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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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!


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!


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

A Spring Gift Along The Reservoir

This post covers some of the birds as well as other things that have been seen along the Scioto River corridor in central Ohio in the past few days. Many of the birds seen will continue their migratory journey further north. It’s a magical time of year as green spaces, especially those along lakes and rivers, are transformed by the sights and sounds of birds perhaps not seen other times of the year.


Some birding days are better than others. In the spring a strong wind from the north usually means more birds. A wind from the south seems to send them on their way. All the birds may seem to be in the treetops one day while the next they’re at eye level making an impossible subject easy to photograph. While no one can guarantee what will be seen, even an inexpensive pair of binoculars will greatly increase your chances of seeing birds allowing you to enter their world and appreciate creatures with such unique beauty that it’s sometimes hard to believe.


Everyone has their own way of appreciating nature, while we do make a point of traveling to more distant locations, we try to concentrate on a few areas close to home, observing the changes as the year progresses. A benefit of visiting a “favorite spot” often is that one is blessed with a sense of ownership, not in a possessive sense, but rather as a caring participant. A litter bag is always part of our equipment as it’s especially hard to walk by litter after one has just seen a Scarlet Tanager. The real plus is that through listening, looking (perhaps taking a picture), and allowing myself to be in the place, I’m extended beyond myself to a larger whole. Through this experience, which I once heard referred to as “a prayer”, I become richer and more grateful.


Griggs Park along the reservoir.


A few days ago my wife was looking for warblers right along the river as I did likewise along a some trees a little further away from the water.  She was paying attention to the low lying brush at water’s edge when she decided to look up into the overhead tree branches and found herself confronting a much larger bird.

Bald Eagle along the Scioto River just below the Griggs Reservoir Dam, it didn’t stay long .   .   .

before it flew across the river .   .   .

to a safer perch. (Donna).


Out of the corner of my eye I did see the eagle as it flew by but right in front of me there was a Great Crested Flycatcher. What to do, a flycatcher in the bush or a flying eagle. I chose the bird in the bush.

Great-created Flycatcher along the Scioto River just below Griggs Reservoir Dam..

Take 2.


Warblers are surprisingly small when compared to the Great Created Flycatcher but make up for their size in quantity. Many, including Cape May and Yellow-rumped, continue to be seen.

Black and White warbler, Emily Traphagen Park.

Take 2.

Male American Redstart, Griggs Park, (Donna).

Take 2, (Donna).

Redstart with mayfly, Griggs Park.


It’s hard to ignore the orioles which continue to be very common. Right now there are so many in Griggs Park that it’s quite possible that only a few will nest here with the remainder heading further north.

Male Baltimore Oriole, Griggs Park.

Female Baltimore Oriole, Griggs Park.


It was a real treat to see our first Cedar waxwings of the year.

Cedar Waxwings, they handed the berry back and forth several times. Griggs Park.

Cedar Waxwings, Griggs Park, (Donna).


Red-eyed Vireos are often spotted in dense treetop leaf cover but every once in a while they come down so we can get a better look.

Red-eyed Vireo, Griggs Park.


An Acadian Flycatcher was also seen.

Acadian Flycatcher? Griggs Park.


We first spotted a streak of white, black, and red. Open landing the Rose Breasted Grosbeak played hide and seek as it chowed down on what were apparently very tasty seeds.

Rose Breasted Grosbeak, Griggs Park.


Another bird seen only during spring migration is the Scarlet Tanager.

Scarlet Tanager, Griggs Park.

Just a minute.

There, that’s better.


Morning sun and leaves, Griggs Park.


The Swainson’s Thrush is usually only seen during migration.

Swainson’s Thrushes were everywhere in Griggs Park.


Our first Kingbird of the year along Griggs Reservoir. Some will stick around to nest in the park.

Kingbird, Griggs Park, (Donna).


We also noticed a few “non-bird” type things.

Immature male Common Whitetail, Emily Traphagen Park.

False Solomon’s Seal, Griggs Park, (Donna).

Female Black Swallowtail, Emily Traphagen Park, (Donna).

The Northern Water snake orgy goes on, see previous post, (Donna).

A Woodchuck tries to blend in, Griggs Park.

Wild Columbine, Emily Traphagen Park, (Donna). This photo was inspired by one of our birding friends.

A chipmunk poses, Duranceaux Park.

Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, Emily Traphagen Park, (Donna).

Zebulon Skipper, Emily Traphagen Park. (Donna).


We can’t forget all the other birds seen in the past week. Many of these are year round or summer residents.

A very noisy Winter Wren, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

Eastern Phoebe, Griggs Park.

Hidden in the leaf cover an immature Eastern Phoebe waits for it’s next meal, Duranceaux Park.

Blue Jays continue to be industrious, Griggs Park.

Red-bellied Woodpecker looks for a meal in Emily Traphagen Park.

The beautiful marking of a Northern Flicker are clearly seen as it briefly pauses overhead, Griggs Park.

Carolina Chickadee, Griggs Park.

Great Blue Heron, Griggs Park, (Donna).

Hairy Woodpecker, Griggs Park.

Easy eats may be why we’ve seen so many Great Egrets along the reservoir and river this spring, (Donna).

Great Egrets, Griggs Park


With spring in full swing, there’s almost too much is going on, but we hope everyone enjoyed this photographic celebration of spring in central Ohio.

Griggs Reservoir Cove, Griggs Park, (Donna).


Thanks for stopping by.




Should you wish, prints from various posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo. If you don’t find it on the link drop us a line.

It’s Spring and Love Is In The Air

In recent days we’ve made a number of trips to areas along Griggs Reservoir and the Scioto River not far from our home. It’s spring migration and the challenge is to see how many migrating birds we can spot right in our “neighborhood”. At some point we may change our emphasis and increase the number of trips we take to more distant birding locations, but for now we’re having fun concentrating on places close to home.


To date the most numerous warblers seen are the Palm and Yellow-rumped. While the Yellow-rumped is very common, with more subtle markings than many of it’s peers, I never tire of finding new beauty when I look at one. At Griggs Park the Baltimore Oriole is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Connecting trees with bright sunlit streaks of orange the males seem to be everywhere.  Should an oriole or other bird not be close by, it’s easy to find other things to appreciate this time of year.

The boardwalk at Kiwanis Riverway Park. One of our favorite birding spots. The water level was very high when this shot was taken.


When we arrive to photograph birds we sometimes find them “still getting ready”,

Male Baltimore Oriole, Griggs Park.

“Okay, I’m ready!”

“There’s just this one pesky feather that won’t stay in place,” Palm Warbler, Griggs Park.

“Okay, how do I look?”


some may be busy doing other things,

A female Baltimore Oriole appears to be trying to build a nest out of monofilament fishing line in Griggs Park. We try to pick up lost or discarded fishing line and tackle whenever we see it.

Robin on nest, Griggs Park.

Mother Mallard tries to keep track of her charges, Griggs Park.


while most are usually ready when we get there,

American Robin, Griggs Park.


Severely back lit, an illusive Black and White Warbler taxes the capabilities of the camera.

Take 2.

The Yellow Warbler is cute from any angle, Griggs Park.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Griggs Park.

A better look at the unique crest on the Yellow-rumps head.

Male Bluebird, Griggs Park.

Female Bluebird, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

Chipping Sparrow, Griggs Park.

Downy Woodpecker, Griggs Park.

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Griggs Park.

House Wren, Griggs Park.

Tree Swallow, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

A Red-eyed Vireo ducts behind a small tree, Griggs Park.

Yellow-throated Warblers are often heard. Finding them is more difficult. Griggs Park.

It appears that this Chickadee has been spending entirely too much time with it’s Tufted Titmouse friends, Griggs Park.

Seeing this White-crowned Sparrow was a real treat, Griggs Park. “White-crowned Sparrows typically breed in the far north in open or shrubby habitats, including tundra, high alpine meadows, and forest edges. Patches of bare ground and grasses are important characteristics. During winter and on migration these birds frequent thickets, .   .   . “, from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Black-throated blue Warbler, Kiwanis Riverway Park.


but a few are just trying to get away.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Griggs Park.


Other birds were engaged in finding a find a dry perch, made all the more challenging by recent heavy rains.

In the company of friends a Great Blue Heron looks on as the very high Scioto River races by.

In recent days Great Egrets seem to be everywhere along both the reservoir and river, Griggs Park.

Out on the reservoir a Great Blue Heron floats by on a tree branch.


<<< >>>


Many flowers have undoubtedly benefitting from the recent rain.

Stumped again, the flower of a small unidentified flowering tree or bush. Is it a garden escapee?

Fleabane, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

The flower of the Tulip Tree. Native to eastern North America from southern Ontario and Illinois eastward to Massachusetts and Rhode Island and south to central Florida and Louisiana, Tulip Trees can grow to more than 160 ft in virgin cove forests of the Appalachian Mountains. (Wikipedia)

Non-native Butterweed, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

Large flowered Valerian, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

Hobblebush, Kiwanis Riverway Park


You never know what might be hiding next to a flower.

A large female Fishing Spider, Griggs Park.


Heading back to the car at the end of one outing, my sharp eyed wife spotted three Northern Water Snakes celebrating the season. The males are quite a bit smaller than the female. These snakes are fairly common along the river and reservoir. However, unlike the various species of turtles which always seem to be around, they aren’t often seen so it was a real treat to see them!

Large female with two smaller male Northern Water Snakes, Griggs Park. They mate from April through June and do not lay eggs like many other snakes. Instead, the mother carries the eggs inside her body and gives birth to free living young and may have as many as thirty at a time, but the average is eight. They are born between August and October. Mothers do not care for their young; as soon as they are born, they are on their own. (Wikipedia)

The males were in competition for the female’s affection.

The larger male seems to have won, at least momentarily.

A tangle of tails.


After missing shots of numerous fast moving warblers and the recent challenge when I tried to capture the Black and White, I’ve decided to upgrade my otherwise excellent Canon 60D camera body to a Canon 80D. For the time being the bird camera lens will continue be a Sigma 150-500mm. Future posts will reveal how well it all works out. Thanks for stopping by.


PS: As is often the case, Molly Cat sat watching intently as I finished this blog. I’m glad I’m not a mouse!

Molly Cat



Should you wish, prints from various posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo. If you don’t find it on the link drop us a line.



Bees and Blue Jays

It started with report of sightings at other nearby locations so we thought we’d check out Griggs Park to see if we could spot any Yellow-throated Warblers. Sure enough there they were high in the tops of various Sycamore trees too far away for a photograph but visible through our binoculars.


We waited for a while hoping one would descend from the treetops but no luck so we decided to see what wildflowers were in bloom in the wooded area below the dam as well as other areas in the park.

Dutchman’s Breeches, Griggs Park.

Sometimes they’re pink, (Donna)

Purple Cress, Griggs Park

Emerging Bloodroot, Griggs Park, (Donna).

In full bloom, (Donna).


Toadshade Trillium, (Donna).


Twinleaf, (Donna)

Emerging Butterweed, Griggs Park.


While the Yellow-throated warblers eluded the camera’s lens other birds were more cooperative. Song sparrows, never far away, entertaining us with a spring rendition of their beautiful song. Chickadees in the middle of nesting activities expressed their disapproval when we got too close.  Nuthatches chased each other about. In small shoreline trees and bushes Golden-crowned Kinglets busily looked for insects among the small branches. Meanwhile a pair of blue jays were just starting work on their new nest. The bluebirds seemed content to watch the activity unfold while enjoying the warmth of the spring sun. Further down the trail a robin looked on with disinterest appearing as though lunch had gotten the better of him.

Song Sparrow, Griggs Park.

Chickadee, Griggs Park

White-breasted Nuthatch, Griggs Park.

Golden-crowned Kinglet, Griggs Park.

Blue-jay with nesting material, Griggs Park.

Let see, is this how it goes?

That looks about right.


Bluebird, Griggs Park.

Enjoying the warm spring sun.

Robin, so many worms so little time, Griggs Park.


When out in nature one thing a careful observer can almost always count on is seeing something new. That was certainly the case a few days ago when my wife observed a large number of bees engaged in some very curious behavior.

Across a fairly large area bees were flying about going in and out of many recently dug holes.

At one point we observed a ball of bees tumbling across the ground seemingly in the process of trying to kill something.

They continued to attack what ever it was. This when on for some time and we never got a good look at what the object was.

Despite what it looks like the bees may have been trying to protect not kill what ever it is they are crowding unto. In this case it may be the queen.


Spring with all it’s activity is definitely a favorite time of the year. In the days to come the Yellow-throated warblers will undoubtedly be more cooperative as they are joined by other migrants from the south either taking up residence or just pausing for a while as they continue their journey north. Thanks for stopping by.




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First Snow Meditation

The time between the departure of the last fall color and the first snow is always hard.  Ohio’s cloudy late November skies don’t help.


It is true that even with the lack of snow cold weather can provide fascinating things to look at.


Ice patterns along the Big Darby, (Donna)


However, given the recent brown grey landscape, todays light snow beckoned us to venture out and again wonder at the transformation.


Picnic table, Griggs Park.


With snow outlining shoreline branches the view across the reservoir was now quite different.


Boats on the opposite shore, Griggs Reservoir.



Mallards, even with snow on their backs, didn’t seem too bothered.


Recalling pictures taken a few days earlier it was easy to imagine that the birds were in a better mood without the cold wet snow.




Female Downy Woodpecker, Griggs Park, (Donna).


Black Ducks along the Scioto River, (Donna).


Except maybe for this guy.


Grumpy White-throated Sparrow, Griggs Park, (Donna)


We continued our walk along the Scioto River seeing and hearing nuthatches, kinglets, creepers, and kingfishers but mostly just enjoying the place.


Just below Griggs Dam


Looking south.


Water soon to be ice.


The snow clings to the trees.


A small shallow pond freezes over early.


Rocks which might have gone unnoticed before.


In the stillness the snow continues to fall.


Unlike an April snowfall a late November or early December first snow is always magic. It opens our eyes to a world whose subtle beauty had been forgotten and is now again new. Thanks for stopping by.


In the holiday spirit a bulb had been placed on a tree along the reservoir, Griggs Park.


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.

The Bird That Thinks It’s a Mouse

At least that impression one gets watching a Winter Wren  foraging for food. These very small dark colored birds with a very pronounced turned up tail are hard to see much less photograph as they make their way around dense underbrush usually near water. In fact I don’t think we’ve ever seen one very far from water although that could be due to the fact that we spent a large amount of our time looking for birds near water along the Scioto River in Griggs Reservoir Park.


Winter Wren along the Scioto River, (Donna).


Study 2, (Donna).


Study 3.


Study 4.


Winter Wren habitat along the Scioto River.


From the very small to very large, a Sycamore along the Scioto River. What could it tell us of this place if it could talk?


Sycamore along the Scioto, (Donna).


This time of year it’s always a joy when common birds entertain us. Not so easy to capture in their natural habitat away from feeders.


Carolina Chickadee, Griggs Park.


Carolina Chickadee, Griggs Park, (Donna).


Tufted Titmouse, Griggs Park.


Study 2.


While closer to the ground there is still a presence of green, in many areas overhead it’s a different story.


November branches.


Other birds continue to make their presence known.


A female Downy lets the chips fly, Griggs Park.


A White-throated Sparrow plays hide and seek, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.


White-throated Sparrow, study 2, Griggs Park.


Apparently one of this Red-bellied Woodpeckers favorite trees, Griggs Park, (Donna).


A Red-tailed Hawk waits patently for it’s next meal, Griggs Park.


Almost always heard before they’re seen this Carolina Wren was determined to get noticed, along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.


Song Sparrow, Griggs Park.


We were looking for the Winter Wren but some previously hard to fine Golden-crowned Kinglets kept getting in the way, along the Scioto below Griggs Dam.


Take 2.


A noisy Northern Flicker also demanded to be noticed, Griggs Park.


This Dark-eyed Junco was acting like it might have hurt feelings if I didn’t take it’s picture, Griggs Park.


Goldfinch, winter plumage, Griggs Park.


Wait, you’re not a bird!, Griggs Park, (Donna).


A fascinating and unexpected find during a recent walk along the Scioto River was this very nice example of a Horn Coral fossil. The fossil was about 4 inches long!


Rugose corals, often called “horn corals”, because their form may resemble the horn of a cow or goat. This coral became extinct at or near the end of the Permian period, about 240 million years ago. It first appeared in the early Ordovician period and peaked during the Devonian. photo by Donna. Ref:


Up until just four days ago warm weather was allowing some of our insect friends to hang around but with this mornings temperature around 20F we don’t expect to see them again any time soon.


So long until next spring! (Donna).


Likewise! (Donna)


Given that it’s Thanksgiving week here in central Ohio the next bird we will be investigating will probably be a turkey. On that note we wish everyone a happy holiday. Thanks for stopping by.



Milkweed seeds take flight, Griggs Park, (Donna).


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.

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