Canoeing And Red-headed Woodpeckers

It’s always fun when one can combine two loves. In this case canoeing and birds. My wife and I are blessed with a fondness for the active engagement of moving under our own power, be it it hiking, cycling, or paddling. It turns out that this type of quiet activity enhances the chance of seeing birds and other wildlife.

.

The last week found us at the north end of Alum Creek Reservoir twice. The reservoir comprises a large portion of Alum Creek State Park. The first of two fairly long paddles was to see what birds we might find and the second was to get a better look at the red-headed Woodpeckers seen a few days before. Red-headed Woodpeckers are always a treat to set because their numbers have decreased significantly in recent years.

.

According to Cornell’s All About Birds: “Red-headed Woodpeckers declined by over 2% per year from 1966 to 2014, resulting in a cumulative decline of 70%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 1.2 million, with 99% spending part of the year in the U.S., and 1% in Canada. The species is at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action. These woodpeckers were common to abundant in the nineteenth century, probably because the continent had more mature forests with nut crops and dead trees. They were so common that orchard owners and farmers used to pay a bounty for them, and in 1840 Audubon reported that 100 were shot from a single cherry tree in one day. In the early 1900s, Red-headed Woodpeckers followed crops of beech nuts in northern beech forests that are much less extensive today. At the same time, the great chestnut blight killed virtually all American chestnut trees and removed another abundant food source. Red-headed Woodpeckers may now be more attuned to acorn abundance than to beech nuts. After the loss of nut-producing trees, perhaps the biggest factor limiting Red-headed Woodpeckers is the availability of dead trees in their open-forest habitats”.

Loading camera equipment into our fast but stable 18 foot Sawyer canoe. Unless you are near shore. it’s hard to appreciate this boat’s speed when you really want to get somewhere, as it leaves virtually no disturbance in the water.

Getting ready to depart on a very quiet morning.

.

Not our primary objective but it wasn’t long before Prothonotary Warblers were spotted at waters edge.

Protonotary Warbler

***

The next meal, (Donna).

Not a good day for the spider, (Donna).

Shortly after our encounter with the Prothonotary Warblers we spotted an Eastern Kingbird on it’s nest on a branch overhanging the water.

Eastern Kingbirds are common along Ohio reservoirs in the summer.

Along with Wood Ducks, Osprey and one Bald Eagle and an Indigo Bunting, there were many Great Blue Heron sightings. However, in what was somewhat of a surprise, no Green Herons were seen.

A mother Wood Duck heads for cover, (Donna).

Great Blue Heron, (Donna).

Indigo Bunting

.

Further up river:

Our first look in the area where we had seen the Red-headed Woodpeckers an few days before didn’t turn up much, so we headed further up Alum Creek to see what else might be found.

.

On the return leg we stopped at what appeared to be a Red-headed Woodpecker “hotspot” and were rewarded with a number of sightings.

The habitat at the north end of the reservoir.

A juvenile was the first to permit photographs:

***

***, (Donna).

.   .   .  and then after some repositioning and jockeying the canoe looking for better views and better light we were able to get some shots of an adult!

***

***

***

.

We’ve paddled to the north end of Alum Creek Reservoir many times over the years and this was the first time we’ve seen Red-headed Woodpeckers in these numbers, perhaps three adult pairs. Was our timing just bad in the past, were we just not looking for them so they remained unseen, or were they not there, at least in the quantities observed? We’re are not sure but hopefully future trips will answer the question. Meanwhile we will rejoice in having seen them and may even pay them another visit before the year is over.

.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Butterflies That Don’t Look Like Butterflies

In the last few weeks butterflies have become a lot more common, especially during warm late spring afternoons. To the casual observer some don’t even look like butterflies.

.

Below are some seen recently where there’s no question what they are.

The very small Banded Hairstreak, (Donna).

Another very small butterfly, the Summer Azure, (Donna).

Hackberry Emperors are a very common medium size butterfly that shun flowers but on a warm day will often land on your skin.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a large butterfly that’s easy to spot and usually easy to get a picture of.

The profile of the medium size Eastern Comma is a bit confusing but in flight there is no mistaking it for anything but a butterfly, (Donna).

.

But then there are some where we’re not quite sure, a moth, butterfly, or something else?

The Silver Spotted skipper is one of the largest of the skippers and for that reason fairly easy to spot. It is a fast flier not floating like the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Habitat: Disturbed and open woods, foothill stream courses, prairie waterways. Range: Extreme southern Canada and most of the continental United States except the Great Basin and west Texas; northern Mexico. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

The Zabulon Skipper is very small, common but easy to miss. Habitat: Brushy openings near moist forests and streams. Range: Massachusetts west through southern Michigan to central Kansas; south to central Florida, southern Louisiana, and northeast Texas. Strays to New Mexico, South Dakota, and southern Quebec. A separate population ranges from central Mexico south to Panama. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

Two very small and seldom seen Crossline Skippers. Habitat: Open grassy areas including prairies hills, barrens, power line cuts, old fields, forest openings. Range: Western North Dakota east across central Minnesota, southern Ontario, and southern Quebec to central Maine; south to northeast Texas, the Gulf Coast, and northern Florida. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

A Peck’s Skipper on a dandelion. A very small fury butterfly. Habitat: Many open grassy habitats including meadows, prairies, lawns, marshes, landfills, roadsides, vacant lots, and power line right-of-ways. Range: British Columbia east across southern Canada to Nova Scotia; south to northeastern Oregon, southern Colorado, northwest Arkansas, and northern Georgia. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

.

And then there’s this rather unusual specimen.

American Snout, Habitat: Forest clearings and edges, thorn scrub, brushy fields, roadsides.
Range: Argentina north through Mexico and the West Indies to southern United States. Migrates to central California, southern Nevada, Colorado, and most of the eastern United States. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

While fascinating it’s not clear what purpose the snout serves, (Donna).

.

Given that many butterflies are very small and some fly very fast it can be a challenge to spot them. However once spotted, they transport one into a world that few visit and get to appreciate.

.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Getting Along Just Fine

At first, as we looked across the river, there appeared to be a Double-crested Cormorant hanging around with a bunch of turtles. But a closer look revealed that one turtle didn’t resemble the others. The others, Northern Map Turtles, were almost too many to count. The unique turtle was a Spiny Softshell Turtle which, while not uncommon, can’t compete with the map turtle when it comes to shear numbers in central Ohio. 

With it’s neck almost fully extended, it’s almost as though the softshell wants to be a cormorant. The cormorant and softshell made the picture interesting, but it was fascinating to see that they were getting along just fine.

.

As opposed to just two weeks ago, the brilliantly colored male Baltimore Orioles are much harder to spot with trees leafed out. However, one obliged by landing on the exposed branches of a nearby sycamore. 

Enjoying a tasty meal in a sycamore tree.

***

.

We’ve transitioned from spring to early summer wildflowers. Two of my favorites, both anemones are Canada Anemone and Thimbleweed. The Spiderwort was photographed in bright late morning sunlight, not the best conditions, but the dark background made it work. The flower of the ninebark is amazingly beautiful considering the plant’s rather ordinary name. 

Foxglove Beardtongue “grows in moist, sandy soil in full sun in meadows, prairies, fields, wood margins, open woods and along railroad tracks. Its bloom period is from late spring to early summer. The plant is known to attract butterflies and hummingbirds“. Ref: Wikipedia.

This small bee is only a little over 1/2 inch long.

Thimbleweed

Spiderwort

Canada Anemone, “in the past used medically by North American Indigenous peoples as an astringent and as a styptic for wounds, sores, nosebleeds, and as an eyewash. The root was respected by Plains tribes and used for many ailments”. Ref: Wikipedia

Wild Raspberry

Ninebark

.

Along the reservoir small regular waves under overhanging branches create a fascinating pattern of reflections.

Waves and reflections.

.

Sometimes just an inadvertent glace in a direction not planned draws one into an adventure of unexpected wonder.

.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

A Warbler Fascinates and Delights

We are blessed to have Prothonotary Warblers nesting in central Ohio. Much of the nesting success can be attributed to the numerous nested boxes that have been installed and maintained in the habitats favored by this delightful bird. During hikes and while canoeing we also see nesting activity in abandoned woodpecker cavities. It is always a little more special to observe the prothonotary’s behavior in a natural setting. Especially for the photographer.

.

Some interesting facts: “Prothonotary Warblers forage in the understory, slowly hopping along branches, twigs, and on the ground in search of food. Sometimes they climb up tree trunks and pick insects off the bark similar to the way a Black-and-White Warbler forages. When the male establishes his territory he searches for potential nesting sites in standing dead trees and places a layer of moss in each hole. He selects a few good spots and displays in front of each site for the female. He flies slowly up above the tree canopy with tail spread and slowly flutters back down. To entice the female to check out potential nesting sites, he enters and exits the hole several times. As soon as the female selects a site, she starts building a nest. On the breeding grounds males and females aggressively defend their territories, chasing away intruders with snaps of their bills and sometimes with physical attacks. They are monogamous and maintain their bonds during the breeding season. –  –  –  Prothonotary Warblers are uncommon to fairly common in good habitat. Their populations declined over 1% per year from 1966–2015, resulting in a cumulative loss of 42% over that period,”. Ref: Cornell All About Birds.

.

One such area not far from our home is the O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve Twin Lakes Area along the Scioto River watershed north of Columbus. We decided to use a canoe to explore the area thinking that it would provide the best access to the birds. Many of the birds in this area seem to be using nesting boxes.

Excellent Prothonotary habitat.

.

You never know what birds will do and even while shooting it’s often not obvious because one to preoccupied making sure the subject is in focus, especially when you’re in  a moving canoe. Having said that, we were excited to find a prothonotary in the process of obtaining a meal.

A tasty morsel, an orb weaving spider is spotted, (Donna).

Without much hesitation.

Down the hatch.

Burp!, (Donna).

Yum!

.

A little later, and not more than 100 yards from where the spider used to live, another sighting. Could it be the same bird? This one decided to sing, perhaps energized by a recent meal?

Getting ready.

A quiet beginning.

. . . and then as if working towards a grand finale, singing with some stomping (actually scratching).

.

As mentioned in previous posts many warbler pass through central Ohio but we are blessed to enjoy this one just a little longer.

.

Thanks for stopping by.

Bringing Up The Rear

It’s been over a week since we’ve seen a significant number of spring migrants passing through our local park. For this year at least, female Redstarts and Black-throated Blue Warblers trailed their male counterparts by a few days. It was exciting to see Yellow-billed Cuckoo along the edge of the reservoir again this year.

.

When the Blackpoll Warblers move through Griggs Reservoir Park it’s usually a sign that spring migration is near it’s end. “Blackpoll Warblers breed in black spruce and tamarack forests (further north) in Canada’s boreal forests. In western Canada, they also use thickets of spruce, alder, and willow. In northern New England they breed in wet areas with evergreen trees. During migration they stop over in scrubby thickets and mature evergreen and deciduous forests. On their wintering grounds east of the Andes in South America, they occur in forest edges and second-growth forests below 10,000 feet. Blackpoll Warblers are numerous throughout their range, but their numbers have declined severely in recent decades. Much of their far-northern breeding range lies outside of the area covered by the North American Breeding Bird Survey, making it hard to estimate population trends precisely. Nevertheless, the NABBS records suggest an extreme decline of nearly 5% per year from 1966–2015, resulting in a cumulative decline of 92% during that time period.” Ref: Cornell All About Birds.

*** (Donna)

***

The ruffled feather look.

*** (Donna)

.

The female Black-throated Blue Warblers were also part of the late migration mix. “Black-throated Blue Warblers breed in large tracts of mature deciduous and mixed evergreen-deciduous woodlands with a thick understory of shrubs including hobblebush, mountain laurel, and rhododendron. In the Appalachians, they tend to occur at elevations of 2,600–5,250 feet, but they occur at lower elevations in hilly terrain farther north. After breeding, individuals often move to shrubby young forests (i.e., early successional habitats) with their offspring. During migration they occur in all types of woodlands, parks, and gardens. On the wintering grounds they inhabit dense tropical forests, woodlands, shade-coffee plantations, and second-growth areas with trees. Black-throated Blue Warblers are common and their populations increased by 163% between 1970 and 2014, according to Partners in Flight“. Ref: Cornell, All About Birds.

Female.

Male for comparison.

.

We’ve been hearing Red-eyed Vireos more in recent days. The White-eyed and Warbling Vireos have  apparently moved on.

Red-eyed Vireos often make their presence know by their almost constant repetitive calls, (Donna).

.

Eastern Wood Pewees are still seen, but many may head further north as they don’t seem as common in the park in the summer.

***

.

Occasionally we still see a Yellow Warbler.

***

.

The mallard babies are growing up and amazingly, considering they are usually victims of various forms of predation, their ranks haven’t thinned much.

***

.

Breeding in the park, Eastern Kingbirds haven’t been nearly as rambunctious the last few days. Perhaps they are busy with nest building.

***

.

An immature Red-tailed Hawk was seen near it’s nest at the north end of Griggs Reservoir during a recent paddle.

***

.

The water was certainly not enticing but the fresh green of spring made up for it.

.

The highlight during that same paddle was spotting a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. A bird we don’t often see. Some nice shots were obtained due to a very light wind and smooth water. “Yellow-billed Cuckoos use wooded habitat with dense cover and water nearby, including woodlands with low, scrubby, vegetation, overgrown orchards, abandoned farmland, and dense thickets along streams and marshes. In the Midwest, look for cuckoos in shrublands of mixed willow and dogwood, and in dense stands of small trees such as American elm. Yellow-billed Cuckoo populations declined by about 52% between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey”. Ref: Cornell, All About Birds.

***

Note the beautiful tail feathers, (Donna)

.

Due to Covid-19 no birding “hot spots” such as Ohio’s Magee Marsh were visited, but even so it’s been a great spring migration.

.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Nature Views

Learning to embrace nature and appreciate the beauty around us every day

Ohio History & Travel

You can find a rich experience close to home.

Into the Light Adventures

By Sandra Js Photography - Make the rest of your life the best of your life.

piecemealadventurer

Tales of the journeys of a piecemeal adventurer as a discontinuous narrative

Photos by Donna

Nature & Wildlife's Beauty and Behavior Through My Lens

Londonsenior

The life of an elderly Londoner and her travels.

Tootlepedal's Blog

A look at life in the borders

Eloquent Images by Gary Hart

Insight, information, and inspiration for the inquisitive nature photographer

gordoneaglesham

The Wildlife in Nature

Through Open Lens

Home of Lukas Kondraciuk Photography

My Best Short Nature Poems

Ellen Grace Olinger

through the luminary lens

The sun is the great luminary of all life - Frank Lloyd Wright

talainsphotographyblog

Nature photography

Mike Powell

My journey through photography

The Prairie Ecologist

Essays, photos, and discussion about prairie ecology, restoration, and management

Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog

Kerry Mark Leibowitz's musings on the wonderful world of nature photography

Montana Outdoors

A weblog dedicated to the world outside the cities.