From The Living Room Sofa

It’s been very cold the last few days. As I write this, the thermometer is hovering around zero. Having lived many years north of here in Michigan, I don’t think of zero degrees as being terribly cold but it can be dangerous. Something as simple as a road trip may pose a serious health risk, rather than just an annoyance, if one has a breakdown. I must confess that I’ve been just a little frustrated, while one can dress for the temperature, it’s been too cold to comfortably use a camera outdoors for any length of time. So, for the last few days our outdoor photography has been very limited.

Careful to keep all exposed skin covered, we did go for a short walk yesterday. When it’s colder than @ 15 degrees F we take our small cameras because they can easily be kept warm by placing them under several layers of clothing. A combination of fresh snow, wind, the right humidity, and cold temperatures overnight, resulted in the creation of “snow rollers”. It’s been years since I’ve seen this phenomena so it was very fascinating. They seemed to be just about everywhere a little open space was available, including the frozen surface of the reservoir.

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Snow rollers

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Snow rollers, Griggs Reservoir, study 2

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Snow rollers, Griggs Reservoir, study 3

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Snow rollers, study 4

Birds were trying to stay warm in the river below the dam, and were even more huddled together than they had been a few days earlier. Despite the cold, we did manage to see Goldeneyes, Redheads, Hooded Mergansers, and Ring-necks.

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Waterfowl in the Scioto River below Griggs Dam, temp about 6 degrees F

Today, the lower temperatures resulted in increased activity around our feeders which allowed a few pics to be taken from the comfort of the living room sofa. The sparrows, cardinals, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and wrens appear to be totally adaptable to temperature as long as they have adequate food. The wrens and sparrows put a smile on my face with their feathers puffed up against the cold. Without realizing it, they will provide cheerfulness for a few more days until the severe cold releases it’s grip.

White-breasted thinking 012814 fyard cp1

Nuthatch, by Donna

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Song Sparrow

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Carolina Wren

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Cardinal

Red-bellied Woodpecker in tree 012814 front yard cp1

Red-bellied Woodpecker, by Donna

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Red-bellied Woodpecker, study 2

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Red-bellied Woodpecker, study 3

A Japanese Garden

Several years ago we began a regular practice of walking in Griggs Reservoir Park which occupies a portion of the eastern shore of a reservoir by the same name. The park isn’t far from our home in Upper Arlington so being able to walk to a beautiful spot, without necessarily using a car, was a real plus.

Griggs Reservoir from the Park

A view of Griggs Reservoir from the park.

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At first it was just a walk, but it wasn’t long before we started to notice a variety of plants and wildlife. We were surprised by what we saw. What made it even more special was that it was all happening right within the city limits of Columbus. So with that realization a small pair of binoculars and a camera started to accompany us on our outings. The rest of this story is documented in many of my blog entries so I’ll move on to the “garden”.

Mink along Griggs Reservoir

Mink along Griggs Reservoir

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For the most part the things seen included; flowers, insects, snakes, birds, and fossils. However, along with the good stuff there were, beverage containers, cigarette butts, fast food packaging, fishing line, and the ever present plastic shopping bags, just to name a few of the less offensive items. As we walked along the shore litter seemed to be just about everywhere. On one of our first outings, we saw a Great Blue Heron and then noticed several beer cans right next to it. I instantly felt anger which was soon followed by a feeling of helplessness. I thought about making an effort to pick the “stuff” up, but it would always be there and it would never stop. An area cleaned up would only stay that way for a few hours or maybe a day.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Blue Jay

Blue Jay in the brush at Griggs Park

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Perhaps I was more angry about the feeling of helpless than anything else, so directing that energy into something positive, with trash bag in hand, I started to pick up the trash. At first just a little bit at a time as with camera and binoculars in hand as there were always other things to look at. Soon my wife, realizing my incurable condition, chimed in. While so occupied, we were often encouraged by the thought that trash begets trash so maybe if it was picked it up there wouldn’t be as much next time. Slowly, as time passed, it didn’t feel so much like work, or an imposition on our time, because we were often rewarded by the sight of an Osprey or Wood Duck soon after a beer can was liberated from a tangle of brush. And who knows, while picking up a pile of cigarette butts, the contents of someone’s car ashtray, we might notice a Devonian fossil in a nearby rock. Feelings of apathy, helplessness, and anger started to gave way to a feeling of empowerment and satisfaction. We were at least leaving it better than we found it.

Stump, Griggs Park

Stump, Griggs Park

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Once I mentioned to my wife that strangely I felt closer to “God” on these walks. Picking up the cans, bottles, and whatever else, was becoming a form of prayer, a way of giving thanks for all that was good. At first I don’t think she was real sure about my “epiphany”. So several years later we are still picking up trash. It’s always there. Recently we haven’t noticed quite as much. It might be that other’s, perhaps having seen us, have also started picking it up.

Griggs Park Path

Griggs Reservoir Park Path

Reflections on the reservoir

Reflections on Griggs Reservoir.

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The wonder of it all isn’t just that we are now more likely to see a bird than a bottle. It’s that through our intention and action, we experience a greater connection with the place and value it more. It has become very special, perhaps sacred, a part of us. Sharing this thought with a friend recently, he responded that our actions reminded him of a Japanese Garden. Thinking for a moment, I realized that what he said had merit and understood a little more why someone might feel led to tend a garden. Through it all we have gotten so much more than we’ve given. This place, located in the middle of the city, passed by thousands each day on their daily commute, scrunched between the road and the water, and seemingly placed there almost as an afterthought, has become our Japanese Garden.

Sycamore

Sycamore

Water's edge

Water’s edge

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Thanks for stopping by.

Six Miles in Six Degrees

It’s morning and as I write this the outside temperature is minus two degrees. The snow glistens from the rays of the sun, still low in the east. Amazingly a pair of Downey Woodpeckers, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, Nuthatches and Chickadees are at our feeders.  Watching them you would never guess the temperature.

Front Yard Chickidee

Front yard Chickadee, Donna

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Donna

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Donna

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Donna

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Donna

Goldfinch

Goldfinch, Donna

Song Sparrow, Donna

Song Sparrow, Donna

It’s been very cold for two or three days but yesterday we ventured out. It was a bit of an experiment to see how much we would enjoy a long hike in very cold and somewhat windy conditions. We bundled up, covered all exposed skin, put our Canon SX260’s on lanyards next to our bodies and headed out.

Along the river, even with the current, shoreline ice was slowly forming. A light dusting of snow provided a canvas for the tracks of various creatures that call the river home.

Geese Tracks along the Scioto

Geese Tracks along the Scioto

Frozen Shore along the Scioto

Frozen shore along the Scioto

Mink and duck tracks along the Scioto

Mink and Mallard tracks along the Scioto

Tracks along the Scioto

Mallard tracks along the Scioto

With the reservoir solidly frozen the river offers the only refuge for waterfowl. Looking at them made me feel even colder but then I realized that the water was almost thirty degrees warmer than the air. Maybe the birds were on to something!

Waterfowl on the Scioto below Griggs Dam

Waterfowl on the Scioto below Griggs Dam

Hop-hop, look for a nut.

Hop-hop, look for a nut.

Hoover Park Ice

Hoover Park Ice

The Bark of a Sycamore Tree

Showing their stark black brown skeletons against a gray sky, winter is not the most beautiful time of year for deciduous trees. However, after shedding portions of it’s bark in the late summer and fall, the Sycamore is the exception. At a distance the white bark of the Sycamore’s upper branches contrasts beautifully with the trees around it. Taking a closer look nearer to the ground, one can enjoy the bark’s endless patterns and textures.

Trees along the Scioto

Trees along the Scioto, can you spot the Sycamores?

Patterns and Textures

Patterns and Textures, Donna

Sycamore along the Scioto

Sycamore along the Scioto

Unlike today’s windy 15 degrees, yesterday was a good day to be out. There was little or no wind and the temperature was 20 degrees warmer. So with that in mind, we set off on our usual six mile urban hike with hopes of seeing some uncommon birds or maybe an eagle along the river. When not looking at sycamore bark we did enjoy investigating fungi and lichens growing on some of the other trees.

Fungi on fallen log

Fungi on fallen log, Donna

Lichen

Lichen

Fungi and lichen on bark

Fungi and lichen on bark, Donna

Bird Tracts in Snow

Crow tracks in Snow, Donna

Baltimore Oriole Nest

Abandoned Baltimore Oriole Nest

We saw Hooded Mergansers and Mallard Ducks in the river and even Kinglets, Chickadees, Hairy Woodpeckers, and Tufted Titmouse along it, but no eagle. It looked as though it was going to be a routine day. But that was before a Red-tailed Hawk swooped down and landed right in front of us.

Hooded Mergansers and Mallards

Hooded Mergansers and Mallards, Donna

We never could figure out what it was after as we never saw it eat anything. It did seem to be looking for or at something as it repeatedly clawed at or stomped on the ground. After taking some pictures we left it undisturbed to continue it’s quest. The day had been a slightly warmer so perhaps a chipmunk had ventured out and just made it to safety before it had arrived.

Red-tailed Hawk, study 1

Red-tailed Hawk, study 1

Red-tailed Hawk, study 2

Red-tailed Hawk, study 2

Red-tailed Hawk, study 1

Red-tailed Hawk, study 3

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Thanks for stopping by.

A Prayer for Other Living Things

A Prayer for Other Living Things

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Winter struggles to become spring

summer comes easily

then fall

as it has for me many times before.

.

Big Darby - Battelle Darby Creek

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Looking back

to time spent in wild places

and

quiet morning walks,

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Forest trail - Michigan

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I now, slowly, finally, realize

it’s not only about us

our dreams, desires, and wants.

.

*****

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In the woods,

.

a sycamore stands

years longer than I

it’s tall white branches

bright against a winter blue sky

speaking in a voice I cannot hear,

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Sycamore - Griggs Park

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a butterfly

it’s quiet beauty

of

yellow, orange, blue

moves from flower to flower

not asking my permission,

.

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glistening in the sun

a dragonfly passes

as it earns it’s living

flying forward, backward, sideways,

my presence is of no concern,

.

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a thrush in a nearby tree

with an ethereal song

calls for it’s mate

not for me,

.

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.

along a path beside a pond

I pause

a bullfrog croaks

then splashes.

                                             rsp

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Winter and an Unlikely Bird

 

Yesterday we decided to check out the area below Griggs Dam for eagles or whatever else might show itself. We drove to the park rather than walked as we wanted to use our “bird cameras” which are a bit of a chore to carry six miles.  No sooner had we parked the car it started to snow. Not just snow but wind. It swirled around the car as we got our equipment ready. Better try to tuck this 500 mm lens under my coat as I don’t think Canon said anything about it being snow/water proof!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts our explorations often involve picking up and removing trash from the areas we visit. Trash and dumping seems to be the plight of parks especially in the city. On this day our efforts involved lassoing and dragging a large Sony Trinitron TV up a hill and out of the woods. The park guys are great about doing the rest if the item is left adjacent to a trash container. The TV was more work than I expected as it was very heavy. But these efforts are always worthwhile, and this one was no exception. Now when we explore this area, we’ll be greeted by trees, birds, and other wildlife not a Sony Trinitron!

With the unsavory part out of the way we continued our exploration of the area along the river in, colder than the thermometer indicated, blowing snow. The light didn’t inspire pictures but my wife managed to get some interesting shots of ice formations and designs in the wood of decaying trees and I some nice shots of a Tufted Titmouse. . Beautiful landscapes were not the order of the day.

Tufted Titmouse fluffed up against the cold.

Tufted Titmouse fluffed up against the cold.

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

Ice Sculpture, Donna

Ice Sculpture, Donna

Designs in Wood, Donna

“Here’s Looking at You” designs in Wood, Donna

Ice along the river, Donna

Ice along the river, Donna

Today the reservoir was again frozen over so a return visit was in order to finish cleaning up glass from the TV and to see if we could spot any interesting waterfowl or, maybe just maybe, an eagle! But exploring nature, even in the city, is always full of surprises. No eagles were seen and the waterfowl were just starting to regroup in the river. However, we did see six Red-tailed Hawks circling over head. We’re they getting ready to mate? We also continued to see Golden-crowned Kinglets, but the real surprise was a Hermit Thrush, a bird we never would have expected to see here in the winter. Pretty exciting!

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Red-tailed Hawks soar overhead, two of about six.

Hermit Thrush along the Scioto in January

Hermit Thrush along the Scioto

Hooded Mergansers returned to the river after the reservoir iced over.

Hooded Mergansers returned to the river after the reservoir iced over.

Lichen and Devonian Fossils, fossils in upper left hand corner.

Lichen and Devonian Fossils on rock face, fossils on the left.

Scioto River Landscape

Scioto River Landscape

A gathering of waterfowl on the Scioto

A gathering of waterfowl on the Scioto

A Carolina Wren greeted us as we arrived home.

A Carolina Wren greeted us as we arrived home.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Winter to Spring?

A few days ago the temperature was hovering around zero degrees. A couple of days later, after a fair amount of rain, it was close to fifty. If the temperature had stayed below freezing and the reservoir ice covered, we had hoped to continue our observation of waterfowl concentrated in the river. That had now all changed. The ice was pretty much gone and the waterfowl had dispersed.

We checked below the dam but the river was running high with a strong current and there were no birds. However, not far away at an abandoned quarry, now a very clear nice size lake, we were successful. Unfortunately, due to economics and/or lack of vision, this lovely body of water has been surrounded by office buildings and asphalt parking lots rather than a nice urban park but the birds don’t seem to mind.

Buffle Heads and Pie-billed Grebes

Buffle Heads and Pied-billed Grebes

Ring-necks and Buffle-heads

Ring-necked and Buffle-heads

Gulls on Ice

Ring-billed Gulls on Ice

Ring Necks and Coots

Ring-necked and Coots

The next day was sunny so we walked along Griggs Reservoir wondering what we would see but glad to be outside. The birds were apparently also happy about the sun as they were quite active. When not looking at birds my wife yielded to her recently acquired interest in lichens and mosses.

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Nuthatch, study 1

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Red-shouldered Hawk, study 1

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Red-shouldered Hawk, study 2

fungi shells on tree 011414 griggs cp1

Tender Polypore on tree, Donna

Downy pecking 011414 Griggs cp1

Downy Woodpecker, study 1, Donna

Bluebird on branch 011414 Griggs better cp1

Male Bluebird, Donna

Bluebird female on branch 2 011414 Griggs cp1

Female Bluebird, Donna

Yellow-orange fungi better 011414 Griggs cp1

Fungi, Donna

White-Breasted Nuthatch 011414 Griggs cp1

Nuthatch, study 2,  Donna

Tan Fungi better 011414 Griggs cp1

Ochre Spreading Tooth, Donna

Mallard pair 011414 Griggs cp1

Mallards, Donna

Lichen with pink 011414 Griggs cp1

Lichen, Donna

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Moss

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Turkey Tail

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Downy Woodpecker, study 2

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Thanks for stopping by.

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