Celebrating The Season

When I was a kid growing up in Michigan, I wished for a white Christmas and hoped the snow, with periodic additions of fresh whiteness, would stick around until spring. While my wish was never completely realized, being 150 miles north of where I live now, winter was a more satisfying if not tiring experience.

(Images may be clicked on for a better view)

The low December light pierces the open canopy revealing patterns in leaves and the geometry of trees and river.

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A few days ago, we woke up to a light covering of white. We rushed down to our local city park before too many foot steps marred it’s beauty. Now, despite colder temperatures, the snow is mostly gone, the victim of wind and sublimation. Winters are like that in central Ohio. Cold temperatures, when they come, often leave the dry, naked, and shivering landscape wishing for a warm white blanket. But while not a paradise for lovers of snow, for those willing to venture out and look carefully, this time of year provides an opportunity to enjoy a subtle beauty and be entertained by creatures making this place their winter home.

With snow, the forms of water and trees becomes sublime.

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It was very faint but unmistakable. You know how woodpeckers can be. Looking up into branches in the adjacent woods, it seemed hopeless. How about just looking for dead branches  .   .   .

Working on a warm winter home?

A female Downy works away.

. . . as the male goofs off on a nearby branch.

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Quiet early winter morning along the Scioto.

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One advantage to living in an area subject to cold temperatures, but with little snow, is that ice is free to express itself.

Small icicles and patterns in ice.

Interesting shapes form as river levels recede, (Donna).

Near the river, a small frozen pool, and solstice ice.

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In the summer we don’t notice as many Eastern Bluebirds, a gift of the colder months?

Male Eastern Bluebird, (Donna).

Taking flight.

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Not far from their downriver nest, Bald Eagles are seen more often along the reservoir this time of year.

Perched across the reservoir and too far away for a really good shot..

Doing it’s best to avoid a photograph.

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At river’s edge, the roots of a sycamore struggle to maintain their hold.

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With the reservoir frozen, a pair of Hooded Mergansers were spotted in the open water of the river just below the dam. Eventually, if the reservoir stays ice covered, they will be joined by Goldeneyes, Common Mergansers, and other waterfowl not commonly seen in the area.

Hooded Mergansers on the Scioto River.

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These images were taken before realizing that the White-breasted Nuthatch it was eating lichen. An unexpected revelation.

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A quick look through the binoculars revealed it to be a Mockingbird which was a real treat as we couldn’t remember the last time one was seen in the park   .   .   .  then, one very average photo, and it was gone.

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There are a countless number of American Robins in the park this time of year. They are everywhere, and with their antics provide endless entertainment.

***, (Donna).

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Brown Creepers are not easy to spot. Sometimes their faint call is heard before they are seen. Their erratic movement make them a difficult subject to photograph.

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While working on a dead branch, this male red-bellied woodpecker really showed off it’s red head.

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Other local residents, as will as migrants from the north, have also entertained us in the last few days.

Tufted-titmouse, (Donna).

Carolina Chickadee, (Donna).

White-throated Sparrows can be found in Ohio in the winter but call the forests across Canada, the northeastern U.S., and the northern Midwest their summer home.

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A fox squirrel ran up the tree and hid just as I walked up causing my wife to miss a “good” picture. She had to make due with the image below.

***, (Donna).

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Winter along the Scioto River.

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This morning while standing in front of our church greeting incoming worshipers, a ruby-crowned kinglet flew into a nearby evergreen, paused for a moment as if to look my way, then flew off. Enchanted by what was an unusual occurrence, I had an extra big smile for the next group of parishioners. In nature the usual can also become enchanting, and in that enchantment, we may lose ourselves and in doing so find that we have become part of something much greater.  We wish everyone the happiest of holidays and a wonderful new year!

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Beauty In Transitions

It’s hard to think of the period between autumn color and the arrival of colder temperatures and a land covered in snow, as anything other than a time of transition. Ohio’s late November sepia-tone landscape makes one wish for somewhere else, past or future. If we find ourselves walking along a wooded trail or stream our curiosity is challenged in ways not encountered as spring unfolds into the warmth of an endless summer day. Better to be home in a favorite easy chair with the warm glow of a fireplace, a cat curled up on your lap, and a good book as the season’s birds occasionally visit the feeder just outside a nearby window. But the magic of late November is that, surrounded by muted color, the endlessly varied dance of birds not present or as easily noticed during other seasons, is hard to ignore. 

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A window into the future, wintry bare branches reflect on the surface of a small pool.

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A year round resident, the cheerful Carolina Wren comes into it’s own as the landscape darkens in late November.

*** (Donna)

Tufted Titmice seem more common this time of year. Some migrants from the north?

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***(Donna)

A Red-winged Blackbird confuses us by it’s presence. Shouldn’t you be further south?

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In perhaps it’s last “voice”, a oak leaf graces the surface of a small stream.

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Few leaves obscure our view as we watch the comical journey of a White-breasted Nuthatch as it forages for food.

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A tidbit (perhaps a spider’s egg sack) is found, (Donna)

Woodpeckers are noticed at almost every turn, some of which are undoubtedly also northern migrants.

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker, (Donna)

Red-belied Woodpecker, (Donna).

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Before being caught by the wind and carried away, a lone Sycamore leaf catches the morning sun.

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Gray Squirrels are common and always easy to spot but they’re not always so busy eating.

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Almost invisible when trees are fully adorned with leaves the nervous movement of Golden Crowned Kinglets catches our eye.

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***(Donna)

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On  mudflats left behind as a nearby reservoir is lowered for the season, a solitary oak leaf comes to rest.

Oak leaf

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With feeders out, other birds brighten the day with their presence.

House Finch

American Cardinal

Blue Jay

Carolina Chickadee

But not far away, a Cooper’s Hawk waits.

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Autumn’s fading color comes to rest among stream-side rocks.

Scioto River landscape.

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In the chill of the morning, birds enjoy the river without complaint.

An American Robin takes a bath.

Cedar Waxwings stop for a drink.

Blending into the bark, unless your eye catches it’s movement, the Brown Creeper is almost impossible to spot.

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“Snowbirds”, the presence of Dark-eyed Juncos alert us of what is to come.

***(Donna)

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Transforming place, an ephemeral first snow blankets the ground.

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As a metaphor for life, the passing seasons, particularly early spring and late autumn, may have something to teach us when in the midst of life transitions we wish for somewhere else. Perhaps the key is to look closer, be open to the beauty of the present time and place, and then in that moment allow ones self to be caught in it’s embrace.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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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.

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