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.

On The Shoulder of Very Small Giants!

Recently we were thinking about all the birds that nest in Griggs Reservoir Park or in the immediate environs. A list of some of the more interesting ones would go something like this:

White-breasted Nuthatch,

Cardinal, Northern Flicker,

Kingbird,

Red-bellied Woodpecker,

Rose-breasted Grosbeak,

Blue Jay,

Yellow-throated Warbler,

Black-crowned Night Heron,

Northern Parula Warbler,

Protonotary Warbler,

Kingfisher, Wood Duck,

Baltimore Oriole,

Cedar Waxwing,

Mallard Duck,

Great Egret,

Great Blue Heron

.   .   .   ,

well I think you get the idea. It’s amazing that  just a few years ago we were ignorant of much of this. To become more aware has taken time coupled with repeated outings to the park and reservoir. While some visits have been pretty quiet, in general learning about the birds has been a rewarding activity.

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Too further this point, recently we’ve been fortunate to photograph a few of the “youngsters”. The always active Kingbirds have been hard to miss.

Two Kingbird chicks see the parent approaching, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna, pics 1-4).

The parent arrives but apparently with no food.

But the other parent did have something to offer.

Open mouths, hard for a parent to miss!

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While we’ve heard them calling from time to time over the past few weeks, Yellow-throated Warblers have been illusive so the one below was a pretty exciting find!

Juvenile Yellow-throated warbler, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Take 2.

 

Take 3, with an ant.

Take 4.

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Always cute, a few Mallard ducklings were present along the reservoir. Interesting because we’ve seen a stream of ducklings over the last two months indicating there is no fixed time to mate.

Mallard Ducklings, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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While not youngsters, a few other birds also allowed us to take their picture. For those of you that have tried to photograph a Kingfisher you know they don’t usually cooperate so even an average picture is an accomplishment.

Female Kingfisher, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

Blue Jay, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna)

Black-crowned Night Heron, one of two seen as we paddled the reservoir. We haven’t seen as many this year perhaps due to the larger than normal number of Great Egrets.

<<<>>>

As mentioned above the birds have been rewarding but we never imaged we would discover a new snake right within the city limits of Columbus! It was seen while canoeing Griggs Reservoir and was located in a low lying bush overhanging the water. While looking at the one below another one splashed into the water. Needless to say we were very excited by this discovery!

Queen Snake, frequently seen and captured by overturning large flat stones, boards, or other debris along fresh water streams. Some will try to bite which due to their small teeth is not a treat to humans. However, all use their musk glands freely and struggle violently to escape. Although they become gentle with handling, they seldom eat in captivity. (ODNR) Their habitat is very specific, and this snake is never found in areas that lack clean running streams and watersheds with stony and rocky bottoms. The water temperature must be a minimum of 50 °F (10 °C) during it’s active months due to  dietary requirements that consist all most exclusively of newly molted crayfish. (WIKI)

<<<>>>

Summer wildflowers have benefited from the recent rain.

Rain garden, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Tall Blue Lettuce, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Blue Vervain, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Joe Pye Weed, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Lizards Tail and Swamp Milkweed at the north end of Griggs Reservoir.

<<<>>>

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time you know that in the summer we tend to focus more on insects. This year is no exception, except I’ve finally really caught the “bug” from my wife. Having made that declaration, as hard as I look I will never match her ability to see these little guys!

Soldier Fly, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Eastern Tailed Blue, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Female Eastern Tailed Blue, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Giant Spreadwing, not one we see often, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Amber and Black Wasp, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Pelecinid Wasp, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Silvery Checkerspot, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna)

Take 2, Donna)

Metallic Gold Fly, very small, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Robber Fly, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Duke’s Skipper, Griggs Reservoir.

Dukes Skipper (M), Griggs Reservoir.

Blue Dasher (F), Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

Common Dogbane Beetles, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Question Mark, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Take 2, (Donna).

Orange Sulfur (F), Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

The photo of the below dragonfly was an especially exciting because it very seldom lands.

Wandering Glider, the common name of this species may be the most appropriate of any of species. It is a strong flier, with a circumtropical distribution. It is found in nearly every contiguous state, extreme southern Canada, southward throughout Central and South America, the Bahamas, West Indies, Hawaii and throughout the Eastern Hemisphere, except for Europe. It is regularly encountered by ocean freighters and is a well-known migratory species. Because of its ability to drift with the wind, feeding on aerial plankton, until it finally encounters a rain pool in which it breeds, it has been called “…the world’s most evolved dragonfly.” (Odonata Central) , Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

After much searching Donna finally found a few Monarch Butterfly caterpillars, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Spicebush Swallowtail, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Take 2.

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There was a time when I wasn’t all that excited about “insects”, pointing my camera at butterflies, dragonflies, and the like only when the birds weren’t cooperating. Arriving home after one such an outing I took a close look at the images obtained and was amazed at the beauty of many of these creatures that are so easy for us to disregard. It’s hardly breaking news but some time ago I heard that if we compared the weight of all humans with that of all insects we would make up a very small piece of the pie. The below chart illustrates that point. For life to exist on this small sphere we stand on the shoulders of giants but in our case they are very small giants. Something to think about!

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Thanks for stopping by.

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There has been quite a bit of rain recently so we paddled to one of the local waterfalls. It did not disappoint, Griggs Reservoir.

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Should you wish prints from various posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo. If you don’t find it on the link drop us a line.

 

 

 

 

Turtles, Snakes, Hawks . . . , Oh My!

Recent explorations in the central Ohio natural places have been good to us. As mentioned in previous posts the warblers are becoming quieter and much harder to find but as is often the case we find other things to fascinate. Below are some discoveries from the past week.

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Early summer wildflowers and flowering trees and bushes.

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Hairy Beardtongue, Griggs Park, (Donna FZ200).

 

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Squaw Root, Highbanks Metro Park. Never what one would think of as attractive this example is a bit past it’s prime

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Purple Rocket, Griggs Park.

 

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Flower of the Tulip Tree, Highbanks.

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Fire Pink, Glacier Ridge Metro Park.

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Spiderwort, Glacier Ridge.

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Hairy Hawkweed, Glacier Ridge.

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Squarrose Sedge, Glacier Ridge.

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Mystery flowering bush, Griggs Park, (Donna FZ200).

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Goats beard, non-native, Griggs Park, (Donna FZ200).

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Blue Flag Iris, Kiwanis Riverway Park, (Donna, FZ200).

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Virginia Waterleaf, Highbanks. It’s unusual that the leaves are still variegated. The variegated leaves are one of the beautiful things to look for on the forest floor in the early spring.

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Closer look at a waterleaf flower.

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While we’re not seeing the warblers now other birds are still cooperating.

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Red-tailed Hawk, Griggs Park, (Donna, FZ200).

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Red-bellied Woodpecker, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

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An easy to hear hard to see Red-eyed Vireo, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, Twin Lakes Area.

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Great Blue Heron takes a momentary swim in Griggs Reservoir, Canon SX40.

 

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The Prothonotary Warblers continue their nesting activity below Griggs Dam along the Scioto River, SX40.

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In the Scioto Below Griggs Dam a Great Blue Heron waits for a lunch delivery, Canon SX40.

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Eastern Phoebe, Highbanks.

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Song Sparrow, Glacier Ridge.

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Barn Swallow, Glacier Ridge.

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Field Sparrow with a mouthful, Glacier Ridge.

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This past week it was fascinating to see Snapping Turtles laying their eggs at Griggs Park.

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Snapping Turtle, Griggs Park, (Donna, FZ200).

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Snapping turtle nest. This one may have already been raided by a raccoon.

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Other reptiles and amphibians also made an appearance.

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Rat Snake high off the forest floor in a tree hole, Highbanks, (Donna, ZS50).

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Bullfrog tadpole, Glacier Ridge.

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Bullfrog, Glacier Ridge.

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We’re heading into the insect time of year. Confirmed by the number seen recent walks.

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Bumble Bee, Griggs Park, (Donna, FZ200).

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Zabulon Skipper, Griggs Park, (Donna, FZ200).

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Silver-spotted Skipper, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

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Cabbage White Bouquet, Griggs Park, (Donna, FZ200).

 

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Tawny-edged Skipper, Griggs Park, (Donna, FZ200).

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Common Whitetail, (F), Highbanks, ZS50.

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Common Whitetail (M), Highbanks, ZS50.

 

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Female Blue Dasher, Griggs Park, (Donna, FZ200)

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When you’re looking for interesting insects and flowers other things magically appear.

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Bleeding Tooth, Highbanks, (Donna, ZS50)

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Dead tree, the victim of “bootstrap fungus Bootstrap fungus is caused by honey mushrooms, which are parasitic on live wood and send out long root like structures called rhizomorphs between the wood of a tree and its bark”. (thanks NH Garden Solutions for the ID help!), Highbanks.

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Hope everyone enjoyed our nature menagerie.

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Fishing on the Scioto below Griggs Dam, SX40.

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Until next time, thanks for stopping by.

xxx

 

Dazzled By Dragonflies at Prairie Oaks

So far it’s been one of the wettest summers in recent memory but finally a day with morning sunshine and no threat of rain until things warmed up in the afternoon. Not wanting to waste the opportunity, off we went to Prairie Oaks Metro Park, one of our favorite places to look for dragonflies, damselflies as well as butterflies and moths in central Ohio.

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We were not disappointed. For a day’s outing, this one probably holds the record for the number of species seen and photographed. Some of the cruisers alluded us but anything that would perch, even if only for a second, was fair game.

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However, not long after arriving we saw this guy and depending on your point of view, it may or may not have been the encouragement needed as we started our quest.

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Red-winged Blackbird, Beaver Lake Area

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Are you really going to eat all that?

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But not long after, our faith in the balance of nature returned as continuing to explore we checked out the Darby Bend Lakes area.

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Ebony Jewelwing, female

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Blue-fronted Dancer, female

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Blue-ringed Dancer, male

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Blue-fronted Dancer, male

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Teneral (just metamorphosed), damselfly.

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Teneral (just metamorphosed), damselfly.

 

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Common Whitetail, (Donna)

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Calico Pennant, (Donna)

Blue Dasher female 1 best 1 071915 Prairie Oaks cp1

Blue Dasher, female, (Donna)

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Eastern Amberwing

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Great Blue Skimmer, male

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Widow Skimmer, male

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Ruby Meadowhawk, male

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Halloween Pennant, female

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Halloween Pennant, male, note red spots near leading edge of wing tips, (Donna).

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Widow Skimmer, female, (Donna)

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Eastern Pondhawk, male, (Donna)

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Eastern Pondhawk, female, (Donna)

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.   .   .  and there were wildflowers.

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Phlox

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Catnip

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Blazing Star

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Teasel

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Different strokes . . .

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White Phlox

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Jewelweed

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A few butterflies were also seen.

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Sliver Spotted Skipper

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Another view.

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Red-spotted Purple

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.   .   .   and even a spider.

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Fishing Spider

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Each time we go out there always seems to be something new to see.

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Beaver lodge, Darby Bend Lakes.

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While hardly an original thought, it’s worth being mindful that every day can be an adventure if we choose to make it so.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

Photos by Donna

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Kerry Mark Leibowitz's musings on the wonderful world of nature photography

Montana Outdoors

A weblog dedicated to the world outside the cities.

Cat Tales

Mike and Lori adrift

New Hampshire Garden Solutions

Exploring Nature in New Hampshire

Jessica's Nature Blog

https://natureinfocus.blog

Quiet Solo Pursuits

My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan