A Unlikely Door

Opening the door this time of year and venturing out into nature isn’t something most of us feel compelled to do. The landscape certainly doesn’t perk one’s curiosity. The wildlife that may be seen, which includes birds for the most part, have often migrated further south.

Along the Scioto River the landscape begs for a blanket of snow.

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However, with it’s lack of leaf cover, the landscape offers one good reason to pass through the door and see what’s still in the neighborhood or what may have moved in from further north. With their endearing behavior and colors that are often a cheerful contrast to their surroundings, birds are a welcome part of the December woods.

A resident all year long in Griggs Reservoir Park, the Carolina Wren’s song and chatter are especially welcome this time of year, (Donna).

Typically the only heron to hang around through the winter, the Great Blue is always a welcome sight along the Scioto River, (Donna).

A winter visitor from the north, the Dark-eyed Junco usually moves in small flocks and typically stays close to the ground. A fun bird to watch, (Donna).

A year round resident that’s always up to something, this Red-bellied Woodpecker has apparently found something to it’s liking, (Donna).

Another visitor from the north, this Tree Sparrow is an easy one to miss, (Donna).

The White-breasted Nuthatch arguably adds more cheer to the winter woods than any other bird, (Donna).

The immediately recognizable White-crowned Sparrow is another visitor from the north, (Donna).

Seen more often than the White-crowned, the the White-throated Sparrow is another sparrow we look for this time of the year, (Donna).

Assuming a graceful pose, a Ring-billed Gull preens on Griggs Reservoir.

Griggs Reservoir Park squirrels beware, this Red-tailed hawk is on the hunt.

In recent years, with the increase in the Catbird population, Mocking Birds have become a rare sight in central Ohio. Seeing this one was a real treat.

Carolina Chickees in Griggs Reservoir Park are always a delight.

Sometimes solitary and sometimes in a group of titmouse and chickadees the Downy Woodpecker is hard to ignore.

American Cardinals are abundant in Griggs Reservoir Park near our home.

As if out of nowhere a Brown Creeper suddenly appears. These birds may be present in the summer months but leaf cover makes them much harder to find.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are not seen as often a some of the other central Ohio woodpeckers. This view would have been obscured by leaves in the summer.

Year-round residents in Griggs Reservoir Park, Eastern Bluebirds also bring joy to the December landscape.

With a beautiful song, Song Sparrows are a year-round resident but are pretty quiet this time of year.

The Red-breasted Nuthatch is another migrant from the north. I had to content myself with a feeder picture of this one at a Greenlawn Cemetery.

Ice covered waterways further north have brought waterfowl south. In a local flooded quarry these Buffleheads were no exception.

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In recent days some really special birds have graced us with their presence.

Not far from our home an American Kestrel makes it’s it’s home in a nondescript area of tall grass, brush, and trees adjacent to a quarry.

Just close enough for a decent picture

Perhaps the most noteworthy was a immature Snowy Owl that had travelled from the north country to hang out in central Ohio. They typically eat voles, lemmings, and other small rodents as well as birds so a shortage of such goodies further north is undoubtedly the reason for the visit. Seeing one this close to Columbus is rare.

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Time spent in nature seldom disappoints. The observant eye will always find something that inspires and rewards. One only needs to open the door.

Graced with a light blanket of snow.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Embracing Autumn

On a recent hike on a rather cold but clear autumn morning a friend exclaimed how good it was to be outdoors on such a beautiful day, and that at this point in her life she is really trying to embrace autumn. She related that she was hoping to shed the, all too easy to acquire, mindset that autumn is just that beautiful but fleeting season between summer and winter. She was going to look closer, be in the moment, and appreciate. An admirable goal any time of the year, but particularly in the ever shorter days of early October when it all seems to go by quickly.

The morning sun accentuates the color across the reservoir, Griggs Reservoir Park (GRP).

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She talked about sketching, and how looking at a flower or other object in the effort to draw it really enhanced her seeing and appreciating. I couldn’t help but think of it as a meditation. Certainly photographs and words can also lead to a more intimate relationship with nature as we compose a picture or reflect on things not capable of being being expressed in a picture.

Autumn reflection, Wahkeeva NP.

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Fall warblers are sneaky. With the exception of the Yellow-rumped Warbler that stick around to enjoy poison ivy berries, warblers move through central Ohio on their way south quickly and quietly without the spring’s distinctive calls. Along with other birds that don’t have to depend on insects for food, cardinals, eastern bluebirds, and woodpeckers, some of which may be from further north, hang around all winter. Interestingly a fair number of Great Egrets, which don’t typically winter in Ohio, are still in the area. Some Great Blue Herons manage to make a living here throughout the winter but their smaller cousin the Green Heron has already left. 

A Black-throated Green Warbler passes through (GRP) on it’s way south, (Donna).

Magnolia Warbler (GRP), (Donna).

Eastern Phoebe (GRP).

For obvious reasons this Eastern Phoebe won’t be in the area much longer (GRP), (Donna).

Here some tapping? Look up, it’s probably a Downy Woodpecker, (GRP).

Cheerful Carolina Chickadees keep us company year round (GRP).

Great Egrets, O’Shaughnessy NP

Eastern Bluebirds seem more common in the autumn, (GRP).

A recent arrival from the north, revving up it’s motor, this Ruby-crowned Kinglet left the branch bare a fraction of a second later, O’Shaughnessy NP.

Some days if it wasn’t for the cardinals things would be pretty dull (GRP) (Donna).

A Coopers Hawk waits patently for a meal. It’s a year round resident (GRP).

The White-throated Sparrow is a migrant from the north. Some will spend the winter in central Ohio, Wahkeeva NP.

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Autumn along the reservoir (GRP).

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The flurry of insect activity has slowed down considerably over what it was just two weeks ago. Butterflies, and especially bees, had been incredibly active during the last warm days before the occurrence of a few cold nights where the temperature hung just above freezing.

Bald-faced Hornets nest (GRP), (Donna).

Traffic jam at the entrance to the nest, (Donna)

Eastern Commas are fairly common in the fall, Stages Pond State NP.

Green bee on aster (GRP.

The Common Checkered Skipper is usually seen in late summer and fall (GRP).

A busy bee (GRP).

Monarch on aster, Stages Pond State NP.

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Autumn color (GRP).

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Chipmunks were also in on the activity.

Chipmunk (GRP), (Donna).

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I finish writing this with memories of the smell and color of the autumn woods graced by the light of the seasons low laying sun and transformed into a branched “stained glass” cathedral of yellow and gold. Outside under gray 50 F skies a light rain is falling, perhaps nature’s way of saying in a quiet voice, “Pause, give thanks, for those warm, sunny, autumn days, and for all things with which you have been blessed”.

Cathedral in the woods, Boch Hollow State NP

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Birds Being Birds

Early migrating spring warblers and other birds are moving through the area. With that in mind we’ve spent a fair amount of time in recent days looking into bushes and up into trees. Yellow-rumps have been found almost everywhere, but for yellow-throated warblers we had to look into the very top of tall sycamore trees making a good picture a challenge. Along with early warblers, many Ruby-crowned Kinglets were seen with males often displaying their ruby crown.

As if to throw out the welcome mat, spring wildflowers, including Large-flowered trillium compliment the beauty of migrating birds.

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While trying to find warblers along Griggs Reservoir we were distracted by the behavior of other birds. In the last few days that has included a crow, eastern bluebirds and red-winged blackbirds.

American Crow, fish for brunch:

Along the reservoir a crow carries off a scavenged shad in it’s beak, flying overhead it lands in a nearby tree and proceeds to dine, (Donna)

We were not sure whether this was a normal practice but the head was soon separated from the body, (Donna).

Then on to the main course, (Donna).

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The more common Virginia Bluebells add their color to the welcome mat.

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Eastern Bluebird harmony, then not.

As a male and female bluebird were busy with “homemaking” tasks I took a few shots:

Female Eastern Bluebird

The male.

Together with nest hole visible.

Leaving the happy couple I walked to our nearby car as my wife trailed behind. Putting my gear away I looked back to see my wife with her camera pointed at the ground. Apparently another female had decided to challenge the status quo resulting in an epic battle which went way beyond mere posturing. We have heard that competition during mating is not restricted to males and that often rivalry’s between females can be even more spirited. What we witnessed certainly bore that out.

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(fight action by Donna)

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Normally white, this Cutleaf Toothwort shows just a hint of pink.

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As we tried to listen for the faint treetop call of a yellow-throated warbler, a red-winged blackbird made it’s presence known:

Male Red-wing Blackbird.

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 Not far away a blue jay was enjoying the hazy morning sun.

Blue Jay

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Chickadees seemed too busy to notice anything but the task at hand.

Carolina Chickadee

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Dutchman’s Breeches also graced the landscape.

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Oh yes, we did manage to see a few warblers and even kinglets but their behavior wasn’t nearly as entertaining as that of some of the park’s normal residents.

Male Yellow-rumped Warbler. Right now the yellow-rumps are by far the most common.

 

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Yellow Warbler

Male Palm Warbler. A bird that’s quite common in Florida in the winter.

Male Black-throated Green Warbler with what appears to be nesting material. A bit unusual as this bird is not indicated to breed in central Ohio.

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Ruby-crowned Kinglets seem to be everywhere.

Okay, one more picture!

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As of the date of this post there have also been reports of Northern-Parula, Pine, and Yellow Warblers all of which we have yet to see. In the coming weeks, as the spring migration continues and before the trees fully leaf out and obscure the view, there should be no shortage of birds to entertain.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Celebrating The Season

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

(Images may be clicked on for a better view)

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

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

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

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

Working on a warm winter home?

A female Downy works away.

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

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Quiet early winter morning along the Scioto.

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

Small icicles and patterns in ice.

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

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

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

Male Eastern Bluebird, (Donna).

Taking flight.

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

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

Doing it’s best to avoid a photograph.

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

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

Hooded Mergansers on the Scioto River.

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

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

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

***, (Donna).

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

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

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

Tufted-titmouse, (Donna).

Carolina Chickadee, (Donna).

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

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

***, (Donna).

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Winter along the Scioto River.

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

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Beauty In Transitions

It’s hard to think of the period between autumn color and the arrival of colder temperatures and a land covered in snow, as anything other than a time of transition. Ohio’s late November sepia-tone landscape makes one wish for somewhere else, past or future. If we find ourselves walking along a wooded trail or stream our curiosity is challenged in ways not encountered as spring unfolds into the warmth of an endless summer day. Better to be home in a favorite easy chair with the warm glow of a fireplace, a cat curled up on your lap, and a good book as the season’s birds occasionally visit the feeder just outside a nearby window. But the magic of late November is that, surrounded by muted color, the endlessly varied dance of birds not present or as easily noticed during other seasons, is hard to ignore. 

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A window into the future, wintry bare branches reflect on the surface of a small pool.

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A year round resident, the cheerful Carolina Wren comes into it’s own as the landscape darkens in late November.

*** (Donna)

Tufted Titmice seem more common this time of year. Some migrants from the north?

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***(Donna)

A Red-winged Blackbird confuses us by it’s presence. Shouldn’t you be further south?

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In perhaps it’s last “voice”, a oak leaf graces the surface of a small stream.

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Few leaves obscure our view as we watch the comical journey of a White-breasted Nuthatch as it forages for food.

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A tidbit (perhaps a spider’s egg sack) is found, (Donna)

Woodpeckers are noticed at almost every turn, some of which are undoubtedly also northern migrants.

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker, (Donna)

Red-belied Woodpecker, (Donna).

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Before being caught by the wind and carried away, a lone Sycamore leaf catches the morning sun.

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Gray Squirrels are common and always easy to spot but they’re not always so busy eating.

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Almost invisible when trees are fully adorned with leaves the nervous movement of Golden Crowned Kinglets catches our eye.

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***(Donna)

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On  mudflats left behind as a nearby reservoir is lowered for the season, a solitary oak leaf comes to rest.

Oak leaf

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With feeders out, other birds brighten the day with their presence.

House Finch

American Cardinal

Blue Jay

Carolina Chickadee

But not far away, a Cooper’s Hawk waits.

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Autumn’s fading color comes to rest among stream-side rocks.

Scioto River landscape.

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In the chill of the morning, birds enjoy the river without complaint.

An American Robin takes a bath.

Cedar Waxwings stop for a drink.

Blending into the bark, unless your eye catches it’s movement, the Brown Creeper is almost impossible to spot.

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“Snowbirds”, the presence of Dark-eyed Juncos alert us of what is to come.

***(Donna)

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Transforming place, an ephemeral first snow blankets the ground.

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As a metaphor for life, the passing seasons, particularly early spring and late autumn, may have something to teach us when in the midst of life transitions we wish for somewhere else. Perhaps the key is to look closer, be open to the beauty of the present time and place, and then in that moment allow ones self to be caught in it’s embrace.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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The Orioles Fledge

It seems like just a few days ago that the Baltimore Orioles arrived in central Ohio. But in the bird world things happen fast and now their young are ready to fledge. Spring offers up a bounty of insects and berries so whether it’s a warbler or an oriole it’s no accident that it’s a popular time to raise young. Chickadees have also fledged and we were fortunate to be able to observe the young begging for the next morsel the parents offered up. 

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Mature Baltimore Oriole at the nest in Griggs Reservoir Park.

Someone wants breakfast.

Breakfast is served.

Food keeps coming whether in the nest or out, (Donna).

Not long before the first flight.

.   .   .   and finally away from the nest.

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Two young Carolina Chickadees beg for a meal, Griggs Reservoir Park.

They’re not much smaller than the adults.

And just as cute!

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Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were also observed busily flying about perhaps also collecting food for their young.

Blue Gray Gnatcatcher in Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

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Some mothers seem to have a little more than they can deal with.

Female Mallard with young in Griggs Reservoir.

But that doesn’t seem to bother the males.

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While looking for fledglings we were charmed by the presence of other birds in Griggs reservoir Park.

A Catbird sings.

With the presence of berry rich trees Cedar Waxwings were everywhere.

My wife spotted this Hairy Woodpecker, a bird not often seen in the park, (Donna).

A Spotted Sandpiper forages on a log in the rain swollen reservoir.

This Great Crested Flycatcher has a nest somewhere nearby.

It won’t be long before we see this Kingbird with young.

Redwing Blackbird nests are always hard to find but this female is happy to pose for a picture, (Donna).

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Even with the departure of most warblers a couple of weeks ago, there was still plenty of bird activity to observe in the park.

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Hay, what about me!

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Thanks for stopping by.

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It’s Spring!

While working on a blog post pertaining to time spent in Florida earlier this year I was interrupted. However, unlike many interruptions this one was good. Spring wasn’t just knocking, it was banging on the door, calling us to come out and play. In just the last few days nature has exploded in central Ohio making it hard for my wife and I to contain our enthusiasm. Hopefully this post will convey just a little bit of the excitement.

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One of the first clues that things were changing more rapidly were the wildflowers.

Redbuds.

Virginia Bluebells, (Donna).

Another look.

White Trout Lily

Dutchman’s Breeches.

Yellow Trout Lilies, (Donna).

A closer look. (Donna).

Emerging Buckeye leaves, not a flower but beautiful in their own way.

Spring Beauties, (Donna).

Newly emerged spring fungi, Dryad’s Saddle, (Donna).

Translucent green.

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Then there were the birds, all of which seemed very busy.

From it’s nesting cavity a Red-bellied Woodpecker checks us out.

A Canada Goose on it’s nest at water’s edge. Hopefully there will be no heavy rains in the near future.

An argumentative pair of Blue Jays announce their presence. Could they be discussing nest location?

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Some behavior seemed odd.

This Canada Goose was trying a different menu item. Something we’ve never seen before.

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Other birds were just enjoying the warmer weather.

A Tufted-titmouse makes itself know with a voice much bigger than the bird.

A common but hard to photograph Carolina Chickadee is nice enough to pose.

Sunlight warms a male Mallard in breeding plumage.

Redbuds surround a female Cardinal.

A Great Blue Heron soars overhead along the Scioto River, (Donna).

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The Great Egrets in their breeding plumage continued to enchant us.

Preening.

Another look.

Striking a beautiful pose.

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But the days real excitement was generated when we spotted a newly arrived spring migrant.

This curious Yellow-throated Warbler flew down to see what I was up to.

Too cute for just one pic.

And perhaps one more.

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As if the wildflowers and birds weren’t enough, more turtles than we’ve ever seen on one log decided to get into the act.

Turtles along the Scioto River, How many do you see?

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We hope our enthusiasm rubs off on our readers and everyone gets out to witness springs transformation in their neighborhood.

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Walking in the freshness of an early spring morning

along a path lined with trees just clothed in translucent green

with the sights, sounds, and smells of nature

I am reborn.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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