The Rifle River and A Mystery Bird

It’s that time of year again when we travel 6.5 hours north from our home in central Ohio to the Rifle River Recreation Area. Usually we enjoy checking out different areas for new adventures but this park’s unique beauty keeps us coming back. Whether paddling on the park lakes or hiking the trails there is always something to discover. From one week to the next different wildflowers can be seen. Spring warbler activity is complimented by the evening call of a Whippoorwill or Barred Owl and there’s always the distant call of a loon on Devoe Lake.

(click on images for a closer look)

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This year’s late June visit meant that in addition to increased warbler activity we’d also see blooming lady slippers and pitcher plants. Of course there would also be more mosquitoes to deal with and they’re always particularly pesky when one crouches down to study a flower or take a photograph.

A shaft of sunlight highlights a fern along the trail.

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My wife was nice enough to contribute the bulk of the pictures for this post as much of my time was spent fishing. However, to start the post off on a curious note I did notice something interesting one afternoon while hiking.

These rolled up birch? leaves littered the forest floor.

A closer inspection revealed a small caterpillar within the shelter of the rolled up leaf. It was in the process of eating it’s way out. Another egg sac near by? Based on an educated guess it would appear that a moth deposited it’s eggs on the underside of the leaf which then caused it to roll up and fall to the ground. Inside the leaf the caterpillar is safe from the prying eyes of birds until it escapes into the leaf litter and pupates soon to emerge as a moth and continue the cycle.

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When my wife wasn’t hiking and I wasn’t trying to catch a fish we did a fair amount of exploring by canoe.

Yours truly with a Devoe Lake Large Mouth Bass.

Exploring Grebe Lake

Common Loon, Devoe Lake.

Take two, (Donna).

Yellow Pond Lily, Grebe Lake.

Painted Turtle, Loud Pond, Au Sable River, (Donna).

Paddling trough the lily pads, Grebe Lake.

Trumpeter Swans, Grebe Lake.

A Mink checks us out along the Au Sable River, (Donna).

Au Sable River Walleye.

While Water Lily, (Donna).

Kingbirds entertained us as we paddled the Devoe Lake shoreline, (Donna).

Morning on Devoe Lake.

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One day as we drove back to our campsite after a morning paddle we came upon an unusual discovery in the middle of the road.

Our first thought was to move it along before it became the victim of a less observant driver.

But a closer look revealed that it was a Blanding’s Turtle something we’d expect to see in a nearby lake but not in it’s present location. Since it’s not a turtle we often see we were pretty excited, (Donna).

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However, perhaps the most unusual thing seen during our week long stay was the bird spotted while hiking along Weir Road.

The best ID we could come up with was a partially leucistic White-breasted Nuthatch but it’s beak didn’t look right. The mystery remains.

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We’d be remiss if we didn’t give special mention to the Ovenbirds and Yellowbellied Sapsuckers that entertained us each day at our campsite.

Ovenbird, (Donna).

With a white moth.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, taken while hiking but representative of the activity around our campsite, (Donna).

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While on the subject of birds, while hiking a park trail my wife was excited to see a Black Billed Cuckoo. It was a life bird for her.

Black Billed Cuco, (Donna).

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Finally, below is a summary of other things seen as we explored the park trails.

A recently emerged mushroom translucent in the sunlight.

A family of very colorful but small mushrooms.

Wild Columbine along the trail.

Hawkweed and fern.

The Rifle River

Showy Lady’s Slippers along the park road. A real treat to see.

A closer look, (Donna).

Bunch Berry Flower

Spotted Thyris Moth on fleabane.

Deep into the woods.

Red-spotted Purple

Another view, (Donna).

Yellow Lady’s Slippers were also seen, (Donna).

The flower of the Pitcher Plant. The plant gets it name by the shape of the leaves at the base of the plant which trap insects in water the leaves collect.

Overlooking Pintail Pond

Hover fly on dogwood blossoms.

This fairly large moth has yet to be identified.

Fleabane

Eastern Wood Pewee, (Donna).

Slaty Skimmer.

Yellow Goats Beard, (Donna).

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, (Donna).

Another view.

Sheep Laurel, (Donna).

American Redstarts were fairly common, (Donna).

Blue Flag Iris, (Donna).

Dot-tailed Whiteface, (Donna).

River Jewelwing (M), (Donna).

River Jewelwing (F), (Donna).

Cedar Waxwing, (Donna).

Four-spotted Skimmer, (Donna).

Wood Frog, (Donna).

Coral Fungus, (Donna).

Chaulk-fronted Corporal

Wild Geranium, (Donna).

Little Wood Satyr.

Indian Pipe (before), (Donna).

After? (Donna).

A Green Heron stalks prey along the Devoe Lake shore, (Donna).

Black-shouldered Spinyleg, (Donna)

Another interesting plant we have yet to ID, (Donna).

Dead Mans Fingers, (Donna).

Delaware Skipper, (Donna).

Baby Robin, (Donna).

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As each day passes nature evolves. A wishful thought would be to spend one week each month in a place such as Rifle River Rec Area. Then one would truly appreciate it’s wonder. Thanks for stopping by.

Misty Day, Devoe Lake.

The Show

Recently we were flattered with an invitation to exhibit some of our photographs at the church we attend. The invitation was undoubtedly the result of this blog as well as various Facebook posts that friends and acquaintances have seen over the years. A friend commented that they might not be able to get over to the exhibit so the thought occurred that perhaps a post showing the pictures was in order. We hope you enjoy them.

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Lilly Pads, Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park, FL.

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Blackburnian Warbler, Magee Marsh, OH, (Donna).

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Wild Geranium, Glenn Echo Park, OH.

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Hummingbird Moth, Griggs Reservoir Park, OH, (Donna).

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Leaf, Griggs Reservoir, OH.

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Wood Duck, Griggs Reservoir, OH, (Donna).

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Squiggle, Griggs Reservoir, OH

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Prothonotary Warbler, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

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Branches, Griggs Reservoir, OH.

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Red Winged Blackbird, Griggs Reservoir Park, OH, (Donna).

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Misty Morning, Devoe Lake, Rifle River Recreation Area, MI.

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Spring Azure on Phlox, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, OH, (Donna).

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Tree, Salt Fork State Park, OH.

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Cedar Waxwings, Griggs Reservoir Park, OH, (Donna).

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New Art Exhibit at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus 93 W. Weisheimer Rd. Columbus, OH 43214-2544, “The Eye of the Beholder,” July 2- August 25. Join the artists for a reception: Sunday, July 14, 11:30-1pm. Food, conversation and photos.

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Approach photography playfully, you’ll have more fun, and your photographs will speak with a new voice.  Thanks for stopping by.

The Orioles Fledge

It seems like just a few days ago that the Baltimore Orioles arrived in central Ohio. But in the bird world things happen fast and now their young are ready to fledge. Spring offers up a bounty of insects and berries so whether it’s a warbler or an oriole it’s no accident that it’s a popular time to raise young. Chickadees have also fledged and we were fortunate to be able to observe the young begging for the next morsel the parents offered up. 

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Mature Baltimore Oriole at the nest in Griggs Reservoir Park.

Someone wants breakfast.

Breakfast is served.

Food keeps coming whether in the nest or out, (Donna).

Not long before the first flight.

.   .   .   and finally away from the nest.

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Two young Carolina Chickadees beg for a meal in Griggs Reservoir Park.

They’re not much smaller than the adults.

And just as cute!

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Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were also observed busily flying about perhaps also collecting food for their young.

Blue Gray Gnatcatcher in Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

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Some mom’s seemed to have a little more than they could deal with.

Female Mallard with young in Griggs Reservoir.

But that doesn’t seem to bother the males.

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While looking for fledglings we were charmed by the presence of other birds in Griggs reservoir Park.

A Catbird sings.

With the presence of berry rich trees Cedar Waxwings were everywhere.

My wife spotted this Hairy Woodpecker, a bird not often seen in the park, (Donna).

A Spotted Sandpiper forages on a log in the rain swollen reservoir.

This Great Crested Flycatcher has a nest somewhere nearby.

It won’t be long before we see this Kingbird with young.

Redwing Blackbird nests are always hard to find but this female is happy to pose for a picture, (Donna).

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Even with the departure of most warblers a couple of weeks ago, there was still plenty of bird activity to observe in the park.

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Hay, what about me!

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Flowers and Flies

Exploring the world of insects is an excellent example of how digital photography has opened a door into a world most folks don’t give much thought to much less appreciate. A passion for bugs may start out innocently enough when one decides to photograph a flower and finds that it’s occupied by many creatures not noticed before. A closer look reveals some to be beautiful and fascinating in their own right and others downright scary. This may prompt one to make an effort to identify the bug just photographed which in turn often leads to an awareness of how much there is yet to learn about this small world. 

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Fortunately it doesn’t take an expensive camera to get a reasonable picture of a insect the size of the common house fly. We’re not talking macro-photography here, where one focuses on the dragonfly’s eye, but instead about a picture that will allow you to identify the insect and be good enough to share on social media. Our favorite of the small sensor “bridge cameras” is the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 or 300. With their fast lens and close focus capability they are a great all round camera for anyone starting out in nature photography. When one moves up from there to larger APS-C sensor DSLR’s you are looking at more money and bulk which may limit their appeal on long hikes. In the world of DSLR’s just about any lens similar to the Canon 18-135 mm will allow you to focus close enough to get a reasonably good shot. Longer lenses such as the Tamron 100-400 mm (more money still) will allow you to focus on subjects that won’t let you get close enough with a shorter lens. With it’s close focus capability perhaps the best all round bird/bug nature camera setup I’ve seen is the micro four thirds Panasonic G7 with the 100-400 mm Panasonic/Leica lens that my wife uses. It employs an excellent but smaller sensor than my Canon APS-C which is part of the reason for it’s admirable close focus performance. That being said I’m sure there are excellent camera setups that I’ve not had experience with.

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Unless stated otherwise the below pictures have all been taken close to home at Griggs Reservoir Park so the adventure doesn’t necessarily mean hours of driving to some exotic location. Almost all insect images have been significantly cropped.

(click on the image for a better view)

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A Bumble Bee enjoys Foxglove Beardtongue.

An nice illustration of the difference in size between a sweat bee and bumble bee, (Donna).

If you think this is an innocent little Bumble Bee you would be wrong in fact it’s a Bumble Bee Mimic Robber Fly no less ferocious than the one below, (Donna).

A more typical looking robber fly a little over an inch long. If you’re a small insect it will be a bad day if you run into one of these, (Donna).

Four lined Plant Bug, (Donna).

Eight-spotted Forester Moth, (Donna).

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Thimbleweed.

Moth Mullein, (Donna).

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A very small but beautiful Long-legged Fly.

It’s a rough world for bugs. A long legged fly falls prey to a robber fly.

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Water Willow at waters edge. Deer are known to browse the leaves and beaver and muskrat will consume the plant rhizomes. The submerged portion is home to many micro and macro invertebrates, (Donna).

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Little Wood Satyr.

Painted Lady, one of the most common butterflies found on every continent accept Antarctica and Australia, their favorite food plant on which to lay their eggs is thistle, they do not overwinter and they can have long migrations up to 9,320 miles long, (Donna)

Hackberry Emperor, a butterfly not usually seen on flowers but on a warm day may land on exposed skin, (Donna).

Question Mark, (Donna).

Red Admiral, (Donna).

Silver-spotted Skipper, one of the larger skippers, (Donna)

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The beautiful flowers of the Milkweed. A very import plant for many insects most notably the Monarch Butterfly.

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Milkweed Beetles, (Donna).

Great Golden Digger Wasp, (Donna).

Perhaps some type of wood wasp, (Donna).

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Black-eyed Susan’s.

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Golden-backed Snipe Fly, they can be found throughout Ohio, and are most often observed resting on low vegetation. They appear in the late spring and early summer, and have been observed mating in late May and early June, although timing likely varies across their range. Little is known about their life cycle.

Small hoverflies on fleabane.

Hoverfly profile.

Two Marked Tree Hopper. Click here to learn more about this fascinating insect.

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Common Mullein.

Northern Catalpa.

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Syrphid Fly Yellowjacket Mimic. The syrphid fly often mimics wasps or bees to gain protection from predators, (Donna).

The Green Bottle Fly is usually observed around less savory food items.

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Black-eyed Susan’s, (Donna).

Depford Pink, (Donna).

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Mating Candy-striped Leafhoppers, (Donna).

Mirid Plant Bug, (Donna).

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Butterfly Weed.

A field of clover.

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A Mayfly falls prey to a jumping spider. Normally slow moving jumping spiders are capable of very agile jumps, when hunting, in response to sudden threats, or to navigate obstacles. They all have four pairs of eyes, with the pair positioned closer together being larger.

Another view, (Donna).

A small moth on Canada Thistle.

If it’s real lucky this Orange Dog caterpillar may become a Giant Swallowtail.

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A field of fleabane.

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A rarely seen Orange Bluet, (Donna).

Female Twelve-spotted Skimmer, (Donna).

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Hairy Wild Petunia.

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It’s hard to believe what’s out there in that small incredible world that goes largely unnoticed by most as we pursue our daily lives. In the hierarchy of human affection warm cuddly animals seem to be at the top with insects being at the other end of the spectrum and usually not considered a welcome intrusion. But as with most things the more you know and understand the more you grow to love.

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A casual glance will not do. To discover wonder and beauty one must look closely with intention.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

An Uncommon Loon

During a recent rough and windy late May paddle in central Ohio we were excited by the sighting of an immature Common Loon. This is the first time we’d seen one while paddling in Ohio. Usually they’ve moved north by the time we get the canoe in the water so this one was a bit of a mystery. On this particular day our goal had been to see warblers while exploring the reservoir’s quiet coves but the wind put a damper on that effort. Fortunately there were other things to see.

Common Loon, Alum Creek Reservoir north of Cheshire Rd, (Donna).

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In one cove after a little exploring on foot a relatively new Beaver lodge and dam were discovered.

Beaver Lodge, Alum Creek State Park.

A beaver lodge resident, Kentucky Flat Millipede.

Beaver Dam, Alum Creek State Park.

.   .   .  and yes we did get one very average picture of a Yellow Warbler near the beaver dam.

Yellow Warbler, Alum Creek State Park, (Donna).

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A little further on a mother Wood Duck did her best to distract us from her babies.

Female Wood Duck, Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna).

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The outing’s best bird pictures were taken by my wife at the end of the day while I put the canoe on the roof of the car.

Eastern Towhee, Alum Creek State Park, (Donna).

Female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Alum Creek State Park, (Donna).

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The season moves on and with it the ever increasing activity of butterflies and dragonflies. New adventures await.

Female Common Whitetail.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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A Journey Through Spring

It feels like we’ve been dodging raindrops at lot lately. However, the wetter than average spring, perhaps the new normal, has been great for the area wildflowers. We’ve continued to explore Griggs Reservoir Park near our home but have also made several trips to Glen Echo Park, Kiwanis Riverway Park, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, and have traveled west to Cedar Bog as well as north to Magee Marsh, to name some of the other places explored. With a partial record in pictures of things seen, this is a celebration of all that this fleeting season has given us. Of particular note are the Yellow-billed Cuckoos that decided to make Griggs Reservoir Park their home for a few days recently. We also saw Scarlet Tanagers in the park after seeing few to none last year. What a treat!

(Should you desire, click on the image for a better view.)

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Birds:

Yellow-billed Cuckoos are one of the more entertaining birds to watch as they forage for food, Griggs Reservoir Park. They’re not a bird we see that often much less have an opportunity to photograph, (Donna).

A shot showing the distinctive markings of the underside of the tail.

This Tree Swallow was perched not far from it’s nesting cavity, Griggs Reservoir Park.

There are always a few Bluebirds to see at Griggs Reservoir Park undoubtedly due to numerous trees that provide nesting cavities.

Catching this female Wood Duck out of the very corner of my spectacled eye as it flew into a nearby tree I at first thought it was a Morning Dove.

On a sunny cool spring morning this male Mallard Duck just wanted to catch some rays.

Every year we look forward to the arrival of the Baltimore Orioles at Griggs Reservoir Park. This year was no exception.

They are another very entertaining bird to watch.

As if all the migrating warblers at Magee Marsh weren’t enough we see this guy, Great Horned Owl owlet.

A male Red-winged Blackbird in all it’s splendor. A common resident at Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Cedar Waxwings in love, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Being an acrobat.

Great Crested Flycatchers are heard more often than seen, Griggs Reservoir Park.

A Kingbird ready to take flight, Griggs Reservoir Park.

An curious young male Cardinal, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Just finishing up a snack of “warbler”, this Red-tailed Hawk stares us down, Griggs Reservoir Park.

An Eastern Wood-Pewee is caught in a cute pose at Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery, (Donna).

Oblivious to our presence, a Prothonotary warbler collects nesting material, Magee Marsh.

Scarlet Tanager, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Scarlet Tanager at Magee Marsh.

A Warbling Vireo seems to stare us down, Magee Marsh.

Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magee Marsh.

Blackburnian Warbler, Glen Echo Park. This small park centered around a stream and ravine is a hotspot for observing spring migrants.

Wood Thrush. Glen Echo Park.

Red-eyed Vireo, Glen Echo Park.

A male American Redstart plays hide and seek, Glenn Echo Park.

Magnolia Warbler, Magee Marsh.

“I’m eating a bug, do you mind!” Carolina Wren, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

Red-headed Woodpecker, the first ever sighting at O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Nest building, Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve

Summer Tanager, Glen Echo Park.

Eastern Phoebe, Greenlawn Cemetery.

A busy Song Sparrow, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

A Yellow-throated Warbler looks down from above, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Yellow-throated Vireo, Glen Echo Park, (Donna).

Couldn’t resist another view of this lovely bird.

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Other things:

How many turtles are on this log? Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

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Wildflowers:

Purple Rocket turns white with age, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Cabbage White on Dame’s Rocket, Griggs Reservoir Park.

These Toadshade Trilliums from a few weeks ago were some of the last seen, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Pawpaw blossoms, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Hoverfly on Spring beauty from a few weeks back.

Solomon’s Seal, Glenn Echo Park.

May Apple blossom from a few weeks ago, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Jacobs Ladder, Amberleigh Park.

Fleabane, Cedar Bog.

We were surprised to see this Morrel mushroom emerging through the mowed grass at Griggs Reservoir Park.

Wild Rose, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Blue Flag Iris, Cedar Bog.

Wild Geranium, Glenn Echo Park.

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We hope you enjoyed this journey through spring into what now feels like early summer. We sadly leave the spring migrants behind for this year but experience tells us that there is always something new to see when exploring nature.

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Future seasons become easier to count and the present one more precious with the passing of time, but in that scarceness we become richer with the sense of their magic.  

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Thanks for stopping by.

Eastern Wood-Pewee, Cedar Bog.

 

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.

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