. . . With A Little help From Our Friends,

Yesterday, at a park near our home on a rather nondescript winter day, we ushered out 2020 with a little help from our friends. These friends have been reliable companions through a difficult year, but on the year’s last day, or perhaps because it was the year’s last day, their importance hit home more forcefully. There is no need to reflect on the love that develops between a person and their pet as most of us have known that. However, to experience a similar connection with creatures that make a living in the environment of trees, brush, fields, and waterways that surround us, owing us nothing, is truly special. Some days, as we walk, their numbers may be less, and the cast of characters may vary, but with their often cheerful dispositions and curious antics they are always there. For just a moment in time we celebrate the shared experience of life.

Downy Woodpeckers are common winter residents in central Ohio,

There are always Mallards but in December we’ve also been fortunate to see Hooded Mergansers on a regular basis along the Scioto River.

The White-throated Sparrow is a favorite winter friend,

A few days ago we spotted Sandhill Cranes heading south. On that day there were numerous sightings around the city.

Song Sparrow.

In the past week we’ve enjoyed numerous Hermit Thrush sightings along the Scioto River.

It was a good December for Brown Creeper sightings.

We can always count on hearing, then seeing, Carolina Wrens.

Numerous pairs of Eastern Bluebirds occupy Griggs Reservoir Park in the winter. There almost electric blue never fails to put a smile on our face.

As long as there’s open water the Great Blue Herons will be busy.

On quiet cloudy mornings Bald Eagles can be seen along Griggs Reservoir.

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Wishing everyone all the best for the coming year. One where time spent with friends and family again becomes the norm.

Woods along Griggs Reservoir.

 

 

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.

Autumn Quiet

While walking a few days ago we witnessed a unique display of natures beauty. Unlike many times in November when wind tears at trees and sends autumn color spiraling high overhead and then down to a final resting place, on this particular day the almost bare branches stood completely motionless, in the absence of even the lightest zephyr, while the late afternoon sun seem to transform their remaining leaves into glass sculptors of translucent amber and gold. An experience easily missed had we been absorbed in thoughts of the world or our country’s woes, past, present, or future.

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In spring and summer we enjoy the warm embrace of life in the form of trees, flowers, insects, birds, and other living things. Now we must quietly look much closer. Sometimes in doing so we may be rewarded with with a fleeting glimpse of a wren.

A Winter Wren moves mouse-like among the low laying exposed roots and branches at rivers edge.

A Carolina Wren adds it’s cheerful, bigger than life, voice to the autumn air.

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River reflection.

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Often when surveying the dull landscape of late fall, it’s hard to believe anything else will appear that will be as charming as the wrens, but surprisingly:

Fortified by poison ivy berries and similar delicacies Yellow-rumped Warblers often hang around well into the fall.

A Downy Woodpecker uses it’s tongue, (Donna).

A tiny group of mushrooms add their color.

Eastern Bluebirds also seem to enjoy Poison Ivy berries.

A lonely sentinel defies the season, (Donna).

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet refuses to display it’s crown.

A Golden-crowned Kinglet is a little more cooperative, (Donna).

While hiking at Battelle Darby Creek MP in early November, after already having a period of cold weather, we were surprised by the emergence of  Eastern Comma butterflies. There were so many that we lost count.

A Song Sparrow poses, (Donna).

Late autumn color collage, (Donna).

With most leaves down, the Brown Creepers are much easier to spot.

A male House Finch enjoys an invasive honeysuckle berry. Probably the main way this plant has spread, (Donna).

Winter can’t be far away when Dark Eyed Juncos are seen foraging for fallen seeds below your feeders.

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The late morning November sun plays in the branches of an old oak.

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Looking ahead to days wrapped in winter’s brittle chill I’m remined that no matter whether one spends time with a friend or among the trees there are always opportunities for discovery if one doesn’t live by rote and is truly present in the moment.

A Gray Squirrel huddles against a cool breeze.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

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.

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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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