August Ramble

In August insects catch our attention more often than birds. Compared to the frenzied activity of spring it can seem very quiet unless you look closely. In some ways feeling a bit like the “dead of winter” except that it’s summer. During a recent visit to Prairie Oaks Metro Park it was hard not to notice the toll that a few weeks of dry weather had taken on a wetland that relies on regular rainfall to stay healthy.

I would have been standing in water to take this picture a few weeks ago.

But as the water disappears a lone immature wood duck, with a few friends peering above the waters surface, holds out for the promise of rainy days to come.

This pic leaves a little to be desired in terms of sharpness but can you see the wood duck’s friends?

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Not far from the wetland are three ponds (Darby Bend Lakes) formed when old quarries filled with water from underground springs. Surrounded the ponds, and interspersed with plant life, is fine gravel undoubtedly left over form the quarry days. We were looking for dragonflies but were immediately stopped when we noticed a number of very large wasps. They were Cicada Killers, a member of the family of digger wasps that make their home underground. As the name indicates, this one provisions it’s nest with the cicadas.  One one egg gets implanted in each cicada. The female is noticeably larger than the male, up to 2 inches long, and of the two, it is the only one able the catch the rather large cicadas. Click here for more information.

Cicada Killer exits it’s nest, (Donna).

Cicada, (Donna).

Wasp with cicada, (Donna).

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This time of year at waters edge the landscape is graced with the large flowers of the Swamp Rose-mallow.

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We weren’t disappointed in our quest for dragonflies. No new discoveries but the fascination is always there. I was once again reminded that it’s truly a jungle out there when a catbird swopped down to snatch a dragonfly as I moved closer hoping to identify it. No matter what one thinks about the level of consciousness of a dragonfly, this one, now a nutritious snack for the catbird, no longer exists. It’s demise, the flow of life from one from one creature to the next.    

Eastern Pondhawk, (M), (Donna).

Eastern Pondhawk with prey on Blazing Star.

Halloween Pennant, (M), (Donna).

Halloween Pennant, (F) .

Common Whitetail, immature male.

Widow Skimmer (M).

Eastern Pondhawk, (F).

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Black-eyed Susan’s are also part of the Darby Bend Lakes habitat.

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Moths and butterflies were also enjoying the sunny day.

Monarch on Swamp Milkweed

A Monarch and Hummingbird clearwing moth enjoy the flowers, (Donna).

Hummingbird clearwing moth, (Donna).

A Great Golden Digger Wasp also enjoys the swamp milkweed.

Zabulon Skipper (M) on Chicory.

A female Zabulon spurns the affection of a male.

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Great dragonfly habitat adjacent to one of the Derby Bend Lakes, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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Mid-summer flowers and other critters made the day complete.

The unique beauty of False Dragonhead is part of the cicada killer habitat..

It was a real treat to see a Red-headed Woodpecker in the tree right at the edge of one of the Darby Bend Lakes. The first I recall seeing at Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

Purple Prairie Clover is also part of the cicada killer habitat. it’s occurrence in this habitat can be explained by the fact that it “is used for revegetation efforts on reclaimed land, such as land that has been strip mined. It is good for preventing erosion and for fixing nitrogen in soil. Though it is often found in mid- to late-successional stages of ecological succession, it may also be a pioneer species, taking hold in bare and disturbed habitat, such as roadsides”. Ref: Wikipedia

A small Painted Turtle enjoys the morning sun.

This year early August has been a great time for Ironweed.

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It’s been a good year for Red-headed Woodpecker sightings which, due to their rarity, are always very special but seeing the very large cicada killer wasp was what really created a sense of wonder on this day.

Mid-summer and low water along the Big Darby.

Thanks for stopping by.

Early Autumn On Griggs Reservoir

After not picking up a paddle for over a month, having been otherwise occupied exploring the American west, the canoe moved slowly. We were pushing southward into a gusting breeze and hugging the shaded shore on the east side of the reservoir as we made our way back to the launch site. A planned “out and back” six mile paddle had turned into eight, sometimes being out in nature is that way. It was an unusually warm sunny September day so the breeze felt good even though it strained our muscles and meant the return leg would take longer.

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Preoccupied with our halting progress we were surprised by an immature Black-crowned Night Heron as it took flight from a shoreline tree and quickly crossed the narrow reservoir. It’s a bird we had hoped to see as it had not been a good year for sightings on the reservoir. So altering course, we headed to the place where it appeared to have landed. It had positioned itself well into it’s intended destination, and while we did confirm it’s identity, wind, obstructing branches, and bad light made a photo impossible. Sometimes a photographer must celebrate the bird in words only.

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However, the morning into early afternoon paddle on the very quiet reservoir did reward us. It was nice being home, experiencing what we think of as our own special place in nature. No long drives required to enjoy a quiet autumn day on Griggs Reservoir.

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We pull out near Hayden Run Falls to stretch our legs. With the recent lack of rain, the falls were more of a trickle.

Pulled out at Hayden Run Falls.

False Dragonhead.

Black and Yellow Lichen Moth, (Donna).

Wolf Spider, (Donna).

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North of the Hayden Run bridge we continued to see wildlife.

Donna takes aim on a Kingfisher.

Not the easiest bird to photograph, (Donna).

Another view, (Donna).

A Double-crested Cormorant dries it’s wings, (Donna).

On this particular day the usual large number of Great Blue Herons were not seen. Could it be the time of year? (Donna).

Several Green Herons were seen but eluding the camera’s lens. Finally, this one paused long enough for a picture, (Donna).

This male American Cardinal said, “What about me?” as we tried to get a picture of the Green Heron, (Donna).

As I steadied the canoe this Spotted Sandpiper cooperated for a picture, (Donna).

Another view, (Donna).

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A few Map Turtles were seen, no Eastern Spiny Softshells or Snappers, but this large Painted Turtle really stood out.

Painted Turtle, (Donna).

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It’s easy to “throw the switch” in autumn and move on to other things, leaving nature until next spring. But don’t do it, there are always treasures to be found.

Bare branches frame a hint of autumn across the reservoir.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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.

 

 

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