Florida Wrap-up

After a week at Mike Roess State Park  we travelled a short distance to what has become one of our favorite parks for wildlife viewing, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. After a week there we would travel to Blackwater River State Park which was a new park for us and recommended because of the beauty of the river. We planned on being there for a week before traveling home to Ohio for what we hoped would be just a brief period of winter before spring arrived.

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Paynes Prairie is not a great paddling destination but does offer good hiking within the park and good bicycling opportunities in the park as well as on nearby roads and bike trails. The park offers great opportunities for viewing nature and is highly recommended if that is your passion. Just a short drive away the Bolen Bluff Trail, Barr Hammock PreserveSweetwater Wetlands Park, and the parks north entrance with a boardwalk along Alachua Sink are an added bonus. We had no problem keeping ourselves busy during our one week stay.

Remember: you can click on the images should you desire a better view.

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The Bolen Bluff Trail turned out to be a great “wildlife” trail but in our case did require use of the car to get to the trailhead.

The area contained excellent habitat for a variety of birds.

Bald Eagle

A young Sharpe-shinned Hawk with a Yellow-rumped Warbler, (Donna).

Meal time!

. . . and feathers fly.

There were also a number of Red-headed Woodpeckers looking for something to eat.

Found a bug! (Donna).

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There is no need to get into the car as we found plenty to see on park trails that can be accessed right from the campground.

On a trail not far from the campground a Barred Owl is spotted.

There is a huge expanse of wetland in the park which among other things is home to bison and wild horses.

Cloudless Sulphur on a large thistle.

Palamedes Swallowtail, (Donna).

Giant Swallowtail.

Zebra Swallowtail.

Eastern Towhee.

Pileated Woodpeckers are often seen on the park trails.

A large katydid visits our campsite.

Northern Parula.

A Northern Parula sings it’s heart out in the woods near our campsite.

Another look.

A paradise for large wading birds.

Always fascinating to watch, a Great Blue Heron stalks its next meal.

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Paynes Prairie Preserve north entrance, Alachua Sink was another excellent natural area just a short drive away.

A Live Oak casts shadows on the waters surface near Alachua sink.

Graceful and beautiful an Anhinga preening, Alachua sink.

Alachua Sink.

A very small (and cute?) Alligator enjoys the sun.

Looking across the wetland, Alachua sink area.

Immature Little Blue Heron.

Mature Little Blue Heron.

It was a real treat to see these immature Great Horned Owls, Alachua sink area.

With mom nearby.

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Finally another excellent area that is even a shorter drive is Barr Hammock Preserve. The preserve trail consists of a large loop circling what used to be farmland but which is now at least partially flooded.

Landscape.

A Tri-color Heron tidies up, (Donna).

Patterns in tree bark.

Immature White Ibis, (Donna).

Reflections

Largeflower Primrose-Willow

Little Yellow, a butterfly we don’t remember seeing before, (Donna).

American Bittern

Alligators large and small.

No hike in Florida would be complete without a turtle, Florida Cooter.

Swamp.

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Compared to other parks visited, wildlife sighting were not nearly as common at Blackwater River SP. However quality made up for quantity with a rare wildflower sighting and the pleasant surprise of a Red-cockaded Woodpecker sighting. Also the river did live up to its reputation for being a beautiful and during our one paddle a bonus was enjoying the many turtles that had taken up residence on shoreline logs. Our stay in the park was a quiet one so walking along a park road or a trail offered an equal opportunity to see wildlife.

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker’s habitat is the Southeast’s once-vast longleaf pine stands. They also occur in stands of loblolly, slash, and other pine species. The birds dig cavities in living pines and live in family groups working together to dig cavities and raise young. Due to habitat loss the species has declined drastically and was listed as Endangered in 1970.

Not far from the woodpecker, but in the brush at ground level, a Brown Thrasher made an appearance.

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Patterns in the sand, Blackwater River.

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.   .   .  and at river’s edge:

River Jewelwings, in this case males, were a real treat to see, (Donna).

Female

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Enjoying the river’s beauty.

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In the order of carnivorous insects, Odonata, we were also fortunate to see a beautiful Green Darner one of the larger dragonflies.

Green Darner

Another view.

.   .   .   and also a pair of mating Cypress Clubtail Dragonflies.

Cypress Clubtails

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Some low-lying areas along the trail required boardwalks.

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Dragonflies weren’t the only insects mating, a pair of Carolina Satyrs were also seen, (Donna).

A beautiful Queen butterfly, (Donna).

Dubious Tiger Moth, (Donna).

Where there are butterflies there are often wildflowers.

Yellow Butterwort, a very rare sighting for us, this carnivorous plant is a Florida threatened species.

These purple flowers (False Rosemary?) were relatively common during our hikes.

Sky-blue Lupine

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Due to weather and river flow conditions we only paddled once but it was energy well spent.

Tannins color the otherwise clear water.

A peaceful view.

The low winter sun highlights budding trees.

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The next post we will be back in Ohio in search of Ohio’s spring wildflowers but whether it’s nature in Florida or Ohio we remain amazed and enchanted.

Blackwater River

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Thanks for stopping by.

Nature In Myakka River State Park

After two months in sunnier climes with limited internet access we are now back home. While still an improvement over Ohio, this winter’s trek south to Florida’s Myakka River State Park in an effort to escape the cold found us greeted by windy cool and sometimes wet weather. The wind precluded using the canoe as a means to gain access to photo opportunities away from the main park roads but we were still able to enjoy hiking even though it was often on partially flooded trails.

My wife walks under a Live Oak covered with Resurrection Ferns on one of the dryer tails.

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Every year is different. Last year the arrival of a hurricane not long before our arrival resulted in the park being completely flooded. During our stay the water receded leaving pools of stranded fish for wading birds to gorge themselves on. This occurrence offered a unique opportunity to observe and photograph various wading birds and nothing like it was in the offing this year. The consolation was that the Black Necked Stilt, a favorite bird, was more common than last year. In addition to this year’s critter pics more effort was made to capture the landscape so those shots have been made part of the mix.

The Myakka River

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As in the past Black Necked Stilts continue to charm us.

Black Necked Stilt

What ever they’re doing it’s always fascinating, (Donna).

Stilt with Lesser Yellowlegs

Walking.

Flying, (Donna).

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Flooded hammock.

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Other small wading birds were seen but American Avocets eluded us.

Least Sandpipers along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake.

Killdeer along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake.

Lesser Yellowlegs along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake, (Donna).

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The Myakka River.

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While certainly not uncommon, we always enjoy seeing the Great and Snowy Egrets. Whiter than white, a slightly overcast day seems to work best for photographing these birds.

Great Egret

Close-up.

Snowy Egret

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Standing water in low-lying areas gives rise to shadows and reflections.

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Black Crowned Night and Great Blue Herons are seen in Ohio but not the petite Tri-colored Heron.

Tri-colored Heron.

Great Blue Heron with lunch along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake.

Great Blue Heron.

Little Blue Heron hunting, (Donna).

A Black Crowned Heron peeks through the branches, (Donna).

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Upper Lake Myakka.

Flooded habitat.

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Roseate Spoonbills are right up there with Black Necked Stilts when it comes to interesting birds to observe.

Roseate Spoonbill preening.

Spoonbills.

My what a big mouth you have, (Donna).

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Florida hammock landscape.

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An Alligator Limpkin stare down.

The Alligator and Limpkin were so close together it’s hard to believe they weren’t aware of each other.

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Myakka River landscape.

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We were fortunate to see several Wood Storks.

A Wood Stork forages for food along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake.

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A canopy of branches.

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Palm Warblers were everywhere as were Black Vultures. The Barred Owl and the small Common Ground Dove were a rarer treat.

Palm Warbler.

Black Vultures were everywhere.

Scarcely a moment went by without hearing the call of a Red Shouldered Hawk.

This Barred Owl seemed so obvious once we spotted it but they’re not so easy to find.

 

Common Ground Dove.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is common in Florida but perhaps not quite as common there as in Ohio.

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Shadows betray this Live Oaks identity.

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Flowers, fungi, and air plants:

A lovely small flower is found looking something like a small wild rose

Another small but very noticeable flower.

There were fungi but not in the variety seen in Ohio, (Donna).

Other than as a location to live, air plants ask nothing of the tree they reside in.

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A fallen tree finds home in the flooded hammock

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Other creatures:

Our friend Teresa was surprised by the opportunity to get this quick shot of a Bobcat as it crossed the trail.

We are always surprised by the number of turtles given the number of gators.

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This years visit to the park was only six days but we managed to see quite a bit for such a short time. Because of the colder than normal weather there weren’t as many alligators in evidence and while birds were seen the higher than normal water levels and more places to forage meant they were disbursed. We’re planning a return visit next year so who knows what the future holds as every year offers different mix of weather and resultant water levels.

Myakka River.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Central Ohio Springs Ramblings

In the last few days we’ve been on hikes with friends as well as dedicated birding trips to various parks in Columbus and central Ohio and even when we weren’t trying real hard we’ve seen some amazing things. Hope you enjoy this early May photographic journey through spring in central Ohio.

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Hobblebush, Glenn Echo Ravine, “the shrub forms large clusters of white to pink flowers in May–June. Flowers provide nectar for the Spring Azure butterfly. The large showy flowers along the edge of the cluster are sterile, while the small inner flowers have both male and female parts”.

 

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Hobblebush flowers

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Spring in Glenn Echo Ravine

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Jack-in-the-pulpit, Glenn Echo Revine

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Glenn Echo Ravine

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Fleabane, banks of the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Swamp Sparrow, Kiwanis Riverway Park, (Donna).

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Swamp Sparrow, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

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Solomon Seal, Glenn Echo Ravine, (Donna).

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Green Heron, Kiwanis Riverway Park, (Donna).

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Green Heron, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

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Spring Crest along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

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Spring Crest, (Donna).

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher on nest, Kiwanis Riverway Park

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Red-eyed Vireo, Battelle Darby Metro Park

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Blue jay, Glenn Echo Ravine.

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Scioto River below Griggs Dam.,

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White-eyed Vireo, Glenn Echo Ravine.

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Take 2.

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Palm Warbler, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

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Bullfrog, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Big Darby, Battelle Darby Metro Park.

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Northern Parula Warbler, Glenn Echo Ravine.

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Take 2.

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Black-throated Green Warbler, Glenn Echo Ravine.

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Swainson’s Thrush, Glen Echo Ravine.

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Yellow-rumped Warbler, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Spiderwort, Battelle Darby Metro Park.

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May Apple, Battelle Darby Metro Park.

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Northern Flicker, Battelle Darby Metro Park.

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Barred Owl, Battelle Darby Metro Park. Spotted while looking for a noisy Great Crested Flycatcher.

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Red-eyed Vireo with Yellow-rumped, Battelle Darby Metro Park.

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Large flowered Valerian, “habitats include floodplain woodlands along streams or rivers, shaded ravines, and bottoms of rocky canyons. This species is found in high quality habitats that are moist and shady”. Kiwanis Riverway Park.

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Big Darby, Battelle Darby Metro Park.

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I apologize that some of the bird pics aren’t up to “bird photography” standards, severe crops and adverse lighting, but hopefully they still tell the story.

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Thanks for stopping by.

An Owl, Eagles, and a Muskrat?

The Barred Owl at High Banks Metro Park is probably one of the photographed birds in central Ohio this winter. However, since it would be a life bird for our daughter-in-law we set out to see if we could find it. Besides, considering  all the holiday food that had been consumed in the last few days, a nice long walk in the woods was definitely in order. Finding an owl, depending on where they are in the tree, can be next to impossible. Normally I look for silhouettes, which wouldn’t have worked in this case as the bird was perched against the trunk of a tree. Fortunately, two young birders with better eyes than mine had already found it when we arrived on the scene.

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Barred Owl, Highbanks Metro Park, (Donna).

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With our primary objective accomplished we walked on with the hope that he resident pair of Bald Eagles would be near their nest along the Olentangy River. We weren’t disappointed. For several years now the pair has successfully nested  in an area that isn’t all that remote which gives us hope the one day we may have a nesting pair even closer to home (for Bald Eagles closer to home click here).

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A Bald Eagle pair along the Olentangy River, (Donna).

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Civilization is close by.

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The next stop was the wetlands area where we hoped to see some waterfowl. Only one female mallard was in residence perhaps because recent cold weather had caused the pond to partially freeze over. But what was that brown furry thing out on the ice, a Muskrat?

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Out on the ice in plan view of soaring eagles, the Muskrat appeared to be eating something. Wetlands Area, Highbanks Metro Park.

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During the hike we also encountered other furry creatures.

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Red Squirrel, Donna.

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Take 2.

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Fox Squirrel, (Donna).

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As we made our way back we were treated to nice views of one of our favorite birds.

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Bluebird, (Donna).

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Take 2.

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Perhaps due to very wet soil due to recent rains followed by freezing weather, we noticed these ground level ice formations along the trail.

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Ice crystals along the trail.

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A closer look, (Donna).

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A traditional winter walk with a pleasant covering of snow was not in the offing but there’s alway seems to be something to see.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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January 1 flowers in our front yard??

 

You Never Know What You’ll Find

The July morning on Alum Creek Reservoir was warm, misty, and still when we started our paddle. In such conditions the canoe moves effortlessly across the lake’s smooth surface. The only sounds were those of our paddles as they rhythmically entered the water, the faint chatter of a few birds along the mostly oak and hickory shoreline, and the occasional thunder from a distant storm. Was the storm coming our way? We took a chance and continued on.  As the day progressed under a soft hazy sky, the wind stayed away, and the spotty thunderstorms, always lurking in the distance, never did find us.

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The luxury of such a day is that the trip out from the launch site as well as the return are equally easy. The absence of a stiff headwind and it’s accompanying waves encouraged us to explore more of the lake than we might have otherwise.

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Our typical route when we paddle the north end of the reservoir.

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Alum Creek Reservoir

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Green Herons were everywhere.

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Immature Green Heron

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Mature Green Heron

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Ready to pounce.

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Showing it’s crest.

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The Kingfishers were practicing their avoidance behavior. Never allowing us close enough for a really good shot as we moved along the shoreline.

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Female Kingfisher

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Another look.

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80% of our shots.

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It was hard to miss the ever present Double-crested Cormorants.

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Cormorant shapes.

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Even a sandpiper stopping long enough for a photo.

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Spotted Sandpiper

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It was good to see the Osprey family doing well. One of several at the north end of the lake.

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Osprey family.

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A water snake struck a nice pose as we paddled up Alum Creek past the small town of Kilbourne.

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Common Water Snake

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But wouldn’t you just know it, on the way back, an owl was waiting “just for us” in one the last coves we decided to explore.

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Barred Owl in a cove on a tree overhanging the water.

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Thinking I might want to get out of here.

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Out of here.

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To a more secluded spot.

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Not something we often see from the canoe and a real thrill.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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