August Ramble

In August insects catch our attention more often than birds. Compared to the frenzied activity of spring it can seem very quiet unless you look closely. In some ways feeling a bit like the “dead of winter” except that it’s summer. During a recent visit to Prairie Oaks Metro Park it was hard not to notice the toll that a few weeks of dry weather had taken on a wetland that relies on regular rainfall to stay healthy.

I would have been standing in water to take this picture a few weeks ago.

But as the water disappears a lone immature wood duck, with a few friends peering above the waters surface, holds out for the promise of rainy days to come.

This pic leaves a little to be desired in terms of sharpness but can you see the wood duck’s friends?

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Not far from the wetland are three ponds (Darby Bend Lakes) formed when old quarries filled with water from underground springs. Surrounded the ponds, and interspersed with plant life, is fine gravel undoubtedly left over form the quarry days. We were looking for dragonflies but were immediately stopped when we noticed a number of very large wasps. They were Cicada Killers, a member of the family of digger wasps that make their home underground. As the name indicates, this one provisions it’s nest with the cicadas.  One one egg gets implanted in each cicada. The female is noticeably larger than the male, up to 2 inches long, and of the two, it is the only one able the catch the rather large cicadas. Click here for more information.

Cicada Killer exits it’s nest, (Donna).

Cicada, (Donna).

Wasp with cicada, (Donna).

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This time of year at waters edge the landscape is graced with the large flowers of the Swamp Rose-mallow.

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We weren’t disappointed in our quest for dragonflies. No new discoveries but the fascination is always there. I was once again reminded that it’s truly a jungle out there when a catbird swopped down to snatch a dragonfly as I moved closer hoping to identify it. No matter what one thinks about the level of consciousness of a dragonfly, this one, now a nutritious snack for the catbird, no longer exists. It’s demise, the flow of life from one from one creature to the next.    

Eastern Pondhawk, (M), (Donna).

Eastern Pondhawk with prey on Blazing Star.

Halloween Pennant, (M), (Donna).

Halloween Pennant, (F) .

Common Whitetail, immature male.

Widow Skimmer (M).

Eastern Pondhawk, (F).

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Black-eyed Susan’s are also part of the Darby Bend Lakes habitat.

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Moths and butterflies were also enjoying the sunny day.

Monarch on Swamp Milkweed

A Monarch and Hummingbird clearwing moth enjoy the flowers, (Donna).

Hummingbird clearwing moth, (Donna).

A Great Golden Digger Wasp also enjoys the swamp milkweed.

Zabulon Skipper (M) on Chicory.

A female Zabulon spurns the affection of a male.

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Great dragonfly habitat adjacent to one of the Derby Bend Lakes, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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Mid-summer flowers and other critters made the day complete.

The unique beauty of False Dragonhead is part of the cicada killer habitat..

It was a real treat to see a Red-headed Woodpecker in the tree right at the edge of one of the Darby Bend Lakes. The first I recall seeing at Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

Purple Prairie Clover is also part of the cicada killer habitat. it’s occurrence in this habitat can be explained by the fact that it “is used for revegetation efforts on reclaimed land, such as land that has been strip mined. It is good for preventing erosion and for fixing nitrogen in soil. Though it is often found in mid- to late-successional stages of ecological succession, it may also be a pioneer species, taking hold in bare and disturbed habitat, such as roadsides”. Ref: Wikipedia

A small Painted Turtle enjoys the morning sun.

This year early August has been a great time for Ironweed.

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It’s been a good year for Red-headed Woodpecker sightings which, due to their rarity, are always very special but seeing the very large cicada killer wasp was what really created a sense of wonder on this day.

Mid-summer and low water along the Big Darby.

Thanks for stopping by.

A Special Place In Michigan

At least once a year for the last number of years we’ve traveled seven hours from central Ohio to the expansive 4500 acre Rifle River Recreation Area in Michigan. With it’s fairly extensive system of hiking and mountain bicycling trails, plus lakes that don’t allow motors, it’s a beautiful quiet nature lovers paradise. The park’s woods contain conifers, including some fairly large White Pine, as well as deciduous trees like oak and maple making it home to a great diversity of insects, plants, birds, and animals. The park has two campgrounds, one with electrical hookups, and one that is rustic. We prefer “tent” camping in the Devoe Lake rustic campground with it’s pit toilets and handpumps, whether in our small trailer or in a tent, because the sites are bigger, more secluded, and a variety of birds often come right to your campsite. In addition the rustic campground communicates with park’s best hiking trails without the need to get in your car.

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Park Map.

A south loop hiking trail cuts through meadows interspersed with stands of trees that attract numerous species of butterflies and dragonflies not mention birds such as Indigo Buntings that love that type of habitat.

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South Trail

The northern loop takes the hiker on much more rolling terrain interspersed with swamps and culminating along a ridge that provides a panoramic view of four of the parks lakes.

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Grousehaven Lake from the park loop road.

The lakes offer a variety of fish species to attract the angler including Brook and Brown Trout, Northern Pike, Large Mouth Bass and panfish.

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Typical catch and release LM Bass on Devoe Lake.

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Many of the lakes just outside the park boundary offering public access are heavily developed with boat and dock filled shorelines and large year round homes which in recent years have replaced many smaller cabins set back in the trees. Some of the larger multistory dwellings seem almost ready to topple into the lake giving these small bodies of water more the feel of a large recreational swimming pool. Even so, the lakes do offer good fishing even if with somewhat diminished natural aesthetic. However, if communing with nature is your goal, it is worth it to travel away from the park to the nearby Au Sable River and it’s chain of lakes which offer a rewarding undeveloped destination for the photographer, fisherman, and nature lover.

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Loud Pond, Au Sable River chain of lakes.

 

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Loud Pond Au Sable River chain of lakes.

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Loud Pond Au Sable River chain of lakes.

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Within the park, even without a very special species of bird, there is ample reason to  return year after year to enjoy the park’s beauty. But the very special bird that makes the park so irresistible is the Common Loon. Numbers seen vary year to year but they’re always there with their haunting cry breaking the silence of the night. To our knowledge it’s the closest location from central Ohio where nesting loons can be found.

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Common Loon

 

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With young, (Donna).

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Another view, (Donna).

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Meal time, (Donna).

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The young are growing fast.

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Lodge Lake.

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An equally enchanting bird usually seen on Grebe Lake is the Trumpeter Swan. During one paddle the call of the adults across the lake gave ample evidence as to how they got their name.

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Trumpeter Swam Family, (Donna).

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Another look.

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Being old enough to remember when they suffered the ravages of DDT and were very rare Bald Eagles always have a high wow factor. We had a number of sightings in the park and at least five the day we paddled Loud Pond along the Au Sable River.

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I control the canoe and my wife often takes the pictures.

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Where there is a nest there is usually an eagle.

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Donna get’s a picture of one of the Bald Eagles seen on Loud Pond.

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Equally fascinating were the other birds seen during our hikes and paddles.

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A Great Crested Flycatcher over looks a meadow on the south trail.

 

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An immature Great Crested Flycatcher asks to be fed, (Donna).

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A Catbird puts everything into it’s song, (Donna).

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A good day for the Cedar Waxwing, not so much for the dragonfly, (Donna).

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Along the south trail in the very top of a tree a Chestnut-sided Warbler sings it’s heart out, (Donna).

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A Green Heron makes a living along the shore of Devoe Lake.

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Too far away for a good pic, perhaps an immature Rose Breasted Grosbeak?

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Ever on the lookout for flying insects, like sentry’s Kingbirds lined the shore of Devoe Lake.

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Another look, (Donna).

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Near water’s edge a Kingbird sits on it’s nest, (Donna).

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Donna catches this female Kingfisher along the shore of Devoe Lake.

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A Tree Swallow party along the shore of Devoe Lake,(Donna).

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Numerous Rose Breasted Grosbeaks were seen but they proved a challenge to photograph, (Donna).

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Spotted sandpiper along the shore of Loud Pond, (Donna).

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Immature Spotted Sandpiper along Loud Pond, (Donna).

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Immature Baltimore Orioles hang out in a distant tree.

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The Rifle River just downstream of Grousehaven Lake.

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If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time you know we love dragonflies. While butterflies may initially catch your eye very few creatures fascinate in the air like the  dragonfly. But the relationship fraught with conflict because we also love birds and the dragonflies maneuverability is often not enough to avoid becoming a tasty high protein snack.

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Calico Pennant, (Donna).

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Female Ruby Meadowhawk

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Blue Dasher, (Donna).

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Chalk-fronted Corporal.

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This Damsel fly on flower illustrates the capability 0f the micro 4/3rds Panasonic (Leica) 100-400mm lens, (Donna).

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Dot-tailed Whiteface, (Donna).

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Mating Ebony Jewelwings, (Donna).

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Twelve-spotted Skimmer.

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Female Lancet Clubtail, (Donna).

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Female Calico Pennant.

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Male Halloween Pennant.

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Mating Halloween Pennants, (Donna).

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Slaty Blue Skimmer, Tamron 18-400mm zoom.

 

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Most of the time when we take a picture we have a pretty good idea what the subject is. When we don’t part of the fun is during the research to figure out what it is. So far the ID of this rather nondescript dragonfly remains a mystery.

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The Vesper Bluet is a late afternoon and evening damselfly, (Donna).

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Mating Vesper Bluets, (Donna).

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River Jewelwing seen along the Au Sable River, (Donna).

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The Rifle River near the park’s southern boundary.

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Butterflies live a rough life. Subject to the effects of rain, wind, sun and sometimes attempted predation they often become rather tattered with age. Like wildflowers much of their magic come from the fact that they are only here for a short time. During this most recent visit it was interesting because we didn’t see as many as expected and often the ones seen were rather tattered. However, the few that were in nice enough shape to merit a photograph took up the slack.

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Common Wood-Nymph, (Donna).

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Northern Pearly-eye

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Northern Pearly-eye another view.

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American Copper, (Donna)

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Another view, (Donna).

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Great Spangled Fritillary, Tamron 18-400mm zoom.

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Peck’s Skipper with a partially shaded wing explores an iris.

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Northern Cloudywing Skipper

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Eastern Comma.

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Monarch, (Donna).

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The very small and seldom seen Banded Hairstreak, (Donna).

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No matter when one visits the park in spring and summer there are some flowers that are seen and some that are not. Turtleheads and Cardinal flowers usually appear in August so we missed them this year but others were present.

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Certainly not a flower but one of a number of very large White Pines in the park. How do you capture it’s impressive size in a photograph?

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St. John’s Wort, (Donna).

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Yellow Water Lily

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Black-eyed Susan’s appear to take flight, (Donna).

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This American Wintergreen was growing in a very moist area, (Donna).

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Spotted Knapweed along the Lake Huron shore.

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Pickerel Weed on Grebe Lake.

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Water Lily.

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Water Lily times two, (Donna).

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A hover fly checks out a water lily.

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Clustered-leaved Tick-trefoil.

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Small and very common in the meadow areas along the south trail this one has eluded identification.

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Bladderwort seen along the north trail, (Donna).

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New Jersey Tea or Wild Snowball, interestingly it has been used for treated such things as gonorrhea, syphilis, colds, cough, fever, chills, spasms, bleeding, . . . “.

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Monkey Flower, (Donna).

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Swamp Milkweed, (Donna).

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Indian Pipe, (Donna).

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Jack-in-the-Pulpit.

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Fern.

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At their peak these Picture Plant flowers will turn a deep burgundy. See below for the leaves.

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The leaves resemble a picture, imagine that!

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Daisy Fleabane, very small, very common, very beautiful.

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Early morning on Grebe Lake.

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When out on a day’s hike looking for birds, flowers, or butterflies it’s hard not to notice other things and sometimes they become the most memorable.

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Painted Turtle, Devoe Lake.

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Pixie Cups, north trail.

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We saw quite a bit of this colorful fungi the day we hiked the south trail.

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Six-spotted Tiger Beetle along the trail, (Donna).

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American Toad, (Donna).

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Garter Snake in an unusual location, Devoe Lake.

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A beaver lodge on Grebe Lake.

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British Soldier Lichen seems to love old fence posts.

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Early July is apparently not the best time for fungi. This was one of the few not very colorful examples seen.

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Crown-tipped Coral Fungi near our campsite.

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A Map Turtle catches a few rays, (Donna).

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A large Porcupine is spotted along the south trail, (Donna).

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So much natural diversity in one Michigan state park! This year we left the park wishing for a few more days to explore, to look more closely with intention, to breath in the fragrance of balsam, or just to gaze up into the splendor of the green canopy of trees surrounding our campsite. Perhaps that’s the best way to leave.

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Devoe Lake.

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Thanks for stopping by.

A Quiet Walk In The Park

It was a quiet morning at Griggs Reservoir Park with little wind and an overcast sky that threatened rain making it almost too dark for pictures. The kind of day one pretty much has the whole park to themself. My pessimism about what would be seen, much less photographed, was reflected in my selection of cameras. I contented myself just with a Panasonic FZ200 superzoom accompanied by a pair of binos, while my wife expressed her optimism by taking a “bird camera”.

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Rain and the resultant higher water levels meant that in many areas Water Willow graced the reservoir shoreline.

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With the absence of traffic both in the park and on the reservoir, normally wary and prone to flight Great Blue Herons were content to stay on shoreline perches as we walked by. Other birds also seemed less prone to flight as we got close.

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An immature Male Hooded Merganser is spotted with a group of Mallard Ducks, (Donna).

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By a rain puddle a Barn Swallow strikes a contemplative pose, (Donna).

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A Robin with a mouthful of earthworm and mulberry, (Donna).

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Even with the dullness of the morning the unmistakable fire orange of a noisy Baltimore Oriole caught our eye as it streaked by on it way to a nearby tree. Taking a closer look through dense leaf cover revealed an almost completely hidden nest. Suspended by next winter’s bare branches, what remained would be easy to spot.

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Male Baltimore Oriole

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Take 2.

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Take 3.

My wife looked ever closer in an effort to see a “new to her” insect or spider. Life that most of us walk right by.

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White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillar, (Donna).

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Katydid, (Donna).

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Female Amber Wing Dragonfly

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Through the leaves a lone Painted Turtle is spotted. Not a good day to sun oneself on a log.

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Very small mushrooms caught my eye while a millipede remained unnoticed until a review of the pic. 

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A very small and young Gray Tree Frog tries to remain unnoticed, (Donna).

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Seemingly unabated, wildflowers continue their march through the year. Those that greeted us just a few weeks ago are gone but new ones have taken their place. On a sunny day they speak in a bright and joyful voice so it seems counterintuitive that the best time to photograph them is usually on overcast days. No blown out highlights, deep shadow values, and more saturated colors.

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Horse Nettle is a good plant just to look at but not to touch.

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Canada Thistle is a pesky weed for Ohio farmers.

As if playing “King of The Mountain” the vine and flower of the Morning Glory take advantage of an accommodating Moth Mullein.

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Black-eyed Susan’s spread their cheer. 

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Not the most common of our native wildflower standing forlorn at waters edge is what remained of a fairly large display of Butterfly Weed, someone had picked the rest.

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Daisy Fleabane.

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Thimbleweed.

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Tall Meadow-rue.

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White Moth Mullein.

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Canada Anemone.

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Reservoir landscape.

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It never did rain and as our longer than expected time in the park came to a close so did the time for taking a “closer look” and for reflection. As is often the case when in nature we left much richer than when we came.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Perhaps I should stick with photography!

 

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