Cliff Swallow Close Up

We often see Cliff Swallows when paddling central Ohio’s reservoirs. While seeing them is not rare, getting a good picture of one is. During a recent outing on Griggs Reservoir we had the opportunity to use the canoe to our advantage. We positioned ourselves so that, sitting motionless, a light breeze propelled the canoe toward swallow nests located on the bridge support structure. By being very still we were able to get much closer than we had previously. Once the paddles were picked up to reposition the boat, the birds flew.

Typical Cliff Swallow nest location, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic ZS50.

Cliff Swallows, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

A closer look, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

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North end of Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic FZ200.

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During our trip, which covered the length of the reservoir, there were plenty of things to see. This was a good thing because I was testing a new Sigma 18-300mm lens. The hope is that the lens, mounted on my DSLR, will do most of what my Panasonic FZ200 does, landscapes, close-ups of insects, and to some extent birds, but with more creative control and exposure latitude while still having the convenance of not having to switch lenses. In harsh light DSLR APS-C sensors tend to do better with highlights and shadows (exposure latitude) when compared to the much smaller sensor used in the FZ200. The Sigma lens is a story of compromises given that it goes from extreme wide angle to telephoto. It’s not a macro lens but will take reasonable pictures of “bugs” while at the same time doing a decent job with landscapes and birds that aren’t to far away. Overall I’m satisfied with it’s performance realizing it will never compete with fixed focal length lenses for ultimate sharpness. For those not familiar with sensor sizes see the chart below. I’ve also included the type of camera used for each picture should the reader be curious.

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It’s the insect time of the year along the reservoir ensuring that there are plenty of fascinating subjects.

Fragile Forktail, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, (cropped).

Eastern Forktail (F), Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, (cropped).

Familiar Bluet, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, (cropped).

Widow Skimmer (F) not fully developed, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, (Donna).

Eastern Pondhawk (M), Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Familiar Bluet, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Bee on Milkweed flower, Griggs Park, Panasonic Zs50.

Eastern Amberwing, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Happy Milkweed Beetles, Griggs Reservoir Park, Panasonic ZS50.

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Reptiles and amphibian greeted us during our journey.

Bullfrog, Griggs Reservoir, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, (cropped).

Hiding, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Very small Map Turtle, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Looking at the other side, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

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Other things also watched our passing.

White-tailed deer along the shore of Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

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At the very north end of the reservoir, Kiwanis Riverway Park, we pulled the boat out for a snack break and spent some time checking out the area birds. Hopefully a few more challenging subjects for the Sigma lens would be found.

Great Egret and Cormorant north end of Griggs Reservoir, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, (cropped).

A closer look at the Great Egret, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Tree Swallows, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, cropped.

A male Red-winged Blackbird calls out, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Northern Flicker, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

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The below picture is interesting because this Wood Duck duckling, along with three of it’s siblings, was reacting to the presence of our canoe. We never chase birds but these guys shot out of the shoreline brush and took off across the water. Sadly, as we watched them head for another hiding spot, one duckling suddenly disappeared not to be seen again. The victim of a Large Mouth Bass or Snapping Turtle perhaps?

Wood Duck duckling, Griggs reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, (Donna).

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Recent wildflowers seen.

Water Willow, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, cropped.

Butterfly Weed continues to make it’s presence known in Griggs Reservoir Park.

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Along the water’s edge the flowers of the Button Bush have just started to bloom, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic ZS 50.

Looking into the woods, a Day Lily stands out, Griggs Reservoir Park, Panasonic ZS50.

Spiderwort, Griggs Reservoir Park, Panasonic ZS50.

Moth Mullein, Griggs Reservoir Park, Panasonic ZS50.

Catnip (non-native), Panasonic ZS50.

Wild Rose along Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, (Donna).

Trumpet-creeper along Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, (Donna).

Coneflower, backyard.

Black-eyed Susan, Griggs Reservoir Park, Panasonic ZS50.

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Often we find ourselves enchanted by a new view of something seen before. Such was the case with our close up encounter with the Cliff Swallows. Their nest building and graceful flight, what amazing birds! On the same day the celebration may be interrupted by an occurrence, like the sudden disappearance of a duckling, that is hard to watch.

Paddling into Kiwanis Riverway Park, Panasonic FZ200.

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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.

 

Autumn’s Color

Usually when we think of autumn color we’re thinking about leaves but recent outings in central Ohio have revealed that in the autumn color can come in many different shapes and sizes. The pictures below celebrate things we’ve seen in the last two weeks hiking and paddling. While peak color is still about two weeks away, it’s hard not to be charmed by the splashes of color amongst the predominately green landscape.

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Exploring Alum Creek Reservoir north of the Howard Road bridge.

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The green corridor along Griggs Reservoir and the Scioto River is still providing opportunities to view migrated birds as well as local residents.

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The portrait of a Cape May warbler gets photo bombed by a pair of amorous ladybugs, Griggs Park.

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Eastern Phoebe, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Yellow-throated Warbler, Griggs Park.

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A Blue-headed Vireo makes an appearance at Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Song Sparrow, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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A pair of Northern Flickers, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Juvenile Green Heron, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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A pair of Carolina Wrens, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Female Belted Kingfisher, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Sparrows going for a swim, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

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.   .   .  and plenty of insects, spiders, and flowers too!

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Variegated Fritillary, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Monarch, Griggs Park.

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Mating Blue-fronted Dancers, Griggs Park, Donna.

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A Praying Mantis pays us a visit, (Donna).

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Calico Asters, Griggs Park.

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Corn Earworm Moth, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Wandering Glider, Griggs Park, (Donna, she wouldn’t tell me how long she waited to get this pic).

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Pearl Crescents, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Seemingly unperturbed, a Grey Hairstreak shares a small flower with a bumblebee, (Donna).

 

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Variable Orb Weaver, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Common Checkered Skipper, Griggs park, (Donna).

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Orange Sulfur, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Mudflats and logs exposed along Alum Creek due to slightly lower water levels provided an opportunity to see a few shorebirds.

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Spotted Sandpiper along Alum Creek north of the reservoir.

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Solitary Sandpiper along Alum Creek north of the reservoir.

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Alum Creek.

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The little bit of rain we’ve had recently brought out some fungi.

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Unidentified, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Non-inky Coprinus, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Witch’s Butter, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Unlike two or three weeks ago when there were Ospreys everywhere, when we paddling the north end of Alum Creek Reservoir last Thursday none were seen.  However, there were a lot of cormorants and gulls.

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Along the shore of Alum Creek Reservoir.

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A Doubled Crested Cormorant takes flight as we paddle north on Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna).

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Looking for Ospreys, Alum Creek Reservoir.

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Along Alum Creek

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As if sensing the warm weather won’t last forever .   .   .

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Basking in the morning sun, Griggs Reservoir.

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The amount of insect activity we’ve seen in the last two weeks has been been truly amazing. We haven’t had our first frost yet so I’m sure a lot will change once that happens. Meanwhile we’ll continue to enjoy. Thanks for stopping by.

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Early autumn on Griggs Reservoir.

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Should you wish, various prints from this and other posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo. and Donna’s 2017 Birds of Griggs Park calendar is available at Calendar.

 

 

Birding By Canoe, Alum Creek Reservoir

There may be a few birds that are easier to see from a canoe but for us the real reason for using one is that we enjoy messing around in small boats and it does offer a unique perspective on the landscape. The north end of Alum Creek reservoir in central Ohio is a beautiful place to explore. With an endless number of coves you never know what you’ll discover so there’s always anticipation. On the down side, while using binoculars to observe birds is usually not too difficult, taking acceptable pictures is another story as holding the camera steady while you and everything else is moving is almost impossible. The stronger the breeze the greater the challenge so often when we’re in the canoe my wife becomes the photographer and I handle the boat.

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The following celebrates a recent adventure on the reservoir:

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Exploring a cove.

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We often direct our gaze upward as we follow the shoreline.

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Looking for birds.

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Along the shore a Red-tailed hawk seemed to be tending a nest but no immature birds were seen.

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There was no shortage of Baltimore Orioles.

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Northern Rough-winged Swallow, (Donna)

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Double-crested Cormorants, (Donna).

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While enjoying the birds, out of the corner of our eye we noticed a flowering plant unlike anything we recalled seeing before. So often when we discover a “new to us” plant it turns out to be invasive but that was not the case with this one.

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Close-up photography of a flower is not easy when you are in a canoe.

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Limber Honeysuckle, native to Ohio, very exotic looking.

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Another view, (Donna).

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Looking up isn’t always necessary, down lower a few birds and turtles also cooperated for the camera.

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A Pileated Woodpecker liked something about this log.

 

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How many ducklings can a mother Wood Duck care for?

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A moment later they heading up into the grass, (Donna)

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Small Map Turtle, (Donna)

 

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Spotted Sandpiper along the shore.

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Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle, (Donna).

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There was no shortage of Prothonotary Warblers, (Donna).

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Singing, (Donna).

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These birds are flexible!, (Donna).

 

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Other plants also fascinated.

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Pussytoes, (Donna).

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Shoreline grass, (Donna)

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Corn Salad, (Donna).

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In addition to the birds and fascinating plants my wife spotted this small butterfly.

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Pearl Crescent, (Donna).

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Pearl Crescent from below, (Donna).

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Did I say Alum Creek Reservoir is a beautiful place? It is, but the dark side is that there’s a lot of thrash.

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Just part of the trash we collected during our paddle. The bow and stern areas of the canoe were full.

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But ending on a more upbeat note:

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Cove, Alum Creek Reservoir.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

A Mink and a Dragonfly

Minks are not something one usually thinks of when exploring natural areas within the confines of a city like Columbus, Ohio. Over the years we’ve seen a few, but they’re rare, and it had been awhile since our last sighting. We debated between a drive to the Hocking Hills, a beautiful area near Columbus, for a fall color hike, or a paddle on the reservoir near our home. We decided to take advantage of a sunny relatively calm day and put the canoe in the water. As you may have guessed, our decision resulted in seeing a Mink and a dragonfly.

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Recently, while walking along Griggs Reservoir, color and scenery has been about as good as it gets.

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Along the reservoir, Griggs Park.

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West shore.

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Looking up.

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Walking along the reservoir.

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While we don’t have the brilliant red’s of the state up north, autumn in Ohio has it’s own beauty.

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The same color and scenery drew us in as we started our paddle. We had the reservoir to ourselves, not another boat, not even a fisherman, to be seen. For a place in the middle if the city, it was quiet. A very slight 55 degree morning breeze greeted us and we had to keep moving to stay warm. The temperature, the sound of our paddles and that of the canoe as it knifed through the water, as well as the autumn shore quietly passing by, all served to encourage us on.

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Photographing a Griggs Reservoir cove.

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No shortage of leaves on the water

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Hayden Run as it flows into the reservoir.

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Trees and leaves.

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Working our way north.

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Pool along Hayden Run

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The north end of the reservoir has fewer boat docks and can be quite beautiful.

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Green giving way to yellow.

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Cove along the west shore.

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A red leaf!

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During recent walks, as well as during our paddle, we’ve seen numerous birds. They’ve been very active.

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A Goldfinch blends in.

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A resident Great Blue Heron enjoying the autumn sun.

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But we get too close.

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Poetry .   .   .

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Cormorants flying high overhead, (Donna).

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A male Wood Duck stays put as two females streak by overhead, (Donna).

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A Nuthatch goes about it’s business along the shore.

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Mallard’s stand at attention, almost, (Donna).

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A Red tail hawk soars overhead, (Donna)

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Male Downy Woodpecker

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A Bluebird seeming to enjoy the fall colors.

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Inspecting it’s new digs, (Donna).

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Yellow-rumped Warbler

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Our interest in birds was interrupted when, after travelling about a mile north along the western shore, we saw the Mink. We almost fell out of the canoe. Normally, when one get’s really excited about something seen, you screw up when attempting to photograph it. We were lucky, between the two of us we managed to get a few good shots.

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Mink, (Donna)

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Take 2, (Donna)

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Take 3.

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And as if the Mink wasn’t enough, at the very north end of the reservoir we pulled out to explore a low lying often wet area that’s home to birds, insects, and wildflowers .   .   .

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Very north end of the reservoir.

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.  .  .  and while there wasn’t much in the way of wildflowers we did manage to discover a new for us dragonfly, an Autumn Meadowhawk. Needless to say we were excited!

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The weathered, sun warmed, surface of a log attracts mating Autumn Meadowhawks, (Donna)

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It had been an invigorating, wonderful day, brisk and clear, with some wind, but never enough to effect our speed as we made our way south and home. Thinking about all we had seen, it was hard to believe our good fortune.

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Thanks for stopping by.

As Summer Goes On . . .

Photos often result from our time spent in nature but they are seldom the only reason we’re out there. Truth is, we just love being outdoors. Part of the fun is looking closely to see what each new day brings. Perhaps it’s a flower, butterfly, bird, or something else that appears unexpectedly.

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Below is a pictorial ramble through things seen in the last few weeks in central Ohio that amazed or enchanted.

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The summer flowers have really been coming through for us this year.

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Swamp Rose Mallow, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Halberd-leaved Rose-Mallow along water’s edge, Griggs Reservoir

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Monkey Face along Griggs Reservoir

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Trumpet Flower along Griggs Reservoir

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Checking out the Lizard’s tail, Griggs Reservoir

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A closer look.

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While things are starting to dry out from an unusual amount of early summer rain, it continues to be a good year for fungi.

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Taking a close look at mushrooms in a neighbors lawn reveals unexpected beauty.

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White Jelly fungus, Griggs Park

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Chicken Mushroom, Griggs Park

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It’s harder to find warblers now but other birds are filling in.

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While kayak fishing on O’Shaughnessy Reservoir this immature Black-crowned Night Heron was spotted along the shore. A real treat!

 

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Adult Black-crowned Night Heron, Griggs Reservoir.

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Solitary Sandpiper on mudflats, Paint Creek Reservoir

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Eastern Phoebe with a snack, Paint Creek, (Donna)

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Killdeer on mud flats, Paint Creek

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Green Heron, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Great Egret, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Taking flight, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir

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Baby mallard, Griggs Reservoir

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Double Crested Cormorants in the middle of Griggs Reservoir

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Portrait of a Great Blue Heron, Griggs Reservoir.

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At first we thought it might be a beaver.

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Muskrat, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir.

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Insects continue to satisfy our curiosity.

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Black Swallowtail, Paint Creek

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Eastern Tiger Swallowtails puddling, Paint Creek, (Donna)

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A closer look, Paint Creek

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Blue-fronted Dancer, Paint Creek, (Donna)

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American Rubyspot, Paint Creek, (Donna)

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Stream Bluet and American Rubyspot , Paint Creek, (Donna)

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Powdered Dancer, Paint Creek, (Donna)

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Ebony Jewelwing, Griggs Reservoir.

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Female Ebony Jewelwing, Griggs Reservoir

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Stream Bluets mating, Griggs Reservoir

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Cicada, front yard.

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.   .   .   and it’s always nice to see turtles and snakes some of which were in unexpected locations due to recent high water.

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Painted Turtle, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir.

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Snapping Turtle, Scioto River just below Griggs Dam.

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Garter Snake, Scioto River just below Griggs Dam.

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Common Water Snake, Scioto River just below Griggs Dam.

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Sometimes it’s just the place.

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Cove, Griggs Reservoir

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Paint Creek riffles, heading further upstream would have meant more dragging than paddling.

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Cliffs along Paint Creek.

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Lunch stop, Paint Creek

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It was very quiet as we paddled along the cliffs, Paint Creek Reservoir.

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Looking north on Paint Creek Reservoir as cormorants enjoy their sunny perch.

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O’Shaughnessy Reservoir looking much more isolated than it actually is.

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Thanks for stopping by.

You Never Know What You’ll Find

The July morning on Alum Creek Reservoir was warm, misty, and still when we started our paddle. In such conditions the canoe moves effortlessly across the lake’s smooth surface. The only sounds were those of our paddles as they rhythmically entered the water, the faint chatter of a few birds along the mostly oak and hickory shoreline, and the occasional thunder from a distant storm. Was the storm coming our way? We took a chance and continued on.  As the day progressed under a soft hazy sky, the wind stayed away, and the spotty thunderstorms, always lurking in the distance, never did find us.

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The luxury of such a day is that the trip out from the launch site as well as the return are equally easy. The absence of a stiff headwind and it’s accompanying waves encouraged us to explore more of the lake than we might have otherwise.

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Our typical route when we paddle the north end of the reservoir.

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Alum Creek Reservoir

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Green Herons were everywhere.

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Immature Green Heron

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Mature Green Heron

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Ready to pounce.

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Showing it’s crest.

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The Kingfishers were practicing their avoidance behavior. Never allowing us close enough for a really good shot as we moved along the shoreline.

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Female Kingfisher

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Another look.

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80% of our shots.

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It was hard to miss the ever present Double-crested Cormorants.

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Cormorant shapes.

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Even a sandpiper stopping long enough for a photo.

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Spotted Sandpiper

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It was good to see the Osprey family doing well. One of several at the north end of the lake.

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Osprey family.

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A water snake struck a nice pose as we paddled up Alum Creek past the small town of Kilbourne.

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Common Water Snake

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But wouldn’t you just know it, on the way back, an owl was waiting “just for us” in one the last coves we decided to explore.

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Barred Owl in a cove on a tree overhanging the water.

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Thinking I might want to get out of here.

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Out of here.

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To a more secluded spot.

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Not something we often see from the canoe and a real thrill.

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Thanks for stopping by.

In Search of The Beautiful But Elusive Prothonotary Warbler

No birding adventure is any better than if it can be combined with time in a canoe. Recently we decided to to explore the shoreline of O’Shaughnessy Reservoir and the Twin Lakes area with the hope of seeing warblers. In past years the Twin Lakes Area (O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve)  has been very good so we were hopeful.

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The Route

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While there are few things as enjoyable as viewing birds from a canoe, photographing them from such is a different matter.  The smaller the bird the more difficult, as movements are usually quicker and more erratic. In even the calmest conditions it’s a challenge to position the boat properly then quickly grab the camera and hope the bird hasn’t flown. The boat has an uncanny ability to swing around as you’re attempting to get a shot resulting in one doing an owl impersonation in order to keep shooting. Add wind, wave action, or river current  and  .   .   .   , I think you get the picture.

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The day started out with a very light breeze but by late morning boat control became more of an issue with my wife doing more of the shooting while I managed things. We didn’t succeed in our quest to see a Prothonothary Warbler, but as is often the case, other birds as well as wildflowers and other wildlife took up the slack.

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Double-crested Cormorants watched as we explored the shoreline.

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Adult and juvenile Double-crested Cormorants

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Juvenile

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The adult decides he’s had enough.

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A Red Shouldered Hawk was also sizing things up,

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Red-shouldered Hawk

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as Tree Swallows looked on.

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Tree Swallow, (Donna)

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Enjoying the front porch.

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Once past the swallows we heading into an area where we typically see Prothonotary Warblers.

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Looking for Prothonotary Warblers, Twin Lakes

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As already mentioned, the Prothonotary Warblers eluded us, but we were greeted by a Solitary Sandpipers attracted to mudflats exposed by the receding water level.

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Solitary Sandpiper

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Looking at it’s reflection.

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We then decided to explore a nearby stream.

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Eversole Run flowing into the Twin Lakes area.

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Up the stream we were entertained by a Blue-gray Gnatcather gathering nesting material.

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher gathering lichen.

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Not giving up

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3 wing out head cocked 1 050415 tiwn   lakes cp1

Totally getting into it! (Donna)

P1020157

Eversole Run

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Working our way back to the main part of the lake we noticed turtles enjoying the warmth of the sun.

Turtle Painted IMG_8327use

Painted Turtle.

Turtles on a log closer 3 050415 twin lakes cp1

A real gathering, (Donna)

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Wildflowers were spotted along the bank and my wife decided to investigate.

Bluets cluster 1 050415 twin lakes cp1

Bluets, (Donna)

Pussy Toes 1 close-up 1 050415 twin lakes cp1

Pussy Toes, (Donna)

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Many Yellow-rumped warblers were seen but the only warbler that cooperated for a picture was this female Yellow.

Yellow Warbler 3 LR better 1 050415 twin lakes cp1

Female Yellow Warbler, (Donna)

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We hugged the west shore to stay out of the wind as we worked our way back to the launch. As we did so, a bird not often seen was encountered which got us pretty excited.

Blue-winged IMG_8432use

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal 1 take off 050415 twin lakes cp1

Taking flight, (Donna)

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All in all it was a very good day.

P1020160

Twin Lakes Area

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“So why do we take pictures, sometimes of the same bird or scene that was photographed just a few days ago?

We take them to tell a story, in celebration of the beauty of life, and to share our joy”.

.

Thanks for stopping by.

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