Harbingers Of Spring

After our extended stay in Florida to escape the north’s cold cloudy winter weather I realize we’re not going to get much sympathy when we say that waiting for spring in Ohio can try one’s patience. Walking through the woods we remind ourselves to value each day for the gift that it is, but with autumns now bleached and faded leaves covering a seemingly lifeless forest floor it’s hard not to want for more.

Many of Ohio’s woods lack the conifers that bring color to the early spring woods further north, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

The water was running clear but the landscape was no more colorful along the river, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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However, taking a closer look at last years leaf litter one just might find the tiny Harbinger of Spring one of the seasons first wildflowers.

Harbinger of Spring, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Another look.

Profile, (Donna).

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The Snow Trillium is an uncommon wildflower that occurs only in very select undisturbed locations.

A nice group of three.

A group of two, (Donna)

Head on.

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Perhaps one of the prettiest plants to pop up through leaf litter in early spring is Virginia Waterleaf.

Virginia Waterleaf, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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As is often the case while making one’s way back to the trailhead, happy with the wildflowers and the day’s hike, other unexpected and wonderful things are seen.

An Eastern Towhee hides in a thicket, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

A number of Golden-crowned Kinglets showed themselves along the Scioto River below the Griggs Reservoir Dam, (Donna).

Walking along Griggs Reservoir we heard a faint tapping and just saw a tail protruding from a newly formed nesting cavity. The tapping stopped and this Downy Woodpecker turned and peered out at us.

We spotted this Blue-winged Teal in a pond adjacent to the parking lot as we were finishing a hike at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Present in smaller numbers all winter in areas where there is open water, the population of Great Blue Herons has increased as the days get longer and the weather warms.

A Great Blue Heron waits for something edible to appear.

We’ve never seen them over-winter so when Great Egrets appear along the Scioto River below the Griggs Reservoir Dam each spring in breeding plumage it’s a real treat.

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The Great Egrets are the grand finale to this post and our recent time outdoors and they left us with a true sense of  spring’s wonder and magic.

Stump in the early spring woods.

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For those who expectedly seek it along a stream or wooded trail, nature speaks in a language beyond words.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

My Florida Photo Favorites

It’s been several weeks since our return from Florida. For the last few years we’ve been blessed to travel to various state parks exploring nature and the area’s natural beauty. I’ve chosen to post a few of my favorite photos from this years trip. A following post will include some of my wife’s favorite photos. Photos are favorites, when they capture the unique beauty of a creature, are of something not seen before, or contribute in some way to the story. Favorites need not always be great photographs.

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The parks visited over a period of eight weeks were: Myakka River State Park, Kissimmee Prairie State Park, Lake Kissimmee State Park, Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park,  Ochlocknee River State Park, and Three Rivers State Park. The idea was to start south and work our way north as the weather warmed going into early spring.

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This year we used bikes for the first time to initially explore trails which we could then hike if they looked promising. This coupled with the use of a canoe allowed us to spend time in a number of different Florida environments. On long hikes or bike rides our “go to” camera was the Panasonic FZ200. In the canoe or on shorter hikes we used DSLRs with telephoto zooms.

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Along the trail, typical of many of the parks visited.

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Myakka River State Park has been a favorite for the past two years primarily because of the potential for nature/bird photography. Paddling can be enjoyable if you and your partner(s) don’t mind being in close proximity to some rather large gators. The distance one can paddle within the park may be limited depending on water conditions and your determination. Hiking is good with some trails traversing more diverse habitat than others.

This Glossy Ibis gives ample reason for the name, Myakka River SP.

A Little Blue Heron strikes a rather exotic pose, Myakka River SP.

These Roseate Spoonbills were taking full advantage of the concentrated but temporary food source caused by a recent hurricane that flooded a substantial portion of the park trapping fish and other edibles in depression pools left as the water receded, Myakka River SP.

Wood Storks and Whistling Ducks seem to get along just fine, Myakka River SP.

A Wood Stork shows off it’s catch, Myakka River SP.

Momentarily startled, birds take a break from the depression pool feeding frenzy, Myakka River SP.

The Whistling Ducks in a better light, Myakka River SP.

Red Shouldered Hawks (FL morph) are very common, Myakka River SP.

This Snowy Egret provides ample proof as to why these birds were almost driven the extinction in the late 1800s and early 1900s all for the sake of fashion, Myakka River SP.

White Pelicans over Myakka River SP. Something that must be witnessed in person as a photograph does not capture their graceful flight.

Florida Tassel Flower, Myakka River SP.

Peaceful coexistence in Myakka River SP. At least until the gator grows up!

If you love gators take the hike (permit required) to the Deep Hole in Myakka River SP. A hiking partners count indicated that there were 151 along the shore and 18 in the water the day we were there.

An Anhinga dries out and in the process makes a beautiful picture, Myakka River SP.

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Kissimmee Prairie State Park was a new park for us this year. The main draw was the chance to see Crested Caracara as well as Burrowing Owls. The trails, while extensive, were often under water. A trail capable bicycle is almost essential if you really want to explore the park. While no Burrowing Owls were seen, a Black-crowned Night Heron rockery as well as other bird species made the stay worthwhile.

Numerous creatures call the park home.

While looking for the Crested Caracara we were delighted to see this Loggerhead Shrike, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Take 2.

Eastern Meadowlarks were quite common in the park. Getting close enough for a really great photo was always a challenge.

A beautiful White-eyed Vireo.

Trail in Kissimmee Prairie SP.

A side by side comparison of a Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Black Swallowtails almost never seem to land but then one afternoon, as I looked at some distant birds, there it was right at my feet..

A Black-crowned Night Heron rookery of perhaps 30 or 40 birds was discovered along one of the trails. They scattered as soon as we got close.

Exploring the trail near the rookery, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

While reconnoitering a new trail we found this Florida banded water snake, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Probably the most interesting bird seen during our stay was the Crested Caracara. Common in SW Texas it’s range is very limited in Florida, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Take 2.

 

Can you find the insect? Kissimmee Prairie SP.

An immature Little Blue Heron casts a lovely reflection, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Sometimes we only saw evidence of wildlife, a Bobcat, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

One wonders how many birds fall prey to alligators, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

A lone sentinel, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

While many miles of hiking trails were advertised not all were suitable for that purpose.

Numerous White Peacock butterflies graced the trail edge as we hiked, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

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Lake Kissimmee State Park is a favorite offering fairly extensive paddling and hiking opportunities. Nature viewing, while not as concentrated an experience as Myakka River, is very good. Campsites are some of the best in Florida. The only downside is airboat noise on the weekend and make no mistake they are load.

There are many lovely trails in the park.

A Tricolored Heron poses as we paddle Tiger Creek, Lake Kissimmee SP

Not many Green Herons are seen in Florida, perhaps due to their excellent camouflage, but his one was spotted along Tiger Creek.

Take 2.

Tiger Creek, Lake Kissimmee SP.

A Snowy Egret along Tiger Creek.

While bicycling on one of the park trails this Eastern Towhee posed for a picture.

Along the lake shore this Red-shouldered Hawk almost eluded the camera’s lens.

One of the most beautiful birds in Florida, the Purple Gallinule seen along the shore of Lake Kissimmee. Supposedly not all that uncommon but we haven’t seen many over the three years we’ve been going to Florida.

A Pine Warbler seems to be checking something out.

Sure enough!

Some distance away, a solitary Bald Eagle watches as we paddle by.

In a quest to get a dramatic picture of this rather large gator we paddled a little too close. It wasn’t happy and neither was my wife!

A Northern Parula Warbler proves difficult to photograph.

Along the trail in Lake Kissimmee SP a rather large Yellow Rat Snake makes itself comfortable in the morning sun.

A closer look.

A Gopher Tortoise ambles along a park road. They can live for almost 60 years and their borrows provide habitat for numerous cretures including Burrowing Owls. Days will go by and we won’t see one and then .   .   .

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Payne’s Prairie Preserve State park was a new park for us this year. With it’s extensive area we hoped to see a variety of wildlife. Of interest is the fact that the park maintains herds of Spanish Horses as well as Bison. Many waterfowl had already departed on their journey north when we were there.

I had been trying for several days to get a good picture of a Northern Parula Warbler as they seemed to be everywhere. Then one morning sitting outside while visiting a local bakery for breakfast one just about landed on my nose, thankfully I had my FZ200.

Blue Winged Teal, Sweetwater Wetlands Park near Payne’s Prairie Preserve SP.

Green Winged Teal???  Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

A mother’s love! Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

Osprey, Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

Palmetto reflections, Payne’s Prairie Preserve SP.

The Spanish horse is considerably smaller than a typical quarter horse. All have the same coat.

A Song Sparrow catches a spider, Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

A very small anole, Payne’s Prairie Preserve SP.

Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

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For a number of years Ochlocknee River SP has been one of our favorite parks due to it’s potential for paddling as will as the close proximity of other areas of interest for the birder and nature lover; Bald Point SP and St Marks NWR. Hiking in the park itself, while not extensive, does provide the opportunity to see the threatened Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

The white morph of the Gray Squirrel comprises a charming part of the park’s welcoming committee.

A small active bird, the Brown Headed Nuthatch is a challenge to photograph.

Oystercatcher, Bald Point SP near Ochlocknee River SP.

Royal Terns, Bald Point SP.

A juvenile Bald Eagle flexes it’s wings, St. Marks NWR.

Brown Pelicans, Bald Point SP.

Least Terns, Bald Point SP.

Taking a break during an eight mile paddle exploring a side creek to the Ochlocknee River, Ochlocknee River SP.

A group of Sanderlings take a great interest in something, Bald Point SP.

A Ruddy Turnstone checks out what’s left of a Horseshoe Crab, Bald Point SP.

This Brown Thrasher was a regular visitor at our campsite.

The Ruddy Turnstone is thinking; “Let someone else do the work and just as they retrieve the morsel, steal it!”

Rain Lilies along the road, Ochlocknee River SP.

Snowy Plover, St Marks NWR.

Marbled Godwit, St Marks NWR. A life bird for us!

Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Ochlocknee River SP.

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Three Rivers SP was a new park for us this year and was selected primarily for it’s paddling potential. The lake was fairly open and much of the shoreline was shallow and weed choked making it less than ideal for paddling. Due to the lakes huge area wildlife was well dispersed making viewing a bit of a challenge. It was an excellent area for butterflies with some good, if not extensive, hiking trails.

Red Buckeye was in bloom at Three Rivers SP.

Taking a break during a long paddle on Lake Seminole, Three Rivers SP.

Immature Common Loon, Three Rivers SP.

A closer look.

Rain Lilies, Three Rivers SP.

Black Swallowtails on Bull Thistle.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Zebra Swallowtail, Three Rivers SP.

Black Swallowtail.

An almost constantly in motion Pipevine Swallowtail

Osprey on nest, Apalachee Wildlife Management Area.

Crimson clover, Apalachee Wildlife Management Area.

Lily pads, Apalachee Wildlife Management Area.

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That’s it for this post. Many other pictures could have been posted but if you made it this far I’m impressed with your forbearance. Looking back on our experience, we’re reminded what an unbelievably beautiful but fragile resource Florida’s natural areas are. As one drives the highways of the state signs of new or proposed development are not uncommon so pressure on limited resources continues.

Sunset, Myakka river SP.

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When I started out taking pictures years ago I was fascinated with light and composition as subjects of interest were photographed. It was rewarding to make the effort to capture what was being experienced when looking at a scene. A big fringe benefit, and true blessing, has been a heightened curiosity about the world around me. What is that bird or bug that was just photographed, what is significant about it, and why does it matter. The world is much bigger now.

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Thanks for stopped by

In Search of The Beautiful But Elusive Prothonotary Warbler

No birding adventure is any better than if it can be combined with time in a canoe. Recently we decided to to explore the shoreline of O’Shaughnessy Reservoir and the Twin Lakes area with the hope of seeing warblers. In past years the Twin Lakes Area (O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve)  has been very good so we were hopeful.

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The Route

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While there are few things as enjoyable as viewing birds from a canoe, photographing them from such is a different matter.  The smaller the bird the more difficult, as movements are usually quicker and more erratic. In even the calmest conditions it’s a challenge to position the boat properly then quickly grab the camera and hope the bird hasn’t flown. The boat has an uncanny ability to swing around as you’re attempting to get a shot resulting in one doing an owl impersonation in order to keep shooting. Add wind, wave action, or river current  and  .   .   .   , I think you get the picture.

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The day started out with a very light breeze but by late morning boat control became more of an issue with my wife doing more of the shooting while I managed things. We didn’t succeed in our quest to see a Prothonothary Warbler, but as is often the case, other birds as well as wildflowers and other wildlife took up the slack.

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Double-crested Cormorants watched as we explored the shoreline.

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Adult and juvenile Double-crested Cormorants

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Juvenile

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The adult decides he’s had enough.

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A Red Shouldered Hawk was also sizing things up,

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Red-shouldered Hawk

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as Tree Swallows looked on.

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Tree Swallow, (Donna)

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Enjoying the front porch.

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Once past the swallows we heading into an area where we typically see Prothonotary Warblers.

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Looking for Prothonotary Warblers, Twin Lakes

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As already mentioned, the Prothonotary Warblers eluded us, but we were greeted by a Solitary Sandpipers attracted to mudflats exposed by the receding water level.

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Solitary Sandpiper

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Looking at it’s reflection.

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We then decided to explore a nearby stream.

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Eversole Run flowing into the Twin Lakes area.

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Up the stream we were entertained by a Blue-gray Gnatcather gathering nesting material.

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher gathering lichen.

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Not giving up

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Totally getting into it! (Donna)

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Eversole Run

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Working our way back to the main part of the lake we noticed turtles enjoying the warmth of the sun.

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Painted Turtle.

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A real gathering, (Donna)

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Wildflowers were spotted along the bank and my wife decided to investigate.

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Bluets, (Donna)

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Pussy Toes, (Donna)

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Many Yellow-rumped warblers were seen but the only warbler that cooperated for a picture was this female Yellow.

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Female Yellow Warbler, (Donna)

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We hugged the west shore to stay out of the wind as we worked our way back to the launch. As we did so, a bird not often seen was encountered which got us pretty excited.

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Blue-winged Teal

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Taking flight, (Donna)

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All in all it was a very good day.

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Twin Lakes Area

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“So why do we take pictures, sometimes of the same bird or scene that was photographed just a few days ago?

We take them to tell a story, in celebration of the beauty of life, and to share our joy”.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Bald Eagles and a Kinglet Celebration

During the last few days while travelling the highways and byways of central Ohio we managed to see three mature Bald Eagles in flight. Perhaps I’m easily amused but, given a childhood growing up in Michigan where I never once saw a Bald Eagle, and the fact that Ohio isn’t usually considered a hotbed for eagle activity, I found this pretty exciting.  Since this was holiday related travel we didn’t have suitable photographic equipment with us. But even if we had, it all happened very quickly so I doubt we would have gotten much of a photograph. One sighting was near Dayton and the other two were just southwest of Wooster.  In neither case were there sizable bodies of water nearby so it’s not clear what the birds were doing.

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Recently while hiking along the Scioto just below Griggs Dam we were greeted by Golden Crowned Kinglets (a winter visitor from points north). The two or three that we saw came very close and seemed oblivious to us as they went about their business. We were enchanted. Due to the rapidity and total unpredictability of their movement, I opted to just enjoy the view. However, my wife, always up for a challenge, decided to try and get a few shots with her Panasonic FZ150 on burst mode. Below are the results.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet, study 1, (Donna)

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Golden-crowned Kinglet, study 2, (Donna)

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Golden-crowned Kinglet, study 3, (Donna)

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During the excitement a Great Blue Heron was watching from a safe distance along the river’s edge.

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Great Blue Heron, Scioto River

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Later, after spending some time along the river, we investigated the reservoir and found isolated groups of Ruddy Ducks and what appeared to be a lone Green-winged Teal (not a Blue as originally thought, thanks Lou!) and not a particularly common bird on the reservoir.

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Male Ruddy Duck, Griggs Reservoir (A little far away for a decent shot)

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Female Ruddy Duck, Griggs Reservoir

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Green-winged Teal, (it was much smaller than the Mallards nearby), Griggs Reservoir

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All the birds were great to see but the kinglets definitely carried the day.

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Tip: work off that big turkey dinner by taking a walk in nature and don’t forget your binoculars. You’ll be amazed by what you see.

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Thanks for looking in

 

Photos by Donna

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