Icicles and Ice Chandeliers

Yesterday, with the reservoir again frozen over, we were out looking for waterfowl along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam and spotted some interesting ice formations. Recent warmer temperature, snow melt and rain had resulted in high water along the river. The formations resulted when this was followed by very cold temperatures and dropping water levels.

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Ice Chandeliers

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Along the river

With the wind was gusting to over 30 miles per hour and the temperature hovering around 15 F our fingers froze almost instantly as we tried to take pictures. Its amazing any turned out as well as these did.

The ice was very clear giving the appearance of glass

The ice was very clear giving the appearance of glass

For the record we did see Hooded, Common and Red-breasted Mergansers along the opposite shore of the river. Below are our meager attempts to record the sightings.

Common Merganser with Red Head

Common Merganser with a Red Head Duck

Red Breasted Merganser

Red Breasted Merganser

Male Common Mergansers

Male Common Mergansers

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Thanks for stopping by.

A Paddle in the Mangroves, Great Calusa Blueway

Looking back on our recent trip to the Cape Coral/Fort Meyers area of Florida I thought I’d share some pics from a paddle we did looking for birds and other wildlife. See http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=6219412 for the route. This paddle included part of The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail. Again we were very fortunate to hook up with our friends that are living on their boat and were in the area.

The Lunch Site at

The Lunch Site at Sirenia Vista Park, Cape Coral, FL

It’s not long before we start seeing things:

Looking for Birds

Looking for Birds, the Sea Eagle kayak proved to be a great platform for birding.

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Yellow-crowned Night Heron

The water was amazingly clear but shallow and many fish were seen. Taking picture out of a canoe has it’s own set of challenges:

Trying to take some photos

Trying to take some photos

Female Anhinga

Female Anhinga

The paddling trail is clearly marked:

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Trail Marker

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A Pelican buzzes the canoe

But if you get off the trail:

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We’re not lost are we?

Male Anhinga

Male Anhinga

Great friends and great adventures:

mike and Lori in kayak 1 ding darling cp1

Our co-conspirators

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Mangroves

White-winged Scoters on Griggs Reservoir

It’s always exciting when something unexpected is discovered. Since Griggs Reservoir and the park that runs along a portion of it’s eastern shore are located within the city limits of Columbus, our expectations are not always real high when it comes to seeing unusual wildlife. Such was the case during yesterday’s walk along the reservoir.

It was a cold, windy, but sunny day and the even though the temperature was below freezing the ice was mostly off the reservoir due to recent warm weather and heavy rains. The first thing we noticed was the unusually high number of Ring-billed Gulls. Some were in large groups and others scattered about. Some were in the water and other were relaxing on the numerous ice rafts still floating in the reservoir.

It soon became obviouse what was attracting the gulls. Numerous dead, but remarkable “fresh” looking, shad were on the ice, in the water, and along the shore. Recent high water and turbidity, rapid rain induced temperature fluctuations, and lack of oxygen due to the winter’s heavy ice cover may have all led to their demise.

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Ring-billed Gull with shad, Griggs Reservoir

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Ring-billed Gull, Griggs Reservoir

With the reservoir mostly free of ice waterfowl had dispersed from open water areas in the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers. We saw Goldeneyes, Hooded Mergansers, and Ringed Necks. Unfortunately they were all swimming along the opposite shore so no National Geographic quality photos were possible and those taken fell into the category of data acquisition.

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Common Goldeneye, Griggs Reservoir

But the highlight of our day was the unexpected sighting of six White-winged Scoters.

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White-winged Scoters, Griggs Reservoir

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Thanks for stopping by.

“Ding” Darling NWR

Thought I’d return to our recent trip to Florida and share some additional images from “Ding” Darling NWR on Sanibel Island in southwest part of the state.

As mentioned in previous posts we were camping at Koreshan State Historic Site which acted as our base camp for area adventures on foot or by canoe. For our trip to “Ding” Darling we were very fortunate to be able to hook up with some friends who were in the Cape Coral area at the time of our visit. They made the brave decision a few years ago to go live on a boat full time so it’s always fun to catch up on news and hear what they’ve been up to.

The day consisted of a very slow drive through the NWR followed up by a paddle to explore the Mangroves.

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“Ding” Darling, my wife in the center with our sailing friends.

The Reddish Egret was one of the first birds to draw our attention:

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Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret seeming to run in pursuit of food

Reddish Egret, running in pursuit of food?

We saw one Wood Stork:

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Wood Stork

Although there are common we never get tired of looking at Ibis.

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Immature White Ibis, Donna

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White Ibis

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White Ibis, study 2

Spoonbills weren’t real common the day we were there:

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Spoonbill, Donna

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Spoonbill, study 2

Snowy Egrets are one of our favorite birds, note the color of their feet:

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Snowy Egret, Donna

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Snowy Egret, Great Egret size comparison

White pelicans grouped on a sandbar:

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Photographing the Pelicans

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Pelicans

Beautiful in flight!

Beautiful in flight!

Shorebirds were common:

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Dunlins

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Dunlins feeding

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Willets In flight

Yellow-crown Night Herons were fairly common:

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Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Donna

Various types of crabs were seen:

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Mangrove Crabs were everywhere in the Mangroves

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Fiddler Crab

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Blue Crab

We saw one turtle:

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Ornate Diamond-Back Terrapin

Even fish and other aquatic life:

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xxxxx?

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Sheepshead

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Starfish in shallow water

Brown Anoles were everywhere!

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Brown Anole, Cute but highly invasive.In its introduced range, it reaches exceptionally high population densities, is capable of expanding its range very quickly, and both outcompetes and consumes many species of native lizards. The brown anole was introduced into the United States in the early 1970s (Wikipedia)

Lots of Water Over The Dam

In the last couple of weeks snow depths have been pretty good for central Ohio. That, coupled with warmer weather and recent heavy rains, means lots of water in local rivers and flowing over the dam on Griggs Reservoir. We decided to take a look.

Large flow over Griggs Dam

Large flow over Griggs Dam

The Scioto River just below the dam

The Scioto River just below the dam, the trees are inundated.

High water looking down stream

High water looking down stream

Scioto River below the dam.

Same area, water 4 0r 5 ft lower, taken earlier in the winter.

Along with watching the water we did notice some interesting fungus.

Fungus

Ochre Spreading Tooth, Fungus

A thistle, looking amazingly good for being buried under snow for most of the winter, made an interesting pattern.

Thistle

Thistle

Finally, as if to let us know spring isn’t far away, we noticed this White-throated Sparrow near the dam.

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

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Thanks for stopping by.

Corkscrew Swamp

While camped at the Koreshan State Historic Site in Florida last week we decided to check out Corkscrew Swamp about a 30 mile drive from the campground.  It’s one of the premier natural areas in Florida.

Corkscrew Swamp

Welcome to Corkscrew Swamp, web pic.

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Corkscrew Swamp Blair Audubon Center, web pic.

The busy roads and the extent of the commercial and residential development in the southwest corner of Florida take a while to get used to. It feels a little like a sprawling outdoor warehouse for those of us trying to escape the cold northern winters. In many places there appears to have been little regard for any natural aesthetic. However, in it’s defense, the area is no different than any other location in the US facing rapid population growth.

So when we arrived at the huge area set aside and know as Corkscrew Swamp we were pleasantly surprised by the natural beauty. Access to the area is limited to a roughly two mile long boardwalk but there’s still lots to see. Unique to the swamp are the 500 year old Bald Cypress Trees. The largest virgin stand in the world. However, what was really attracting us were the birds. We didn’t see the Painted Bunting we hoped to that day but did see a Purple Gallinule, a rather strange looking bird with big feet related to the American Coot.

Below is some of what we saw the day we were there:

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Great Crested Flycatcher, Corkscrew Swamp

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Great Crested Fly Catcher, study 2, Corkscrew Swamp

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Red Shouldered Hawk on nest, Corkscrew Swamp

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White-eyed Vireo, Corkscrew Swamp

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White-eyed Vireo, study 2, Corkscrew Swamp, Donna

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Bald Cypress, Corkscrew Swamp

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Boardwalk, Corkscrew Swamp

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Alligator, Corkscrew Swamp

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Swamp Lilly, Corkscrew Swamp

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Purple Gallinule, Corkscrew Swamp (note the big feet!)

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Purple Gallinule, study 2, Corkscrew Swamp

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Pileated Woodpecker, Corkscrew Swamp

Black and White Warbler, Corkscrew Swamp

Black and White Warbler, Corkscrew Swamp

The Swan was Mute

Yesterday, after returning from a short trip to Florida, we decided to recondition ourselves to the winter weather by taking a walk along Griggs Reservoir.

Because it was slightly above freezing, the 8-10 inches of snow still on the ground was very wet so we decided to walk the plowed road running through the park rather than our usual route.  The reservoir was still iced over which may be a record for recent years. Last year, ice covered the reservoir for at most 7 days compared to this years thirty plus.

Walking along the reservoir, robins and woodpeckers greeted us with song sparrows singing like it was a sunny spring day.

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Red-bellied Woodpecker in front yard.

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Downy Woodpecker along Griggs Reservoir, Donna

Scanning the reservoir we noticed what appeared to be a strangely shaped clump of snow. The binoculars revealed the clump to be a Mute Swan. It appeared to be relaxing on the ice in the middle of the reservoir. A rather odd sight.

Mute Swan on Griggs Reservoir

Mute Swan on Griggs Reservoir

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Mute Swan

Why it choose that location to relax is anybody’s guess. In the winter we’ve seen swans in the river below the dam but never on the ice in the middle of the reservoir. One thing is for sure, it didn’t have to worry about predators sneaking up on it. About an hour passed and it was till there went we left the park amazed by what we’d seen.

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