Spring “Wild” Flowers

Maybe it’s just out of desperation but the last few days I’ve been looking in earnest for that first spring wildflower.

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Walking along the river below Griggs Dam, eyes intently focused on the ground, checking an area that in past years had been home to spring wildflowers, it seemed as thought someone or something was watching me.

click on images for a better view

Song Sparrow, along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam

Song Sparrow watching, along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam

Then I spotted it, usually “it’s” a Dutchman’s Breeches or Marsh Marigold, but yesterday I got really excited when I spotted a new wildflower right next to some Snow Drops. The Snow Drops are a flower we’ve already seen in a few locations this spring. but this other guy, let’s see, yellow with six petals, not one I’ve seen before, and it’s just popped up through the leaf litter!

Winter Aconite 1

Winter-aconite, along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

Winter Aconite 2

Winter Aconite, study 2

Soon after returning home, I was on the internet in an effort to identify this new flower. Hum   .   .   .  , it appears to be Winter Aconite, and it’s in a number of locations all the way north to Hudson Bay! How cool is that! But what what’s this   .   .   .   , “A garden plant that occasionally escapes into the wild and naturalizes.”  My heart sank, but just a little bit, as this wasn’t the first time we’d found a beautiful “wild” flower only to discover that it wasn’t originally wild. A few years ago it was a Star of Bethlehem. And besides this little guy had managed to pop up through the leaf litter. That’s got to be worth something.

 

The Snow Drops that were paling around with my newly discovered “wild” flower.

Snow Drops

Snow Drops, along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam

Another “wild” flower from a few years back.

 

Star of Bethlehem, O'Shaughnessy Nature Preserve

Star of Bethlehem, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve

Looking for Birds But Not Warblers

It’s late March in central Ohio and the last few days we’ve occupied ourselves looking for whatever birds we could find. Rather than travelling far afield, we’ve enjoyed staying close to home and discovering all that we can along the Scioto River and Griggs and O’Shaughnessy Reservoirs. The early spring warblers haven’t yet started moving through in any appreciable numbers so what are we seeing?

A few days ago while patrolling the Griggs Park for Loons we came across a immature Bald Eagle being harassed by crows. Unfortunately, by the time the camera was ready for action, the eagle decided it had had enough of the crows and was flying off.

click on images for a better view

 

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Immature Bald Eagle, Griggs Park

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Immature Bald Eagle saying goodbye to the crows, Griggs Park

 

Not long after that we saw our first Great Egret of the year.

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Great Egret, Griggs Reservoir

Double-crested Cormorants have also just arrived.

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Double-crested Cormorants conversing, Griggs Reservoir

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A short conversation, Double-crested Cormorants, Griggs Reservoir

While I was busy taking pictures of birds that were either too far away or moving too fast for a really great picture, my wife got lovely pictures of a Downey Woodpecker and a Great Blue Heron.

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Downy Woodpecker, Griggs Park (Donna)

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Great Blue Heron, Griggs Park, (Donna)

 

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Gulls enjoying the warm sun on a cool spring day, Griggs Reservoir

Today, driving north along O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, we were fortunate to see Canvasbacks and there were even some other “bonus ducks” in the mix. However, the birds being pretty far from shore resulted in images that are not of the highest quality.

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Hooded Mergansers making a getaway, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Hooded Mergansers take flight, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Canvasbacks, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Ring-necked Ducks, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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American Coots, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Greater Scaups, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Canvasbacks, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

Finally, the latest addition to my birding equipment is the “Bird Bike”. It allows more ground to be covered but when something of interest is spotted it’s easy to stop and hop off.

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Bird Bike

A Red Fox in Griggs Park

It was a rather chilly 22 F this morning when I decided to take my refurbished mountain bike on a 10 mile peddle to check out the Loons on Griggs Reservoir. What I like about the mountain bike is that it’s like being a kid again. I just hop on it and ride, no worries about special shoes or clothing, and it’s great for exploring and looking for wildlife.

Stepping back and looking at the landscape  hardly reminds one of spring but I tried my best to take a pleasant landscape shot below the dam.

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Late March Landscape, Scioto River looking south just below Griggs Dam

Late March Landscape, Scioto River looking south just below Griggs Dam

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Along the reservoir and river, the Great Blue Herons were out in force, along with Double Crested Cormorants, a few Hooded  Mergansers, Mallards, a Pied-billed Grebe, a Red-tailed Hawk, Canada Geese, and one male Bufflehead but again no Loon. All the birds were too far away to photograph, at least in a way that would improve upon any pictures already taken, so I resisted the temptation.

The highlight of the day was seeing a Red Fox along the park road as I peddled north. Unfortunately it all happened so quickly there was no way to stop the bike and pull out the camera fast enough to get a picture. While I understand that there are Red Foxes lurking about in the city in more wooded areas, it’s the first fox that I’ve ever seen in Griggs Reservoir Park so it was a real treat.

Would The Last One Out Please . . .

Yesterday we set off on another training walk for our upcoming hiking trip. Since it was going to be a long walk we decided to travel light and take only a few snacks, small 8×25 binoculars, and our Canon SX260 cameras. This decision was also prompted by the fact that on recent walks we hadn’t seen as many waterfowl in the reservoir/river and the spring wildflowers were just starting to stir.

But with this kind of a lead in you probably suspect that we must have seen something special and you would be right.  As we walked along the Scioto below Griggs Dam, other than a few Mallard Ducks there were only two other birds of interest visible on the river. The larger one, without the help of binoculars, appeared to be a Common Merganser. A bird that we’ve seen quite often this winter. But a closer look through the bino’s revealed it to be a Red-breasted Merganser. A bird that we’ve seen less often and seldom at this close distance. Tagging along behind was a female (confused?) Bufflehead. Given that in recent days the majority of the ducks had moved on and for one of the last that we might see this year to be such a beautiful and illusive bird, left us feeling ecstatic. We spent some time looking and savoring the moment.

The lesson in this story may very well be, Always make sure you have to right equipment. Evident from the pictures below, wonderful little camera that it is, the Canon SX260 is not the best bird camera.

click on image for a better look

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Female Bufflehead and male Red-breasted Merganser, Scioto River below Griggs Dam, Canon sx260, crop to apprx, 30% of image

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Male Red-breasted Merganser, Scioto River below Griggs Dam, Canon sx260, crop to 15% of image.

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He Swallowed The Whole Thing

This is the time of year that one needs to look a little harder. Now that the ice is off the reservoir, the waterfowl that were in the river below the dam have either dispersed or taken the next step on their northward journey. Other southern migrants, such as warblers, have not yet arrived in any appreciable numbers. One day it’s sunny and mild and the next windy, cold, with rain off and on. Today, as we did our first Loon patrol of the season along Griggs Reservoir, it was one of the latter. Even so, we did manage to see several Canada geese, a number of Ring-billed Gulls, one Pied Bill Grebe and one male Bufflehead but no Loons.

Yesterday, walking along the river below Griggs Dam, the story was much the same with respect to waterfowl, but the usual suspects were out including Great Blue Herons and Kingfishers. What made our day was seeing a heron consume a fish that seemed way to big for the bird. It took some work, but the bird finally did it. Not that there was any choice given the “head first” way a heron swallows a fish. From what we saw, the fish may have been one of the many shad we’ve seen dead or dying along the reservoir probably the result of the harsh winter. I’ve seen herons swallow some pretty big fish over the years but this may have been a record.

click on the image for a better view

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Great Blue Heron with Fish, Scioto River

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Great Blue Heron with fish (2), Scioto River

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Great Blue Heron with fish (3), Scioto River

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Great Blue Heron with fish (4), Scioto River

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Great Blue Heron with fish (5), Scioto River

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Great Blue Heron with fish (6), Scioto River

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Great Blue Heron with fish (7), Scioto River

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A Spring Song

Spring Song

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As we walk

the brown gray landscape revealed by melting snow

is brightened by a sun now too high

for it not to be green.

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We impatiently look for signs

of what is coming,

a spring wildflower

or

a bud that’s about to leaf.

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Then a sparrow sings

and provides reassurance.

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Song Sparrow, Griggs Reservoir

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*****

An Early Spring Gathering of “Ducks” in Central Ohio

Yesterday, with our son in town for a visit, we decided to take advantage of his good eyes and go birding. He was more than happy to accommodate us. Rather than one of our usual long walks, this time we took the car. Our destinations included the Scioto river below Griggs Dam, Griggs Reservoir along Griggs Reservoir Park, the very northern end of the reservoir the Kiwanis Riverway Park Area which is part of Griggs Reservoir Nature Preserve, and Glacier Ridge Metro Park.

In terms of numbers of birds, the reservoir was the most productive. However, we did see a beaver along with some birds that included Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers and Nuthatches, below Griggs Dam. Glacier Ridge was also productive with views of Red tail Hawks (light and dark morphs), Flickers, Bluebirds, Song Sparrows, Northern Tree Sparrows and Meadowlarks.

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Bluebird, Glacier Ridge Metro Park

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Bluebirds, Glacier Ridge Metro Park, study 2 (Donna)

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Bluebirds, Glacier Ridge Metro Park, study 3 (Donna)

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Northern Flicker, Glacier Ridge Metro Park (Donna)

But now back to Griggs Reservoir where we managed to see, Hooded and Common Mergansers, Greater and Lesser Scaups, Buffleheads, Redhead Ducks, Horned Grebes, Ring-necked Ducks, Common Goldeneyes, Canvasbacks, Mallards, American Coots, Ringed bill Gulls, Canada Geese, Great Blue Herons and Double-crested Cormorants.

As we drove along the reservoir, stopping periodically to look around, all the waterfowl were about a quarter of a mile away along the opposite shore. Our first exciting find was a Horned Grebe. A bird not often seen in this area. It was was far enough away to be at the limit of our binocular’s reach. A spotting scope would have been the best tool to verify the bird’s ID but I decided to put my Canon SX40 at full zoom, use a low ISO, support the camera against a tree as best I could, and snap away. It was “Data acquisition” in the hopes of confirming the bird ID’s later. These were not going to be National Geographic quality photos! The below “data strips”, cropped but full frame width photos, contained the information.

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data strip, Horned Grebe, Canon SX40, full optical zoom, full width of image

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Horned Grebe, study 1

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Horned Grebe, study 2

We drove on to the very northern end of the reservoir and again the situation was the same and again I used the camera to collect data for later review. What was really exciting at this last stop was that we thought we could make out several Canvasbacks. Would the images in the camera provide verification? Below are the results:

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data strip, Canvasback, Canon SX40, full optical zoom, full width of image

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Male Canvasback?

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data strip, Greater & Lesser Scaup, Canon SX40, full optical zoom, full width of image

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Greater Scaup

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Lesser Scaup

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data strip, Common Mergansers, Canon SX40, full optical zoom, full width of image

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Male Common Merganser

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Female Common Merganser

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data strip, female Canvasback, Greater Scaup, Canon SX40, full optical zoom, full width of image

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Female Canvasback?

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Male and Female Greater Scaups

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data strip, Male Canvasback, Canon SX40, full optical zoom, full width of image

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Male Canvasback on left

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data strip, Red Heads, Canon SX40, full optical zoom, full width of image

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Male and Female Red Head Ducks

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data strip, Great Blue Heron, Common Mergansers, Greater Scaup, Canon SX40, full optical zoom, full width of image

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Greater Scaup

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Female Merganser

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Great Blue Heron, do you see it on the data strip?

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data strip, Lesser Scaup, Canon SX40, full optical zoom, full width of image

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Greater Scaups, male and female

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data strip, Buffleheads, Canon SX40, full optical zoom, full width of image

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Bufflehead

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data strip, Ring-necked Ducks, Canon SX40, full optical zoom, full width of image

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Ring-necked Ducks

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Ring-necked Ducks

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data strip, Goldeneye, Canon SX40, full optical zoom, full width of image

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Common Goldeneye

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data strip, male Canvasback and Red Head Ducks, Canon SX40, full optical zoom, full width of image

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Male Canvasback (behind)

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Redhead Duck

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data srip, Greater and Lesser Scaups, Canon SX40, full optical zoom, full width of image

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Greater Scaup

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Lesser Scaup

Based on the above results, it appears that a super-zoom digital camera can be a useful tool to aid in bird identification.

Finally, in celebration of spring, below is a just emerging Skunk Cabbage at Kiwanis Riverway Park. A rather attractive plant but as you might guess by the name not processing the sweetest fragrance.

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage, Kiwanis Riverway Park

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Skunk Cabbage showing some interior structure, Kiwanis Riverway Park (Donna)

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