Cold Weather Brings Nature Our Way

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

Ice creeps out into the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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

Landscape transformed, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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

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

A closer look.

 

Crowded conditions, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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

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

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

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

Male Common Merganser

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

A little closer.

Three Goldeneyes pose, (Donna).

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

 

Mute Swan, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take 2.

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

Take 2, (Donna).

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Other creatures have also been braving the cold.

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

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

Take 2, (Donna).

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

. . . and a red morph, Ed.

Ed and Bob, photo courtesy of Sheila.

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

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

Competing with a Gray squirrel for goodies.

The chickadees love the sweetgum tree.

And so do the goldfinches.

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

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

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

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

A Chickadee In The Woods

A beautiful sunrise can offer inspiration as well as motivation to get outside and see what’s going on. This is especially true when it may mean rain later in the day.

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Sunrise from our front window.

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So after a quick breakfast, off we went. By way of explanation for the following few shots let me first say that we love Chickadees, whether they’re at our feeder or in the woods they never fail to put a smile on our face. Encountering one after several miles of hiking is extra special if for no other reason than that you’ve worked hard to get to the meeting place. “Free-range” Chickadees just can’t be beat. A further preface to the pics is that they were taken with a very pocketable Panasonic ZS50 a camera purchased with a hike of the Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula in mind. While no replacement for the capability of a DSLR when it comes to creative effects, low light capability, and fast and precise focus, I’ll let you be the judge is to just how well it does. Clicking on the image will give a slightly better idea of the resolution. All images are significant crops and were taken at 30x zoom.

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Chickadee, along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam

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Trying to hide.

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Going about it’s business.

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The ZS50 was also pointed at a much more sedentary Red-bellied Woodpecker.

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Red-bellied Woodpecker in the neighborhood.

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Whatever it was on the menu it was apparently to it’s liking.

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Finally, it’s capabilities were directed towards gulls far out on the reservoir.

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Gulls on ice, Griggs Reservoir.

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A day later at the same location but now with the “bird camera” I was hoping to document interesting waterfowl and perhaps see the Mute or Trumpeter Swans that were observed flying over head the day before.

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On this particular day the landscape did not cry out to be photographed, Griggs Reservoir Dam.

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While the day was rather drab the waterfowl were cooperative even if it was at a distance.

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Hooded Merganser, (F)

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Despite using trees for cover and moving very slowly, I’m spotted, and the Goldeneyes take flight.

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The Red-necked Ducks aren’t quite as cautious.

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On the other side of the river a male Kingfisher poses.

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A lone Greater Scaup is also seen.

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No stranger to these parts, a Great Blue Heron waits for the river’s flow to deliver lunch.

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All in all, the last two days were good. The Panasonic ZS50 appears quite capable of doing what’s needed in Ireland and having the “bird camera” out again reminded me why it is also in the stable. Thanks for stopping by.

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Blue sky, morning sun, and a Cardinal.

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XXX

Watching all the Ducks Float By

One of our favorite places to look for waterfowl this time of the year is along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam. It’s an area that’s accessible only on foot so using a car as a blind to get closer to the birds is not an option. When one ties to sneak up on waterfowl for a decent photo one quickly realizing why duck hunters use blinds. Truth is, after years of being shot at, the only the wary birds a left. The dumb ones have been selected out.

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So recently I tired a new technique. Rather than stalking the birds, moving quietly from cover to cover. I decided to find a good spot and quietly lean against a tree and wait for the birds to float by. It was a sunny 20 degrees with no wind which made the process not uncomfortable. In the past the other technique I’ve used is to walk down river and then slowly work my way back upstream. It turns out that the birds are less interested in swimming upstream to get away from a low level treat. However, when the treat is sufficient they will fly.

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So below are some of the results using the above techniques:

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Common Mergansers and a Ring-necked Duck, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Common Goldeneye, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Goldeneyes, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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A haven for waterfowl, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Hooded Mergansers, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Red Breasted Mergansers, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Herring (not Western X Glaucous-winged hybrid) Gull , Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Male Canvasback, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

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Two Canvasbacks, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Redhead, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Greater (not Lesser) Scaups, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

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Ring-necked Ducks, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

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There were also a few other birds that made me smile:

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Cardinal against a blue sky.

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Front yard Chickadee

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Song Sparrow, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

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It’s hard not to notice other forms of beauty when out looking for birds:

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Ice, Big Darby Creek

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Patterns, Big Darby Creek.

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A late winter scene along Big Darby Creek

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Thanks for looking in.

Visitors from The Frozen North

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

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

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

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Red-breasted Mergansers join the Goldeneyes.

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A parade of Goldeyes.

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Safety in numbers.

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

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Lesser Scaup

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Common Mergansers almost avoiding the camera.

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Common Mergansers

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Surrounded by Canada Geese

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Great Blue Herons not wanting to have their picture taken.

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A Red-breasted Merganser tries to fit in.

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

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

 

Where are All Those Ducks Going?

With the weather warming up a bit the last few days we were encouraged to explore the area along the Scioto River near our house in hopes of seeing more Bald Eagles. We had to settle for one sighting today just below Griggs Dam. Since the reservoir remains frozen we were also excited by the anticipation of what waterfowl might be in the river. Also, one never knows what other birds or critters might be seen. Yesterday it was a Red Fox and today in addition to waterfowl a few of the other birds seen included Golden-crowned Kinglets, Bluebirds,  Cardinals, and Brown Creepers.

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If anyone can explain why the ducks in the picture below are doing what they’re doing I love to hear about it. It remains a bit of a mystery to me as they appeared to be swimming upstream to the base of the dam just for the fun of it. Perhaps they were trying to stay warm or there may have been some type of food in the water. We have observed ducks swimming against the current at other times and in other parts of the river which seems odd when they have the option of conserving energy by staying in the slack water near shore.

(click on the images for a better view)

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Mallards just below the Griggs Reservoir Dam.

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Like a few days ago more Goldeneyes were seen.

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Male Common Goldeneyes, study 1

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Male and female Goldeneyes, study 2

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Goldeneyes, study 3

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.   .   .   and we also saw Hooded Mergansers.

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Female Hooded Mergansers, study 1

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Male and female Hooded Mergansers, study 2

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Hooded Mergansers, study 3

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There were also a few Black ducks.

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Black Ducks

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While I was looking for waterfowl my wife snuck off and got some nice lichen and fungi shots.

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Jelly Ear fungi, (Donna)

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Lichen with fruiting bodies, (Donna)

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Moss and lichen, (Donna)

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While no photos of Brown Creepers and Golden-crown Kinglets were forthcoming the Blue birds did cooperate.

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The unbelievable blue of a Bluebird, (Donna)

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Bluebird, study 2

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I had some fun getting the auto focus to thread through the branches to get this interesting picture of a Great Blue Heron.

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Great Blue Heron

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Thanks for looking in.

Eagles and Ice

Yesterday we decided to check out the area along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam for ice formations. It was very cold and the reservoir had frozen over. It all seemed a little unreal because just a few days before very heavy rain had  accompanied 50F temperatures. Rain means the river level rises in proportion to the amount. Usually within a day or so the level drops leaving beautiful ice formations if it’s cold enough. The ice the only evidence of where the water had once been.

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Many waterfowl had taken up residence in the river’s open water . Amongst the Canada Geese and Mallards we did see Golden Eyes, Hooded Mergansers, Buffle Heads, Pie-billed Grebes. Kingfishers and Great Blue Herons were still making a living in the cold. However, one heron flying overhead appeared to have a least one of it’s feet encased in a small block of ice. Perhaps it stood in the wrong place to long.

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Just below the dam waterfowl escape the ice of the frozen reservoir.

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Waterfowl huddle just out of the river’s current.

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Fascinating ice shapes were everywhere.

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Scioto River looking north

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Ice cones.

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Different shapes.

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Icy landscape, Scioto River looking south.

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Very small Chandelier, (Donna)

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Shadows.

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Ice Ear Rings?, (Donna)

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Another chandelier, (Donna)

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There was evidence of birds walking in the fresh snow.

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Tracks

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Last year we noticed that when there are a lot of waterfowl concentrated in one spot it’s not uncommon to see Bald Eagles. Yesterday, with the concentration of waterfowl, we were rewarded with some great views of eagles perched near the top of tall trees along the river. In total we saw four, two appeared to be mature and two were immature. Pretty exciting for just two miles from our house!

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A Bald Eagle lands.

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Bald Eagles, study 2

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Bald Eagles, study 3, (Donna)

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Study 4, (Donna)

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Getting ready to take flight, study 5

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Immature Bald Eagle, (Donna)

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A Bluebird braving the cold. One of several that were seen.

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Bluebird, Hoover Park

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Thanks for looking in. We hope you have the opportunity to enjoy nature in our neighborhood in the coming week.

Along the Scioto, a Late Winter Celebration of Birds

With Griggs Reservoir frozen over we’ve continued our efforts to identify waterfowl in the open river just below the dam. As mentioned in previous posts the frozen reservoir tends to concentrate the birds in this area. We continued to see Goldeneyes, Common Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, as well as Bald Eagles and hawks in this area. My wife even noticed a White-winged Scoter in one of her pics but didn’t feel it was good enough to post

On the day we took most of the below pictures the birds were showing a real inclination to take flight whenever we got close. We haven’t paid much attention to the color of our clothing so we switched to drabber colors hoping to improve our success with the ducks. It didn’t seem to make much difference. We’re now thinking that they notice our movement even if it’s very slow.

Click on images for a better view.

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Goldeneyes

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The Goldeneyes scatter.

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Hey, wait for me!  (Donna)

The Common Mergansers were also flying:

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Male Common Merganser

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Taking off!  (Donna)

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Up to speed in just a few feet.

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A very fast getaway!

Some ducks seemed content not to fly.

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Ring-necked Duck

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Greater Scaup

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Bufflehead, (Donna)

Bufflehead, study 2

Bufflehead, study 2

In recent days we’ve noticed that a Red-tailed Hawk has initiated nesting activities high in a Sycamore along the west bank of the river.

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Red-tailed Hawk on nest, west side of the Scioto River just below Griggs Dam, (Donna)

The highlight of the day was sighting this mature Bald Eagle:

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Bald Eagle along the Scioto River just below Griggs Dam

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Taking flight!

Perhaps one of it’s offspring, cruising above the trees not far away.

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Immature Bald Eagle over the Scioto River below Griggs Dam, (Donna)

We’ve had fun trying to identify this immature hawk spotted in the parking lot of Hoover Park’s Frisbee Golf Course:

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Immature Red-shouldered Hawk?

My wife got a beautiful picture of a White-throated Sparrow and we obtained pics of other birds that seemed to be sitting on the side line as the eagles and ducks entertained us.

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White-throated Sparrow, (Donna)

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White-breasted Nuthatch

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Male Hairy Woodpecker

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Male Cardinal, Donna

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Thanks for stopping by.

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