Uncommon Beauty

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

Sandhill Crane

When we least expect it, nature enchants.

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Early September Walk

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.

Just One Thing

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

Perhaps a first step is to walk a little slower.

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Early Summer Meditation

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by

Tiny and Seldom Seen

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

A cardinal sings as we look for wildflowers.

Northern Cardinal

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.

The Earliest Central Ohio Wildflowers

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by.

. . . With A Little help From Our Friends,

Yesterday, at a park near our home on a rather nondescript winter day, we ushered out 2020 with a little help from our friends. These friends have been reliable companions through a difficult year, but on the year’s last day, or perhaps because it was the year’s last day, their importance hit home more forcefully. There is no need to reflect on the love that develops between a person and their pet as most of us have known that. However, to experience a similar connection with creatures that make a living in the environment of trees, brush, fields, and waterways that surround us, owing us nothing, is truly special. Some days, as we walk, their numbers may be less, and the cast of characters may vary, but with their often cheerful dispositions and curious antics they are always there. For just a moment in time we celebrate the shared experience of life.

Downy Woodpeckers are common winter residents in central Ohio,

There are always Mallards but in December we’ve also been fortunate to see Hooded Mergansers on a regular basis along the Scioto River.

The White-throated Sparrow is a favorite winter friend,

A few days ago we spotted Sandhill Cranes heading south. On that day there were numerous sightings around the city.

Song Sparrow.

In the past week we’ve enjoyed numerous Hermit Thrush sightings along the Scioto River.

It was a good December for Brown Creeper sightings.

We can always count on hearing, then seeing, Carolina Wrens.

Numerous pairs of Eastern Bluebirds occupy Griggs Reservoir Park in the winter. There almost electric blue never fails to put a smile on our face.

As long as there’s open water the Great Blue Herons will be busy.

On quiet cloudy mornings Bald Eagles can be seen along Griggs Reservoir.

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Wishing everyone all the best for the coming year. One where time spent with friends and family again becomes the norm.

Woods along Griggs Reservoir.

 

 

The Same Challenge

When photographing birds it’s always fun to catch them in a cute pose but it’s especially gratifying when they’re captured engaged in an activity that tells you something about how they “make a living”. The day to day task of survival.

Along the Scioto River Hooded Mergansers seemingly parade past a Great Blue Heron.

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A day or so after the “parade” we noticed the mergansers repeatedly diving in search of food. It wasn’t long before we saw what they were after. Clearer than normal water was undoubtedly contributed to the their success.

Female and male Hooded Mergansers, (Donna).

The female finds a fish. Hooded Mergansers eat small fish, aquatic insects, crustaceans (especially crayfish), amphibians, vegetation, and mollusks—their diet is broader than in other mergansers, which eat fish almost exclusively. (Donna).

The male also finds a fish.

The female takes notice but the male is in no mood to share.

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Other items were also on the menu.

The male finds a crayfish.

The wrestling match begins.

“This things got pinchers”.

Almost down the hatch.

Not bad!

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It helps if you enjoy just being in nature, appreciating what ever it has to offer, because on any particular day not much may be seen that would be considered out of the ordinary. In that context, when something special does occur we find ourselves enchanted, witnessing in real time something most folks rarely get to see. Humans undoubtedly reflect on it more, but on this ever smaller planet, whether one is a bird or a human, we are part of the same community and embrace a similar daily challenge. However, humans are unique because, unlike other living things, the pursuit of our immediate needs, comforts, and desires has the potential to threaten our the long term survival as well as that of the “merganser”.

Along the Scioto River. 

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Thanks for stopping by.

Best Wishes For The Holidays and The New Year

If there was every a year when it was a blessing to be a lover of nature, 2020 was it. We trust that everyone has made it through the year safely and thought it good to stop for a moment and give thanks for all that life has given us during this challenging year.

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 We wish everyone the happiest of holidays and a 2021 where the promise of the new year is fully realized.

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A Unlikely Door

Opening the door this time of year and venturing out into nature isn’t something most of us feel compelled to do. The landscape certainly doesn’t perk one’s curiosity. The wildlife that may be seen, which includes birds for the most part, have often migrated further south.

Along the Scioto River the landscape begs for a blanket of snow.

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However, with it’s lack of leaf cover, the landscape offers one good reason to pass through the door and see what’s still in the neighborhood or what may have moved in from further north. With their endearing behavior and colors that are often a cheerful contrast to their surroundings, birds are a welcome part of the December woods.

A resident all year long in Griggs Reservoir Park, the Carolina Wren’s song and chatter are especially welcome this time of year, (Donna).

Typically the only heron to hang around through the winter, the Great Blue is always a welcome sight along the Scioto River, (Donna).

A winter visitor from the north, the Dark-eyed Junco usually moves in small flocks and typically stays close to the ground. A fun bird to watch, (Donna).

A year round resident that’s always up to something, this Red-bellied Woodpecker has apparently found something to it’s liking, (Donna).

Another visitor from the north, this Tree Sparrow is an easy one to miss, (Donna).

The White-breasted Nuthatch arguably adds more cheer to the winter woods than any other bird, (Donna).

The immediately recognizable White-crowned Sparrow is another visitor from the north, (Donna).

Seen more often than the White-crowned, the the White-throated Sparrow is another sparrow we look for this time of the year, (Donna).

Assuming a graceful pose, a Ring-billed Gull preens on Griggs Reservoir.

Griggs Reservoir Park squirrels beware, this Red-tailed hawk is on the hunt.

In recent years, with the increase in the Catbird population, Mocking Birds have become a rare sight in central Ohio. Seeing this one was a real treat.

Carolina Chickees in Griggs Reservoir Park are always a delight.

Sometimes solitary and sometimes in a group of titmouse and chickadees the Downy Woodpecker is hard to ignore.

American Cardinals are abundant in Griggs Reservoir Park near our home.

As if out of nowhere a Brown Creeper suddenly appears. These birds may be present in the summer months but leaf cover makes them much harder to find.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are not seen as often a some of the other central Ohio woodpeckers. This view would have been obscured by leaves in the summer.

Year-round residents in Griggs Reservoir Park, Eastern Bluebirds also bring joy to the December landscape.

With a beautiful song, Song Sparrows are a year-round resident but are pretty quiet this time of year.

The Red-breasted Nuthatch is another migrant from the north. I had to content myself with a feeder picture of this one at a Greenlawn Cemetery.

Ice covered waterways further north have brought waterfowl south. In a local flooded quarry these Buffleheads were no exception.

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In recent days some really special birds have graced us with their presence.

Not far from our home an American Kestrel makes it’s it’s home in a nondescript area of tall grass, brush, and trees adjacent to a quarry.

Just close enough for a decent picture

Perhaps the most noteworthy was a immature Snowy Owl that had travelled from the north country to hang out in central Ohio. They typically eat voles, lemmings, and other small rodents as well as birds so a shortage of such goodies further north is undoubtedly the reason for the visit. Seeing one this close to Columbus is rare.

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Time spent in nature seldom disappoints. The observant eye will always find something that inspires and rewards. One only needs to open the door.

Graced with a light blanket of snow.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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