May It Always Be So

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.

Thankgiving

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.

Autumn repose, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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.

Dark-eyed Junco, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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.

Brown Creeper, Griggs Reservoir Park.
Late autumn along the Scioto River

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.

Male Golden-crowned Kinglet, (photo by Donna), Griggs Reservoir Park.
Looking our way, (photo by Donna), Griggs Reservoir Park.
A kinglet eyes a tasty morsel, Griggs Reservoir Park.
Griggs Reservoir

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.

Winter Wren, (photo by Donna), Griggs Reservoir Park.

With a breeding range similar to the Winter Wren, the White-throated Sparrow is usually only seen in Ohio in the fall and winter.

White-throated Sparrow, Emily Traphagen Park.

***

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 Tufted Titmouse is a year-round resident, Emily Traphagen Park.
Yellow-rumped Warbler. Is a generalist when it comes to its feeding habits and at least some are said to spend the winter in central Ohio, Emily Traphagen Park.
Male Eastern Bluebird, Griggs Reservoir Park.
Are woodpeckers, including this Downy, more common this time of year or just easier to spot with the leaves down? Griggs Reservoir Park.
With some being migrants from the north Red-tailed Hawks seem more common in fall and winter, Griggs Reservoir Park.
Looking through the now bare overhead branches, soaring Bald Eagles are easier to spot. Griggs Reservoir Park
Not sure where these Wood Ducks will go once a local pond freezes over, Emily Traphagen Park.

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.

Reflection of the November sun on the Big Darby, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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Autumn Woods

We are fascinated by the few intrepid wildflowers that continue blooming late into autumn.

The tiny flowers of fleabane.

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.

Orange leaves and water, Hollenback Hiking Trail, Alum Creek SP.
Cathedral, Hollenback Hiking Trail, Alum Creek SP.

On a much smaller scale fungi continue to “bloom” and will do so long after the flowers have given up.

Polypore, (photo by Donna)
As if they had been placed, (photo by Donna).
A tiny mushroom emerges.
Lemon Drops, (photo by Donna).
Cracked-cap Polypore, (photo by Donna).
Puffballs, (photo by Donna).
Appear similar to dead man’s fingers.

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.

Autumn shore, Hollenback Hiking Trail, Alum Creek SP.
Cove, Hollenback Hiking Trail, Alum Creek SP.
A distant tree, Hollenback Hiking Trail, Alum Creek SP.

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.

Autumn Song

High overhead an Osprey gives no notice but now as we walk along the shore sycamores sing in a tenor voice as they respond to the ebb and flow of a weightier October wind. Gone is their murmur in the gentleness of a moist summer breeze. In a fight to remain on ever barer branches the rattle of their autumn dryness soon gives way to a silent pirouette as one, losing it’s hold, lands quietly at my feet. The sun slowly warms the the day and the last intrepid dragonflies venture out in search of smaller “others” that have also awakened.

Osprey
The color of windblown grass betrays the season
With it’s tired wings this Eastern Pondhawk graces us with it’s fleeting presence.
Halloween Pennant, (photo by Donna)
Widow Skimmer
The quiet lee shore.

***

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An Ever Changing Miracle

Looking at the forest floor in early October it’s hard to imagine that in the same place just a few months earlier spring beauties and trilliums enchanted. With the exception of the tapping of a distant woodpecker and the call of a much closer Carolina Wren, it’s quiet. The banter of spring birds is not heard. Initially asked if you were in the same place, you might answer yes and then after a moment’s reflection laugh at the thought. The woods cry out, “All is change, birth, life, then death, be in my moment”.

Autumn leaves and reflection.
In autumn a Song Sparrow has a tough time living up to it’s name.
A fallen tree, fungi, and just a hint of color.
A closer look reveals a slug checking out a puffball, (photo by Donna).
Under a group of conifers Yellow-orange Fly Agaric mushrooms were everywhere. 
Looking as though it had been placed there, a leaf with Turkey Tail fungus.
A Carolina Wren apparently didn’t get the memo and had no problem announcing it’s presence.
Autumn light brings mystery.
With gills that glow in the dark, poisonous but beautiful Jack-o-lantern mushrooms put on quite a show this time of year.
Against a dark hillside, with a morning fog just lifted, piercing sunlight illuminates a moisture laden web.

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A Record Day

Yesterday, the 26th of September, on a long walk through residential neighborhoods near our central Ohio home and then along a city park bordering our local reservoir we saw more Monarch butterflies than we’ve ever seen in one day.

. . . and it wasn’t as though we were just looking for Monarchs, Great Egret along the Scioto.

If we had kept counting the final tally would have been over 30 with four seen on just one small cluster of asters. At a time when their demise is often, perhaps accurately, predicted, it was nonetheless cause for real celebration.

Monarch Butterfly, Griggs Reservoir Park rain garden.
A shadow embellishes an already beautiful butterfly, (photo by Donna).
Three in view, (photo by Donna)
Posing, (photo by Donna)

On what seemed like it would be an ordinary September day in our “ordinary’ part of the world we found ourselves enchanted.

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A Michigan Meditation

An epiphany occurred a few years ago when I realized I was never going to to see it all no matter how far and wide my travels took me so perhaps a more satisfying approach would be to strive for more intimacy and dig a little deeper in familiar places closer to home. With that in mind for the past ten plus years we’ve travelled to Michigan’s Rifle River Recreation Area. A wonderful way to mark the passing of time, things gained and things lost, and to embrace change in seasons of the year and in life. The areas major draw is that’s to my knowledge it’s the closest location from central Ohio, where nesting loons can be observed.

Grousehaven Lake overlook.

Other than the ample food supply and clear water that makes it easy to locate, the reason loons are found here is that their nests are built right at water’s edge where they can easily access them with a short slide as their legs are located too far back on their body to facilitate walking. This makes the nests venerable to motor boat wakes but no motor boats are allowed within the park resulting in happy nesting loons. The relative quiet resulting from the lack of motors whether on the lakes or trails results in a great place to observe nature. A significant added bonus is that the Ausable River and Huron National Forest located nearby offer many additional natural areas to explore.

By late August the immature loons are too big to ride on their parents back but still unable to fly they never stray far. In just a few weeks the adults will be gone and shortly there after the young will also take flight to ice free winter waters further south. The lakes and adjacent woods will wait quietly until next spring to again be graced by their haunting call.
The adults’ are busy making sure their young are well fed. in this case a little salad appears to be on the menu. (pic by Donna)
Exploring Huron National Forest

During time spent in the canoe other birds also enchant.

Kingbird along the shore of Devoe Lake, (photo by Donna)
Bald Eagle, Loud Pond, (phot by Donna)
Takeoff!
Caspian Tern with friends, Loud Pond
A closer look.
Trumpeter Swan family on Lodge Lake. When walking along the shore they allow one to get amazingly close, not so when in a canoe.
Another look.

In addition to the birds there are other things that establish a sense of place.

Kalm’s Lobela, (photo by Donna)
Alone the water’s edge no flower speaks of a sense of place better than the very common grass-of-Parnassus
Along the shore of the Ausable River’s Loud Pond we spot the much less common bottle gentian, It takes a strong bee to pry open the closed petals of this flower. (photo by Donna)
Indian Pipe
The always fascinating Turtlehead were seen in a number of locations, (photo by Donna)
Dolls eyes, (photo by Donna)
Water Lily
Blazing Star, (photo by donna)
A yet to be identified wetland flower. Any ideas?

While paddling yours truly couldn’t help but see if there was a fish in the area

Ausable River Smallmouth Bass. It went swimming after Donna took this pic.

Along the Ausable River we take a break.

Lunch stop. For those interested the canoe is a very light Bell North Star

The parks numerous trails offer ample opportunity to discover fungi.

Coral fungi.
A colorful mushroom, (photo by Donna)
Stinkhorn, something a little different.
Slugs on a mushroom. We often see the result of their visits on partially devoured specimens.
Along the trail

A few insects also caught our attention. Ever try to photograph a small insect from a canoe on a windy day?

The American Rubyspot likes flowing water, (photo by Donna)
A small Common Ringlet along the trail. Not a common sight in Ohio. (photo by Donna)

Stepping forward a week. The other day walking in a park close to home we were enchanted by the sight of a large colorful dragonfly.

Royal River Cruiser, Prairie Oaks MP.

A reminder that one need not travel even as far a Michigan to discover the magic.

Loud Pond

In a journey through space and time each year as we arrive we also leave. Should we be so blessed next year we will return to again be embraced by what has become a sacred place. The experience of this year is all the more precious as the place as well as we ourselves will never be quite the same as together we travel into the newness of the next.

Thanks for stopping by.

Uncommon Beauty

I didn’t even have a serious “bird camera” with me while hiking in Florida a few months back when a very common Sandhill Crane captured my heart, posing as if waiting for Audubon.

Sandhill Crane

When we least expect it, nature enchants.

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Early September Walk

On any given day we wonder what will be seen as we set off to explore a local park. In this case it was Prairie Oaks Metro Park a few morning ago. Wondering now in the past tense, we were not disappointed.

One of the park’s small lakes. Dragonfly heaven!
A sunflower that was hard not to notice,
Along the Big Darby as it meanders through the park.
Phlox is seen along the trail. I always think of it as a spring flower.
Nothing says late summer like sunflowers.
A Royal River Cruiser swoops in and perches nearby. Not a common sighting.
A more common Halloween Pennant was also seen.
Being rather late in the season I was charmed by this lone Swamp Milkweed, but what were those small objects growing/crawling on it’s stems? Aphids?
Blazing Star. Very different than late summer sunflowers.
At waters edge something smaller than a average grasshopper launched itself about three feet across my path then poses for a picture. It was a Cricket Frog
Leaving the pond shoreline and continuing along the river a Green Heron tries not to be noticed.
In a dead tree high overhead a discarded snakeskin catches the breeze. Curtesy of a Rat Snake?
Ebony Jewelwings were still in the neighborhood.
So tiny but yet so beautiful, a Summer Azure poses.
Perhaps not so beautiful but fascinating nonetheless, mating robber flies. Be glad you’re not a small insect when one of these creatures flies by!
The deep purple of Iron Weed.
The fascinating flower of the Spotted Jewelweed can be a tough one to do justice to, but we try.
What would a hike but without a turtle sighting? In this case probably a map with a smaller painted.
With it’s many shades, in a month the river’s pure green canopy will be no more.

Other things seen eluded the camera’s lens but that’s okay because the above images are more than enough to hint at the riches found and the wealth accrued.

Thanks for stopping by.

Just One Thing

It occurs to me that I often end up trivializing nature by always seeking the next bird, butterfly, or landscape. Perhaps a better goal would be, that when in nature or whatever the endeavor, to seek to truly appreciate one thing.

Perhaps a first step is to walk a little slower.

Thanks for stopping by.

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