A Stage Perfectly Set

On a long urban hike to work off the transgressions of the holidays, the morning was dark, cold, and wet, with light rain trying to turn to snow, and wind periodically gusting to remind one that it was colder than originally thought. Heading for the park through quiet residential streets, I wondered if any of the small friends that often inhabit the trees and brush along the river, would be there to greet me.

Brown Creeper, White-breasted Nuthatch, Tufted Titmouse, Easter Bluebird, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Cedar Waxwing.

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Perhaps it was the chill and dreariness of the day, kept at bay by the pace of my stride, until, pausing for a time, I was warmed by the sight of such seemingly delicate creatures “cheerfully” going about their business. I do not know for sure. But in the contrast of the moment I was captured by their magic. A play of pure joy and color acted out against the seasons dull colors of gray and brown on a stage perfectly set.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Celebrating The Season

When I was a kid growing up in Michigan, I wished for a white Christmas and hoped the snow, with periodic additions of fresh whiteness, would stick around until spring. While my wish was never completely realized, being 150 miles north of where I live now, winter was a more satisfying if not tiring experience.

(Images may be clicked on for a better view)

The low December light pierces the open canopy revealing patterns in leaves and the geometry of trees and river.

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A few days ago, we woke up to a light covering of white. We rushed down to our local city park before too many foot steps marred it’s beauty. Now, despite colder temperatures, the snow is mostly gone, the victim of wind and sublimation. Winters are like that in central Ohio. Cold temperatures, when they come, often leave the dry, naked, and shivering landscape wishing for a warm white blanket. But while not a paradise for lovers of snow, for those willing to venture out and look carefully, this time of year provides an opportunity to enjoy a subtle beauty and be entertained by creatures making this place their winter home.

With snow, the forms of water and trees becomes sublime.

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It was very faint but unmistakable. You know how woodpeckers can be. Looking up into branches in the adjacent woods, it seemed hopeless. How about just looking for dead branches  .   .   .

Working on a warm winter home?

A female Downy works away.

. . . as the male goofs off on a nearby branch.

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Quiet early winter morning along the Scioto.

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One advantage to living in an area subject to cold temperatures, but with little snow, is that ice is free to express itself.

Small icicles and patterns in ice.

Interesting shapes form as river levels recede, (Donna).

Near the river, a small frozen pool, and solstice ice.

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In the summer we don’t notice as many Eastern Bluebirds, a gift of the colder months?

Male Eastern Bluebird, (Donna).

Taking flight.

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Not far from their downriver nest, Bald Eagles are seen more often along the reservoir this time of year.

Perched across the reservoir and too far away for a really good shot..

Doing it’s best to avoid a photograph.

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At river’s edge, the roots of a sycamore struggle to maintain their hold.

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With the reservoir frozen, a pair of Hooded Mergansers were spotted in the open water of the river just below the dam. Eventually, if the reservoir stays ice covered, they will be joined by Goldeneyes, Common Mergansers, and other waterfowl not commonly seen in the area.

Hooded Mergansers on the Scioto River.

***

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These images were taken before realizing that the White-breasted Nuthatch it was eating lichen. An unexpected revelation.

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A quick look through the binoculars revealed it to be a Mockingbird which was a real treat as we couldn’t remember the last time one was seen in the park   .   .   .  then, one very average photo, and it was gone.

***

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There are a countless number of American Robins in the park this time of year. They are everywhere, and with their antics provide endless entertainment.

***, (Donna).

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Brown Creepers are not easy to spot. Sometimes their faint call is heard before they are seen. Their erratic movement make them a difficult subject to photograph.

***

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While working on a dead branch, this male red-bellied woodpecker really showed off it’s red head.

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Other local residents, as will as migrants from the north, have also entertained us in the last few days.

Tufted-titmouse, (Donna).

Carolina Chickadee, (Donna).

White-throated Sparrows can be found in Ohio in the winter but call the forests across Canada, the northeastern U.S., and the northern Midwest their summer home.

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A fox squirrel ran up the tree and hid just as I walked up causing my wife to miss a “good” picture. She had to make due with the image below.

***, (Donna).

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Winter along the Scioto River.

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This morning while standing in front of our church greeting incoming worshipers, a ruby-crowned kinglet flew into a nearby evergreen, paused for a moment as if to look my way, then flew off. Enchanted by what was an unusual occurrence, I had an extra big smile for the next group of parishioners. In nature the usual can also become enchanting, and in that enchantment, we may lose ourselves and in doing so find that we have become part of something much greater.  We wish everyone the happiest of holidays and a wonderful new year!

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Then One Morning They Were There

Just a few days ago, during a spring migration walk along Griggs Reservoir, it was quiet. Sure there were a noticeable number of Yellow-rumps, one or two Yellow-throated were heard so high in the Sycamores that they threatened to go into earth orbit, and even some Palms were flitting about with tails bobbing, but most of the kinglets had moved on with nothing else within easy binocular reach taking their place. An unwelcome reminder that spring migration can be that way, one day the land of plenty the next not so much.

Yellow-throated Warbler (trust me) high in a Sycamore.

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Over the past few years we’ve enjoyed monitoring a few locations close to home. While we do go further afield we’ve noticed that for us by concentrating on a few locations, the place, as will as the creatures that call it home, seemed to be valued more. We acknowledge that by not hopping in the car in response to an E-bird post there are birds that will not see. With that in mind, the next day we found ourselves back at Griggs Reservoir Park to see if things had changed. Amazingly, as if by magic, brightly colored orange birds that were no where to be seen the day before were now streaking through the air to perches high in trees or low in bushes, they seemed to be everywhere. The park was transformed. Did they arrive quietly during the night on the “red eye”? Your guess is as good as ours. Many were undoubtedly just passing through while others, based on observations from years past, will make the park and it’s environs home for the summer decorating the trees with their hanging nests. As you have probably already guessed these brightly colored birds were Baltimore Orioles.

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Male Baltimore Oriole, Griggs Reservoir Park.

2, (Donna).

3, (Donna).

4, (Donna).

5, (Donna).

6.

A female sneaks in.

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Even with the arrival of the orioles, other birds including some that are migrants continued to compete for our attention.

A White-breasted Nuthatch strikes a classic nuthatch pose.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker is seen snacking on ants

.   .   .  while another is engaged in a little home construction.

A very vocal Catbird announces his arrival from points south

.   .   .   while another looks on, (Donna).

Cliff Swallows, a species that in this case builds their communal grouping of nests under a bridge crossing the reservoir, were in the process of gathering nest building material (mud) resulting in a frenzy of activity around a small puddle not far from their nest site, (Donna).

A House Wren pauses momentarily .   .   .

then continues it’s song, (Donna).

The Cardinal is a beautiful but very common bird in Ohio. We have to remind ourselves not to take it for granted.

A male Bluebird bathed in a sea of green waits for lunch to fly by.

Right now Palm Warblers may be even more common than Yellow-rumps, (Donna).

A Cape May Warbler gets close enough for a photo with my Panasonic FZ200.

Based on the fact that that is where we often saw them, Red-eyed Vireos seemed to really enjoy the Sycamore trees, (Donna).

An almost always vocal Tufted Titmouse entertains us, (Donna).

If you hear a melodic and louder than it should be song, it could be a Tufted Titmouse.

The Spotted Sandpipers are also back in the neighborhood.

From a distance, without the aid of binoculars, we first mistake the movement of a Swainson’s Thrush for that of a robin. Many have been seen in the last few days and most are probably just passing through.

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Donna captures an amazing well camouflaged Brown Creeper

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With the leaves just emerging the orioles were easy to spot but that’s changing fast. In a few days, as green continues to embrace trees and bushes, they will be heard but even with their brilliant color they will be much harder to see. Many will move on with other species taking their place as the march of spring migration continues through central Ohio. We will wait expectantly for our next “new for the year” sighting and there undoubtedly will even be another post to celebrate it. Will it be an American Redstart, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, or something else?

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Until then thanks for stopping by.

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Redbuds in bloom.

 

Wishing for Green But . . .

Recently we visited one of our local metro parks for what turned out to be a more difficult than expected hike. The idea was to look for spring wildflowers and migrating warblers. A few days later, after recovering from the hike, we found ourselves paddling the shoreline of a local reservoir again looking for signs of spring.

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Most trees have yet to leaf out which, as the days slowly go by, leaves us wishing things would hurry up. It’s hard not to embrace the idea that nothing says spring like green translucent leaves “stain glassed” by the shadows of branches and light from a low morning sun. However, if one is a wildflower enthusiast you want those ground dwelling plants to have their time in the sun, so no leaves for awhile please. Besides, the bare branches also make migrating birds easier to spot.

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Bare branches mean that plenty of sunlight is reaching the ground. While it looks only to be covered by last year’s fallen leaves there were small green and flowering things to be seen. Clear Creek Metro Park

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We have started hearing, and sometimes seeing, warblers along with a few of the other small migrants.

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Yellow-throated Warbler, Kiwanis River way Park

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Yellow-throated Warbler, Kiwanis River way Park, (Donna).

Golden-crowned Kinglet 8 head on 4 best 4 041516 Griggs cp1

Donna finally got her kinglet! Golden-crowned Kinglet, Griggs Park.

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There were also other suspects:

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Carolina Wren, Yellow-throated Warbler, Kiwanis River way Park

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Tree Swallow, Kiwanis River way Park

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Creeper, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Larger birds were also in attendance.

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Red tail Hawk seen along the shore of Griggs Reservoir while paddling.

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Double Crested Cormorants and Great Blue Herons occupied the trees on a small island, while paddling the north end of Griggs Reservoir.

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One heron appeared to be eating something.

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Female Mallard with ducklings, , Kiwanis River way Park

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Warmer midday temperatures mean more butterflies. They are also seen earlier in the day, defying what seem like way too cool temperatures. Below are three of the many species seen in recent days.

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American Lady, Griggs Park, (Donna)

 

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Dusky wings and fly an scat, Clear Creek Metro Park

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Morning Cloak, Clear Creek Metro Park, (Donna)

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While the canopy is still bare there are things to be seen on the forest floor.

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Moss, Clear Creek Metro Park

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Reindeer Lichen, Clear Creek Metro Park

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Bloodroot can still be found in shaded locations, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Bluets, Clear Creek Metro Park, (Donna)

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Trout Lily, Griggs Park

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Trout Lily couple, Griggs Park.

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A dandelion goes to seed, Griggs Park.

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Large Flowered Trillium, Griggs Park west, (Donna).

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Unknown flower, perhaps an escapee, Clear Creek Metro Park

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Wintergreen, Clear Creek Metro Park

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Club moss, Clear Creek Metro Park.

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Today, a hike in Clifton Gorge treated us to more beautiful wildflowers, but they will have to wait for another post.

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Until next time, thanks for stopping by.

 

Looking For Spring

Some out of town travel has resulted in fewer posts in the last couple of weeks but now we’re back searching for plants, animals, and birds that will encourage us that spring, which so far has been too slow to green, leaf, and flower, is not that far away. Based on things seen while walking along the river recently, which included Turkey Buzzards, Double Crested Cormorants, and Tree Swallows, we are encouraged.

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Below are some things seen along Griggs Reservoir and the Scioto River in the last week:

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Bluebell emerging plant 4 closer 1 best 032815 Griggs   cp1

Along the Scioto River some area Bluebell plants are just emerging, (Donna)

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A few days later we see progress, (Donna)

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Cutleaf Toothwort is getting ready to bloom, (Donna)

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Virginia Waterleaf doesn’t need to bloom to be beautiful, (Donna)

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A very close look at Harbinger of Spring reveals it’s beauty, (Donna)

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A solitary Trout Lilly bloom leads the way, (Donna)

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Spring Beauty does it’s best to add some color, (Donna)

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The Toad Shade Trillium are very close to blooming, (Donna)

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An island of unidentified green, (Donna)

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A Brown Creeper doing what it does best.

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Along the Scioto an Eastern Phoebe eludes a good picture. The first one seen this year..

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Eastern Phoebe along the Scioto.

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A White breasted Nuthatch finding lunch among the still bare branches

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White breasted Nuthatch

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Bloodroot, beautiful and one of the earliest wild flowers.

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Bloodroot, (Donna)

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Coltsfoot almost seeming to smile.

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Another view, (Donna).

 

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Buds getting ready to leaf out, (Donna)

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Common Chickweed is a welcome sight as it gets ready to bloom.

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We found still green Dutchmen’s Breaches along the river, (Donna)

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The fact is, if spring progressed any faster we would surely miss a lot. That’s something that undoubtedly happens anyway but at what seems like spring’s usual snails pace it feels like we at least have a chance to see it’s wonder.

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Thanks for stopping by.

A Winter Walk

Winter Walk

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The wonder of freshly fallen snow

proof that somewhere within

there is still lives a child

after snow had fallen during the night

we walk

the landscape quietly transforming

gracing the ordinary with magic

as birds go about their business

moving branch to branch

sending small cascades of white floating down

into the quiet

                                                                              rsp

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The Big Darby, Prairie Oaks Metro Park

300 (3)

White-breasted Nuthatch, just below Griggs Dam

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Trail, Prairie Oaks Metro Park

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Scioto River below Griggs Dam

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Creek, Prairie Oaks Metro Park

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Looking for a bird, Prairie Oaks Metro Park

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Water and snow, Prairie Oaks Metro Park

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Gull just below Griggs Dam

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Snow on branches, Prairie Oaks Metro Park

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Golden-crowned Kinglet, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna)

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Looking north, Prairie Oaks Metro Park

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Brown Creeper below Griggs Dam, (Donna)

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Creek and trees, Prairie Oaks Metro Park

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Downy Woodpecker below Griggs Dam, (Donna)

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River scene, Prairie Oaks Metro Park

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Thanks for looking in.

Where are All Those Ducks Going?

With the weather warming up a bit the last few days we were encouraged to explore the area along the Scioto River near our house in hopes of seeing more Bald Eagles. We had to settle for one sighting today just below Griggs Dam. Since the reservoir remains frozen we were also excited by the anticipation of what waterfowl might be in the river. Also, one never knows what other birds or critters might be seen. Yesterday it was a Red Fox and today in addition to waterfowl a few of the other birds seen included Golden-crowned Kinglets, Bluebirds,  Cardinals, and Brown Creepers.

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If anyone can explain why the ducks in the picture below are doing what they’re doing I love to hear about it. It remains a bit of a mystery to me as they appeared to be swimming upstream to the base of the dam just for the fun of it. Perhaps they were trying to stay warm or there may have been some type of food in the water. We have observed ducks swimming against the current at other times and in other parts of the river which seems odd when they have the option of conserving energy by staying in the slack water near shore.

(click on the images for a better view)

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Mallards just below the Griggs Reservoir Dam.

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Like a few days ago more Goldeneyes were seen.

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Male Common Goldeneyes, study 1

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Male and female Goldeneyes, study 2

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Goldeneyes, study 3

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.   .   .   and we also saw Hooded Mergansers.

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Female Hooded Mergansers, study 1

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Male and female Hooded Mergansers, study 2

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Hooded Mergansers, study 3

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There were also a few Black ducks.

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Black Ducks

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While I was looking for waterfowl my wife snuck off and got some nice lichen and fungi shots.

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Jelly Ear fungi, (Donna)

Lichen Close-up 011215 Griggs south cp1

Lichen with fruiting bodies, (Donna)

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Moss and lichen, (Donna)

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While no photos of Brown Creepers and Golden-crown Kinglets were forthcoming the Blue birds did cooperate.

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The unbelievable blue of a Bluebird, (Donna)

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Bluebird, study 2

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I had some fun getting the auto focus to thread through the branches to get this interesting picture of a Great Blue Heron.

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Great Blue Heron

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Thanks for looking in.

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