Autumn Walk At Prairie Oaks

This time of the year you never know quite what to expect when you take a walk in the woods. Will there be any color left, how about birds, certainly the warblers will be gone, and have any butterflies, or dragonflies for that matter, made it through last nights cold?

10:00 am on Monday was already seeing temperatures warm enough that a Painted Lady was making her rounds and it wasn’t long before we saw a Buckeye and some Sulfurs. The real surprise was a several large dragonflies. Unfortunately, they weren’t kind enough to land so we could identify them.

In the woods, Chickadees were moving around, along with Tufted Titmouse and Nut hatches. We took a closer look to see what else might be in the group, and were fortunate to see some Yellow-rumped Warblers. The day was completed with good views of an Eastern Towhee and a Hairy Woodpecker.

Yellows and oranges are mostly what made up the fall colors and they were on the wane but still pretty in the morning sun.

All in all, not bad for a morning when we didn’t know what to expect .

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Autumn Along The Reservoir

Early autumn is my favorite time. Colors are just beginning to break the green flow of the Griggs Reservoir shoreline. A branch with just a few red leaves will cause you to wonder. Animals are still about, butterflies, dragonflies, herons, and warblers.

As fall progresses, particularly along Griggs, greens, yellows and reds give way to more browns and the colors seem  just a bit more muted.

Today we walked below the dam and, along with the fall colors, were rewarded with views of Nuthatches, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Green Herons and Kingfishers.

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The Herons of Griggs Reservoir

We’ve done a fair amount of paddling on Griggs now that we are able to do it during the week when, with the exception of a few rowers and fishing boats, things are amazingly quiet.

If there is open water, the Great Blue Herons are a fairly common sight just about any time of the year. They usually stalk their food from perches near the shore. Some will let you paddle right by and seem scarcely perturbed while others voice a loud objection as they take flight. Because of their numbers, it isn’t uncommon to see them catch a fish, some of which are 6 to 8 inches long, then swallow it head first in one long gulp.

Green Herons seem more common late in the summer, although they are around spring, summer and fall. Their name seems to be a misnomer as they don’t have that much green in their plumage. If they think they aren’t seen, you can get fairly close before they take fight. One time while paddling in Clendenning Reservoir I almost touched one with the bow of my kayak. I hadn’t seen it! An interesting behavior observed when they perch in the top of a tree and make repetitive loud shrill calls. Are thy calling for a mate?

The Black Crown Night Heron is also fairly common at Griggs. Since they are active at night, they spend most of their day perched in trees near the water, usually in coves. Unlike the other Herons you usually have to go looking for them but the view is always worth it, they are a beautiful bird. One of the most amazing sights we’ve had was one evening seeing eight Black Crown Night Heron’s perched on the floats near the dam.

Finally, another bird we see while paddling Griggs, while not a Heron, is the Great Egret. Every time we see one it seems like a bird that should only be found in places like Florida but here it is in Ohio. They are usually found perched in trees along the shore or wading in shallow water looking for their next meal.

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Fall Warblers in The Morning Sunshine

It was one of those cool clear early autumn mornings when we found ourselves at Prairie Oaks looking for migrating warblers. We walked along a row of trees bordering a field with the trees being warmed by the early morning sunlight. To our delight we observed about eleven different species of warblers feeding in these trees. The birds, which included kinglets and gnatcatchers were very active and my efforts to photograph them were met with limited success, my son Ben did much better.

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What Was That Fish?

Griggs Reservoir tends to be where I go fishing most of the time. This is due both due to it’s proximity to our house and the fact that I’m fairly successful there. Usually the catch consists of large bluegills and not so large bass all of which find their way back into the lake. For me fishing offers a great excuse to spent an extended period of time out of doors looking at birds, water snakes, turtles, the numerous wild flowers that are always present on the reservoir, and just enjoying nature.

However every once and awhile I become riveted to the task at hand. Several years ago I hooked a 30 lb Mirror Carp that took two and a half hours to land using 6 lb test line. I had an audience watching as the fish slowly towed my boat under the Fishinger Road Bridge and then around the lake. More recently, again using light tackle, I hooked on to something that bent the pole over double. Try as I might, nothing could be done with the creature. The battle lasted about 30 seconds, after which I reeled in half of a fishing lure. Was it a big cat fish, another Mirror Carp, or a turtle?

So I continue to fish Griggs Reservoir, never quite sure what is going to happen, but all while enjoying the company of the Herons, Kingfishers, Painted Turtles, . . .

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I’ll Have a Beer With That Crayfish

This summer has been exciting due to the many new creatures we have discovered in and around Griggs Reservoir. Probably the most noteworthy have been the numerous Mink sightings. Who would have thought that Mink would live within the city limits of Columbus.

Apparently Mink are quite ferocious and will even kill muskrats which are about their size. Normally, they do quite nicely on a diet of crayfish and other small marine creatures.

Interestingly enough, one of our best sightings was of a Mink eating a crayfish. The Mink didn’t seem a bit alarmed as we sat watching from the canoe. This went on for about five minutes after which the Mink ambled off. The only negative was the empty beer can sitting right next to the Mink as we watched. Afterward, given the wonderful experience, we picked up the can for proper disposal.

Griggs Reservoir Mink

Not sure what we’ll discover next that will top seeing a Mink but we should have fun looking.

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Wooden Rowboats and Damselflies

Most passions in life start when you’re young. Days spent fishing with my Dad, on Upper Straits Lake outside of Detroit, provided fertile ground for my love of nature to sprout. In those days our fishing adventures were made possible by a leaky wooden livery rowboat powered by our trusty 1 ½ HP Sea King outboard. When I wasn’t fishing I was fascinated by very small blue insects that would land on the gunnels of the rowboat. They were so delicate, sometimes flying joined together and sometimes alone. When they landed, the closer you looked, the more beautiful they became.

Fast forward to today, close focus binoculars, a digital camera and paddling trips on Griggs Reservoir each week. The blue insects (damselflies) now land on the gunnels of our Oldtown canoe and on our gear and they are just as beautiful. However, my knowledge of them isn’t much greater than it was those many years ago on Upper Straits Lake.

So, with the aid of cameras, binoculars and field guides, my quest now has become to learn more about these beautiful insects. Unlike their dragonfly cousins some are small and others really small. They usually can be found around water, and are most noticeable on sunny days. Their diet consists of even smaller insects so I’m hoping that my interest will stay restricted to to the damselflies and not what they eat. Their eyes and body colors continue to fascinate. Below is a picture of a female Eastern Forktail, only about 1 inch long and never flying much above the low lying foliage.

Female Eastern Forktail

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