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.

Florida, Paddling, Hiking, and Other Things Seen

Most of our photographic energy when paddling or hiking in Florida is directed at the birds, however it’s hard not to see other things when you’re out exploring. For any of you that have travelled to Miami or Naples or any of the other developed areas these pictures will not remind you of that Florida. In our quest to explore ad be in nature we try to avoid such places and look for the natural beauty. While it is still a place of much beauty, when driving through the many developed areas one cannot help but feel Florida is being “loved” to death.

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For those that are curious, our stay in Florida consisted of time spent at Myakka River SP; great hiking, big gators, and great wildlife photography, Lake Kissimmee SP; great hiking, paddling, fishing, and wildlife, the Chassahowzitka River Campground;  great paddling, fishing, and wildlife, and Ochlockonee River SP; great hiking, paddling, and wildlife.

 Click on images for a better view.

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The first place we visited was Myakka River State Park. In addition to many species of birds it’s home a lot of very large Alligators!

Hammock, Myakka River SP.

 

Myakka River, Myakka River SP.

Living dangerously, Myakka River SP.

Alligator heaven, Myakka River SP.

Almost everything’s cute when it’s little, Myakka River SP.

Cooling off, Myakka River SP.

Lots of babies, Myakka River SP, (Donna).

Bellowing, Myakka River SP.

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Sunset, Myakka River SP.

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Rumor has it that the alligators enjoy a turtle now and then. Hopefully this fella will live to a ripe old age.

Florida Redbelly Cooter, Myakka River SP

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Myakka River, Myakka River SP.

Air plants, Myakka River SP.

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Whether in Myakka or otherwise there were always butterflies and other insects to facinate.

White Peacock Butterfly, Myakka River SP

Black Swallowtail, Ochlockonee River SP.

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly, central Florida, (Donna).

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly, (Donna).

Pondhawk, Ochlockonee River SP.

Long-tailed Skipper, Chassahowitzka River, (Donna).

Zebra Swallowtail, Ochlockonee River SP.

Palamedes Swallowtail, Chassahowitzka River.

Red-banded Hairstreak, Ochlockonee River SP, (Donna).

Jumping Spider, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Roseate Skimmer, Ochlockonee River SP, (Donna).

Ornate Pennant, Lake Kissimmee SP. (Donna)

Fiddler Crabs, St Marks NWR, (Donna).

Fiddler Crabs in combat, St Marks NWR, (Donna).

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One of the more interesting places in Myakka River SP  is the Deep Hole.

Heading towards the Deep Hole.

Alligators were everywhere!

The Deep Hole, Myakka River SP.

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After Myakka we made our way about 90 miles tp Lake Kissimmee SP in the center of the state and then on to the Chassahowitzka River area and then Chassahowitzka River SP in the panhandle.

Live Oak, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Lake Kissimmee SP

Exploring Mashes Sands Beach near Ochlockonee River SP, (Donna).

Along the trail, Ochlockonee SP, (Donna).

St Mark’s Lighthouse, St Mark’s NWR.

Sopchoppy River, St Marks NWR.

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My wife was better about documenting the flowers.

Thistle, Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area, (Donna)

Golden Club, Sopchoppy River, (Donna).

Florida Scrub Roseling, Myakka River SP, (Donna).

British Soldier Lichen, Lake Kissimmee SP

Sundew, Ochlockonee SP, (Donna).

Rain Lilies, Wakulla River

Checking out the Spider Lilies, Wakulla River.

Spider Lilies, Wakulla River

Southern Blackberry, Ochlockonee River SP.

 

St John’s Wort, Ochlockonee River SP.

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We also ran across a number of snakes and other reptiles during our adventures.

Banded Water Snake, Chassahowitzka River, (Donna).

Eastern Racer, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake, Ochlockonee SP, (Donna).

Brown Anole, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Green Anole, Ochlockonee SP, (Donna)

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.   .   .  and then some other creatures.

Armadillo, Chassihowitzka River area, (Donna).

Bobcat, St Marks NWR, (Donna).

White Squirrel, Ochlockonee SP.

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Central Florida landscape, (Donna).

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Below are some birds pics that missed the previous Florida post.

Osprey trying a new fishing technique, Chassahowitzka River, (Donna).

White Pelican trying not to get it’s feet wet, Upper Myakka Lake, (Donna).

Limpkins, Myakka River SP, (Donna).

Red Shouldered Hawk (FL variant), Lake Kissimmee SP, (Donna).

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This year proved to be especially good for seeing River Otters while we paddled various rivers.

River Otter, Chassahowitzka River, (Donna).

River Otter, Sopchoppy River, (Donna)

River Otter, Sopchoppy River

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Views from the canoe, an incomplete photo record of places paddled.

Tiger Creek, Lake Kissimmee SP.

St Marks River, (Donna).

Tiger Creek into Tiger Lake, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Crawford Creek, Chassahowitzka River

Fish Camp, Crawford Creek.

St Marks River

Otter Lake, St Marks NWR.

Canoe wake reflection, Otter Lake, St Marks NWR.

Yes there is someone in the stern of the canoe.

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Those of you that follow this blog know I like to occasionally like to put a line in the water. Florida didn’t disappoint.

Largemouth Bass Sopchoppy River

Largemouth Bass, Lake Kissimmee, (Donna).

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That about wraps up Florida for this year. Whether on foot, in a canoe or kayak it’s a great place to enjoy nature. Thanks for stopping by.

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Sand and Water, Bald Point SP, (Donna).

 

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XXX

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 Should you wish, prints from various posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo. and Donna’s 2017 Birds of Griggs Park calendar is available at Calendar.

A Festival of Fungi at Clear Creek Metro Park

With the amount of rain we’ve had recently it seemed like a great time to visit Clear Creek Metro Park to see what fungi might be making an appearance. The park is unique, located about fifty miles southeast of Columbus in an area where the last glaciers stopped their southward advance. It’s 5,300 acres of woods, sandstone cliffs, ravines, and creeks are home to hemlocks, oaks, and hickory. As we left Columbus we were hoping to discover some things not seen closer to home.

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It was still early when we arrived and everything was wet from a recent rain. The air was cool but the humidity was very high. Given these conditions, we were drenched in perspiration for most of our five mile hike, with glasses and viewfinders fogging up every time we attempted to take a photograph. On this particular day, it was the price of admission.

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Interestingly, the first thing seen was lichen growing on the roof  of a visitor information board not far from where we parked.

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British Soldier Lichen, red fruiting bodies are less than 1/8 inch across. It was the first we had seen in Ohio.

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Leaving the lichen, we began a rather steep assent into the woods and immediately started seeing fungi. This continued throughout our hike of the Creekside Meadows, Fern, and Cemetery Ridge trails. Seeing so many unfamiliar fungi, the challenge soon became one of trying to figure out we were looking at.

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Violet-gray Bolete

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Another example, (Donna).

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More fully developed.

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Turkey Tail on a fallen log.

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Crowded Parchment

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Small purple Bolete. Colors appear to vary among the same species.

 

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Jellied False Coral

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Red-belted Polypore

 

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Unidentified

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Spores being released from a mushroom.

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Berkeley’s Polypore. One area of the woods was dotted with these. This one was about 6 inches across.

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Very large Lepiota mushroom (@12 inches tall)

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Another view.

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Coral Mushroom

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Chanterelles

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Donna moving in for a close shot.

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Chanterelles, (Donna)

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Burnt-orange Bolete, (Donna)

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Panther Mushroom, (Donna)

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Unidentified Amanita, (Donna)

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Pink Polypore, (Donna)

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Unidentified Mushroom

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Unidentified Mushrooms

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Tufted Collybia

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Another view.

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Apricot Jelly

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False Coral

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Rosy Russula Mushroom

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Powder-cap Amanita Mushroom

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As if all the fungi were not enough, wildflowers were also making their presence known.

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Spiderwort, (Donna)

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Starry Campion

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Indian Pipe, (Donna)

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Woodland Sunflower

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Downey Rattlesnake-plantain

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Downey Rattlesnake-plantain leaves.

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Oswego Tea

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A little further away.

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Downey Skullcap, (Donna)

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.   .   .   and while not flowers, pretty nonetheless.

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A confused leaf!

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Ferns were everywhere.

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Given that flowers and many other plants were in abundance, butterflies and moths were easy to spot.

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Pipevine Swallowtail

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Another view.

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Great Spangled Fritillaries, (Donna)

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Great Spangled Fritillary

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Great Spangled Fritillary

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Hummingbird Moth Blur

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Hummingbird Moth, (Donna)

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While not our main objective, we did hear a lot of birds and even managed to see a few.

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Hooded Warbler

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Titmouse

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Eastern Wood-pewee

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Another view.

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A Wood Thrush? refuses to cooperate.

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At the end of our hike, we were in awe of the things seen. Many were first’s for us in Ohio. It had been a magical day.

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Trail at Clear Creek Metro Park

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

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