Posted on January 29, 2014
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.
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.
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.
Posted on January 26, 2014
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.
At first we just walked, but it wasn’t long before we started to notice the variety of plants and wildlife and were surprised by what we sere seeing. It was made more special because it was all happening right within the city limits of Columbus. Soon a small pair of binoculars and a camera accompanied us on our outings. The rest of this story is documented in our many blog entries so I’ll move on to the “garden”.
For the most part 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, etc. Walking along the shore litter seemed to be everywhere. On one of our first outings, we saw a Great Blue Heron with several beer cans at it’s feet. Anger was soon followed by a feeling of helplessness. I thought about picking the “stuff” up, but people would always liter. An area cleaned up would only stay that way for a few hours or maybe a day.
My anger may have been more about feeling helpless than anything else, so directing that energy into something positive, with trash bag in hand, I started to picking it up. At first just a little bit at a time because with camera and binoculars in hand as there were always other things to look at. Soon my wife, realizing my incurable condition, joined in. 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. As time passed, it didn’t feel so much like work or an imposition largely because we were often rewarded by the sight of an Osprey or Wood Duck after liberating a beer can from a tangle of brush. And who knows, while picking up a pile of cigarette butts, the contents of someone’s ashtray, we might notice a 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.
Once I mentioned to my wife that 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 is good. I’m not sure she bought into my “epiphany” at first, but several years later we’re still picking up trash. It’s always there. Recently we haven’t noticed quite as much. It might be that other’s have also started picking it up.
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 our action 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.
Thanks for stopping by.
Posted on January 24, 2014
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.
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.
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!
Posted on January 22, 2014
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for stopping by.
Posted on January 20, 2014
A Prayer for Other Living Things
Winter struggles to become spring
summer comes easily
as it has for me many times before.
to time spent in wild places
quiet morning walks,
I now, slowly, finally, realize
it’s not only about us
our dreams, desires, and wants.
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,
it’s quiet beauty
yellow, orange, blue
moves from flower to flower
not asking my permission,
glistening in the sun
a dragonfly passes
as it earns it’s living
flying forward, backward, sideways,
my presence is of no concern,
a thrush in a nearby tree
with an ethereal song
calls for it’s mate
not for me,
along a path beside a pond
a bullfrog croaks
Posted on January 19, 2014
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.
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!
Thanks for stopping by.
Posted on January 15, 2014
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.
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.
Thanks for stopping by.
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