Migrating Into Spring
Posted on April 19, 2022
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.
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.
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.
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.
Along with those that may be passing through, other birds also compete for our attention.
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.
Thanks for stopping by.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Takes Up Residence
Posted on April 11, 2022
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.
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!
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!
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.
Thanks for stopping by.
Posted on April 5, 2022
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.
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.
Whisper Of Spring
Posted on March 27, 2022
On some days in early spring the whisper of life is not heard above the howl of wind through still bare branches of waking trees. A warm embrace under sunny blue skies one day turns into a gray freezing flurried rebuff the next.
With it’s fits and starts spring makes doubters of us all.
The woods do not yet invite. A stark barren seemingly lifeless landscape is now revealed by the absent blanket of snow.
Against what feels like our better judgment we dress for the unexpected and journey into the woods. If we walk slowly and pause, look closely and listen we can discover in the season of expectation and disappointment small signs and voices of our larger being.
Nature seldom gives graciously to plant, animal, or us. It offers just enough. In early spring that just enough often leaves us with mistaken discontent wishing for more.
Thanks for stopping by.
Wonder Close To Home
Posted on February 25, 2022
We do a fair amount of exploring of natural areas farther afield. Recently an unexpected development brought us back to Ohio from warm and sunny Florida a month ahead of schedule. Burr!!! Our trip south each winter is a real treat as we spend almost all of our time outdoors, hiking, canoeing, and photographing critters we see.
A couple of days after our arrival back in Ohio realizing that the frozen reservoir near our home might mean that waterfowl would be concentrated in the unfrozen river below the dam, we decided to check it out.
Seeing waterfowl so close to home that spend much of the year in locations further north and because of that are usually not seen in our “backyard” was a real treat. Our spirits were elevated after the disappointment of Florida. Setting aside our love of sunshine and warm temperatures, we were reminded that “other places” aren’t the only place to witness the wonder of nature and that there is magic right under our nose. Our local Ohio haunts once again made more precious.
Thanks for stopping by.
A Moment of Magic
Posted on January 9, 2022
The central Ohio winter landscape seldom beckons with snow draped conifers or the flowing design of a meandering creek through a landscape blanketed in white.
Still, if one looks closely there is beauty. “Flowers” in a season when there are none.
For several days temperatures struggled to get out of the teens.
Yesterday it finally warmed into the thirties. Even though our social schedule meant we only had time for a quick look along the river before darkness fell, given recent activity, we thought it was worth checking out. Perhaps the mergansers would still be there. After walking about a half mile along the river, we were not disappointed.
Not only did we see mergansers, but there was more than the day before, and most mature males were engaged in breeding displays. Thinking back, we couldn’t remember a time when we had seen such an extensive display. Had the increase in temperature of some twenty degrees triggered the behavior? We could only guess.
For us finding nature’s magic in the woods, on a river, or secluded lake has never been hard, but in the embrace of Ohio’s stark January landscape it’s truly something special.
The Nuthatch Speaks
Posted on December 25, 2021
Somewhere in the overhead branches of a neighborhood tree a Nuthatch is speaking. They do that often in a voice that leaves little room for reply so we content ourselves just to listen. Try as we might we never did see that particular bird. A voice evoking mystery in a tree’s tangled up-reaching branches. Such mystery is accepted because we know, given enough time, one will undoubtedly descend to an eye-level branch and pursue a more formal introduction.
The Brown Creeper’s presence often only becomes apparent when small subtle movements are detected on a tree trunk or branch. Stopping, they often seem to disappear and in doing so say “pay attention there is more to this place than you are aware!”
Sometimes we just smile as, in the midst of our observing, it becomes obvious that we are also being observed.
Illuminated by the low December sun, the vibrant color of an Eastern Bluebird contrasts with the dull muted landscape and reminds us that beauty is an exception and wouldn’t be if it were otherwise.
In the winter, as if by magic, some birds just appear. We don’t see them arrive and we won’t see them leave. In this brief moment in time, they are with us and become part of our lives should we choose.
Sometimes the realization doesn’t match the expectation. By December most migrating warblers are long gone but the Yellow-rumped enjoys food items other than just insects so many remain in central Ohio through the winter.
Our awareness has its limits as the nearby presence of an immature Red-tailed Hawk remined me. While I was distracted by another bird it remained unnoticed until it moved its head. How much do we miss or are never aware of?
In the winter woods it is often our intention is to see Golden-crowned Kinglets. It’s a bird that is no stranger to us so part of its allure or that of any other charming, but often inconspicuous, creature must be that they draw us into a world that embraces and also transcends us. Unlike spring when the scent of a flower may grab our attention, in December we must rely on the limits of our hearing and sight. With these meager tools we will find our boundaries expanding if we pay close attention. Each visit to the habitat of kinglets allows us to become part of a world that continues on in an unfolding mystery.
Wishing everyone a very Happy Holiday!
May It Always Be So
Posted on December 17, 2021
Now when I go into the woods, camera in hand, I find that there is much less concern about “getting the picture” and more about just being there. Perhaps that’s because in some miraculous way, the skills required to get an acceptable photograph of something crawling, walking, running or flying have slowly transformed me into the “camera”.
Now being in nature is more the experience I seek. The experience may involve observing the goings and comings of a belted kingfisher and being left with the realization that I need his world much more than he does mine. In fact, it’s sobering to realize that from the kingfisher’s point of view, things would get along quite nicely if I didn’t exist at all. Despite all our technology I can’t, with any confidence, say the same about the kingfisher.
Embraced by wonder, awe, and humility I am left with a heightened sense of gratitude, that for a brief moment the kingfisher perched on a branch and allowed me to share his world. May it always be so.
Posted on November 22, 2021
Each year at this time we are greeted by visitors from the north. Some just show up at backyard feeders while others are only seen after much patient looking. Despite its beauty, autumn brings the demise of many living things and confronts one with a darker side of existence. Overhead a dragonfly cruises by one day and the next is gone, it’s kind not to be seen again until the earth travels 30 million miles in its orbit around the sun. But as many know who have spent time in the woods or travelled life’s path for more than a few orbits, it’s never that simple or dark. November doesn’t carry the promise of spring with its bird migrations, wildflowers, and green becoming, but there is much for which to give thanks.
Dark-eyed Juncos breeding range is the boreal forests north of the great lakes. Every winter these common sparrows move south into Ohio. Active and amazingly hard to photograph, these little birds can often be found on the ground below feeders.
Much more elusive is the Brown Creeper which breeding range is the higher elevations east in the Appalachians or to the north. Unless moving they are they are almost impossible to spot.
Every year at this time we engage in what we affectionately call “the kinglet quest”. It’s a great way to mark the arrival of the season. Often seen with chickadees these small active birds can also be a challenge to capture.
Perhaps the most elusive bird to be seen is the tiny and mouse-like Winter Wren. They find their way to Ohio after breeding in northern Michigan and as far north as Hudson Bay.
With a breeding range similar to the Winter Wren, the White-throated Sparrow is usually only seen in Ohio in the fall and winter.
There are a number of other birds that have graced us with their presence in recent days. All seen not far from our home.
The days in late November are short and often damp and cold, but as if in an act of defiance there are living things that continue nature’s celebration undeterred and beckon us to join in.
Thanks for stopping by.
Posted on November 2, 2021
We are fascinated by the few intrepid wildflowers that continue blooming late into autumn.
On a larger scale, as we walked along the wooded shore of a local reservoir, we are also carried away by the thought that nature in all it’s expanse is now in bloom.
On a much smaller scale fungi continue to “bloom” and will do so long after the flowers have given up.
Often just being in the early November woods with the colors, the briskness of the air, and the distinct fragrance of the leaves, that after a season’s hard work fall to the forest floor and generously give back to the cycle of life, is enough.
Be awake to this day and to what, with intention, is experienced. Be awake to the season’s coolness, then warmth, the sun on your face, the sound of a flock of robins weaved their way through the branches, the smells, the trail with it’s roots, rocks, mud, inclines and descents, and the muscles that now feel used. These are the embrace of unique moments floating in the river of time that form you.
Thanks for stopping by.