Jeepers Brown Creepers

Less than a week ago, after returning from a trip south to visit relatives in the sunny and warm state of Georgia, it was still in the sixties here in central Ohio and we were on our tandem bicycle enjoying a ride. Two days later it was windy with temps in the thirties dropping into the twenties at night. As a result autumn colors that entranced are now gone, replaced by a more subtle beauty.

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With the departure of most of the warblers to points further south we started looking more intently for other birds that seem to be more noticeable in the winter when on our walks along the Scioto River. These include Brown Creepers and Golden Crowned Kinglets some of which may travel from areas further north. Noteworthy is the Dark Eyed Junco which arrives from further north and seems to do well in in our area most winters.

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Thin layers of ice have greeted us during recent morning walks.

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Scioto River below Griggs Dam

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A couple of days ago we were about to embark on one of our urban hikes and noticed something in our neighbor’s shrub. I ran back into the house a grabbed a camera.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet, study 1

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Kinglet, study 2

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Where there are Golden-crowned Kinglets there are often Chickadees.

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Chickadee

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Chickadee, study 2

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Chickadee, study 3

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There was a little more color along the river just a week ago.

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Scioto River below Griggs Dam

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But depending on which way you pointed the camera the light could be pretty harsh.

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Looking south below Griggs Dam.

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A low sun illuminates the landscape, Scioto River.

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It’s probably been two or three weeks since we saw our first Junco.

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Dark Eyed Junco, study 1

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Junco, study 2, (Donna)

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More recently, study 3

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A Kingfisher waits patently along the river. While too far away for a good picture of the bird I thought the play of light on the branches and the hints of color in the background made for a pleasing composition.

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Kingfisher along the Sciotoj

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The ever present Great Blue Herons along the Scioto below Griggs Dam.

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Great Blue Heron along the Scioto River

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Sensing my presence.

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As we looked for kinglets and creepers we were being watched from across the river.

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Red Tailed Hawks along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Trying to get a little closer I was spotted

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Our first Black Duck sighting of the season.

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A little too far away but they are Black Ducks, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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While I was busy with the ducks my wife got a nice shot of a colorful House Finch that was nearby.

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A male House Finch close to the ground in vegetation that’s still green, (Donna)

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But jeepers better not forget the creepers.

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Brown Creeper along the Scioto, study 1

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Creeper, study 2

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Creeper, study 3

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Creeper, study 4

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Until next time we hope you have an opportunity to notice and enjoy nature in your neighborhood.

Up The Creek

We decided to paddle up Paint Creek with the hope of documenting some of the beautiful scenery along it’s banks. As creeks go, it’s one of the best in Ohio.

Paint Creek Reservoir is located in Paint Creek State Park. The park is located south of Columbus in the gently rolling hills that occupy that part of the state. Two rivers feed the reservoir, Rattlesnake and Paint Creek. Of the two, we feel that a paddle up Paint Creek is the better option. The bluffs and cliffs along it’s banks make you wonder if you’re really in Ohio. It is also possible to paddle quite a bit further than on Rattlesnake Creek making for a better day trip. As you head north, the shoreline with bushes and trees at waters edge, is usually good for seeing many types of birds from tanagers to eagles. Lower water at certain times of the year produces mudflats that are excellent for viewing shore birds and the many logs along the shore make it a great place to see turtles and water snakes. Once you’re up the creek far enough to be in the current a few casts will usually produces a large or smallmouth bass or maybe a nice pan fish.

Light is what photographers paint with and on the day we were out it was less than ideal. At times it was almost dreary and threatening rain while at others piercing sun light would illuminate a portion of the landscape while leaving the rest in the dark. But we try to be philosophical about such things, so the pictures that follow hopefully capture some of the unique beauty of the place as it was on that day.

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Route map, Paint Creek Reservoir is quite large so this shows only a small portion.

 

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Heading north into Paint Creek

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The bluffs.

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Louisiana Water Thrush along the shore

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On a cool morning this Common Water Snake tries to warm up.

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A small island in the reservoir.

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A Killdeer on the mud flats.

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A Solitary Sandpiper near the mud flats

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Logs along the shore are a great place for Map and Spiny Soft Shell Turtles.

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Along waters edge, a Black Swallowtail on a Button Bush.

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Photographing rock formations.

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In many places the cliffs plunge straight into the reservoir.

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A Green Heron poses in a small cove.

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Take two.

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An intimate place, maybe there’s a picture.

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What she saw. (Donna)

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As far north as we could go in the canoe. Time for lunch.

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Pulled out on a sand bar, Paint Creek

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Very small moth.

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A damselfly makes friends with Donna.

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Colorful fungus along water’s edge

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Exploring.

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A few casts and Bob had a bass. (Donna)

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What to do? bird or fish! (Donna)

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Paint Creek

 

 

 

 

 

Too Many Ospreys To Count

Recently we decided the paddle the north end of Alum Creek Reservoir. To get started we put in at the Howard Rd launch and headed north. Early in the year we can expect to see both migrating and breeding warblers along the shore. In late July, from all we can tell, the warblers are no longer present. If they are, they’re being real quite.  So what would we see? Since it was a beautiful day, cool temperatures and a light wind, it didn’t matter too much. It was a great day for a paddle.

As we made our way up the reservoir we did manage to see Spotted Sandpipers, Green Herons, Cormorants, Kingfishers, Terns, Great Blue Herons, Hummingbirds, Peewee’s, Phoebe’s, a Bald Eagle and even a Yellow Billed Cuckoo. Not bad! However, the real star’s of the day were all the Osprey’s. The nesting platforms at the north end of Alum Creek Reservoir were very successful this year. There were too many birds to count!

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The route.

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Bluffs overlooking north end Alum Creek Reservoir

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Spotted Sandpiper near the bluffs, Alum Creek Reservoir

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Cormorants, Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna)

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Alum Creek, submerged tree.

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Quite a few Eastern Amber wings were out, (Donna)

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Eastern Comma, looking a little tired.

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Large Wolf Spider along the shore, Alum Creek Reservoir

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Cliff along Alum Creek where it flows into the reservoir.

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Kingfisher perched along the cliff.

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Osprey, north end of Alum Creek Reservoir

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Osprey, north end of Alum Creek Reservoir, study 2

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Osprey, north end of Alum Creek Reservoir, study 3

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Sandbar on Alum Creek, as far up the river as we could paddle.

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Alum Creek

 

 

Searching for Warblers by Canoe

This morning we decided to canoe the shoreline of Alum Creek Reservoir and look for warblers. After it leafs out, we’ve found this to be a great way to see birds while enjoying a day on the water.. When hiking a trail through the woods your line of sight can become very limited as the season progresses but paddling a shoreline can provide an unobstructed view of  the trees and brush as the birds move in and out of view.

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It was a beautiful cool clear day, a little windy but the blue sky was dotted with puffy white clouds. The excitement started before we even got into the canoe with the unusual sighting of two deer swimming across a rather wide part of the reservoir.

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Below is a map of our route of about six and one half miles:

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Alum Creek Reservoir Paddling Route

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Exploring the many coves is a big part of the draw. Sometimes we’re able to beach the boat and explore on foot:

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Pullout, Alum Creek Reservoir

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Exploring on foot, Alum Creek Reservoir

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Pond, Alum Creek Reservoir

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Is wasn’t long before we spotted Yellow Warblers which nest in the area and are fairly common this time of the year:

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Yellow Warbler, Alum Creek Reservoir, study 1, (Donna)

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Yellow Warbler, Alum Creek Reservoir, study 2

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Yellow Warbler, Alum Creek Reservoir, study 3

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Sometimes it’s just about enjoying a beautiful secluded cove:

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Cove, Alum Creek Reservoir

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There were other birds, including Red-eyed Vireos, Wood Ducks, Green and Great Blue Herons, and Osprey, but only the following wanted their picture taken:

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Female Red-winged Blackbird, Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna)

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Eastern Wood Pewee, Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna)

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Kingbird, Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna)

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Indigo Bunting, Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna)

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.   .   .   and turtles, including Painted and Spiny Soft Shells, but only this one sat still long enough for a photo:

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Painted Turtle, Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna)

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The early spring wildflowers are giving way those found in late spring and summer:

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Dames Rocket, Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna)

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Daisy Fleabane, Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna)

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Honey Locust, Alum Creek Reservoir

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A wonderful day enjoying nature:

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Alum Creek Reservoir

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Spring Activity at O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve

A few days ago we decided to explore the Twin Lakes Area of O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve by canoe. Part of the fun is the journey so we decided to paddle from a launch point on the other side of the reservoir. As a result we had the opportunity to pass a number of lovely coves along the way. The total length of our paddle was between four and five miles.

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Cove, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, (Donna)

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We hoped to see Prothonotary Warblers which are fairly common in the Twin Lakes area this time of year. We were successful and my wife put together a nice study of one of the males.

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Prothonotary Warbler, study 1, (Donna)

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Prothonotary Warbler, study 2, (Donna)

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Prothonotary Warbler, study 3, (Donna)

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Prothonotary Warbler, study 4, (Donna)

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Prothonotary Warbler, study 5, (Donna)

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While she was busy with the warblers, I was taking a few pictures of some of the other suspects.

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King Bird

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Tree Swallow

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Tree Swallow, study 2 (Donna)

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Taking flight, (Donna)

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Recent rains had really brought out the color in some of the lichens. The brown lichen with a white fringe was one we hadn’t noticed/seen before.

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Green Lichen, (Donna)

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Brown with white fringe lichen, (Donna)

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Paddling further, my wife spotted some Pussytoes just beginning to flower along the bank.

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Pussytoes, (Donna)

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A Common Water snake kept an eye on us as we glided by.

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Common Water Snake

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And if the birds and everything else weren’t enough, heading back to our launch site we spotted the largest concentration of Spiny Soft Shell turtles that we’ve ever seen in central Ohio. While perhaps not as aggressive as the more solitary Snapping Turtle, they will bite if given a reason. On this particular day they seemed okay sharing their log with a Few Map Turtles.

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Large concentration of Spiny Soft Shells

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Map Turtles were also tolerated on the same log.

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Two large Spiny Soft Shells

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Spiny Soft Shell tolerating a small Map Turtle.

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Pretty exciting considering it all was like something we might see while visiting the Columbus Zoo which interestingly enough is only a couple of miles away.

The Fish Was Just Too Big

It’s fascinating how often something interesting happens in nature when you’re on your way to do something else. An outing recently along the Scioto below Griggs Dam was intended to be a test session after we changed some settings on my wife’s Panasonic FZ150 and Olympus E620 to improve performance in the branch infested, fast paced, world of warbler photography.

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Scioto River below Griggs Dam

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Before even starting to look for warblers we noticed a Great Blue Heron at river’s edge quite frustrated with something it was trying to eat. A closer look revealed the problem.

 

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The heron was acting strange.

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It was trying to eat a fish.

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It’s eyes might be bigger than it’s stomach.

The fish was just too big!

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Further on, Baltimore Orioles seemed to be everywhere. At one point, four males were flying circles around us as they chased each other.

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Baltimore Oriole, study 1 (Donna)

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Baltimore Oriole, study 2

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A bird was seen quietly moving around in the brush and lower trees. It turned out to be a Swainson’s Thrush. Not a bird we were looking for but exciting nonetheless.

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Swainson’s Thrush, (Donna)

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The first Red-eyed Vireos we’ve seen this year,

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Red-eyed Vireo, study 1

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Red-eyed Vireo, study 2 (Donna)

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along with our first Prothonotary Warbler.

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Prothonotary Warbler, study 1

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Prothonotary Warbler, study 2

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Prothonotary Warbler, study 3

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We finished our outing seeing warblers seen before over the few days,

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Palm Warbler

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Yellow-rumped Warbler coming in for a landing

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Yellow-rumped Warbler

 

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Yellow-throated Warbler

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along with a few other birds that call the area home all summer.

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White-breasted Nuthatch

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Northern Rough-winged Swallow

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Blue Jay, (Donna)

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Song Sparrow

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As I write this I can’t help but notice a Common Grackle at our feeder. A very beautiful but common bird that’s easy to take for granted.

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Common Grackle

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Celebrating Spring at Prairie Oaks

Recently we spent several hours at Prairie Oaks Metro Park looking for migrating warblers and other signs of spring. We were completely drawn into the moment with butterflies, wildflowers, warblers and other migrating birds surrounding us as we walked along the river. Sunlight filtering through the emerging translucent leaves creating the effect of green stained glass further setting the mood.

In addition to the pictures below a number of birds and butterflies were seen where no photograph was possible. So below is just a glimpse of what you might have seen had you walked the trails in the last few days. Some pictures turned out amazingly well and others fall into the category of “data acquisition” but they all, in their own small way, celebrate spring at Prairie Oaks.

as always you can click on and image for a better view

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At Prairie Oaks many forms of life are attracted to the river.

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The Big Darby, study 1

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Like warblers, flycatchers and other birds.

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A Baltimore Oriole watches as we head down the trail.

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Black and White Warbler, (Donna)

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A Tufted Titmouse looks for insects

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A Great Crested Flycatcher announces it’s presence with a unmistakable call.

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A Eastern Towhee peeks from behind the leaves.

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A Kingbird surveys it’s realm from a tree top.

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Blue-gray Gnatcatchers like to be around water.

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Yellow-throated Vireo

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Palm Warbler

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Yellow-throated Warbler

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Catbird, (Donna)

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Magnolia Warbler

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Warbling Vireo, study 1

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Warbling Vireo, study 2

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Nashville Warbler

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Nashville Warbler

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Constantly in motion, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet plays hide and seek.

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The smaller creeks that feed into the river are often dry by mid summer.

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Spring flow.

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Butterflies were enjoying the spring sun.

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Eastern Comma

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Painted Lady

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A pond that may also be dried up by July.

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Spring Pond

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But right now the pond is home.

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Leopard Frog in hiding.

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Water Strider

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Fungi run a very close second to wildflowers in natures beauty contest.

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Shelf Fungi, (Donna)

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Wildflowers compete for our attention.

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Wild Geraniums, (Donna)

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Phlox, (Donna)

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Dandelion along the trail.

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Buckeye leafing out, (Donna)

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The Big Darby was flowing clear.

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The Big Darby, study 2

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Translucent leaves contribute to the magic of spring.

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The springs woods at Prairie Oaks

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