A Spring Paddle

At a graceful 17 feet long our Sawyer Cruiser canoe left the east shore of Griggs Reservoir just above Fishinger Road like a racehorse wanting to run even though it had been several months since we wet the paddles 1000 miles south in Florida. The plan was to follow the sunlit west shore north as far as we were inclined to see what migrating birds and other wildlife we might find. The choice of the Sawyer was dictated by the trip back to our launch site which would put an increasing wind in our face. None of our other canoes does “wind in the face” better than the Sawyer.

The plus side of looking for birds from a boat is that you have a continuous wall of trees and bushes of various sizes at water’s edge in which you might find them. The disadvantage is that the action of wind and waves must be dealt with in an effort to keep the canoe in position long enough to observe or in our case also photograph a small bird flitting about. Almost all of one’s creative paddle strokes are required. So, as with most of our birding by canoe outings, I handle the boat while my wife has all the pressure of trying to get a good picture.

Black-throated Green, (Donna).
White-eyed Vireo, (Donna).
Donna takes aim.
Painted Turtles, (Donna).
Yellow Warbler, (Donna).
Another view, (Donna).
Great Egret flies overhead, (Donna).
Our first Green Heron of the year, (Donna).
The Barn Swallows nest in the boat enclosures, (Donna).
Pie-billed Grebe, (Donna).
One of a number of Great Blue Herons seen, (Donna).
Take off, (Donna).
Pull out at Hayden Run, our northern terminus.
Male Wood Duck, (Donna).
Female Wood Duck, (Donna).
White-throated Sparrow, (Donna).
Hayden Run

Our first paddle of the year in Ohio had been a little over five miles, half of which was into a sometimes brisk wind. We felt good as we hauled the boat out, but we were glad we hadn’t decided to go further. The several hours spent had been a wonderful blend of appreciating nature coupled with the satisfaction of knowing it had all been accomplished under our own power. Our whole self had been engaged in the adventure.

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Trout Lilies

During spring in central Ohio, before the overhead canopy leaf’s out, magic might be found at your feet off well-traveled paths near home.

The less often seen yellow.

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Migrating Into Spring

For some living things it is a migration through time that ushers in their seemingly too brief visit each spring. For others it’s a journey through both time and space. In each case April brings “magic” to the central Ohio woods and meadows. It’s a time of beauty in small things as the grander landscape has just begun to put on its coat of green.

With the cool spring it wasn’t that long ago that we saw Snow Trillium, now the Large Flower Trillium have started to appear.

Despite the cold spring in nearby trees we now notice early spring migrants, flowers of another kind.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, (Donna)

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to look. Up or down? Wildflowers capture our imagination, but when we look down as our feet shuffle through last year’s leaf litter and see Twinleaf or Cutleaf Toothwort, how many warblers fly by overhead? A good problem to have.

Twinleaf, (Donna)
Cutleaf Toothwort

Almost too small to notice with the naked eye several objects are in constant erratic motion in the nearby brush. We pursue them with our binoculars, which often only brings a bare branch into focus, but finally succeed in identifying them as a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Showing its crown. A few moments earlier, in full display and missed by the camera, the top of its head had exploded into ruby flame.

Most of what interests me in nature, a wildflower at my feet or a warbler in a tree, is small. Much of it would go unnoticed if I didn’t pay attention and even so there is much that is missed. Wildflowers not as often, but birds really do benefit when viewed though a decent pair of binoculars. However, having said that, the start is really about paying attention. But how does one care enough about things, that have never been experienced or even seen, to pay attention, to look, to listen? For me that’s the wisdom that time spent in nature graciously provides.

An emergent Bloodroot flower is embraced by its leaves, (Donna)
Toadshade Trillium, both the leaves and flower compete for our eye.
Virginia Bluebells are starting to appear, (Donna)
When one looks at Dutchman’s Breeches it’s hard not to smile.
Some wildflowers are very common and unlike trillium can be seen just about anywhere. Such is the case with Spring Beauty.

Along with those that may be passing through, other birds also compete for our attention.

A curious male Eastern Bluebird
Tufted Titmouse plays peek-a-boo.
Female Northern Cardinal
The Eastern Towhee is one of the more striking members of the sparrow family.
Northern Flickers are one of the woodpeckers seen excavating nesting cavities in a nearby park, (Donna)
This Broad-winged Hawk appears to be nesting near Griggs Reservoir not far from our home.
Will this Brown Thrasher make central Ohio home for the season or move on?
Field Sparrow, its song is sublime.
This male Red-winged Blackbird will nest in central Ohio.

The natural world speaks to us in a voice without words. In the “year” of human history it’s been less than four hours that technology and our modern lifestyle, with its illusion of wellbeing and comfort, has isolated us from that world. For many of us its voice is no longer heard. For most of our history we have been an integral part of nature, we have been nature! So, it may not be surprising that it is a voice that truly speaks to our soul. It’s ironic that technology now lets us share its sights and sounds in ways heretofore not imagined. When it comes to appreciating birds, modern binoculars have only been around for a little over 100 years and capable digital photography not much more than 20. Fortunately, if we just get out of our houses and cars and venture into nature without any modern technology, there is much that it has to say.

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Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Takes Up Residence

So far this spring it’s been colder than normal and rainy. Migrating birds and the resident wildflowers that would have enchanted us in the first week of April continue to be illusive.

A couple of days ago we returned from a local metro park with just the barest of photographic evidence that spring is actually here. Today, as I write this, snowflakes can be seen outside the window fortunately disappearing on contact with the ground.

Virginia Waterleaf adds color and design to a sea of last year’s leaf litter.
Purple Cress does it’s best to bloom.
One Virgina Bluebell blossom braves the cold.

But despite the disappointments in the field something that we’ve not previously experienced was taking place much closer to home. From time to time during spring migration our very urban front yard has been a stopover for some fairly exotic migrants that stay at most an hour or two before moving on. However, recently we observed a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker foraging for food in our Sweetgum tree and it continued to do so for four consecutive days and counting! This male bird seemed to spend the whole day in the tree because just about any time we looked out there it was. Where it spent the night, we cannot say. We were astounded!

Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
What are you looking at?
Preening

Why the bird hung around for such a long period of time we cannot say. Perhaps its normal behavior and just something we’ve never experienced. The mystery remains.

One evening while we watched the sapsucker, a little higher up in the same tree another bird caught our eye. It was in the middle of dinner!

Fortunately for the sapsucker this Cooper’s Hawk was busy dinning on dove.
Do you mind if I finish eating?

Sometimes after paying our dues with long hikes though the seemingly barren early spring woods nature comes to us. Go figure.

In nature it would seem that there is always a lot more going on than we know.

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Spring Walk

Despite a colder than normal spring with some trees showing just a hint of green, the longer days and the now more persuasive rays of the sun continue their call for nature to awake. Recently our walks in the wooded areas of local city parks have carried with them the unavoidable expectation of the season.

Bloodroot, so fragile to forces of wind and rain and hear so briefly as if a dream.
A migrating Golden-crowned Kinglet announces the season.
A cloudy cold day is not enough encouragement for the flowers of the Twinleaf to open.
High in a tree this Barred Owl will be impossible to see in a few weeks when the leaves are out.
It’s flower looking tired, it was still exciting to find more evidence of the rare Snow Trillium in a local park.
A migrating Ruby-crowned Kinglet refuses to show its crown but is still a welcome sign of the season.
A Northern Flicker ignores our presence as it works on its nesting cavity.
On a day that’s apparently just warm enough for the insects, an Eastern Phoebe waits.
Arriving a few weeks after the males, a female Redwing Blackbird is entertained by their suitors’ calls.

Sometimes with the expectation of the season comes the unexpected, a Fox Squirrel that appears to be Break Dancing (click on panes for a better view):

Much of what brings real meaning to life are the acquired tastes that must be pursued with intention after just the smallest beginning flicker of interest. In nature, as with most of life’s experiences, the more you look the more you see and then appreciate, becoming richer for it.

Thanks for stopping by.

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