creek, (Donna).

A Great Egret watches as we pass by.

St Johns River.

Florida Cooters,  (Donna).

Wood Stork, (Donna).

Black Crowned Night Heron along the St Johns River.

Little Blue Heron in the thick of it.

Snake Creek provided an intimate paddling experience.

Purple Gallinule eating flower petals, St Johns River.

While paddling Snake Creek we came upon this mating pair at Turkeys. The male seemed not to be bothered by our presence.

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Cypress

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A Tree frog at water’s edge, (Donna)

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St Johns River.

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American Bittern along the St Johns River.

Osprey with fish.

Little Blue Heron preening.

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Although they are common, Anhingas always catch our eye.

Male Anhinga dries it’s feathers along the St Johns River.

Preening.

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St Johns river landscape.

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A Snowy Egret shows off its yellow feet, (Donna).

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Unlike Blue Springs which provided excellent opportunities to observe wildlife from the water, hiking was the best way to do so at Mike Roess SP. A plus was that there were no crowed parking lots or large numbers of people to negotiate when one left the campground. There were areas to explore around the park’s several small lakes and along one fairly long designated hiking trail. We enjoyed the park’s quiet subtle beauty.

Mike Roess SP landscape.

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Walking the shoreline of the parks small lakes was an excellent way to see insects. Some of the dragonflies and damselflies seen were new to us.

Vesper Bluet Damselfly, (Donna).

The Variable Dancer Damselfly is one we haven’t seen further north in Ohio.

Carolina Saddlebags, (Donna).

Female Faded Pennant, (Donna).

Male Faded Pennant.

Slaty Skimmer, (Donna).

The Stripe-winged Baskettail is another dragonfly we’ve not seen further north in Ohio.

The Blue Corporal often perches on the ground, (adult male).

The Buckeye is usually seen in late summer in Ohio.

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Pond reflection.

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In addition to the insects there were birds to enjoy:

Hermit Thrush.

A Hooded Merganser and a Wood Duck pose.

There was a sizable population of Ring-necked Ducks on the small park lakes.

A closer look.

Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Pied Billed Grebes

A White Eyed Vireo announces its presence.

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Shoreline grass.

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As well as other things:

Cricket Frog at waters edge, (Donna).

Unfortunately these lovely but uncommon little flowers that liked the park’s sandy soil remain unidentified.

A Fence Lizard shows it’s underside, (Donna).

Lichen on fallen branch.

A Gopher Tortoise enjoys some grass, (Donna).

Trees.

Pinebarren Frostweed.

A Five Lined Skink shows its beautiful tail, (Donna)

A Long Leaf Pine just starting out.

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Leaving Mike Roess we’d completed six weeks of exploring nature in Florida. As we looked forward to spending time at Paynes Prairie Preserve and Black River SP before heading north to early spring in Ohio we couldn’t help but feel incredibly blessed.

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Lily Pads

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Thanks for stopping by.

Early Spring Wildflowers At Clifton Gorge

We had been seeing early spring wildflowers closer to home so we though a trip to Clifton Gorge, an area known for it’s unspoiled beauty as well as wildflowers, to see what might be popping up. Driving to our destination we tempered our enthusiasm by agreeing that sometimes it’s just as important to take note of what one doesn’t see as well as what one does. and besides there are few places in Ohio that are better to take a hike.

Conifers along the Little Miami River add color to an otherwise drab early spring landscape.

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We didn’t have to walk far before we realized we wouldn’t be disappointed. True, some flowers still had a way to go:

Dutchman’s Breeches a few days away fro being in full bloom.

Actually, this Bloodroot may have opened up later in the day.

Toadshade Trillium’s leaves are beautiful. In this case, the flower, which never really opens up, is a few days away from blooming.

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Later in the year this small waterfall will be no more.

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But other flowers were in full bloom.

Hepatica getting ready to open, (Donna). There are 39 native Ohio species.

Along with the Snow Trillium and Harbinger of Spring, Hepatica is one of the earliest Ohio wildflowers to bloom, (Donna).

Hepatica, in this case sharp lobed, showing it’s leaves which disappear quickly once the flowers bloom, (Donna).

Bloodroot, trying to catch up.

This Blue Hepatica was stunning, (Donna).

A few Snow Trillium were still in bloom.

Snow Trillium.

Seeming to be a bit early, Wild Ginger was also found.

Wild Ginger has a flower but you need to look closely, (Donna).

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Along the river.

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Perhaps the most exciting find, Scarlet Cup Fungi, was no a flower at all. It occurs from late winter to early spring and was spotted it in several locations

A Scarlet Cup group perhaps a bit past their prime.

This one looked as though it had emerged more recently and had lovely color and shape.

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We hope to get back to Clifton Gorge in a couple of weeks to see how things have changed and very few things speak of change as clearly as spring.

Thanks for stopping by.

A favorite Clifton Gorge landscape.

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