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).

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A female sneaks in.

xxxx

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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.

 

A Spring Day At Magee Marsh

It was mid morning, sunny, the gentle lake breeze was cool, but warmed by the sun we felt energized. That was a good thing because the two and a half hour drive from Columbus had left us feeling just a little lethargic. It was our annual visit to Maggee Marsh in search of migrating warblers and we had just arrived at the parking lot adjacent to the boardwalk. Once in the refuge, located along the south shore of Lake Erie, we had made our way toward the lake on a very straight two lane road bordered by wetlands. On the ground and overhead a welcoming committee of more than the usual number of Great Egrets, a generous smattering of Great Blue Herons, a Snowy Egret, as well some of the other usual suspects, had greeted us. Near the lake, high in a Cottonwood, an active eagle’s nest could be seen. It felt like it was going to be a good day in birders paradise!

One of many Great Egrets seen.

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On this particular morning, as I hoisted my heavy camera over my shoulder, I couldn’t help thinking it would be nice to enlist all my senses and just be there with only binoculars in hand. But you never know what might be seen so better take the camera. After all, it’s a tool that does allow one to better tell stories and that’s good. However, when it’s pressed against my face I’m removed from the experience I seek to capture, caught up in the details (see PS: below) of taking a reasonable photograph of an object that refuses to sit still among what seems like an infinite number of twigs, leaves, and branches. Sometime it might really be nice just to hang out with these little guys. Besides, it’s not like there’s a shortage of excellent photos on the web of almost any bird you could imagine. However, I’m not quite there yet, so with the camera in hand the internal debate goes on.

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In the spring the area acts as a stop off point for migrating warblers as they pause to rest and wait for a favorable wind to carry them north across the lake to summer breeding grounds. The boardwalk, right along the lake with wetlands to the south, winds it’s way through a wet low lying area with numerous tall trees, including many Cotton Woods, and plenty of bushes and other ground cover that warblers as well as other birds seem to enjoy. This makes them especially easy to see.

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In past years we’ve gotten a fairly early start and have seen birds in the morning but our experience has been that things don’t really get cranked up until the afternoon. Such was the case on this trip. After lunch a lot more birds were seen. It may have something to do with temperature as it did warm up considerably as the day progressed.

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Ruby Crowned Kinglets were everywhere. That was the case throughout the day.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Take 2.

Take 3.

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The Yellow Warblers were also hard to miss.

Yellow Warbler

Take 2.

Take 3.

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As the day went on we saw other birds. We were especially excited to see Black-throated Blue Warblers.

Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Take 2.

Take 3.

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Palm Warblers were numerous.

Palm Warbler

Take 2.

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A Cape May Warbler proved a challenge to photograph.

Cape May Warbler.

Take 2.

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One of Ohio’s most commonly seen warblers made it’s presence known.

Yellow-rumped Warbler.

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Looking more like a thrush than a warbler, it was great to see a, not often seen, Ovenbird.

Ovenbird

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We did also see a thrush.

Swainson’s Thrush, (Donna).

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Catbirds made a good showing along the boardwalk.

Catbird

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Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were also trying to get our attention.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher high in a tree, (Donna).

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A Tree Swallow was seen at it’s nesting cavity.

Tree Swallow

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White-throated Sparrows were hard to ignore in the low underbrush.

White-throated Sparrow.

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Not far from the boardwalk Solitary Sandpipers were busy foraging for food.

Solitary Sandpiper

Take 2.

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Along one of the canals, and partially hidden by low lying foliage, several Green Herons were spotted.

Tinged the green by a nearby leaf this shot captured a Green Heron waiting for lunch, (Donna).

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At the opposite end of the spectrum from the kinglets, Bald Eagles were getting on with their life.

Bald Eagle watches it’s nest, one of two in the immediate area. (Donna).

Eagle chick testing it’s wings while the other seems to be taking cover.

Exercise session over, the other chick pops up.

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Despite the grand reception as we entered the refuge, we didn’t see as many warbler species as in past years. However, there were still plenty of birds. While photographs were obviously taken, enough time was an spent listening and looking, as the fragrance of flowering bushes occasionally wafting past on the cool lake breeze, that I was there and not just behind the camera lens.

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PS: On a technical note, many of the photos taken on this trip were blurry or overexposed to the point of not being usable.  A few could be salvaged through post processing. After arriving home exposure compensation was found to be set at +1.3 EV and aperture had somehow been bumped to f13 for at least part of the time. It’s not like this is the first time I’ve taken a picture but I got lazy. Always check your settings and double check them throughout the day.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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XXX

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Should you wish, prints from various posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo.

 

 

Autumn’s Color

Usually when we think of autumn color we’re thinking about leaves but recent outings in central Ohio have revealed that in the autumn color can come in many different shapes and sizes. The pictures below celebrate things we’ve seen in the last two weeks hiking and paddling. While peak color is still about two weeks away, it’s hard not to be charmed by the splashes of color amongst the predominately green landscape.

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Exploring Alum Creek Reservoir north of the Howard Road bridge.

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The green corridor along Griggs Reservoir and the Scioto River is still providing opportunities to view migrated birds as well as local residents.

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The portrait of a Cape May warbler gets photo bombed by a pair of amorous ladybugs, Griggs Park.

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Eastern Phoebe, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Yellow-throated Warbler, Griggs Park.

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A Blue-headed Vireo makes an appearance at Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Song Sparrow, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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A pair of Northern Flickers, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Juvenile Green Heron, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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A pair of Carolina Wrens, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Female Belted Kingfisher, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Sparrows going for a swim, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

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.   .   .  and plenty of insects, spiders, and flowers too!

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Variegated Fritillary, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Monarch, Griggs Park.

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Mating Blue-fronted Dancers, Griggs Park, Donna.

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A Praying Mantis pays us a visit, (Donna).

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Calico Asters, Griggs Park.

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Corn Earworm Moth, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Wandering Glider, Griggs Park, (Donna, she wouldn’t tell me how long she waited to get this pic).

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Pearl Crescents, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Seemingly unperturbed, a Grey Hairstreak shares a small flower with a bumblebee, (Donna).

 

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Variable Orb Weaver, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Common Checkered Skipper, Griggs park, (Donna).

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Orange Sulfur, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Mudflats and logs exposed along Alum Creek due to slightly lower water levels provided an opportunity to see a few shorebirds.

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Spotted Sandpiper along Alum Creek north of the reservoir.

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Solitary Sandpiper along Alum Creek north of the reservoir.

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Alum Creek.

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The little bit of rain we’ve had recently brought out some fungi.

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Unidentified, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Non-inky Coprinus, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Witch’s Butter, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Unlike two or three weeks ago when there were Ospreys everywhere, when we paddling the north end of Alum Creek Reservoir last Thursday none were seen.  However, there were a lot of cormorants and gulls.

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Along the shore of Alum Creek Reservoir.

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A Doubled Crested Cormorant takes flight as we paddle north on Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna).

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Looking for Ospreys, Alum Creek Reservoir.

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Along Alum Creek

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As if sensing the warm weather won’t last forever .   .   .

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Basking in the morning sun, Griggs Reservoir.

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The amount of insect activity we’ve seen in the last two weeks has been been truly amazing. We haven’t had our first frost yet so I’m sure a lot will change once that happens. Meanwhile we’ll continue to enjoy. Thanks for stopping by.

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Early autumn on Griggs Reservoir.

xxx

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

 

 

Late Summer Magic; Insects and Fall Warblers

Late August isn’t usually when I think of seeing fall warblers in central Ohio. Although I’m sure that’s the result of a certain level of ignorance on my part. So not really expecting the warblers this early, most of our efforts in recent days have been spent looking for, and enjoying, the “bugs” that currently seem to be in their prime. What started as a way to say curious during the summer doldrums has now become a real goal of our explorations.

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Whether a spider, butterfly, moth, bee, or dragonfly their unique beauty and behavior, so unlike our own, takes us into a truly different world.  Fascinating as they are I wouldn’t want to return “in the next life” as an insect. The dragonfly is too efficient and maneuverable a flying machine bringing a quick end to anything flying nearby that it considers a meal. The life cycle of many wasps requires that caterpillars become live hosts for their larva. A convenient meal for the future wasps but undoubtedly not a pleasant experience for the caterpillar.  A garden spider quickly dispatches and gift wraps a careless fly in silk for later consumption. And just when you think your the biggest, baddest, “bug” around, a bird comes along. I could go on but it is sufficient to say, it’s not for me.

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Praying Mantis in our backyard garden. They’ve been observed catching unsuspecting humming birds that get a little too close.

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A closer look, this is one insect that has no trouble holding on to it’s meal!

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Iron weed and a Clouded Sulfur, flowers upon flowers, north end of Griggs Reservoir.

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Wasps making baby wasps, Prairie Oaks Metro Parks.

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Pelecinid Wasp, Prairie Oaks Metro Park

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Monarch, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

 

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Question Mark, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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Spotted Orbweaver, Griggs Park

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Triangle-bearing Orbweaver (very small), Griggs Park

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Very small Mayfly close to the water, Griggs Park

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Funnel Weaver Grass Spider, (Donna)

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Bumble bee, (Donna).

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Overhead view of a Katydid, (Donna)

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Walnut Caterpillar, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna)

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Marbled Orbweaver, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna)

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Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna)

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Unidentified fly, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Mayfly, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Grasshopper, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Spotted Orb Weaver (underside), Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Variegated Fritillary, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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It’s not as if there haven’t been birds around. Sometimes, in our quest for insects, we get so engaged in looking down we forget to look up! The Osprey was discovered as we were looking for warblers and provided many great poses as he devoured a fish just two of which are shown below.

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Osprey with fish, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

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Take two.

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Northern Flicker, finally managed to get an image which shows off most of it’s distinctive markings, Kiwanis Riverway Park

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Great Crested Flycatcher, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

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Red-bellied Woodpeckers, adult and immature, Griggs Park

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Great Blue Heron and nest, north end of Griggs Reservoir. This is special because it’s the first nest I’ve noticed at that area in some time.

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.   .   .  and then there were the warblers, always more seen than successfully photographed.

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Black and White, Griggs Park

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Yellow-throated, Griggs Park.

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American Redstart, 1st year, Griggs Park.

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From a different angle, (Donna)

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Cape May, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Immature Red-eyed Vireo, Griggs Park

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When in nature take a moment to enjoy the whole, allowing yourself just to be.

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Kiwanis Riverway Park.

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With the fall migration just getting started we’re looking forward to what will be seen in the coming weeks.

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Thanks for stopping by.

What We Saw After We Didn’t See The Kirtlands Warbler

The report was that a Kirtlands Warbler had been seen at Highbanks Metro Park. There were even pictures on the Central Ohio Birders Facebook page.  We don’t usually chase birds but this one wasn’t far from home. Besides, if we weren’t successful in finding it, High Banks, with it’s many nice trails, would be a great place for a hike.

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Stream, High Banks Metro Park

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Well, as the title of this post indicates, we didn’t see the Kirtlands Warbler, but not wanting to waste a good day, we set off to see what else we could find.

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It was a great day to be in the woods. New green was everywhere. It was quiet except for birds calling, now harder to see with leaves almost fully out. The earth dampened by a recent rain, as well as the flowering plants, released the scent of spring.

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Not far down the trail:

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Berries will soon be on their way.

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Daisy Fleabane

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Sassafras Leaves

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Jelly Ear Fungus

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Common Split Gill that has aged a bit. (Based on input from a mushroom expert.)

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Witches’ Butter

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Sensitive Fern

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As the air started to warm more insects were about:

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Tiger Beetle and female Common Whitetail

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A closer look at the Tiger Beetle

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Golden-backed Snipe Fly

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Duskywing

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Male Zabulon Skipper

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Female Zabulon Skipper

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Silver Spotted Skipper

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Pearl Crescent

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While not the Kirtlands Warbler, we did see a few birds.

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Summer Tanager in a treetop. Too far away for a good pic.

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A Cape May Warbler (F) checks us out.

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Female Bluebird.

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Indigo Bunting

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By hikes end, the day had given so much we’d pretty much forgotten about the warbler.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Super Zooms Visit Magee Marsh

Last Wednesday May 13th we found ourselves at Magee March celebrating spring migration with some of our closest feathered friends. This post is about birds seen that we were able to photograph with relatively inexpensive super zoom cameras. We thought it would be fun to leave the “bird cameras” at home and see how we would fair trying to get a few shots using the popular constant aperture super zoom from Panasonic. Since we can never anticipate what the bird is going to do, and to increase our chances of getting a usable image, we always shoot in burst mode. So we hope you enjoy our little adventure. Some shots are okay, some good, and some even better.

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All things being equal, for very erratic fast moving subjects, a small, light, maneuverable camera wins the day. All things are not equal. In lower light or difficult lighting conditions, a good DSLR will focus faster and more accurately. Also, due to it’s larger sensor will generally produce better images if paired with a good lens. However, to reiterate a statement we’ve all heard, the best camera is the one you have with you.

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One can write an epistle about camera equipment for birding but some questions the selection process should address are:

– What do I intend to use the resultant photos for? The tradeoffs involved in getting the highest quality image with the most creative control may not be worth it. Sometimes good is good enough.

– Am I a birder that would like to get a few “memory shots” and not too concerned about whether or not I get an image of every bird?

– Am I a photographer that loves the challenge of getting the best images of the most birds possible on any given day?

– How much equipment do I feel like carrying?

– How much do I feel comfortable spending?

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To give you an idea of how much cropping and post processing was done, “as shot” and “final” images have been included to highlight some of the more challenging situations. To keep it simple all images were shot as jpeg’s.

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To the pictures:

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Bay Breasted

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Bay Breasted, (cropped)

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Bay Breasted, (cropped)

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Bay Breasted female, (cropped), (Donna)

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Cape May, (cropped)

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Cape May

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Cape May (cropped)

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Northern Parula, (cropped)

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Take two, (cropped), (Donna)

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Blackburnian

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Blackburnian (cropped)

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Blackburnian, (the best of the day just slightly cropped), (Donna)

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Palm

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Palm, (cropped)

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Yellow, (cropped)

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Blackpoll Warbler original file 1

Blackpoll, (Donna)

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Blackpole, (cropped)

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Kingbird

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Kingbird, (cropped)

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House Wren, (cropped)

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Tennessee, (corrected per reader input), (cropped), (Donna)

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Tennessee, (corrected per reader input), (cropped)

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Great Egret, (cropped)

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Baltimore Oriole, (very low light, cropped)

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Red Wing Blackbird

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Thanks for stopping by.

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The warblers are coming, the warblers are . . .

Earlier this week we did another long paddle on Griggs Reservoir with the hope of seeing a Mink. We were encouraged by the fact that on two previous paddles we had seen them. I even brought my “Bird Camera” with the hopes of getting a decent picture. There is a lot of luck involved in getting a decent picture because unless they’re munching on something like a crayfish or similar delicacy they seldom stop moving.

With a slight wind at our back we had a pleasant paddle north following the shoreline of the long narrow reservoir. We did manage to see a Mink but true to form it left us no time for a picture. A little further north an Osprey was more cooperative.

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Osprey, north end of Griggs Reservoir

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It wasn’t too long before we reached the northernmost point of our paddle, a place we affectionately call the “Wetland Areas” because of their propensity to flood during high water. Their attraction is the fact that they’re usually a great place for viewing birds, insects, and other wildlife, as well as an excellent place to see wildflowers. In a secluded area I was able to get a shot of a group of immature Wood Ducks.

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Immature Wood Ducks, north end of Griggs Reservoir

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We beached the canoe and my wife took off in search for wild flowers while I tried unsuccessfully to catch a fish. While there we had hopped to see a few more birds, perhaps migrating warblers, or maybe even a Mink, but no such luck.

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Red flowering plant, north end of Griggs Reservoir, (Donna)

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Monkey Flower, north end of Griggs Reservoir, (Donna)

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Arrowhead, north end of Griggs Reservoir

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Wild Mint, north end of Griggs Reservoir, (Donna)

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The wind was picking up out of the south so we reluctantly decided to start back before things got too “interesting”. We do a fair amount of cycling and often compare it to paddling. One gives you a good upper body workout and the other is great of your legs and lower body. But in the “doing” there is one big difference if you stop pedaling you just stop. If you stop paddling with the wind in your face you start going the wrong way! Hugging the shoreline as much as possible to stay out of the wind we made it back to our launch area without too much trouble.

But wouldn’t you just know it, near the end of our five mile return paddle, tired as we were, hugging the the wooded shore rewarded us with the sighted of an interesting bird! We entered a cove to investigate as a Black Crowned Night Heron watched from a distance. While I controlled the canoe my wife was able to get some serviceable pictures. How exciting, it wasn’t the a Mink but instead our first fall warblers of the year!

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Black-throated Blue Warbler, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna)

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Wilsons Warbler, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna)

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Wilsons Warbler, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna)

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Fired up by our brief encounter with the warblers we spent the next few days exploring several areas along the Scioto River and were able to get more shots of birds, migrating or otherwise.

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Female Rose Breasted Grosbeak, north end of Griggs Reservoir

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Adult Solitary Sandpipers, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Downy Woodpecker, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Solitary Sandpiper, immature, Scioto River below Griggs Reservoir

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Eastern Wood-Pewee, just below the Griggs Reservoir Dam

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Female American Redstart, just below the Griggs Reservoir Dam

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Catbird, immature, Griggs Park

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Female and immature male Mallard Ducks, Griggs Reservoir

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Coopers Hawk, immature, Griggs Park

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Cape May Warbler, just below the Griggs Reservoir Dam

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Gold Finch feeding young, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

Feeding time best 3 091714 Griggs cp1

Goldfinch, study 2, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna)

Feeding time best 2 091714 Griggs cp1

Goldfinch, study 3, (Donna)

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.   .   .   as will as pictures of a few other interesting subjects.

Squirrel head on 091714 Griggs north cp1

Curious Squirrel, Griggs Park, (Donna)

IMG_6984 (2)

Water’s edge, Griggs Park

IMG_6980

Milkweed bugs, Griggs Park

IMG_6989 (2)

Sunflower, Griggs Park

IMG_3993fix

Buckeye, Griggs Park

Great Spangled Fritillary 091714 Griggs north cp1

Great Spangled Fritillary, north end of Griggs Reservoir, (Donna)

Clouded Sulpher on asters 091714 Griggs N. cp1

Clouded Sulfur, north end of Griggs Reservoir, (Donna)

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