Fall Warbler Migration

With a tradition of spending time hiking in the late summer and early autumn woods it’s not like we haven’t noticed fall migrating warblers in past years, but this is the first year we’ve made a concerted effort to see just how many we can spot as they move through our area making central Ohio home for just a few days as they head south to distant places in the Caribbean or south America. As always a few eluded the camera lens.

Black-throated Green Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler, (Donna)
Cape May Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Blue-headed Vireo

It may have been the Redstarts and Black and White Warblers at our Michigan campsite in late August that got us thinking that maybe it would be worth it to pay closer attention to fall migration this year.

Northern Parula Warbler
Cap May Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Nashville Warbler

There are several challenges to observing fall warblers; the trees still have most of their leaves providing many hiding places, the birds don’t call, and the male’s colorful breeding plumage is muted, or in some cases doesn’t even resemble that of spring, so identifying birds can be very difficult.

Palm Warbler
American Redstart Warbler
Black and Wight Warbler, (Donna)
Blackburian Warbler

Even though the late summer wildflowers and the hint of red, yellow and gold in the leaves high overhead are beautiful, it’s still a time of year that it feels like nature is closing up shop. As they filter through the trees on their way south the warblers say, “not yet” and wake us to yet more of nature’s wonder.

Flowers That Fly

Perhaps it would be best to just let the mystery be.

But I can’t.

How did all these migrating Monarchs find an organic clover field next to a stand of pines in central Ohio? It’s not as though they’ve always been doing it because the clover field hasn’t always been there, nor have the pines for that matter. Did one lone butterfly stumble across the location some years ago and then the word got out? Hum, the word got out, let me think about that for a “minute”.

A roving swarm didn’t descend on the area because Monarchs travel alone. They arrive one by one, so that’s not how the place was found. Is this particular location imprinted at birth like their ultimate destination in Mexico? What happens if one year the owner of the field decides, enough clover already, lets grow corn? A lot of butterflies would have to quickly come up with an alternate plan or die. Perhaps many more than we realize travel completely alone and never become part of such a large gathering. Wouldn’t that be a better survival strategy?

In the pines they bed down for the night in tight clusters with adjacent areas having few if any butterflies. Some authorities have suggested this may be to keep warm but unless they are moving their wings almost continually, or are very closely sandwiched together, it’s hard to understand where the heat is coming from. If it’s a cold night each butterfly could keep itself warm moving its wings, but any cold air circulated wouldn’t be much help to the guy next door.

We observed that when perched in a close group the butterflies seem to respond to external stimuli, such as another butterfly attempting to land, by opening and closing their wings. A number, but not all, participate in this synchronized wing movement across an area of three or four feet. How does that happen when the stimuli may only be close to one or two?

Unlike the non-migrating generations of butterflies seen throughout the summer that often can look rather tired, most seen on the recent Mid-September evening looked newly emerged and ready to continue their long journey to Mexico.

In their beauty, covering the pines with their blossoming presence, they truly are flowers that fly.

For more info on Monarchs: https://monarchjointventure.org/monarch-biology/monarch-migration

A Michigan Meditation – Rifle River Recreation Area

August brings quiet to nature in northern Michigan. The song and movement of birds in the nearby brush or forest canopy is less. At times not much seems to be stirring. But later, as we paddle a lake framed in lily pads, a faithful kingfisher proves us wrong as it continues about its business noisily taking flite from a nearby shore.

Belted Kingfisher, (Donna)

King birds, a constant menace to emerging dragonflies in June, are seldom seen now. Insects, particularly mosquitoes, are also not as common, and along with them the warblers that they attract.

Exploring Loud Pond, Ausable River

It is a time of year that one is often treated to views of young life.

Immature male Red-winging Blackbird
Immature Bald Eagle
An immature Yellow-bellied Sapsucker entertains us at our campsite.
Immature Wood Duck, (Donna)

***

Stopping for a moment in the quiet of the season draws one into the magic of the north woods.

Grousehaven Lake, Rifle River Rec. Area
Loud Pond, Ausable River, (Lori).

***

During the short nights of June one can often hear the haunting call of a loon. In late August, with its longer cooler nights, the voice of an owl or the howl of a coyote can be heard, but only occasional is it accompanied by a loon.

Much further away from our canoes than the picture would suggest, a pair of loons keep us company.
The presence of loons is less obvious than in spring. Still, their call and the sound of their wings as they fly overhead is a lasting memory.

***

Gliding silently over “glass” we are drawn into wondering, what will be seen ahead?

Grebe Lake

***

Flowers appear in late summer, like the beautiful Grass of Parnassus growing at water’s edge. Further along the wooded shore, if one looks closely, Bottle Gentian may also quietly announce its presence.

Grass of Parnassus
A close up, (Donna).
Bottle Gentian
Shoreline bouquet.
Cardinal Flower
Jewelweed
Turtlehead seemed to be in bloom everywhere.

It seems that the more time one spends in the woods the more one feels it’s embrace.

Donna hugs a White Pine
The delicate whimsical beauty of the Calico Aster makes them a favorite late summer wildflower.
Water Lily

***

With the sights, sounds, and fragrance of flowers and trees, being in nature on foot or in a canoe more profoundly unites us with something greater. As we breathe deeply, and muscles work to embrace the challenge of the place, we are taken deeper into that reality. Perhaps we can only truly arrive at such a place using the resources within.

Deep in the woods, a pond is home to more than we know.

Sometimes one is sure one knows what something is. A closer examination of the below dragonflies teaches that one must look closely. They are each unique.

Autumn Meadowhawk
White-faced Meadowhawk

***

While hiking we’ve learned to be on the lookout for fungi. They often pop up when least expected and often cheerfully announce their presence next to the trail. Others, with distant foreboding, peer out from the darkness of the dense woods and speak of mystery.

Descent to Lodge Lake, Rifle River Rec Area.
Mushroom family perhaps Deadly Galerina, (Donna).
Donna takes aim.
Crown-tipped Coral
Emerging puffballs.
Some type of russula?
Spindle-shaped Yellow Coral
Yellow-orange Fly Agaric
Not yet identified.

***

Whether in the canoe, on the trail, or sitting quietly at one’s campsite, nature speaks through the reality of the moment. It is constantly changing, responding to light that silhouettes then illuminates, wind that sculpts the water’s blank surface or plays in leaves high overhead then leaves them still, then with little warning, the sound of distant thunder is heard, and the faint whisper of light rain grows ever louder. In those moments, if we allow it, change will occur within. If we are lucky, we’ll never be the same.

Rainbow, Devoe Lake, Rifle River Rec. Area.

***

Thanks for stopping by.

Lily Pads and Dragonflies

We remembered from past visits that Kiser Lake, about an hour and a half drive west of our home in Columbus, had a lot of lily pads. Consistent with our experience in previous years as summer moved from July into August, we found ourselves increasingly enamored with our insect friends, particularly dragonflies and butterflies. What better spot to look for dragonflies than a lake with lots of lily pads!

We had the good fortune to see numerous mating pairs of Halloween Pennant dragonflies and a new to us, Lilypad Forktail damselfly. Other dragonflies were seen, including Blue Dashers, but none felt like posing for a picture. An added treat for the day was seeing the dark morph of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Along the shore

Our means for getting close the subject would be a canoe. To improve the chances of spotting something of interest we would try to stay right in the middle of the lily pads as we circumnavigated the lake. If you are interested in the route, see: https://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=917604

Lilypad Forktail Damselfly, (Donna).
Mating pair of Halloween Pennants, (Donna).
Dark morph, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Another view, (Donna)

While we were more intent on looking for dragonflies, we were impressed with how many birds were seen. In one area of the lake, we flushed out at least seven Great Blue Herons. Other than in a rookery, that’s perhaps the largest number we had ever seen in close proximity to each other.

Just one of the many Great Blue Herons seen, (Donna).
We also spotted a preening Green Heron.
We caught a brief glimpse of a female Ruby throated Hummingbird as it looked for spiders, (Donna).
There were a number of female Wood Ducks, some with young.
Shoreline logs proved to be a good place for Spotted Sandpipers to forage, (Donna).
In a tree at water’s edge an Eastern Pheobe patently waits for an edible morsel to fly by.
Not far from the phoebe a Red-eyed Vireo searches for insects.
The lake seemed to have at least one resident Bald Eagle
Enough pictures already!

Our three-hour paddle on Kiser Lake had definitely exceeded expectations. In that time, we had observed a world going about its day with no need of us. That’s probably not something that could be said if the tables were turned. But leaving such worrying thoughts aside, we were embraced by a feeling of gratitude for the privilege of an intimate presence in their world for what seemed a too brief moment in time.

Water Lilies

Thanks for stopping by.

A Quiet Day On Alum Creek Reservoir

We almost didn’t go. The forecast for the day was perfect, no wind, temperatures in the mid-70s. Perfect that is if you left out the significant chance of rain. After a string of less-than-optimal days as motivation, we decided to chance it and explore the northern reaches of a reservoir not far from our home. We loaded the canoe up with camera equipment, rain gear, one fishing pole, and lunch as we planned to be out for a while if the rain held off. Oh yes, we didn’t forget camera dry bags just in case.

About three miles into the paddle, we enter Alum Creek.

Low clouds and no wind meant it was very quiet especially since the threatening weather had kept a lot of other folks off the lake. Within 100 yards of the launch, we saw our first Green Heron, one of about seven sighting.

Green Heron, (Donna).
Sneaking around.

A further on we spotted two immature Bald Eagles and a little later, as we entered a cove, another was spotted. We ended the day with about six eagle sightings which included a pair of mature adults.

Immature Bald Eagle
Take off

Smaller birds including a Louisiana Water Thrush (no photo), Red-headed Woodpeckers, Belted Kingfishers, and Spotted Sandpipers were also seen.

Red-headed Woodpecker, (Donna)
Female Belted Kingfisher, (Donna).
Spotted Sandpiper, (Donna).

The north end of Alum creek Reservoir is well known for its community of Osprey, and we were not disappointed. They seemed to be everywhere.

Osprey at rest.
Takeoff, (Donna).
On his way.

It wasn’t always a bird that intrigued, along the shore my wife spotted movement in the water, so we took a closer look.

Small Northern Water Snake with large toad.

In July in mid-Ohio, one doesn’t always thank of wildflowers, but a number were doing really well at water’s edge.

Cardinal Flower, (Donna).
Evening Primrose, (Donna).
Monkey Flower, (Donna).
Ironweed, (Donna).

While some dragonflies were seen the cloudy cool day kept the numbers down. Not so for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtails which seemed to be just about everywhere.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Buttonbush, (Donna).

The lesson may be to pick cloudy quiet, rain threatening, days to be in nature. That is if one wants to maximize one’s encounter with the natural world which certainly proved to be the case for us. On this particular day, as if nature weren’t enough, the lack of wind and cooler the normal temperatures made it a great day to paddle a canoe. Our graceful 30-year-old Sawyer did not disappoint. It quietly and eagerly responded, always offering up an exhilarating sensation of required speed when needed. In addition to the birds already mentioned, during our paddle we had also seen hummingbirds, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and Double-crested Cormorants, Turkey Vultures, and various gulls. It had been a good day.

About four and a half miles from our launch we were about as far up Alum Creek as we could go.

Thanks for stopping by.

Paint Creek Paddle

It was a perfect day, little wind and a blue sky punctuated with puffy white clouds. Our paddles entered the water almost two hours after leaving home in Columbus. We were ready to enjoy the day with a paddle up Paint Creek which would add up to about seven miles once we arrived back at our launch. Unlike the time of spring migration and spring wildflowers our expectation for seeing birds and wildflowers in the deep green embrace of mid-July were not great but the area we had decided to paddle, both enchanting and beautiful made up for it.

The below pictures are offered as encouragement for all that seek to pursue a similar quest.

As we paddle up Paint Creek rock formations descend right into the water.
On a mud flat we spot two Kildeer, (Donna).
. . . and not far away three Least sandpipers, (Donna).
Near the end of our paddle, we spot a large dragonfly eating an Eastern Amberwing (look closely). It turns out to be a rare Cyrano Darner the first one we’ve ever seen.
An American Snout likes my fishing pole. We don’t see them often so it’s always exciting, (Donna).
The stories the rocks could tell.
A Red-spotted Purple strikes a pose, (Donna).
This Great Blue Heron seems confused, thinking itself a swan, (Donna).
A more typical pose, (Donna).
An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail lets us get close, (Donna).
Lazard’s Tail was in bloom everywhere.
As far up the river as we could go, lunch on a gravel bar seemed like a good idea. A number of casts in the river in this area failed to get a fish to cooperate.

We had gliding through the water to little more than the sound of the paddle, the calls of Northen Parula and Yellow Warblers, and a distant Wood Thrush. It had been a day well spent.

The route,

https://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=915905

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.

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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.

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