Autumn On Griggs Reservoir

By mid to late October in central Ohio, should we be blessed with a nice day, we wonder if it might be the season’s last opportunity for an enjoyable paddle.

It’s true that on days with little wind, if colder temperatures can be tolerated, one can usually paddle through December on Griggs Reservoir. But once the trees and leaves part company, the landscape takes on a stark appearance, and the experience becomes less intimate. One feels more exposed with only bare branches to separate the paddler from shoreline homes and the now much louder traffic noise from the adjacent highway.

Of the larger birds that can still be enjoyed; gulls, Great Blue Herons, and Belted Kingfishers will remain throughout the winter in areas where there is open water. There is also some compensation in the fact that, along with the Red-tailed and Coopers Hawk, the bare branches make spotting the resident pair of Bald Eagles much easier. Concerning living things other than birds, on a December paddle a few years ago we did see a few turtles enjoying the sun. However, that was a rare exception as, for the most part, by mid-November wildlife becomes scarce. Great Egrets, cormorants, vultures, and osprey have all headed south. Of the smaller birds, with the exception of a few yellow-rumped warblers that may hang around all winter, the others warblers have long since passed through. 

Motivated by these thoughts a few days ago, we put the boat in the water on what could turn out to be the last really nice day.

Looking for birds and other critters.

Those of you that have followed this blog for a while may have heard us reflect that one never knows what will be discovered when paddling our local reservoirs. We often go some distance without seeing anything other than a few of the usual suspects,

High overhead this Great Blue Heron watched as we paddle by.

.   .   .  then just when we’re about to assign the outing “well, it was a nice paddle  .   .   .” status, we stumble upon something that charms and amazes us. Such was the case when we happened upon three killdeer at water’s edge engaged in what seemed to be some sort of dance. They postured, positioned, and pursued each other for as long as we chose to watch. Mating behavior in autumn? We were left to wonder.

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Griggs Reservoir is a long narrow body of water bordered by homes on one side and a highway and city park on the other.

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Paddling into a breeze that reminded us how long it had been since we were in the canoe, we left the killdeer behind and headed back to our launch site still excited about what we’d witnessed and telling ourselves that, even if we saw nothing else, it had been a great day.

A small Map Turtle cooperates for a picture which is not usually the case for these very wary turtles, (Donna).

A female Wood Duck’s portrait gets photo bombed by a mallard, (Donna).

These mallard Ducks are apparently not “locals” as they took flight as we got close. The year round residents would not have flown, (Donna).

We actually got close enough for an acceptable picture of this male Belted Kingfisher. Anyone who has ever tried to photograph these birds realizes it’s not an easy task, (Donna).

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While not possessing the beautiful autumn color of a Vermont maple this sycamore does it’s best.

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As we “headed for the barn”, our day just about complete, we noticed commotion in a dead tree at waters edge. Moving closer, a number of Eastern Bluebirds were observed very actively checking out what had been a tree swallow nesting cavity earlier in the year. Surely they weren’t getting ready to make little bluebirds this late in the year. (It turns out the bluebirds may nest more than once a year.) We were almost as entranced as we had been by the killdeer and moved on only when our curiosity had been satisfied and maintaining the boat position, in the increasing windy conditions, started to seem like work. 

Male and female Eastern Bluebirds check out a nesting cavity, (Donna).

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A few hundred yards later, we pulled the canoe out of the water and stowed the gear in the car. It had been a good day. Would it be the year’s last nice one for a paddle?

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Thanks for stopping by.

Embracing Autumn

On a recent hike on a rather cold but clear autumn morning a friend exclaimed how good it was to be outdoors on such a beautiful day, and that at this point in her life she is really trying to embrace autumn. She related that she was hoping to shed the, all too easy to acquire, mindset that autumn is just that beautiful but fleeting season between summer and winter. She was going to look closer, be in the moment, and appreciate. An admirable goal any time of the year, but particularly in the ever shorter days of early October when it all seems to go by quickly.

The morning sun accentuates the color across the reservoir, Griggs Reservoir Park (GRP).

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She talked about sketching, and how looking at a flower or other object in the effort to draw it really enhanced her seeing and appreciating. I couldn’t help but think of it as a meditation. Certainly photographs and words can also lead to a more intimate relationship with nature as we compose a picture or reflect on things not capable of being being expressed in a picture.

Autumn reflection, Wahkeeva NP.

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Fall warblers are sneaky. With the exception of the Yellow-rumped Warbler that stick around to enjoy poison ivy berries, warblers move through central Ohio on their way south quickly and quietly without the spring’s distinctive calls. Along with other birds that don’t have to depend on insects for food, cardinals, eastern bluebirds, and woodpeckers, some of which may be from further north, hang around all winter. Interestingly a fair number of Great Egrets, which don’t typically winter in Ohio, are still in the area. Some Great Blue Herons manage to make a living here throughout the winter but their smaller cousin the Green Heron has already left. 

A Black-throated Green Warbler passes through (GRP) on it’s way south, (Donna).

Magnolia Warbler (GRP), (Donna).

Eastern Phoebe (GRP).

For obvious reasons this Eastern Phoebe won’t be in the area much longer (GRP), (Donna).

Here some tapping? Look up, it’s probably a Downy Woodpecker, (GRP).

Cheerful Carolina Chickadees keep us company year round (GRP).

Great Egrets, O’Shaughnessy NP

Eastern Bluebirds seem more common in the autumn, (GRP).

A recent arrival from the north, revving up it’s motor, this Ruby-crowned Kinglet left the branch bare a fraction of a second later, O’Shaughnessy NP.

Some days if it wasn’t for the cardinals things would be pretty dull (GRP) (Donna).

A Coopers Hawk waits patently for a meal. It’s a year round resident (GRP).

The White-throated Sparrow is a migrant from the north. Some will spend the winter in central Ohio, Wahkeeva NP.

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Autumn along the reservoir (GRP).

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The flurry of insect activity has slowed down considerably over what it was just two weeks ago. Butterflies, and especially bees, had been incredibly active during the last warm days before the occurrence of a few cold nights where the temperature hung just above freezing.

Bald-faced Hornets nest (GRP), (Donna).

Traffic jam at the entrance to the nest, (Donna)

Eastern Commas are fairly common in the fall, Stages Pond State NP.

Green bee on aster (GRP.

The Common Checkered Skipper is usually seen in late summer and fall (GRP).

A busy bee (GRP).

Monarch on aster, Stages Pond State NP.

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Autumn color (GRP).

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Chipmunks were also in on the activity.

Chipmunk (GRP), (Donna).

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I finish writing this with memories of the smell and color of the autumn woods graced by the light of the seasons low laying sun and transformed into a branched “stained glass” cathedral of yellow and gold. Outside under gray 50 F skies a light rain is falling, perhaps nature’s way of saying in a quiet voice, “Pause, give thanks, for those warm, sunny, autumn days, and for all things with which you have been blessed”.

Cathedral in the woods, Boch Hollow State NP

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Thanks for stopping by.

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