While I Was Away Fishing

With the arrival of a granddaughter and my annual fishing trip to Michigan photographing the wonders of nature in central Ohio has been a bit neglected. Fortunately in my absence my wife took up the slack and was busy finding fascinating things closer to home. In fact, considering that it’s usually the slow time of year, there have been an amazing number of things to see.

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Numerous Kingbirds nest along the reservoir in Griggs Reservoir Park and while the babies have fledged they still expect their meals to be catered. Fortunately, ample fresh berries and cicadas make the work a little easier.

Bringing dinner home, (Donna).

Trying to get noticed, (Donna).

Finally! (Donna).

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When not being entertained by the kingbirds; vireos, numerous Great Crested Flycatchers, and even a Yellow Warbler were spotted.

A Warbling Vireo which is not often seen this time of year, (Donna).

An immature Red-eyed Vireo, (Donna).

Great Crested Flycatcher, (Donna).

Yellow Warbler, a rare find in the park in early August, (Donna).

Barn Swallows engage in a heated discussion about sharing a dragonfly, (Donna).

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A first of the year Buckeye Butterfly and a seldom seen Royal River Cruiser were also spotted.

Buckeye, (Donna).

A Royal River Cruiser not often seen along Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

and not to ignore some of the more usual suspects .   .   .

A Eastern Tiger Swallowtail at waters edge, (Donna).

Amberwing Dragonflies are common but due to their small size are often hard to photograph, (Donna).

Monarch, (Donna).

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It’s always hard to compete with my wife’s discoveries but as usual the Rifle River Recreation Area did not disappoint with some nice Large Mouth Bass caught. To eliminate as much trauma as possible the barbs were removed from the hooks which doesn’t seem to effect the catch rate and I’m sure the fish are much happier as they swim away.

A beautiful morning on Devoe Lake.

Typical of the Large Mouth Bass caught. This one was on Au Sable Lake.

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There were often a pair of Trumpeter Swans not far off while fishing on Devoe Lake. In addition there were always loons to enjoy. An encouraging discovery was not only the number of loons seen on the lakes within the park, where they nest due to the absence of motorboat traffic/wakes, but on the cottage lined lakes nearby.

Common Loons, Devoe Lake.

Au Sable Lake

Rifle Lake

As can be seen from the above screen shots Rifle Lake does not have suitable habitat for nesting but Au Sable Lake does with a considerable amount of sheltered natural shoreline. To my joy immature loons were observed there.

Lily pads on Devoe Lake.

Trumpeter Swans, Devoe Lake.

Near sunset on Devoe Lake.

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As I finished this post a task required that I briefly venture outside. In our front yard a hummingbird briefly hovered close by and then went about it’s business. Such a serendipitous occurrence caused me to stop for a moment, and as I did, ever so faintly, the call of a loon on Devoe Lake could be “heard”. I was left again with the realization that nature’s wonder can be found in many places. Whether on a lake in Michigan or in a city park of Columbus Ohio, all we need to do is open our eyes.

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Thanks for stopping by.

The Rifle River and A Mystery Bird

It’s that time of year again when we travel 6.5 hours north from our home in central Ohio to the Rifle River Recreation Area. Usually we enjoy checking out different areas for new adventures but this park’s unique beauty keeps us coming back. Whether paddling on the park lakes or hiking the trails there is always something to discover. From one week to the next different wildflowers can be seen. Spring warbler activity is complimented by the evening call of a Whippoorwill or Barred Owl and there’s always the distant call of a loon on Devoe Lake.

(click on images for a closer look)

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This year’s late June visit meant that in addition to increased warbler activity we’d also see blooming lady slippers and pitcher plants. Of course there would also be more mosquitoes to deal with and they’re always particularly pesky when one crouches down to study a flower or take a photograph.

A shaft of sunlight highlights a fern along the trail.

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My wife was nice enough to contribute the bulk of the pictures for this post as much of my time was spent fishing. However, to start the post off on a curious note I did notice something interesting one afternoon while hiking.

These rolled up birch? leaves littered the forest floor.

A closer inspection revealed a small caterpillar within the shelter of the rolled up leaf. It was in the process of eating it’s way out. Another egg sac near by? Based on an educated guess it would appear that a moth deposited it’s eggs on the underside of the leaf which then caused it to roll up and fall to the ground. Inside the leaf the caterpillar is safe from the prying eyes of birds until it escapes into the leaf litter and pupates soon to emerge as a moth and continue the cycle.

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When my wife wasn’t hiking and I wasn’t trying to catch a fish we did a fair amount of exploring by canoe.

Yours truly with a Devoe Lake Large Mouth Bass.

Exploring Grebe Lake

Common Loon, Devoe Lake.

Take two, (Donna).

Yellow Pond Lily, Grebe Lake.

Painted Turtle, Loud Pond, Au Sable River, (Donna).

Paddling trough the lily pads, Grebe Lake.

Trumpeter Swans, Grebe Lake.

A Mink checks us out along the Au Sable River, (Donna).

Au Sable River Walleye.

While Water Lily, (Donna).

Kingbirds entertained us as we paddled the Devoe Lake shoreline, (Donna).

Morning on Devoe Lake.

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One day as we drove back to our campsite after a morning paddle we came upon an unusual discovery in the middle of the road.

Our first thought was to move it along before it became the victim of a less observant driver.

But a closer look revealed that it was a Blanding’s Turtle something we’d expect to see in a nearby lake but not in it’s present location. Since it’s not a turtle we often see we were pretty excited, (Donna).

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However, perhaps the most unusual thing seen during our week long stay was the bird spotted while hiking along Weir Road.

The best ID we could come up with was a partially leucistic White-breasted Nuthatch but it’s beak didn’t look right. The mystery remains.

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We’d be remiss if we didn’t give special mention to the Ovenbirds and Yellowbellied Sapsuckers that entertained us each day at our campsite.

Ovenbird, (Donna).

With a white moth.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, taken while hiking but representative of the activity around our campsite, (Donna).

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While on the subject of birds, while hiking a park trail my wife was excited to see a Black Billed Cuckoo. It was a life bird for her.

Black Billed Cuco, (Donna).

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Finally, below is a summary of other things seen as we explored the park trails.

A recently emerged mushroom translucent in the sunlight.

A family of very colorful but small mushrooms.

Wild Columbine along the trail.

Hawkweed and fern.

The Rifle River

Showy Lady’s Slippers along the park road. A real treat to see.

A closer look, (Donna).

Bunch Berry Flower

Spotted Thyris Moth on fleabane.

Deep into the woods.

Red-spotted Purple

Another view, (Donna).

Yellow Lady’s Slippers were also seen, (Donna).

The flower of the Pitcher Plant. The plant gets it name by the shape of the leaves at the base of the plant which trap insects in water the leaves collect.

Overlooking Pintail Pond

Hover fly on dogwood blossoms.

This fairly large moth has yet to be identified.

Fleabane

Eastern Wood Pewee, (Donna).

Elfin (not Slaty) Skimmer.

Yellow Goats Beard, (Donna).

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, (Donna).

Another view.

Sheep Laurel, (Donna).

American Redstarts were fairly common, (Donna).

Blue Flag Iris, (Donna).

Dot-tailed Whiteface, (Donna).

River Jewelwing (M), (Donna).

River Jewelwing (F), (Donna).

Cedar Waxwing, (Donna).

Four-spotted Skimmer, (Donna).

Wood Frog, (Donna).

Coral Fungus, (Donna).

Chaulk-fronted Corporal

Wild Geranium, (Donna).

Little Wood Satyr.

Indian Pipe (before), (Donna).

After? (Donna).

A Green Heron stalks prey along the Devoe Lake shore, (Donna).

Black-shouldered Spinyleg, (Donna)

Another interesting plant we have yet to ID, (Donna).

Dead Mans Fingers, (Donna).

Delaware Skipper, (Donna).

Baby Robin, (Donna).

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As each day passes nature evolves. A wishful thought would be to spend one week each month in a place such as Rifle River Rec Area. Then one would truly appreciate it’s wonder. Thanks for stopping by.

Misty Day, Devoe Lake.

An Uncommon Loon

During a recent rough and windy late May paddle in central Ohio we were excited by the sighting of an immature Common Loon. This is the first time we’d seen one while paddling in Ohio. Usually they’ve moved north by the time we get the canoe in the water so this one was a bit of a mystery. On this particular day our goal had been to see warblers while exploring the reservoir’s quiet coves but the wind put a damper on that effort. Fortunately there were other things to see.

Common Loon, Alum Creek Reservoir north of Cheshire Rd, (Donna).

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In one cove after a little exploring on foot a relatively new Beaver lodge and dam were discovered.

Beaver Lodge, Alum Creek State Park.

A beaver lodge resident, Kentucky Flat Millipede.

Beaver Dam, Alum Creek State Park.

.   .   .  and yes we did get one very average picture of a Yellow Warbler near the beaver dam.

Yellow Warbler, Alum Creek State Park, (Donna).

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A little further on a mother Wood Duck did her best to distract us from her babies.

Female Wood Duck, Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna).

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The outing’s best bird pictures were taken by my wife at the end of the day while I put the canoe on the roof of the car.

Eastern Towhee, Alum Creek State Park, (Donna).

Female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Alum Creek State Park, (Donna).

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The season moves on and with it the ever increasing activity of butterflies and dragonflies. New adventures await.

Female Common Whitetail.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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It’s A Butterfly Time Of Year

Not that they aren’t seen earlier in the spring and summer but August does seem to be the time for butterflies. This year it’s been almost impossible to be out for any length of time without seeing a Monarch. In the late morning or afternoon small but beautiful Pearl Crescents make the shorter grass along the trail their playground. The beauty of some butterflies like the Giant Swallowtail is apparent to even a casual observer but others like the Buckeye reveal their beauty only after a closer look. Others like the hairstreaks are easy to miss altogether unless you know what to look for. The good news is that you don’t have to get up a the crack of dawn to see butterflies.

Sunlight filters through the woods along the Big Derby during a recent butterfly hike.

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So below is a celebration of butterflies that have been seen in the last few weeks. Much of the credit must go to my wife who tirelessly pursues these usually unpredictable creatures until she gets the shot she wants while I often content myself to photographing the more predictable wildflowers.

In late summer Bull Thistle is common in the prairie areas of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park and seems to attract it’s share of Monarchs.

The Giant Swallowtail is Ohio’s largest butterfly and not one we see every day, Griggs Reservoir Park..

A Giant Swallowtail depositing eggs, (Donna).

Great Blue Lobelia enjoying the more shaded areas of Griggs Reservoir Park.

A very small female Eastern-tailed Blue rewards Donna by opening it’s wings.

Prairie sunflowers, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

The beautiful but very small Gray Hairstreak, (Donna).

Hackberry Emperors are fairly common in Griggs reservoir Park and on a warm day enjoy hitching a ride on your arm to take advantage of your perspiration, (Donna).

Cardinal Flower

A small Summer Azure almost seems to blend in, (Donna).

Wingstem, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park prairie.

The not often seen Meadow Fritillary

The fairly common but lovely Orange Sulfur, (Donna).

New England Aster

Usually not seen in central Ohio until late summer or fall the medium size Buckeye is striking, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Fringed Loosestrife also enjoys the more shaded areas along the Scioto River.

A small Zabulon Skipper, (Donna).

A small but lovely Common Checkered Skipper, (Donna).

Lazard’s Tail along the Scioto River, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Silver Spotted Skipper, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Tall Blue Lettuce, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Red-spotted Purple, (Donna).

Another look, (Donna).

Gray-headed Coneflowers seem to take flight.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Another look.

A somewhat faded black form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, (Donna)

Black Swallowtail, (Donna).

Black Swallowtail laying eggs, (Donna).

Ironweed, Griggs Reservoir Park.

The Peck’s Skipper is a very small moth like butterfly, (Donna).

Cup Plant

Monarch, (Donna).

Monarch

Trumpet Flowers, (Donna).

Mating Pearl Crescents

Pearl Cresent

Tall Bellflower

Eastern Comma

The tiny flowers of Virginia Knotweed.

Certainly not the most aesthetic setting, a Zebra Swallowtail lands in our canoe just as we finish a paddle on Paint Creek, (Donna).

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Where there are butterflies and moths there are caterpillars and no one is better at spotting them than my wife.

Brown-hooded Owlet, (Donna).

Monarch caterpillar, (Donna).

Orange Dog (Giant Swallowtail caterpillar), (Donna).

Another look.

Black Swallowtail caterpillar showing horns. Horns extend when head is touched lightly. Donna).

Without horns protruding, (Donna).

Sycamore Tussock Moth caterpillar, (Donna).

Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillars, (Donna).

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We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge some of the birds that continue to charm us as we walk through the woods of central Ohio.

Male Goldfinch, (Donna).

This time of year False Dragonhead can be seen along the shore of Griggs Reservoir.

A Ruby throated Hummingbird checks out the Bull Thistle at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, (Donna).

Woodland Sunflowers offer a splash of color in the woods along the Scioto River.

A Tufted Titmouse checks Donna out as she attempts to take it’s picture.

Indigo Bunting, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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So what was I doing while my wife was taking so many excellent photographs in central Ohio? Fishing in Michigan of course.

This nice Largemouth Bas went swimming right after posing for this picture.

Fishing at sunset on Devoe Lake, Rifle River Recreation Area.

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If time spent in nature speaks to the essence of your being, your soul, you have riches greater than any material procession can offer. A wealth that grows in health, spirit, and the awareness of being part of the greater mystery. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

My Florida Photo Favorites

It’s been several weeks since our return from Florida. For the last few years we’ve been blessed to travel to various state parks exploring nature and the area’s natural beauty. I’ve chosen to post a few of my favorite photos from this years trip. A following post will include some of my wife’s favorite photos. Photos are favorites, when they capture the unique beauty of a creature, are of something not seen before, or contribute in some way to the story. Favorites need not always be great photographs.

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The parks visited over a period of eight weeks were: Myakka River State Park, Kissimmee Prairie State Park, Lake Kissimmee State Park, Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park,  Ochlocknee River State Park, and Three Rivers State Park. The idea was to start south and work our way north as the weather warmed going into early spring.

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This year we used bikes for the first time to initially explore trails which we could then hike if they looked promising. This coupled with the use of a canoe allowed us to spend time in a number of different Florida environments. On long hikes or bike rides our “go to” camera was the Panasonic FZ200. In the canoe or on shorter hikes we used DSLRs with telephoto zooms.

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Along the trail, typical of many of the parks visited.

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Myakka River State Park has been a favorite for the past two years primarily because of the potential for nature/bird photography. Paddling can be enjoyable if you and your partner(s) don’t mind being in close proximity to some rather large gators. The distance one can paddle within the park may be limited depending on water conditions and your determination. Hiking is good with some trails traversing more diverse habitat than others.

This Glossy Ibis gives ample reason for the name, Myakka River SP.

A Little Blue Heron strikes a rather exotic pose, Myakka River SP.

These Roseate Spoonbills were taking full advantage of the concentrated but temporary food source caused by a recent hurricane that flooded a substantial portion of the park trapping fish and other edibles in depression pools left as the water receded, Myakka River SP.

Wood Storks and Whistling Ducks seem to get along just fine, Myakka River SP.

A Wood Stork shows off it’s catch, Myakka River SP.

Momentarily startled, birds take a break from the depression pool feeding frenzy, Myakka River SP.

The Whistling Ducks in a better light, Myakka River SP.

Red Shouldered Hawks (FL morph) are very common, Myakka River SP.

This Snowy Egret provides ample proof as to why these birds were almost driven the extinction in the late 1800s and early 1900s all for the sake of fashion, Myakka River SP.

White Pelicans over Myakka River SP. Something that must be witnessed in person as a photograph does not capture their graceful flight.

Florida Tassel Flower, Myakka River SP.

Peaceful coexistence in Myakka River SP. At least until the gator grows up!

If you love gators take the hike (permit required) to the Deep Hole in Myakka River SP. A hiking partners count indicated that there were 151 along the shore and 18 in the water the day we were there.

An Anhinga dries out and in the process makes a beautiful picture, Myakka River SP.

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Kissimmee Prairie State Park was a new park for us this year. The main draw was the chance to see Crested Caracara as well as Burrowing Owls. The trails, while extensive, were often under water. A trail capable bicycle is almost essential if you really want to explore the park. While no Burrowing Owls were seen, a Black-crowned Night Heron rockery as well as other bird species made the stay worthwhile.

Numerous creatures call the park home.

While looking for the Crested Caracara we were delighted to see this Loggerhead Shrike, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Take 2.

Eastern Meadowlarks were quite common in the park. Getting close enough for a really great photo was always a challenge.

A beautiful White-eyed Vireo.

Trail in Kissimmee Prairie SP.

A side by side comparison of a Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Black Swallowtails almost never seem to land but then one afternoon, as I looked at some distant birds, there it was right at my feet..

A Black-crowned Night Heron rookery of perhaps 30 or 40 birds was discovered along one of the trails. They scattered as soon as we got close.

Exploring the trail near the rookery, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

While reconnoitering a new trail we found this Florida banded water snake, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Probably the most interesting bird seen during our stay was the Crested Caracara. Common in SW Texas it’s range is very limited in Florida, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Take 2.

 

Can you find the insect? Kissimmee Prairie SP.

An immature Little Blue Heron casts a lovely reflection, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Sometimes we only saw evidence of wildlife, a Bobcat, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

One wonders how many birds fall prey to alligators, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

A lone sentinel, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

While many miles of hiking trails were advertised not all were suitable for that purpose.

Numerous White Peacock butterflies graced the trail edge as we hiked, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

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Lake Kissimmee State Park is a favorite offering fairly extensive paddling and hiking opportunities. Nature viewing, while not as concentrated an experience as Myakka River, is very good. Campsites are some of the best in Florida. The only downside is airboat noise on the weekend and make no mistake they are load.

There are many lovely trails in the park.

A Tricolored Heron poses as we paddle Tiger Creek, Lake Kissimmee SP

Not many Green Herons are seen in Florida, perhaps due to their excellent camouflage, but his one was spotted along Tiger Creek.

Take 2.

Tiger Creek, Lake Kissimmee SP.

A Snowy Egret along Tiger Creek.

While bicycling on one of the park trails this Eastern Towhee posed for a picture.

Along the lake shore this Red-shouldered Hawk almost eluded the camera’s lens.

One of the most beautiful birds in Florida, the Purple Gallinule seen along the shore of Lake Kissimmee. Supposedly not all that uncommon but we haven’t seen many over the three years we’ve been going to Florida.

A Pine Warbler seems to be checking something out.

Sure enough!

Some distance away, a solitary Bald Eagle watches as we paddle by.

In a quest to get a dramatic picture of this rather large gator we paddled a little too close. It wasn’t happy and neither was my wife!

A Northern Parula Warbler proves difficult to photograph.

Along the trail in Lake Kissimmee SP a rather large Yellow Rat Snake makes itself comfortable in the morning sun.

A closer look.

A Gopher Tortoise ambles along a park road. They can live for almost 60 years and their borrows provide habitat for numerous cretures including Burrowing Owls. Days will go by and we won’t see one and then .   .   .

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Payne’s Prairie Preserve State park was a new park for us this year. With it’s extensive area we hoped to see a variety of wildlife. Of interest is the fact that the park maintains herds of Spanish Horses as well as Bison. Many waterfowl had already departed on their journey north when we were there.

I had been trying for several days to get a good picture of a Northern Parula Warbler as they seemed to be everywhere. Then one morning sitting outside while visiting a local bakery for breakfast one just about landed on my nose, thankfully I had my FZ200.

Blue Winged Teal, Sweetwater Wetlands Park near Payne’s Prairie Preserve SP.

Green Winged Teal???  Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

A mother’s love! Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

Osprey, Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

Palmetto reflections, Payne’s Prairie Preserve SP.

The Spanish horse is considerably smaller than a typical quarter horse. All have the same coat.

A Song Sparrow catches a spider, Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

A very small anole, Payne’s Prairie Preserve SP.

Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

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For a number of years Ochlocknee River SP has been one of our favorite parks due to it’s potential for paddling as will as the close proximity of other areas of interest for the birder and nature lover; Bald Point SP and St Marks NWR. Hiking in the park itself, while not extensive, does provide the opportunity to see the threatened Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

The white morph of the Gray Squirrel comprises a charming part of the park’s welcoming committee.

A small active bird, the Brown Headed Nuthatch is a challenge to photograph.

Oystercatcher, Bald Point SP near Ochlocknee River SP.

Royal Terns, Bald Point SP.

A juvenile Bald Eagle flexes it’s wings, St. Marks NWR.

Brown Pelicans, Bald Point SP.

Least Terns, Bald Point SP.

Taking a break during an eight mile paddle exploring a side creek to the Ochlocknee River, Ochlocknee River SP.

A group of Sanderlings take a great interest in something, Bald Point SP.

A Ruddy Turnstone checks out what’s left of a Horseshoe Crab, Bald Point SP.

This Brown Thrasher was a regular visitor at our campsite.

The Ruddy Turnstone is thinking; “Let someone else do the work and just as they retrieve the morsel, steal it!”

Rain Lilies along the road, Ochlocknee River SP.

Snowy Plover, St Marks NWR.

Marbled Godwit, St Marks NWR. A life bird for us!

Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Ochlocknee River SP.

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Three Rivers SP was a new park for us this year and was selected primarily for it’s paddling potential. The lake was fairly open and much of the shoreline was shallow and weed choked making it less than ideal for paddling. Due to the lakes huge area wildlife was well dispersed making viewing a bit of a challenge. It was an excellent area for butterflies with some good, if not extensive, hiking trails.

Red Buckeye was in bloom at Three Rivers SP.

Taking a break during a long paddle on Lake Seminole, Three Rivers SP.

Immature Common Loon, Three Rivers SP.

A closer look.

Rain Lilies, Three Rivers SP.

Black Swallowtails on Bull Thistle.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Zebra Swallowtail, Three Rivers SP.

Black Swallowtail.

An almost constantly in motion Pipevine Swallowtail

Osprey on nest, Apalachee Wildlife Management Area.

Crimson clover, Apalachee Wildlife Management Area.

Lily pads, Apalachee Wildlife Management Area.

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That’s it for this post. Many other pictures could have been posted but if you made it this far I’m impressed with your forbearance. Looking back on our experience, we’re reminded what an unbelievably beautiful but fragile resource Florida’s natural areas are. As one drives the highways of the state signs of new or proposed development are not uncommon so pressure on limited resources continues.

Sunset, Myakka river SP.

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When I started out taking pictures years ago I was fascinated with light and composition as subjects of interest were photographed. It was rewarding to make the effort to capture what was being experienced when looking at a scene. A big fringe benefit, and true blessing, has been a heightened curiosity about the world around me. What is that bird or bug that was just photographed, what is significant about it, and why does it matter. The world is much bigger now.

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Thanks for stopped by

Hiking The North Carolina Mountains

Every couple of years we rendezvous with friends near Asheville, NC for a few days of hiking. Much of what is seen is different than that found in in central Ohio and that’s part of the area’s appeal. However, unlike central Ohio with it relatively flat terrain, the rugged ups and downs make the trails no walk in the woods. Because of this, as well as the length of some of the hikes, the serious cameras were left at home. Even so my wife got some excellent results with her Panasonic FZ200 while I explored the performance limits of the ZS50.

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Our base of operation is the Sourwood Inn which is convenient to Ashville and highly recommended should you find yourself in the area for a hiking vacation or just a quiet getaway. On our recent trip we hiked portions of the  Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST), The Snowball Mountain Trail, Craggy Gardens Trail, and the Craggy Pinnacle Trail which are part of the Craggy Gardens Trails group.

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In past years we’ve seen plenty of fungi, moss, and lichen, and this year was no exception. Usually numerous butterflies are seen while hiking but this year we saw more along the Blue Ridge Parkway as we drove to the various trailheads which was not convenient for pictures. 

Along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) near Rattle Snake Lodge.

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Usually located not far off the trail, fungi, lichen, and moss captured our attention. Except for the low light  seeing and photographing it is relatively straight forward. However, once in possession of a photograph trying to identify it can be a humbling experience. Over the years we’ve seen some often enough that identification is straight forward. For most this is not the case so many of the ID’s should be taken as our best guess.

In the family of the boletes,  Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) near Rattle Snake Lodge.

Probably in the bolete family,  Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) near Rattle Snake Lodge.,

Honey Mushroom, ,  Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) near Rattle Snake Lodge.

A family of mushrooms, unidentified, Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) near Rattle Snake Lodge.

Powder-cap Amanita, Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) near Rattle Snake Lodge.

This mushroom appears to be past it’s prime (note mold) making identification difficult.

 

Tinder Polypore, Snowball Mountain Trail

Mushrooms and Lung Lichen keep each other company, Snowball Mountain Trail.

Old Man’s Beard lichen and leaves with a hint of autumn, Snowball Mountain Trail.

Turkey Tail, Snowball Mountain Trail.,

 

This group appear to be some type of chanterelle,  Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) near Rattle Snake Lodge.

Another mushroom group along a trail near the inn.

A member of the bolete family, Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) near Rattle Snake Lodge.

Rooted Polypore, along a trail near the inn.

Velvet Foot, Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) near Rattle Snake Lodge, (Donna).

White Coral, Snowball Mountain Trail.

Crown-tipped Coral along a trail near the inn.

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One of several overlooks on the Snowball Mountain Trail.

A short but steep descent to Hawkbill Rock with it’s beautiful vista, Snowball Mountain Trail.

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When we weren’t trying to figure out the fungi there were wildflowers to enjoy.

Pinesap,  Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) near Rattle Snake Lodge.

To late for Foam Flower so this one remains unidentified, Snowball Mountain Trail.

Beech-drops, a parasitic plant which grows and subsists on the roots of American beech, line portions of the Snowball Mountain Trail.

Indian Cucumber Root, Snowball Mountain Trail.

Downey Rattlesnake Plantain, Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Snakeroot often bordered the trail, Craggy Gardens Trail.

Asters, Craggy Gardens Trail.

This is one of those cases where I was so fascinated with the structure of the flower that I forgot to photograph the leaves making identification almost impossible, Craggy Gardens Trail.

A cool morning made this lethargic bee easy to photograph on some trailside Goldenrod, Craggy Gardens Trail.

Turtlehead, Mountains-to-Sea Trail, (Donna).

Mountain Laurel, Snowball mountain Trail, (Donna).

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Overlook at Craggy Pinnacle.

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And butterflies:

Appalachian Brown, Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) near Rattle Snake Lodge, (Donna).

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) near Rattle Snake Lodge, (Donna).

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Even a turtle:

Box Turtle, Mountain to Sea Trail near Rattlesnake Lodge, (Donna).

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But not as many birds as we would have liked:

Dark-eyed Junco, Craggy Pinnacle, (Donna). Seen in central Ohio only in late fall through early spring. However, due to the elevation which creates a climate similar to that occurring much further north, these birds are year round residents.

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A view along Craggy Gardens Trail.

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With it’s high elevation and harsh weather trees have to be tough to survive along the Pinnacle Trail.

Located along the Craggy Pinnacle Trail one wonders how many times this tree has been photographed.

Another view.

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For those in the eastern part of the country looking for a some beautiful mountain hiking, the area near Asheville, NC is highly recommended. The plus is that with a vibrant downtown, good restaurants, fascinating shops, and excellent galleries, Asheville is a great place to explore should you decide your legs need a rest day.

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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.

 

A Few Days Along The Rifle River

Last week we spent a few days in Michigan in the Rifle River Recreation Area not far from the town of West Branch on the northeast side of the lower peninsula. With a number of excellent hiking trails, and lakes that don’t allow motors, it’s an excellent place for nature viewing. The lack of boat generated wakes on Devoe Lake means that Loons nest there. To the best of our knowledge it’s the closest location from central Ohio where nesting Loons can be seen. There are also Bald Eagles, Osprey as well as other birds to enjoy. When out exploring one is also treated to dragonflies and butterflies, as well as a number wildflowers not seen in central Ohio. Not far from the park is the AuSable River and the adjacent National Forest create even more opportunities for paddling and outdoor adventure.

Overlooking Grousehaven Lake, early morning.

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We could spend hours watching loons. A quiet paddle on Devoe Lake allows one to observe them as they go about their day.

Adult Common Loon, Devoe Lake

In the middle of preening this adult seems to be sneaking a peek.

Testing it’s wings, (Donna).

The young are almost always begging for food.

The adult comes through. How does a bird as big as a loon chase down such a small fish under water?

One more picture.

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A view from the canoe.

Devoe Lake

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Bald Eagles are sometimes seen flying overhead as we observe the loons with their young. If they get too close the adult loons create quite a commotion!

A Bald Eagle looks over Devoe Lake.

Bald Eagle, Load Pond, AuSable river.

Take 3, (Donna).

Other birds of prey also frequent the area.

An Osprey takes a break along the shoreline of Devoe Lake, (Donna).

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Early morning solitude near our campsite.

Looking across the Jewett Lake.

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Most birds were seen from the canoe as we made our way along the shoreline of Devoe and Grebe Lakes, as well as Loud Pond on the Au Sable River.

Baltimore Oriole, Devoe Lake.

A Kingbird, the dragonflies worst enemy, waits for it’s next meal along the shore of Devoe Lake.

Three Caspian Terns circled overhead, occasionally landing, as we made our way back to our launch site on wind swept Loud Pond. A few reasonable sharp images were obtained.

Trumpeter Swans, Grebe Lake.

A Kingfisher actually stays put long enough for a “usable” picture, Devoe Lake.

A Green Heron is caught preening, Devoe Lake, (Donna).

Spotted Sandpiper, Loud Pond.

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While hiking, especially this time of year, birds usually give way to the wildflowers and interesting types of fungus.

Coral fungus near our campsite.

Turtlehead.

Bridge across the Rifle River.

Grass of Parnassus

Ontario Lobelia

An exotic looking mushroom near our campsite.

Knapweed, (ID c/o “NH Garden Solutions”)

Indian Pipe

Donna enjoying the ferns.

Doll’s Eyes

Asters

Broad-leaved Arrowhead

Great Blue Lobelia.

Fringed Loosestrife, (Donna).

Just after this picture was taken this tree got a big hug!

Hawkweed.

Cardinal Flower was quiet common in the wet areas of the park.

Mushroom family near our campsite, (Donna).

Picture Plant and flower. Tough to get a good picture of.

An attractive group of mushrooms along the trail.

An attractive flower that has eluded identification. Some type of lobelia?

St. John’s Wort, (Donna).

Another example of some of the interesting fungi seen, (Donna).

Virgin’s Bower. (ID c/o “NH Garden Solutions”)

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Dragonflies, damselflies, and butterflies were seen as we enjoyed the wildflowers included one butterfly not typically seen in central Ohio.

Ruby Meadowhawk, (Donna).

The very small American Copper, not a butterfly we’ve seen in central Ohio, (Donna).

Monarchs mating.

Pelecinid Wasp

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, (Donna).

Mating Robber Flies. Robber flies are one of the insect worlds more ferocious looking subjects. An appearance that is not unwarranted!

Mating Spreadwings, (Donna).

Bad-Wing Moths mating.

Spotted Spreadwing, (Donna).

Katydid.

Red-spotted Purple, (Donna).

Vesper Bluet, (Donna).

Dragon Hunter, (Donna).

A Crab Spider ambushes a bee, (Donna).

Canada Darner

Common Wood-Nymph on Spiked Blazing-star.

Appalachian Brown, (Donna).

Great Spangled Fritillary, (Donna).

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A sense of place.

The Rifle River as it flows through the park.

Exploring a quiet backwater.

The quiet shoreline of Loud Pond, the AuSable River.

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Shall we go for a hike or paddle? The decision is often made based on the weather conditions. Wind and choppy water make canoe photography with long lenses almost impossible. However, should conditions permit we’re usually not disappointed be the flowers seen as we paddle!

Scaup Lake, Rifle River Rec Area.

Pickerel Weed and Lilly Pads, Grebe Lake.

Pickerel Weed, Grebe Lake.

American White Water Lily, Grebe Lake.

A closer look.

Meadow Sweet, (ID c/o “NH Garden Solutions”),  (Donna).

Swamp Smartweed

Water Shield, (ID c/o “NH Garden Solutions”), (Donna).

Yellow Pond Lily, (Donna).

Burr Reed, (ID c/o “NH Garden Solutions”), (Donna).

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Sometimes when hiking you don’t have to look real close to be overwhelmed by the beauty.

Gamble Creek, Class 1 trout stream, Rifle River Rec Area.

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No post would be complete without touching on some of the reptiles and amphibians seen. Seeing the skink was a surprise.

Bullfrog.

Wood Frog.

Painted Turtle

Five-lined Skink.

Garter Snake.

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While fishing along the Au Sable River upstream of Loud Pond, a Mink is sighted!

A Mink scurries along the bank, (Donna).

Au Sable River, catch and release, Small Mouth Bass. The river is one of the best Small Mouth Bass fisheries in the Midwest.

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We spend a lot of time looking and exploring but sometimes there’s a lot to be said for just being there.

The end of the day, Devoe Lake.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed this very incomplete sample of things that can be seen and experienced in the Rifle River Recreation Area.

The beauty is, the more time spent in nature the more you will see, the more you see the more you will want to understand and soon you’ll be carried away by the wonder and magic of it all.

As always thanks for stopping by!

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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.

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