A Sense of Expectation and Wonder

As undoubtedly mentioned before, one of the rewarding aspects of visiting a park on a regular basis is that one can observe nature’s subtle changes as well as the coming and going of various critters that visit the park throughout the year. Many these forays are part of longer urban hikes and are accompanied by fairly low expectations so our gear often consists of an easily packable super-zoom and a small pair of binoculars. With such equipment we are limited in the types of photographs we can obtain but we do have a camera with us.

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Recently we’ve been encouraged with the prospect of seeing the unexpected when Eastern Bluebirds made a Christmas day visit to our front yard suet feeder. We had never seen them in our yard before.

A male Eastern Bluebird gets a drink from a mostly frozen bird bath, (Donna).

One bird with a small piece of suet, “Hey guys go get your own!”, (Donna).

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Yesterday, there were no Bluebirds at the suet feeder so before our new years day tradition of pork, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut we decided to take a walk in Griggs Reservoir Park.  It was a cloudy gray-brown day and certainly not one that would beckon a landscape photographer so we walked with the hope of observing a bird or some other small manifestation of nature. I mostly occupied myself with the never-ending task of picking up trash. It’s an activity I always find strangely rewarding especially if the ‘birds’ aren’t cooperating.

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We were almost back to the car after our three-mile saunter when I noticed a small hawk preening itself at the top of a large Sycamore tree. A quick look through the binoculars did not provide an obvious identity so I pulled out my camera and started taking “data acquisition” shots.

Critical tail feather ID shot. The bird was to far away for a good photograph. All shots are heavily cropped, Panasonic FZ300.

Another look for markings.

. . . and on more.

It was a Merlin, and even though there had been reports of them at other central Ohio locations it was a bird we had never seen in the park before. How exciting! A dull gray day made magical. The sighting was all the more special because the last time we had seen one was some years ago while hiking the Centennial Ridges Trail in Algonquin Provincial Park. While looking through the binoculars at a dragonfly flying high over head a black streak went through the field of view and the dragonfly disappeared. Looking up a small bird was seen flying towards a tiny island in the center of the lake where it joined others on a perch high over the water.

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As a bit of a postscript, Bald Eagles nest about two miles from our house making it not highly unusual to see them along the reservoir, so as if the reinforce the magic of the place that’s exactly what happened a few days back while on an urban fitness walk.

Bald Eagle over Griggs Reservoir, again the bird was too far away for a good photograph. image heavily cropped, Panasonic FZ150.

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These recent holiday sightings have blessed us with a sense of expectation and wonder for the new year. Our wish is that you to will be blessed in the new year.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Frost

It was dark, cold, foggy, and not the kind of morning we jump out of bed to go hiking, but our visiting son from San Diego wanted to hike so who were we to argue.

Morning fog, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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Even though conditions were right to produce significant frost our initial goal was to see a few interesting birds. However, upon arrival at out hiking destination, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, the frost quickly became the main source of fascination.

Frosty landscape, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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Taking a closer look at nearby weeds revealed very interesting ice formations, which we originally thought was hoar-frost but after a closer examination we now believe to be rime ice.

Let me see if I was going the create something this enchanting where would I start?

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It found its way unto leaves,

***, (Donna).

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Frost along the Big Darby.

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berries,

***, (Donna).

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Hiking through a frosty fantasy land, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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and other things.

Milkweed, (Donna).

Teasel.

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***

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The ice wasn’t just on plants. During the night’s cold a park pond tried it’s best to freeze over.

Patterns

Reflection and ice.

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***

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We actually did see a few birds, including Golden-crowned Kinglets that eluded the camera’s lens, but the ice is what really stole the show.

Blue Birds in a frost covered tree.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

Happy Holidays!

 

 

Waiting

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In the clear cold of a December morning,

as a last leaf gently floats down

from a branch reaching high toward blue sky,

(click images if you’d like a better view)

while below water battles ice for rule over silver ribbons

that mark now too obvious wooded ravines,

and a piercing sharp sun

leaves behind deep shadows

exposing naked trees and fading leaf covered hillsides,

the land quietly waits for a warm blanket of snow.

xxx

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Thanks for stopping by.

Richer In Nature’s Moment

Not long ago, after a few days of rain, I found myself walking through an area with numerous wooded ravines. Many of them spoke with their unique faint song as water flowing down from above burbled and gurgled over rocks and logs. Each nameless song affected me as music of the purest kind. Certainly not rich in tonality and melody like that encountered in a concert hall but perhaps with a more quiet seductiveness. The next day while walking in the same woods that song was gone.

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That same rain caused river levels to rise then after a few days of dry frigid weather they started to recede. As with the burbling and gurgling water there was no deliberate intention and no audience was requested but the receding water level in backwater pools left beauty in the ice.  The message in this “art” was undoubtedly as varied as the people who might chance upon it. I smiled realizing that it’s beauty rivaled anything I could create. Today the weather is warmer and I haven’t been back to look at the ice.

Spears, (click on images for a better view)

Six Dots

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Much of nature’s beauty is subtle, fleeting, and then gone. I’m blessed to be here just long enough to share in the celebration. Contemplating my being on the cosmic scale of space and time it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that I’m here at all, but here I am, listening to the flow of water over rocks, looking at nature’s hand in ice, richer in nature’s moment.

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Thanks for stopping by

 

 

December Quiet

Recently we had an opportunity to spent a few days at Salt Fork State Park. It’s located in eastern part of the state and is Ohio’s largest state park at 17,000 acres encompassing a landscape of forested hills, open meadows, valleys, winding streams and a large serpentine lake. It’s a park that’s new to us with a name that is said to have been derived from a salt well located in its southwest corner that was used by Native Americans. Early December is not the busiest time and the park system was offering a senior discount in an effort to rectify that problem. With leaves mostly on the ground and their colors fading fast it is not the best time of year to experience nature’s beauty, but if one loves to hike and explore we thought “the deal” was too good to pass up.

Morning landscape, from the lodge, (all images may be clicked on for a better view).

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A short afternoon hike after our arrival revealed that recent wet weather had resulted in trails that were wet, and in spots very muddy, but perhaps what was noticed most was that, with the exception of the call of a distant crow or a nearby chickadee, the woods were completely silent.

Along the trails the lake can often be seen.

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During our stay we had the opportunity to explore various trails and the playful sound of small streamlets could often be heard as they made their way down gullies and around moss-covered rocks.

Oak leaves on moss-covered rocks and a very small waterfall.

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Fortunately there were “wildflowers” to enjoy but not the kind one goes in search of in early spring woods.

Red-orange Mycena, (Donna).

Turkey Tail bouquet, (Donna).

Interesting but unidentified, (Donna).

Cypress needles on moss.

Crowded Parchment, (Donna).

Unidentified polypore.

Perhaps Ground Pholiota

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Moss covered rocks and fallen cypress needles provided the most vivid color seen.

Now moss-covered this sandstone rock broke off from a nearby cliff.

Bald Cypress

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A longer hike took us by an old stone house on our way to Hosak’s cave and waterfall. The house was built by Benjamin Kennedy, an early settler to the region, around 1840. With the exception of the lake the surrounding landscape probably looks a lot like it did then.

Old Stone House

Hosack’s Cave. Notice the small waterfall that is probably non-existent most of the year.

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The morning of our departure we were greeted by two inches of fresh snow. In the stillness it was magical.

View from the lodge.

Sycamore

Holly, (Donna).

In the fresh snow a small stream stands out.

Like powdered sugar the light snow graced park trees.

Snow covered branches reflect at water’s edge.

A Great Blue Heron seems out of place.

Blooms of a different kind, Tulip Tree.

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The lodge, all decorated for the holidays with the warm glow of fireplaces in cozy locations, was lovely. The food, be it breakfast, lunch, or diner, while not French cuisine, was reasonably priced and very good. The staff was very friendly and helpful.

Late autumn snow, Salt Fork State Park.

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At times nature’s beauty, found when not expected, speaks to us in a whisper.

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Thanks for stopped by.

No Expectations

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Walking in the wood’s morning stillness,

Click on any photo for a better view.

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on late autumn fallen leaves

that recent rain left damp with saturated color,


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as kinglets with their quiet sounds

teased

flitting from branch to branch

never pausing quite long enough,


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I found myself with no expectations

content to listen to the voice of the day.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Enchanted November Woods

A half an hour before, we were standing in a cold wind just below a dam that has created one of central Ohio’s larger reservoirs trying our best to spot, and perhaps photograph, the Black-legged Kittiwake that was reported in the area. A unique opportunity because it’s a gull not usually seen in these parts. We finally did get a very average binocular view of the bird, another one for my “life list”, but in the process managed to journey pretty far down the road to hypothermia. Now we were looking forward to a hike in the woods with the thought that it wouldn’t be windy and the modest exertion might be enough to warm us up.

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Char-Mar Ridge Park, is not far from the dam so it seemed like a good choice. The park is home to numerous species of large trees as well as a pond that usually contains waterfowl. A plus is that next to the pond is a nicely situated observation blind for undetected viewing. This time of the year finds most leaves, a significant portion of which are oak, on the forest floor as the bare branched sentinels, once their home, tower overhead. The lack of leaves on branches promotes a rather barren landscape but made it easy to spot a Pileated woodpecker just minutes into our walk. It insisted on maintaining its position between us and the sun foiling efforts to obtain a really good photo.

Pileated Woodpecker, all photos may be clicked on for a better view.

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Once in the park it was hard not to notice the uniform blanket of leaves. They accentuated the park’s large rocks and fallen trees giving the sense that one was walking through a sculptor garden.

Oak leaves on log.

Large glacial erratic.

Recent rains darkened fallen trees, further contrasting them with the leaves.

Fallen leaves and branches.

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While I was amusing myself with stumps and fallen trees my wife was doing her best to locate fascinating fungi.

A study of leaves, tree bark, and fungi.

Resinous Polypore, (Donna).

A type of spreading fungi, (Donna).

Lichen and jelly fungi, (Donna).

Common Split Gill just starting out, (Donna).

Colorful Turkeytail.

Perhaps young Cinnabar-red Polypore.

Another look, (Donna).

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It was just a short distance to the blind overlooking the pond and despite the fact that the resident Red Headed Woodpecker was not seen the time spent there did not disappoint. A neighborhood of usual suspects was more than happy to entertain us.

White Breasted Nuthatch, (Donna).

Another look.

Male Cardinal.

White-throated sparrow, (Donna).

Another look.

Tufted Titmouse, (Donna).

What are you looking at?

Downy Woodpecker

Take 2.

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There was also activity on the pond.

Male Hooded Merganser.

Male and female Gadwalls

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It is hard not to be enchanted when one finds color suspended in an otherwise drab gray landscape. Most leaves were down but those on the smaller beech trees hang on and even though their color is no match for the brilliant reds of a maple they did their best to supply color.

Color suspended among slender trees.

A closer look.

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Recent rains meant that some areas still contained “ponds” of standing water on and along the path creating a challenge for dry feet but also provided a unique “looking-glass” into the late autumn woods.

November reflection.

November reflection, black and white.

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November reflection 2.

November reflection 2, black and white .

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In the cold November woods there always is more going on than we know. We move too fast and miss much, wishing for warmer days.

Char-Mar Ridge Park.

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Thanks for stopping by.

The Wisdom of The Moment and Time Passing

Recently on a cold blustery day, after a storm blanketed the landscape with ice and snow, we found ourselves walking through the woods along a high ridge where for thousands of years people long since gone, had come with all their hopes, dreams, aspirations, and those they loved, to quarry flint, for arrow heads, knives, and other tools.

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Around now flooded quarry pits, in the magic of frozen crystalline beauty, it was hard not to sense their presence and hear their voices as they spoke the wisdom of the moment and time passing.

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Ice and snow, Flint Ridge State Park.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

First Ice

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Today as we walked along the river,

the hard dry frozen ground

held wilted still green plants.

Out of the north

the wind had a bite

as fast-moving clouds

playing with the sun

and us

giving first

just a hint of warmth

then not.

While ducks swam in frigid air,

small birds hid,

and the river continued its flow

leaving near waters edge

the seasons calling card.

RSP

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