Cold Weather Brings Nature Our Way

Every two or three years a period of unusually cold winter weather results in the land and water north as well as in central Ohio being covered with snow and ice for a prolonged period of time.  When this happens waterfowl and other birds that may not be able to make a living further north are forced to seek suitable habitats in our area. The result is the opportunity to see birds in locations where it would be extremely unlikely other times of the year. A gift to nature lovers courtesy of cold arctic weather.

Ice creeps out into the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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The negative to all of this is that windy 0 F to 15 F temperatures preclude the use of serious photographic equipment on long hikes. Briefly popping out of the car, if you are able to get close enough to your subject, is the only option. If one is set on doing a long hike, stuffing a smaller superzoom under your coat does work but fingers freeze almost immediately when you try to manipulate the camera.

Landscape transformed, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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A habitat that attracts birds almost at our doorstep is the open flowing water of  the Scioto River below Griggs Reservoir Dam. In the past couple of weeks we’ve been fortunate to observe a variety of waterfowl at that location. Others birds, such as Trumpeter Swans, have been reported but we’ve yet to see them. Timing is everything as the birds move up and down the river corridor. More often than not there is a least one Bald eagle present as the number of ducks and geese make for easy pickings.

Ring-necked Ducks, Scioto River below Griggs Dam, (Donna).

A closer look.

 

Crowded conditions, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

A Red-headed Duck tries to ignore a rambunctious Goldeneye, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

Male Hooded Merganser on patrol, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

This one found a crayfish. Did you know that 21 species of crayfish call Ohio home.

There were no shortage of Common Mergansers, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

Male Common Merganser

A nice group of male Common Goldeneyes, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

A little closer.

Three Goldeneyes pose, (Donna).

Canvasback a little too far away for a decent pic, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

Mute Swan, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

Cackling Geese, shot is courtesy of our follow birding friend Ed, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

This buck seemed confused about the best place to relax. We thought it might be sick or injured but the next time we checked it was gone, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

Red-headed Ducks, Scioto River below Griggs Dam, (Donna).

Amazingly, Great Blue Herons continue to make a living along the Scioto.

There is often at least one Bald Eagle observing the activity along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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It’s also been a good year for Snowy Owls in Ohio with numerous birds being reported. The mechanism for that invasion, while perhaps partly due to the weather, also is the result of the past breeding season being a good one resulting in young owls looking for new hunting grounds further south as the increased population puts pressure on resources further north. Other birds such as Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs, to a greater or lesser degree, find their way into Ohio from further north during most winters.

Along farm fields not far from our home a roadside spill of corn attracted Horned Larks, a real treat to see. “The barer the ground, the more Horned Larks like it. Look for them in open country with very short or no vegetation, including bare agricultural fields. They breed in short grassland, short-stature sage shrubland, desert, and even alpine and arctic tundra.” Ref: Cornell Lab.

Take 2.

At the same location, at first looking like some type of sparrow, was a Lapland Longspur, another first for us! They are a common songbird of the Arctic tundra, and winter in open fields across much of the US and southern Canada.

Take 2, (Donna).

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Other creatures have also been braving the cold.

Not far from the concentration of waterfowl on Scioto River this Fox Squirrel was trying to warm up in the 10F sunshine, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Nearby an immature Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was also spotted, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Take 2, (Donna).

Our friend Ed told us about two Eastern screech owls located not far from Griggs Reservoir Park and was kind enough to send some pics our way.

. . . and a red morph, Ed.

Ed and Bob, photo courtesy of Sheila.

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Returning home after a recent outing we were treated to some interesting bird activity right in our front yard.

Dark-eyed Junco. “Dark-eyed Juncos breed in forests across much of North America and at elevations ranging from sea level to more than 11,000 feet. They are often found in coniferous forests including pine, Douglas-fir, spruce, and fir, but also in deciduous forests such as aspen, cottonwood, oak, maple, and hickory. During winter and on migration they use a wider variety of habitats including open woodlands, fields, roadsides, parks, and gardens.” Ref: Cornell Lab.

Competing with a Gray squirrel for goodies.

The chickadees love the sweetgum tree.

And so do the goldfinches.

A female Downy Woodpecker also takes advantage of the front yard feeders.

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We feel very blessed to have so many fascinating creatures paying us a visit this winter. A very warm coat, that didn’t get worn once last winter, has come in very handy the last few days as we’ve been out and about. Today, as I finish writing this, the temperature is a balmy 35F. Time to get out and see what else we can find!

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Finally, one of the joys of being a lover of nature is meeting kindred spirits like Ed and Sheila when out in the field. Ed, thanks again for supplying the pics!

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Flowing water and extremely cold temperatures create ice pancakes along the Scioto.

Visitors from The Frozen North

February in Ohio has left us shivering. The abnormally cold weather has resulted in frozen lakes and reservoirs both here and further north. The open water that remains provides refuge to waterfowl that would normally be much more dispersed. One such area is the Scioto River below Griggs Reservoir.

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Below is a partial photographic inventory of the birds seen there in the last day. Some, such as the Common Golden Eye and Hooded Merganser, are fairly common winter visitors. Others are less so, and because of that they are a real treat to see.

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Common Goldeneyes and Ring-necked Ducks cruise the opposite shore, Scioto River below Griggs.

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Red-breasted Mergansers join the Goldeneyes.

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A parade of Goldeyes.

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Safety in numbers.

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What appears to be a lone Western X Glaucous-winged hybrid.

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Lesser Scaup

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Common Mergansers almost avoiding the camera.

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Common Mergansers

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Surrounded by Canada Geese

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Great Blue Herons not wanting to have their picture taken.

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A Red-breasted Merganser tries to fit in.

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A pair of Canvas Backs, a Black Duck, and a female Bufflehead almost go unnoticed.

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We often think of there being less biodiversity in winter but the Scioto River below Griggs dam opens our eyes. Thanks for looking in.

 

Looking for Birds But Not Warblers

It’s late March in central Ohio and the last few days we’ve occupied ourselves looking for whatever birds we could find. Rather than travelling far afield, we’ve enjoyed staying close to home and discovering all that we can along the Scioto River and Griggs and O’Shaughnessy Reservoirs. The early spring warblers haven’t yet started moving through in any appreciable numbers so what are we seeing?

A few days ago while patrolling the Griggs Park for Loons we came across a immature Bald Eagle being harassed by crows. Unfortunately, by the time the camera was ready for action, the eagle decided it had had enough of the crows and was flying off.

click on images for a better view

 

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Immature Bald Eagle, Griggs Park

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Immature Bald Eagle saying goodbye to the crows, Griggs Park

 

Not long after that we saw our first Great Egret of the year.

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Great Egret, Griggs Reservoir

Double-crested Cormorants have also just arrived.

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Double-crested Cormorants conversing, Griggs Reservoir

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A short conversation, Double-crested Cormorants, Griggs Reservoir

While I was busy taking pictures of birds that were either too far away or moving too fast for a really great picture, my wife got lovely pictures of a Downey Woodpecker and a Great Blue Heron.

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Downy Woodpecker, Griggs Park (Donna)

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Great Blue Heron, Griggs Park, (Donna)

 

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Gulls enjoying the warm sun on a cool spring day, Griggs Reservoir

Today, driving north along O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, we were fortunate to see Canvasbacks and there were even some other “bonus ducks” in the mix. However, the birds being pretty far from shore resulted in images that are not of the highest quality.

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Hooded Mergansers making a getaway, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Hooded Mergansers take flight, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Canvasbacks, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Ring-necked Ducks, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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American Coots, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Greater Scaups, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Canvasbacks, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

Finally, the latest addition to my birding equipment is the “Bird Bike”. It allows more ground to be covered but when something of interest is spotted it’s easy to stop and hop off.

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Bird Bike

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