Arches and The Canyonlands

Before leaving Montrose, a check of the forecast for Arches and Canyonlands National Park for the time we would be there indicated that midday temperatures were going to reach 100F. With that in mind it was obvious that getting an early start each morning would be the plan. It had been at least twenty years since I last visited Arches. At that time I was touring on a BMW motorcycle which was a concession to the fact that I wasn’t going to live long enough to see the American West using my favorite mode of transportation, a bicycle. However, as with most motorcycle trips it had essentially been a “fly by”. We would try to dig a little deeper this time.

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The arches are the reason folks come from all over the world to Arches NP and they are certainly worth the effort. Some are more spectacular or beautiful than others while some seem to defy anything we thought we knew about how arches and the laws of gravity work. However, to really appreciate the park’s uniqueness, it is also important to notice the other things. Strange, sometimes human-like, rock formations grace the landscape. At first glance one might think that the wind has sculpted the sandstone but that is not the case, rather in this arid place it is the endless effect of water, it’s freezing and thawing, that works the artistry. Shrubs like blackbrush and purple sage favor the shallow sandy soil, while greasewood and Mormon tea favor the alkalinity of the soil in this unimagined place. The dominant plant community in the parks, the pinyon-juniper woodland, find a home in the fractured bedrock.

The unique landscape of Arches NP.

Tunnel Arch.

Landscape Arch.

Rockscape.

Broken Arch.

Delicate Arch at sunrise.

Another view.

Tree

Signs from the past chipped into the desert varnish that often covers the rock. What signs will we leave?

Skyline Arch.

Tower of Babel

Purple Sage.

Sculpture.

The hardscrabble evidence of an early settler.

Double Arch.

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Our visit to Canyonlands differed from Arches in that we were mostly looking down at spectacular views from high mesas. In Arches, the sandstone, the result of an ancient sea, is a light yellow-orange in color. All of the formations consist of Navajo Sandstone dating from about 174 to 163 million years ago. In the Canyonlands, more layers are usually visible. Ancient sand was blown into the area from sea beds forming the white bands in the Cedar Mesa Sandstone. Red bands came from sediment carried down by streams from adjacent mountainous areas long since gone. These layers of sand were laid down on top of each other and created the park’s distinctive rocks.

Before sunrise near Mesa Arch.

Grand View trail, Canyonlands NP.

Morning sun.

Distant mesa.

The Colorado River.

A cave provides shelter from the heat.

An old cowboy camp took advantage.

Sunrise at Mesa Arch.

The canyonlands.

The Grand View point overlook.

Early morning along the canyon rim.

The Needles Area, Canyonlands NP.

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To take a journey back in time on the human scale Newspaper Rock was a mandatory stop as we left the Needles Area of Canyonlands NP. 

What’s the person in the middle doing?

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While I was captivated by the landscape my wife was looking for any critters that might appear.

Prairie sunflowers defy the arid landscape.

Longnose Leopard Lizard, (Donna).

Desert Spiny Lizard, (Donna).

Western Whiptail Lizard, (Donna).

Pale Evening Primrose.

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As I write this, we just finished exploring the 800 year old cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people in Mesa Verde NP. When I think of the fascinating geology, beautiful scenery, and intriguing history of the America west, I am in awe and we have barely scratched the surface. I hope this post wets your appetite for new adventures, perhaps in the American west. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

A Little to The West – Black Canyon of The Gunnison

We were heading west to the mountains and deserts of Colorado and Utah. Our new to us Lance 1995 travel trailer and GMC Yukon tow vehicle were acquired primarily, or so we thought, to explore and photograph the natural wonders of Florida for two months each winter. But now in the high plains of eastern Colorado where interstate 70 finds little reason to alter it’s course we were to encounter the first bit of “exciting” western scenery. In a place where the all encompassing sky and the land meet at an uninterrupted horizon, a wall of black clouds as far a the eye could see presented a seemingly impenetrable barrier between us and the small half ghost town of Siebert which was to be the day’s destination. Crawling along into the “wall”, with heavy rain and some hail pounding the car and fragile plastic vents and other pieces on the trailer’s roof, we passed cars stopped by the side of the road and even one or two that had found the ditch. Then almost as quickly as it began it was over, fortunately having sounded much worse than it turned out to be.

As we left Siebert the next morning what appeared to be relatively new grain elevators attested to the fact that someone in the town, who’s center is now comprised largely of abandoned sun bleached weathered storefronts, must be making some money. About seven hours later, after crossing the continental divide at Monarch Pass, a task that severely tested our until now very competent tow vehicle, we arrived in Montrose, Colorado about six miles from the entrance to The Black Canyon of The Gunnison NP.

Since no one in our party was in shape for extended hikes into the interior of the park or a 2000 foot near vertical descent into the canyon our exploring would be done by driving to trailheads and doing less ambitious day hikes to points of interest. Even so the trails ranged from easy to moderate in difficulty with the 8000 feet elevation contributing to the difficulty for us usually near sea level hikers.

Below are some pictures that we felt in a very limited way captured the essence of the park. To really do such a place justice would take many more years than we have.

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The canyon rim:

In places flowing 2000 feet below the canyon rim the distant roar of the cascading river is all that betrays it’s presence.

The two sides of the canyon are often much different due the accumulation of snow on the shaded side and subsequent growth of trees and erosion.

Most but not all overlooks have guardrails.

Along the rim trees struggle for existence in the hot dry climate. Some pinyon pines in the park are over 2000 years old.

The Werner Point trail, probably our favorite, offered many outstanding views.

In the early afternoon before one side of the canyon is completely shaded the Painted Rock Overlook offers a dramatic view.

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Along the river:

Outside the park boundary, and close to Cimarron, the Mesa Creek trail offers a great way to experience the Gunnison River.

Along the trail.

East Portal is within the park at river level. This small lake, created by a diversion dam, allows a reliable water supply to flow through the mountains via the Gunnison Tunnel to Montrose, CO and surrounding area.

At one time providing transportation when other options weren’t available this restored Denver and Rio Grande narrow gauge locomotive and cars sit on display near Cimarron. The railroad ran regularly through the upper Black Canyon of the Gunnison until 1940.

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There were an interesting variety of critters as well as wild flowers along the park trails. While we saw birds they were much more dispersed than what we are used to in central Ohio. 

A Scrub Jay perches along the trail.

A Mule Deer fawn is curious as we pass by.

Probably the most striking reptile seen while hiking in the park was this Collared Lazard, (Donna).

Another view, (Donna).

A type western aster was often seen along shady parts of the tail.

While visiting an arboretum in Montrose we saw this beautiful Sphinx Moth.

Along the trail this entertaining and noisy Clark’s Nutcracker made it’s presence known.

This not found in Ohio fly caught my wife’s attention.

A number of very interesting butterflies eluded the camera lens but not this Little Wood Satyr, (Donna).

Eastern Fence Lazard, (Donna).

A Orange Meadowhawk poses, arboretum in Montrose.

Western Tiger Swallowtail, arboretum in Montrose.

Great Spangled Fritillary, (Donna).

Western Branded Skippers, (Donna).

As we eat lunch a Pinyon Jay waited, (Donna).

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As we left western Colorado and headed for Arches NP we couldn’t help but wish for just a few more days to explore the canyon and surrounding area but have the suspicion that no matter how long our stay we would always want just a few days more. Thanks for stopping by.

 

While I Was Away Fishing

With the arrival of a granddaughter and my annual fishing trip to Michigan photographing the wonders of nature in central Ohio has been a bit neglected. Fortunately in my absence my wife took up the slack and was busy finding fascinating things closer to home. In fact, considering that it’s usually the slow time of year, there have been an amazing number of things to see.

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Numerous Kingbirds nest along the reservoir in Griggs Reservoir Park and while the babies have fledged they still expect their meals to be catered. Fortunately, ample fresh berries and cicadas make the work a little easier.

Bringing dinner home, (Donna).

Trying to get noticed, (Donna).

Finally! (Donna).

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When not being entertained by the kingbirds; vireos, numerous Great Crested Flycatchers, and even a Yellow Warbler were spotted.

A Warbling Vireo which is not often seen this time of year, (Donna).

An immature Red-eyed Vireo, (Donna).

Great Crested Flycatcher, (Donna).

Yellow Warbler, a rare find in the park in early August, (Donna).

Barn Swallows engage in a heated discussion about sharing a dragonfly, (Donna).

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A first of the year Buckeye Butterfly and a seldom seen Royal River Cruiser were also spotted.

Buckeye, (Donna).

A Royal River Cruiser not often seen along Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

and not to ignore some of the more usual suspects .   .   .

A Eastern Tiger Swallowtail at waters edge, (Donna).

Amberwing Dragonflies are common but due to their small size are often hard to photograph, (Donna).

Monarch, (Donna).

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It’s always hard to compete with my wife’s discoveries but as usual the Rifle River Recreation Area did not disappoint with some nice Large Mouth Bass caught. To eliminate as much trauma as possible the barbs were removed from the hooks which doesn’t seem to effect the catch rate and I’m sure the fish are much happier as they swim away.

A beautiful morning on Devoe Lake.

Typical of the Large Mouth Bass caught. This one was on Au Sable Lake.

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There were often a pair of Trumpeter Swans not far off while fishing on Devoe Lake. In addition there were always loons to enjoy. An encouraging discovery was not only the number of loons seen on the lakes within the park, where they nest due to the absence of motorboat traffic/wakes, but on the cottage lined lakes nearby.

Common Loons, Devoe Lake.

Au Sable Lake

Rifle Lake

As can be seen from the above screen shots Rifle Lake does not have suitable habitat for nesting but Au Sable Lake does with a considerable amount of sheltered natural shoreline. To my joy immature loons were observed there.

Lily pads on Devoe Lake.

Trumpeter Swans, Devoe Lake.

Near sunset on Devoe Lake.

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As I finished this post a task required that I briefly venture outside. In our front yard a hummingbird briefly hovered close by and then went about it’s business. Such a serendipitous occurrence caused me to stop for a moment, and as I did, ever so faintly, the call of a loon on Devoe Lake could be “heard”. I was left again with the realization that nature’s wonder can be found in many places. Whether on a lake in Michigan or in a city park of Columbus Ohio, all we need to do is open our eyes.

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Thanks for stopping by.

The Rifle River and A Mystery Bird

It’s that time of year again when we travel 6.5 hours north from our home in central Ohio to the Rifle River Recreation Area. Usually we enjoy checking out different areas for new adventures but this park’s unique beauty keeps us coming back. Whether paddling on the park lakes or hiking the trails there is always something to discover. From one week to the next different wildflowers can be seen. Spring warbler activity is complimented by the evening call of a Whippoorwill or Barred Owl and there’s always the distant call of a loon on Devoe Lake.

(click on images for a closer look)

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This year’s late June visit meant that in addition to increased warbler activity we’d also see blooming lady slippers and pitcher plants. Of course there would also be more mosquitoes to deal with and they’re always particularly pesky when one crouches down to study a flower or take a photograph.

A shaft of sunlight highlights a fern along the trail.

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My wife was nice enough to contribute the bulk of the pictures for this post as much of my time was spent fishing. However, to start the post off on a curious note I did notice something interesting one afternoon while hiking.

These rolled up birch? leaves littered the forest floor.

A closer inspection revealed a small caterpillar within the shelter of the rolled up leaf. It was in the process of eating it’s way out. Another egg sac near by? Based on an educated guess it would appear that a moth deposited it’s eggs on the underside of the leaf which then caused it to roll up and fall to the ground. Inside the leaf the caterpillar is safe from the prying eyes of birds until it escapes into the leaf litter and pupates soon to emerge as a moth and continue the cycle.

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When my wife wasn’t hiking and I wasn’t trying to catch a fish we did a fair amount of exploring by canoe.

Yours truly with a Devoe Lake Large Mouth Bass.

Exploring Grebe Lake

Common Loon, Devoe Lake.

Take two, (Donna).

Yellow Pond Lily, Grebe Lake.

Painted Turtle, Loud Pond, Au Sable River, (Donna).

Paddling trough the lily pads, Grebe Lake.

Trumpeter Swans, Grebe Lake.

A Mink checks us out along the Au Sable River, (Donna).

Au Sable River Walleye.

While Water Lily, (Donna).

Kingbirds entertained us as we paddled the Devoe Lake shoreline, (Donna).

Morning on Devoe Lake.

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One day as we drove back to our campsite after a morning paddle we came upon an unusual discovery in the middle of the road.

Our first thought was to move it along before it became the victim of a less observant driver.

But a closer look revealed that it was a Blanding’s Turtle something we’d expect to see in a nearby lake but not in it’s present location. Since it’s not a turtle we often see we were pretty excited, (Donna).

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However, perhaps the most unusual thing seen during our week long stay was the bird spotted while hiking along Weir Road.

The best ID we could come up with was a partially leucistic White-breasted Nuthatch but it’s beak didn’t look right. The mystery remains.

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We’d be remiss if we didn’t give special mention to the Ovenbirds and Yellowbellied Sapsuckers that entertained us each day at our campsite.

Ovenbird, (Donna).

With a white moth.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, taken while hiking but representative of the activity around our campsite, (Donna).

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While on the subject of birds, while hiking a park trail my wife was excited to see a Black Billed Cuckoo. It was a life bird for her.

Black Billed Cuco, (Donna).

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Finally, below is a summary of other things seen as we explored the park trails.

A recently emerged mushroom translucent in the sunlight.

A family of very colorful but small mushrooms.

Wild Columbine along the trail.

Hawkweed and fern.

The Rifle River

Showy Lady’s Slippers along the park road. A real treat to see.

A closer look, (Donna).

Bunch Berry Flower

Spotted Thyris Moth on fleabane.

Deep into the woods.

Red-spotted Purple

Another view, (Donna).

Yellow Lady’s Slippers were also seen, (Donna).

The flower of the Pitcher Plant. The plant gets it name by the shape of the leaves at the base of the plant which trap insects in water the leaves collect.

Overlooking Pintail Pond

Hover fly on dogwood blossoms.

This fairly large moth has yet to be identified.

Fleabane

Eastern Wood Pewee, (Donna).

Elfin (not Slaty) Skimmer.

Yellow Goats Beard, (Donna).

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, (Donna).

Another view.

Sheep Laurel, (Donna).

American Redstarts were fairly common, (Donna).

Blue Flag Iris, (Donna).

Dot-tailed Whiteface, (Donna).

River Jewelwing (M), (Donna).

River Jewelwing (F), (Donna).

Cedar Waxwing, (Donna).

Four-spotted Skimmer, (Donna).

Wood Frog, (Donna).

Coral Fungus, (Donna).

Chaulk-fronted Corporal

Wild Geranium, (Donna).

Little Wood Satyr.

Indian Pipe (before), (Donna).

After? (Donna).

A Green Heron stalks prey along the Devoe Lake shore, (Donna).

Black-shouldered Spinyleg, (Donna)

Another interesting plant we have yet to ID, (Donna).

Dead Mans Fingers, (Donna).

Delaware Skipper, (Donna).

Baby Robin, (Donna).

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As each day passes nature evolves. A wishful thought would be to spend one week each month in a place such as Rifle River Rec Area. Then one would truly appreciate it’s wonder. Thanks for stopping by.

Misty Day, Devoe Lake.

The Show

Recently we were flattered with an invitation to exhibit some of our photographs at the church we attend. The invitation was undoubtedly the result of this blog as well as various Facebook posts that friends and acquaintances have seen over the years. A friend commented that they might not be able to get over to the exhibit so the thought occurred that perhaps a post showing the pictures was in order. We hope you enjoy them.

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Lilly Pads, Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park, FL.

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Blackburnian Warbler, Magee Marsh, OH, (Donna).

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Wild Geranium, Glenn Echo Park, OH.

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Hummingbird Moth, Griggs Reservoir Park, OH, (Donna).

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Leaf, Griggs Reservoir, OH.

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Wood Duck, Griggs Reservoir, OH, (Donna).

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Squiggle, Griggs Reservoir, OH

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Prothonotary Warbler, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

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Branches, Griggs Reservoir, OH.

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Red Winged Blackbird, Griggs Reservoir Park, OH, (Donna).

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Misty Morning, Devoe Lake, Rifle River Recreation Area, MI.

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Spring Azure on Phlox, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, OH, (Donna).

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Tree, Salt Fork State Park, OH.

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Cedar Waxwings, Griggs Reservoir Park, OH, (Donna).

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Tree and Rock, Big Bend Natl Park.

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Purple Gallinule, Lake Kissimmee SP, FL, (Donna).

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New Art Exhibit at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus 93 W. Weisheimer Rd. Columbus, OH 43214-2544, “The Eye of the Beholder,” July 2- August 25. Join the artists for a reception: Sunday, July 14, 11:30-1pm. Food, conversation and photos.

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Approach photography playfully, you’ll have more fun, and your photographs will speak with a new voice.  Thanks for stopping by.

The Orioles Fledge

It seems like just a few days ago that the Baltimore Orioles arrived in central Ohio. But in the bird world things happen fast and now their young are ready to fledge. Spring offers up a bounty of insects and berries so whether it’s a warbler or an oriole it’s no accident that it’s a popular time to raise young. Chickadees have also fledged and we were fortunate to be able to observe the young begging for the next morsel the parents offered up. 

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Mature Baltimore Oriole at the nest in Griggs Reservoir Park.

Someone wants breakfast.

Breakfast is served.

Food keeps coming whether in the nest or out, (Donna).

Not long before the first flight.

.   .   .   and finally away from the nest.

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Two young Carolina Chickadees beg for a meal in Griggs Reservoir Park.

They’re not much smaller than the adults.

And just as cute!

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Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were also observed busily flying about perhaps also collecting food for their young.

Blue Gray Gnatcatcher in Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

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Some mom’s seemed to have a little more than they could deal with.

Female Mallard with young in Griggs Reservoir.

But that doesn’t seem to bother the males.

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While looking for fledglings we were charmed by the presence of other birds in Griggs reservoir Park.

A Catbird sings.

With the presence of berry rich trees Cedar Waxwings were everywhere.

My wife spotted this Hairy Woodpecker, a bird not often seen in the park, (Donna).

A Spotted Sandpiper forages on a log in the rain swollen reservoir.

This Great Crested Flycatcher has a nest somewhere nearby.

It won’t be long before we see this Kingbird with young.

Redwing Blackbird nests are always hard to find but this female is happy to pose for a picture, (Donna).

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Even with the departure of most warblers a couple of weeks ago, there was still plenty of bird activity to observe in the park.

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Hay, what about me!

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Flowers and Flies

Exploring the world of insects is an excellent example of how digital photography has opened a door into a world most folks don’t give much thought to much less appreciate. A passion for bugs may start out innocently enough when one decides to photograph a flower and finds that it’s occupied by many creatures not noticed before. A closer look reveals some to be beautiful and fascinating in their own right and others downright scary. This may prompt one to make an effort to identify the bug just photographed which in turn often leads to an awareness of how much there is yet to learn about this small world. 

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Fortunately it doesn’t take an expensive camera to get a reasonable picture of a insect the size of the common house fly. We’re not talking macro-photography here, where one focuses on the dragonfly’s eye, but instead about a picture that will allow you to identify the insect and be good enough to share on social media. Our favorite of the small sensor “bridge cameras” is the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 or 300. With their fast lens and close focus capability they are a great all round camera for anyone starting out in nature photography. When one moves up from there to larger APS-C sensor DSLR’s you are looking at more money and bulk which may limit their appeal on long hikes. In the world of DSLR’s just about any lens similar to the Canon 18-135 mm will allow you to focus close enough to get a reasonably good shot. Longer lenses such as the Tamron 100-400 mm (more money still) will allow you to focus on subjects that won’t let you get close enough with a shorter lens. With it’s close focus capability perhaps the best all round bird/bug nature camera setup I’ve seen is the micro four thirds Panasonic G7 with the 100-400 mm Panasonic/Leica lens that my wife uses. It employs an excellent but smaller sensor than my Canon APS-C which is part of the reason for it’s admirable close focus performance. That being said I’m sure there are excellent camera setups that I’ve not had experience with.

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Unless stated otherwise the below pictures have all been taken close to home at Griggs Reservoir Park so the adventure doesn’t necessarily mean hours of driving to some exotic location. Almost all insect images have been significantly cropped.

(click on the image for a better view)

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A Bumble Bee enjoys Foxglove Beardtongue.

An nice illustration of the difference in size between a sweat bee and bumble bee, (Donna).

If you think this is an innocent little Bumble Bee you would be wrong in fact it’s a Bumble Bee Mimic Robber Fly no less ferocious than the one below, (Donna).

A more typical looking robber fly a little over an inch long. If you’re a small insect it will be a bad day if you run into one of these, (Donna).

Four lined Plant Bug, (Donna).

Eight-spotted Forester Moth, (Donna).

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Thimbleweed.

Moth Mullein, (Donna).

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A very small but beautiful Long-legged Fly.

It’s a rough world for bugs. A long legged fly falls prey to a robber fly.

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Water Willow at waters edge. Deer are known to browse the leaves and beaver and muskrat will consume the plant rhizomes. The submerged portion is home to many micro and macro invertebrates, (Donna).

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Little Wood Satyr.

Painted Lady, one of the most common butterflies found on every continent accept Antarctica and Australia, their favorite food plant on which to lay their eggs is thistle, they do not overwinter and they can have long migrations up to 9,320 miles long, (Donna)

Hackberry Emperor, a butterfly not usually seen on flowers but on a warm day may land on exposed skin, (Donna).

Question Mark, (Donna).

Red Admiral, (Donna).

Silver-spotted Skipper, one of the larger skippers, (Donna)

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The beautiful flowers of the Milkweed. A very import plant for many insects most notably the Monarch Butterfly.

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Milkweed Beetles, (Donna).

Great Golden Digger Wasp, (Donna).

Perhaps some type of wood wasp, (Donna).

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Black-eyed Susan’s.

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Golden-backed Snipe Fly, they can be found throughout Ohio, and are most often observed resting on low vegetation. They appear in the late spring and early summer, and have been observed mating in late May and early June, although timing likely varies across their range. Little is known about their life cycle.

Small hoverflies on fleabane.

Hoverfly profile.

Two Marked Tree Hopper. Click here to learn more about this fascinating insect.

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Common Mullein.

Northern Catalpa.

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Syrphid Fly Yellowjacket Mimic. The syrphid fly often mimics wasps or bees to gain protection from predators, (Donna).

The Green Bottle Fly is usually observed around less savory food items.

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Black-eyed Susan’s, (Donna).

Depford Pink, (Donna).

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Mating Candy-striped Leafhoppers, (Donna).

Mirid Plant Bug, (Donna).

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Butterfly Weed.

A field of clover.

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A Mayfly falls prey to a jumping spider. Normally slow moving jumping spiders are capable of very agile jumps, when hunting, in response to sudden threats, or to navigate obstacles. They all have four pairs of eyes, with the pair positioned closer together being larger.

Another view, (Donna).

A small moth on Canada Thistle.

If it’s real lucky this Orange Dog caterpillar may become a Giant Swallowtail.

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A field of fleabane.

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A rarely seen Orange Bluet, (Donna).

Female Twelve-spotted Skimmer, (Donna).

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Hairy Wild Petunia.

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It’s hard to believe what’s out there in that small incredible world that goes largely unnoticed by most as we pursue our daily lives. In the hierarchy of human affection warm cuddly animals seem to be at the top with insects being at the other end of the spectrum and usually not considered a welcome intrusion. But as with most things the more you know and understand the more you grow to love.

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A casual glance will not do. To discover wonder and beauty one must look closely with intention.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

Photos by Donna

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