Flowers and Flies

Exploring the world of insects is an excellent example of how digital photography has opened a door into a world most folks don’t give much thought to much less appreciate. A passion for bugs may start out innocently enough when one decides to photograph a flower and finds that it’s occupied by many creatures not noticed before. A closer look reveals some to be beautiful and fascinating in their own right and others downright scary. This may prompt one to make an effort to identify the bug just photographed which in turn often leads to an awareness of how much there is yet to learn about this small world. 

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Fortunately it doesn’t take an expensive camera to get a reasonable picture of a insect the size of the common house fly. We’re not talking macro-photography here, where one focuses on the dragonfly’s eye, but instead about a picture that will allow you to identify the insect and be good enough to share on social media. Our favorite of the small sensor “bridge cameras” is the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 or 300. With their fast lens and close focus capability they are a great all round camera for anyone starting out in nature photography. When one moves up from there to larger APS-C sensor DSLR’s you are looking at more money and bulk which may limit their appeal on long hikes. In the world of DSLR’s just about any lens similar to the Canon 18-135 mm will allow you to focus close enough to get a reasonably good shot. Longer lenses such as the Tamron 100-400 mm (more money still) will allow you to focus on subjects that won’t let you get close enough with a shorter lens. With it’s close focus capability perhaps the best all round bird/bug nature camera setup I’ve seen is the micro four thirds Panasonic G7 with the 100-400 mm Panasonic/Leica lens that my wife uses. It employs an excellent but smaller sensor than my Canon APS-C which is part of the reason for it’s admirable close focus performance. That being said I’m sure there are excellent camera setups that I’ve not had experience with.

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Unless stated otherwise the below pictures have all been taken close to home at Griggs Reservoir Park so the adventure doesn’t necessarily mean hours of driving to some exotic location. Almost all insect images have been significantly cropped.

(click on the image for a better view)

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A Bumble Bee enjoys Foxglove Beardtongue.

An nice illustration of the difference in size between a sweat bee and bumble bee, (Donna).

If you think this is an innocent little Bumble Bee you would be wrong in fact it’s a Bumble Bee Mimic Robber Fly no less ferocious than the one below, (Donna).

A more typical looking robber fly a little over an inch long. If you’re a small insect it will be a bad day if you run into one of these, (Donna).

Four lined Plant Bug, (Donna).

Eight-spotted Forester Moth, (Donna).

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Thimbleweed.

Moth Mullein, (Donna).

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A very small but beautiful Long-legged Fly.

It’s a rough world for bugs. A long legged fly falls prey to a robber fly.

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Water Willow at waters edge. Deer are known to browse the leaves and beaver and muskrat will consume the plant rhizomes. The submerged portion is home to many micro and macro invertebrates, (Donna).

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Little Wood Satyr.

Painted Lady, one of the most common butterflies found on every continent accept Antarctica and Australia, their favorite food plant on which to lay their eggs is thistle, they do not overwinter and they can have long migrations up to 9,320 miles long, (Donna)

Hackberry Emperor, a butterfly not usually seen on flowers but on a warm day may land on exposed skin, (Donna).

Question Mark, (Donna).

Red Admiral, (Donna).

Silver-spotted Skipper, one of the larger skippers, (Donna)

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The beautiful flowers of the Milkweed. A very import plant for many insects most notably the Monarch Butterfly.

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Milkweed Beetles, (Donna).

Great Golden Digger Wasp, (Donna).

Perhaps some type of wood wasp, (Donna).

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Black-eyed Susan’s.

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Golden-backed Snipe Fly, they can be found throughout Ohio, and are most often observed resting on low vegetation. They appear in the late spring and early summer, and have been observed mating in late May and early June, although timing likely varies across their range. Little is known about their life cycle.

Small hoverflies on fleabane.

Hoverfly profile.

Two Marked Tree Hopper. Click here to learn more about this fascinating insect.

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Common Mullein.

Northern Catalpa.

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Syrphid Fly Yellowjacket Mimic. The syrphid fly often mimics wasps or bees to gain protection from predators, (Donna).

The Green Bottle Fly is usually observed around less savory food items.

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Black-eyed Susan’s, (Donna).

Depford Pink, (Donna).

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Mating Candy-striped Leafhoppers, (Donna).

Mirid Plant Bug, (Donna).

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Butterfly Weed.

A field of clover.

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A Mayfly falls prey to a jumping spider. Normally slow moving jumping spiders are capable of very agile jumps, when hunting, in response to sudden threats, or to navigate obstacles. They all have four pairs of eyes, with the pair positioned closer together being larger.

Another view, (Donna).

A small moth on Canada Thistle.

If it’s real lucky this Orange Dog caterpillar may become a Giant Swallowtail.

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A field of fleabane.

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A rarely seen Orange Bluet, (Donna).

Female Twelve-spotted Skimmer, (Donna).

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Hairy Wild Petunia.

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It’s hard to believe what’s out there in that small incredible world that goes largely unnoticed by most as we pursue our daily lives. In the hierarchy of human affection warm cuddly animals seem to be at the top with insects being at the other end of the spectrum and usually not considered a welcome intrusion. But as with most things the more you know and understand the more you grow to love.

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A casual glance will not do. To discover wonder and beauty one must look closely with intention.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

Life In A Cemetary

It had been about a year since we visited Bigelow Cemetery State Nature Preserve and Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve , so we thought a road trip was in order to see what we might find in the way of insects and other wildlife. Last year we had seen a number of hummingbirds at Bigelow so we thought that might be the case again. Unlike Bigelow, which is a very small plot of native prairie, Big Darby Headwaters is a much larger area and one we have only begun to explore. Repeated visits throughout the year would be best to get to know and really appreciate these areas. We usually have to satisfy ourselves with less.

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The first thing one notices upon arriving at Bigelow is how small it is, only about one half acre.  The initial thought is that such a small area shouldn’t take long to explore. An hour and a half later we left and could have easily stayed longer if the Big Darby Headwaters had not beckoned. The number of living things in this small area compared to the surrounding farm field monoculture was mind boggling.

Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery Preserve.

Royal Catchfly, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

The preferred direction.

A male Red-winged Blackbird seemed concerned about our presence. Perhaps a nest was nearby. Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

Painted Lady butterflies were common at Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

Take 2.

Take 3.

The cemetery is old by Ohio standards.

Royal Catchfly, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

A Monarch Butterfly made up for the fact that no hummingbirds were seen, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

Donna takes aim on a wildflower, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

Gray Headed Cone Flowers and Royal Catchfly, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

White Campion (alien), Bigelow Pioneer Cemetary, (Donna).

Common Checkered Skipper, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery, (Donna).

Stink Bug nymph, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery, (Donna).

Familiar Bluet, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery, (Donna).

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Having spent as much time as we thought we should at Bigelow, it was close to noon when we arrived at the Big Darby Headwaters. Usually not the best time of day to be out in nature.

A fair mount of habitat restoration was required to make the Big Darby Headwaters NP what it is today, (Donna).

The hiking trail in Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve, (Donna).

Calico Pennant Dragonfly, Big Darby Headwaters, (Donna).

A Meadow Fritillary is joined by some of it’s closest friends on Butterfly Weed, Big Darby Headwaters.

Snowberry Clearwing Moth, Big Darby Headwaters.

A curious Song Sparrow looks on, Big Darby Headwaters.

Michigan Lily, Big Darby Headwaters.

Halloween Pennant, Big Darby Headwaters, (Donna).

Tall Bellflower, Big Darby Headwaters, (Donna).

Stream, Big Darby Headwaters, (Donna).

Depford Pink, Big Darby Headwaters, (Donna).

Looking for a bird, Big Darby Headwaters.

Big Darby Headwaters, (Donna).

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Over the past few days there’s been no shortage of things to see closer to home.

A male Bluebird watches, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Royal River Cruiser, a new dragonfly for us! O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Take 2.

Yellow Jacket Hover Fly, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, (Donna).

Four-toothed Mason Wasp on Rattlesnake Master Flower, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

 

Coneflowers, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

 

Banded Longhorn Flower Beetles, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Silver Spotted Skipper, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, (Donna).

Female Eastern Pondhawk, Big Darby Headwaters.

Great Spangled Fritillary, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, (Donna).

Jewelweed, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, (Donna).

Eastern Amberwing, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, (Donna).

Common Whitetail (F), Big Darby Headwaters.

Common Whitetail (M), O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

White Tail Deer, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, (Donna).

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Even in our backyard .   .   .

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

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I continue to think about the diversity and abundance of life at Bigelow. It may be reasonable to expect that if such places were more numerous or extensive such diversity and abundance might not be as noticeable as the creatures observed there would have more options. However, forgetting for a moment the pollution of the air and water due to human activities, it’s still hard not to wonder about the long term sustainability of the planet when so much acreage has been, and continues to be, developed. Once developed it often becomes just another barren monoculture which at best grows crops that feed us or worse becomes another woods or meadow roofed over for industry, commerce, or shelter, or paved over so that we can drive or park our cars. While more far-reaching solutions are undoubtedly necessary, in the short term planting more wildflowers in lieu of maintaining an extensive lawn might be worth our consideration.

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As always 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. If you don’t find it on the link drop us a line.

Late Spring Celebration; A Warbler and Much More

Nature unfolds and reveals itself like a flower, first reluctantly and then with grace. Armed with just a little curiosity, looking with intention, and allowing yourself  to be in the moment and place, rewards one with new wonder. Seeing and appreciating more each time.

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In the past few days, still interested in finding warblers, we visited Prairie Oaks Metro Park and closer to home Griggs Reservoir Park in the hopes of seeing a few stragglers. With the exception of the Prothonotary, the warblers didn’t cooperate but fortunately other things did. Whether it’s warblers or “other things” we’re always amazed by the celebration of life this time of year and the beauty that’s often found in the ordinary. The pictures below were taken over just a few outings, typically involving walks of at least two or three miles, sometimes longer, as we search for birds, bugs, and plants. It is a source of continuous fascination that so much can be found so close to home in central Ohio.

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A shaft of light finds grass along a stream, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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It’s always nice when “the reptiles” decide to join the cast.

Next to the path a turtle acts none to happy about our presence, Prairie Oak Metro Park.

A Bullfrog shows a nice profile, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna).

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Still in “warbler mode” on a recent outing, we weren’t prepared for all the insects we would see.

Familiar Bluet, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna).

Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna).

Inch Worm, (Donna).

Daddy Longlegs, (Donna)

Spicebush Swallowtail

Silver Spotted Skipper, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

A very common Cabbage White, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Painted Lady, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna).

Virginia Ctenucha, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

Viceroy, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

Eight-spotted Forester Moth, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna).

Large Lace-boarder Moth, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Milkweed Beetle, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Silvery Checkerspot, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna).

Green Bee on Coneflower, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Hackberry Emperor, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

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Where there are bees and butterflies there will be wildflowers or maybe it’s the other way around.

Butterfly Weed, Griggs Reservoir Park.

In grassy areas and meadows English Plantain is everywhere, Griggs Reservoir Park is no exception.

Very small bees visit the very small flowers of the English Plantain.

Hairy Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis), Griggs Reservoir Park.

Black-eyed Susans, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Thimbleweed, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Early Meadow Rue, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Day Lily, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Goatsbeard, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Moth Mullein, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Chicory, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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While we were excited to see Prothonotary Warblers nesting so close to home there was no storage of other birds to fascinate.

We’d been seeing this nesting Prothonotary Warbler for a few weeks in Griggs Reservoir Park. We finally were able to get some pictures.

It must be nesting nearby because at one point it was observed taking food to it’s young.

Preening.

No spot is missed!

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is not common this time of year in Griggs reservoir Park.

A Downy Woodpecker making effective use of it’s tail, Griggs Reservoir Park.

An adult Killdeer tries to get our attention, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

It tries a little harder, something must be going on.

Sure enough!

A male Baltimore Oriole makes it’s presence known in Griggs Reservoir Park. It’s been a great year for these birds in the park.

This Northern Flicker, often seen in a fairly localized area, must have a nest nearby, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Numerous Catbirds continue to entertain in Griggs Reservoir Park.

A Mallard keeps an eye on us as we walk along the water in Griggs Reservoir Park.

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A stream benefits from recent rain in Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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Nature unfolds and reveals itself like a flower, first reluctantly and then with grace. May you be rewarded with new wonder, seeing and appreciating more each time.

Chipmunk, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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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. If you don’t find it on the link drop us a line.

 

 

 

 

 

Paddling for Prothonotaries

Prothonotary Warblers have been eluding us in the park close to home so we decided to put the canoe on top of the car and head to the Howard Rd Bridge launch site at north end of Alum Creek Reservoir. If the warbler wasn’t seen during the eight mile loop north around the lake and into the creek we would at least enjoy a good paddle and besides there would undoubtedly be other things to see.

Exploring a quiet cove in Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna).

Friends join us, (Donna).

Heading up Alum Creek

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Before any warblers were sighted we were treated to nice views of Osprey.

There are a number of Ospreys nesting at the north end of Alum Creek Reservoir.

Taking flight, (Donna).

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Near noon we started to get hungry. Sometimes finding a pull-out for lunch can be a challenge.

Alum Creek was running high and muddy with most pull-outs under water.

 

A dry spot was finally located.

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Continuing to paddle and explore we finally found the warblers!

Prothonotary Warbler

Singing! (Donna).

Take 3 (Donna).

Take 4.

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A nice bonus were the numerous Green Herons seen along the wooded shoreline. Not as easy to spot as one might think, we were sometimes right on top of them before realizing they were there. At which point they would suddenly take flight, leaving us startled and with no picture.

Green Heron

Other times they seemed oblivious to our presence.

Take 2, (Donna).

Take 3. (Donna)

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With numerous flowering bushes, some overhanging the water, butterflies were an added bonus.

Spicebush Swallowtail with Tiger Swallowtail in the background.

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And there were wildflowers.

Chickweed.

Corn Salad.

Depford Pink, (Donna).

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No trip is complete without a turtle picture. This guy was perched on a submerged log and uncharacteristically calm as we moved closer.

Red-eared Slider, (Donna).

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As though it wanted it’s picture taken, a Northern Water Snake swam right up to the canoe.

Northern Water snake, (Donna).

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With high water and a good current, the downstream leg of the trip didn’t require much paddling.

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Sometimes we have such good fortune it’s hard to imagine what the next adventure will bring that can possibly compare but nature always seems to come through. Who knows, it may be a different look at something we’ve seen before or a totally new discovery.

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Should you be interested in nature photography from a small boat we offer a few thoughts:

1. Canoes are typically more difficult to handle and are more effected by wind than kayaks.

2. Since both the object being photographed and the boat may be moving, not to mention interferences from branches etc., don’t expect your success rate to be a high as when shooting on land.

3. Although we have never submerged a camera, if you are new to small boats it may be best to start out with a relatively inexpensive camera like a Panasonic FZ200 or 300 just in case everything goes swimming. The FZ200/300’s fast lens throughout the zoom range as well as it’s reasonable amount of zoom will provide a better chance of success. More zoom is of questionable value when trying to photograph erratic fast moving objects such as warblers from a small, somewhat unstable boat.

4. The ideal situation is to have a boat handler while you shoot which is the case when my wife and I go out.

5. If you have no choice but to go it alone, make sure you have a way to quickly stow your paddle because when a subject is sighted you’ll seldom have much time for the shot.

6. As far as the boat goes, a recreational kayak like a Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 or a 12-14 foot pack canoe like a Hornbeck would be a good choice for one person. A boat less than 12 feet long will be fine if you don’t plan on paddling far. A longer boat will be faster, track better, and will be better at maintaining speed through waves but typically will be a little harder to maneuver and may be effected more by the wind.

7. If you have any questions, drop us a line, we’ll be happy to provide any help we can.

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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. If you don’t find it on the link drop us a line.

 

Back Road Rambling, Central Ohio Nature Preserves

It was partly an excuse to go for a Sunday morning drive, something we don’t do very often. Usually we head for a location, necessary equipment in hand, and paddle or hike. However, there were three locations we thought would be worthwhile to check out: Smith Cemetery State Nature Preserve, Bigelow Cemetery State Nature Preserve, and Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve. The cemeteries provided an opportunity to see natural prairie habitat as it looked prior to much of the land being plowed up. Depending on what we found the areas visited might be included in our list of spring and fall destinations for birds and other wildlife.

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There wasn’t much going on at our first stop; Smith Cemetery,

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Smith Pioneer Cemetery, dry and not much in bloom.

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so we headed a few miles down the road and were not disappointed.

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The Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery is very small compared to the surrounding monoculture that generates the food we depend on.

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Despite it’s small size there were plenty of things to investigate, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

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In the distance an old barn. A vanishing sight, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

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The area was an island of flowers and plant diversity, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

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Looking at some of the markers one couldn’t help but wonder what the area was like back then, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

 

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Royal Catchfly was everywhere, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

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and where there is catchfly there are butterflies, Black Swallowtail, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

Hummingbird 7 LL 3 best ever 1 073116 Bigelow Cemetary cp1 (1)

But is if the flowers and butterflies weren’t enough, a Ruby Throated Hummingbird made an appearance, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery, Donna.

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Take 2.

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Take 3.

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Overlooking a sea of soybeans, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

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After the cemeteries we headed to the Headwaters of the Big Darby Preserve, northwest of Marysville, Ohio.

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We had to check out of few things along the way.

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and another one of those “things”.

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Spain Creek Covered Bridge.

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Despite the delays it wasn’t long before we reached our destination. The area has undergone quite a bit of restoration in an effort to return it to it’s pre-farm field state.

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Headwaters of the Big Darby.

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Big Darby Watershed

 

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Area Map.

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A 2.6 mile trail meanders through woods and meadows.

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Signs provid information on the area.

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Several Giant Swallowtails were seen in the meadows, Big Darby Headwaters Preserve.

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Variegated Fritillary, Big Darby Headwaters Preserve, Donna.

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Another view, Donna.

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Depford Pink, non-native, Big Darby Headwaters Preserve, Donna.

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It’s always rewarding to explore new places or those one hasn’t visited in a while. This outing served as a reminder to do that more often.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

It Was A Really Big Beaver, Honest!

Early this morning I decided to take a break from warblers and such and go kayak fishing on Griggs Reservoir. During the week with most people at work it’s actually pretty quiet, so along with catching and releasing pan fish and an occasional bass, wildlife are often seen. With this in mind, I usually have a small pocket cam and a pair of binoculars with me.

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I had just started fishing after paddling across the reservoir when I noticed a rather large tree stump that seemed to be eating something. It became obvious real quick, even without the aid of binoculars (it was only about 25 feet away), that it was a very large Beaver.  Given it’s size, this one must have been a very mature specimen as Beaver continue to grow throughout their lives. It was a great photographic opportunity that wasn’t, as my pocket cam with it’s handy 20x zoom was resting safety on my desk at home right beside my binoculars.  The only excuse is that an early morning fog had apparently shrouded my brain. Not long after that, again along the shore, a Mink momentarily stopped it’s constant and often erratic movement to gaze curiously as I fished. Again, no camera, no pictures.

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It was a good outing, a little over five miles of paddling, Wood Ducks, Baltimore Orioles, Double-crested Cormorants, Great-crested Flycatchers, etc.,  and a reasonable selection of fish caught. But I promise to take the Beaver and Mink more seriously during future outings in the hope that an upcoming post may contain a few photos. For now, I humbly offer the below, taken during a recent walk along the reservoir.

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Lot’s of green.

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Scioto River below Griggs Dam

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One of the most beautiful of our late spring wildflowers.

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Blue Flag Iris

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Multiflora Rose is making an appearance along the river.

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Often grouped together a Multiflora Rose is singled out.

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Other flower’s also delight.

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Goats Beard, (Donna)

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Deptford Pink, (Donna)

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A particularly attractive grouping of Daisy Flaebane

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My wife notices some small skippers.

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Male Zabulan, (Donna)

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Dun Skipper, (Donna)

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A White breasted Nuthatch shows off some pretty nice accommodations.

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White Breasted Nuthatch along Griggs Reservoir

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Thanks for stopping by.

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