Harbingers Of Spring

After our extended stay in Florida to escape the north’s cold cloudy winter weather I realize we’re not going to get much sympathy when we say that waiting for spring in Ohio can try one’s patience. Walking through the woods we remind ourselves to value each day for the gift that it is, but with autumns now bleached and faded leaves covering a seemingly lifeless forest floor it’s hard not to want for more.

Many of Ohio’s woods lack the conifers that bring color to the early spring woods further north, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

The water was running clear but the landscape was no more colorful along the river, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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However, taking a closer look at last years leaf litter one just might find the tiny Harbinger of Spring one of the seasons first wildflowers.

Harbinger of Spring, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Another look.

Profile, (Donna).

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The Snow Trillium is an uncommon wildflower that occurs only in very select undisturbed locations.

A nice group of three.

A group of two, (Donna)

Head on.

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Perhaps one of the prettiest plants to pop up through leaf litter in early spring is Virginia Waterleaf.

Virginia Waterleaf, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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As is often the case while making one’s way back to the trailhead, happy with the wildflowers and the day’s hike, other unexpected and wonderful things are seen.

An Eastern Towhee hides in a thicket, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

A number of Golden-crowned Kinglets showed themselves along the Scioto River below the Griggs Reservoir Dam, (Donna).

Walking along Griggs Reservoir we heard a faint tapping and just saw a tail protruding from a newly formed nesting cavity. The tapping stopped and this Downy Woodpecker turned and peered out at us.

We spotted this Blue-winged Teal in a pond adjacent to the parking lot as we were finishing a hike at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Present in smaller numbers all winter in areas where there is open water, the population of Great Blue Herons has increased as the days get longer and the weather warms.

A Great Blue Heron waits for something edible to appear.

We’ve never seen them over-winter so when Great Egrets appear along the Scioto River below the Griggs Reservoir Dam each spring in breeding plumage it’s a real treat.

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The Great Egrets are the grand finale to this post and our recent time outdoors and they left us with a true sense of  spring’s wonder and magic.

Stump in the early spring woods.

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For those who expectedly seek it along a stream or wooded trail, nature speaks in a language beyond words.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

A Thankful Reflection

The last day of 2017, what better time to stop for a moment and reflect back to the wonders of nature seen in central Ohio in the past year.

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Griggs Reservoir.

Bald Eagle along the Scioto below Griggs Dam.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Golden Crown Kinglet, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Along the Scioto River

Tufted Titmouse, (Donna).

November reflection, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Covered Bridge, Mohican State Park.

The Big Darby, Prairie Oaks Metro Park

Buckeye, (Donna).

Monarch, (Donna).

Griggs Reservoir

Solitary leaf

Chicory

Design, (Donna).

Red-spotted Purple, (Donna).

Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna).

Autumn color.

Black-crowned Night Heron, Griggs Reservoir.

Giant Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar.

Mink, Au Sable River MI, (Donna).

Au Sable River Smallmouth, MI, (Donna).

Devoe Lake, MI.

Cardinal Flowers, Rifle River Rec, Area, MI.

Turtlehead, Rifle River Rec. Area. MI.

Common Loons, Devoe Lake, MI, (Donna).

Meal time, Devoe lake, MI

Caspian Tern, Loud Pond, Au Sable River, MI.

Catbirds, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Griggs Reservoir waterfall.

Yellow-throated Warbler, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Common Checkered Skipper, (Donna).

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Red Admiral, (Donna).

Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Cliff Swallows, (Donna).

Gray Squirrel.

Baltimore Oriole.

Mohican River, Mohican State Park.

Prothonotary Warbler

Green Heron, Griggs Reservoir

Yellow-collared Scape Moth, (Donna).

Northern Water Snake.

Red-eyed Vireo, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Great Blue Heron, Scioto River, (Donna).

Hayden Run Falls

Mating Northern Water Snakes, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Scarlet Tanager, Griggs Reservoir Park.

White-crowned Sparrow, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Palm Warbler, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Turkey, Blendon Woods Metro Park, (Donna).

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Looking at the landscape as we walked along the Scioto River yesterday it’s hard to believe it’s the same place. Very cold weather has made the river below the dam one of the few stretches of open water that waterfowl can now call home.

Hooded Mergansers.

More robins than we could count took turns getting a cool drink at waters edge.

Ring-necked Ducks.

The Scioto River below Griggs Dam

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As always, thanks for stopping by and have a Happy New Year!

 

Winter and Then Not

There is nothing particularly different about this winter in central Ohio. For a few days the temperature hovered around 5F then almost overnight it was 65F and raining making a recent light snow seem like an hallucination. Cold, snowy, icy, weather always seems to have a hard time taking up permanent residence.

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Griggs Reservoir

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Freezing, thawing, and then refreezing do make for interesting ice patterns. Below are a few I’ve taken the liberty to enhance so pattern and design stand out.

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. . .

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. . .

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. . . (Donna).

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Walking along the Scioto River and seeing our old friend the Kingfisher is reassurance that unlike the weather some things don’t change much.

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Across the river a Belted Kingfisher perches briefly.

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Along the reservoir a Junco looks on as a gull enjoys a good stretch while not far away a crow appears to be practicing his skating.

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Dark-eyed Junco, Griggs Park.

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Ring-billed Gull, Griggs Reservoir.

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Crow, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

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On a recent day, as the reservoir froze, a grebe seemed almost trapped in one of the few small areas of open water. Hopefully that wasn’t the case.

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Pied-billed Grebe, Griggs Reservoir.

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In late December so much is monochromatic brown gray dreariness but on a recent outing my wife’s tireless quest for very small but always cheerful kinglets paid off.

 

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Golden-crowned Kinglet, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna).

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Study 2, (Donna).

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In the spring, fascination seems to offer itself at every turn but in winter one often needs to look closely and with intention. On a recent @40F day this little fella was spotted as we walked through the woods near our home.

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A very small spider enjoys a warmer late December day, (Donna).

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Other things have also brought color to the landscape.

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Leaves on ice, (Donna)

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Sycamore branches against a blue sky.

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Sweet Autumn Clematis, (Donna)

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We hope this post has brought some cheer to what in the northern hemisphere can be a challenging time of year. So until next time, thanks for stopping by!

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Molly Cat

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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.

Searching For Kinglets

For those of you that follow this blog you know that we spend a lot of time walking in one park near our home. Part of the fascination has been to see what we can discover in this one specific location throughout the year. As the seasons change, it’s often about what we don’t see as much as what we do. From our house the park is also the perfect distance for a long walk which adds to the overall satisfaction of the experience. Finally, without making too much work out of it, we also try to help keep the park free of cans, bottles and other litter which provides a sense of ownership and makes the place just that much more special.

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The leaves are mostly on the ground now in Griggs Park.

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Having provided a rather circuitous introduction you’re probably wondering where this is going. Well it’s about the Kinglets! Several weeks ago we saw quite a few Golden and Ruby Crown Kinglets along the Scioto River below the Griggs Dam but since then nothing. Were had they gone? Had our timing since then just been bad? We were starting to wonder. Would we again see these little birds that do so much to brighten up late fall and winter in central Ohio?

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In then a few days ago, in the company of Chickadees and Downy Woodpeckers, there they were.

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Golden Crown Kinglet along the Scioto below Griggs Dam.

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Take 2.

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Take 3, (Donna)

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Take 4, (Donna).

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.   .   .  and not far away.

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Downy Woodpecker (F), a common resident this time of year.

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A Red-bellied Woodpecker contrasts nicely with the fall color.

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A male Cardinal in the afternoon sun puts a smile on our face.

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Male Bluebird Griggs Park. They are easy to spot this time of year.

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Dark Eyed Junco, a winter visitor from the north, Griggs Park.

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Take 2.

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A Song Sparrow with attitude, (Donna).

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Red-tailed Hawks are hard to miss this time of year.

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Red-tailed Hawk, Griggs Park.

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Take 2.

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Take 3.

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My wife was trying to figure out what this crow was doing.

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Crow playing with Northern Catalpa seed pod, (Donna)

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Take 2.

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And as always there have been other things to notice.

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A Fox Squirrel checks us out, Griggs Park.

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Stink Horn mushroom, Griggs Park, only this one example was found.

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Amazingly, after a number of below freezing nights, we continue to see butterflies, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Not in the best shape but pretty amazing considering the time of year.

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Donna tried her hand at capturing the often ignored shapes and designs of late fall.

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Take 1.

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Take 2.

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Take 3.

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Take 4.

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Take 5.

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On future walks we hope the kinglets, along with their friends, will continue to charm and fascinate making this time of year just a little brighter. Thanks for stopping by.

 

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Sunset, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

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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.

 

Bobbing For “Hedge Apples”

A few weeks back we were walking along Griggs Reservoir looking for migrating waterfowl and we witnessed some unusual behavior by our resident population of Mallard ducks. At first it looked like a game, perhaps a Mallard version of water polo, but then we realized they were attempting to eat an object that keep scooting away , diving below the surface, and then bobbing up only to be nibbled on again.

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They went this way   .   .   .

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then that   .   .   .

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then around   .   .   .

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and back again

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It turned out to be the bright green barely floating fruit of an Osage Orange tree or what is sometimes referred to as a “hedge apple”. Apparently a somewhat tasty morsel to the ducks because they keep up their efforts as long as we watched.

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Meanwhile one of the objects of our quest looked on.

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“What are those Mallards doing anyway?”, Ruddy Duck, Griggs Reservoir

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“Perhaps the other side of the lake will be quieter”, Ruddy Duck, Griggs Reservoir

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A few days later on another outing along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam, as I looked for Bald Eagles, my wife was able to get some interesting shots of fungi.

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“Furry Fungi”, Donna

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Patterns in wood, (Donna)

Tight mushroom cluster on moss 120914 Griggs south cp1

Mushroom Cluster, (Donna)

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Mushrooms on a log, (Donna)

Orange mushroom cluster 120914 griggs south cp1

Another group, (Donna)

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Contrasting colors, (Donna)

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Finally, yesterday, after several rainy cloudy days, sunshine meant a hike at Battelle Darby Metro Park in the hopes of observing some bird activity. Perhaps we would even see a Northern Harrier.  While no harriers presented themselves, we did see a Kestrel, and a Bald Eagle both of which eluded the cameras lens. However, a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk did pose for us.

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Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk, study 1, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

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study 2

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study 3

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study 4

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study 5

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A Coopers Hawk wasen’t quite as cooperative.

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Coopers Hawk, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

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.    .    .    and no trip into the central Ohio woods this time of the year is complete unless we see our friends the Golden Crowned Kinglets who often when seen are in the company of Chickadees, Titmouse and Nuthatches.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, (Donna)

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Golden-crowned Kinglet, (Donna)

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Golden-crowned Kinglet

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That’s about it for this post. Hope you all have a chance to get out and enjoy nature in the coming days. Thanks for looking in.

Bald Eagles and a Kinglet Celebration

During the last few days while travelling the highways and byways of central Ohio we managed to see three mature Bald Eagles in flight. Perhaps I’m easily amused but, given a childhood growing up in Michigan where I never once saw a Bald Eagle, and the fact that Ohio isn’t usually considered a hotbed for eagle activity, I found this pretty exciting.  Since this was holiday related travel we didn’t have suitable photographic equipment with us. But even if we had, it all happened very quickly so I doubt we would have gotten much of a photograph. One sighting was near Dayton and the other two were just southwest of Wooster.  In neither case were there sizable bodies of water nearby so it’s not clear what the birds were doing.

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Recently while hiking along the Scioto just below Griggs Dam we were greeted by Golden Crowned Kinglets (a winter visitor from points north). The two or three that we saw came very close and seemed oblivious to us as they went about their business. We were enchanted. Due to the rapidity and total unpredictability of their movement, I opted to just enjoy the view. However, my wife, always up for a challenge, decided to try and get a few shots with her Panasonic FZ150 on burst mode. Below are the results.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet, study 1, (Donna)

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Golden-crowned Kinglet, study 2, (Donna)

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Golden-crowned Kinglet, study 3, (Donna)

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During the excitement a Great Blue Heron was watching from a safe distance along the river’s edge.

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Great Blue Heron, Scioto River

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Later, after spending some time along the river, we investigated the reservoir and found isolated groups of Ruddy Ducks and what appeared to be a lone Green-winged Teal (not a Blue as originally thought, thanks Lou!) and not a particularly common bird on the reservoir.

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Male Ruddy Duck, Griggs Reservoir (A little far away for a decent shot)

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Female Ruddy Duck, Griggs Reservoir

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Green-winged Teal, (it was much smaller than the Mallards nearby), Griggs Reservoir

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All the birds were great to see but the kinglets definitely carried the day.

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Tip: work off that big turkey dinner by taking a walk in nature and don’t forget your binoculars. You’ll be amazed by what you see.

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Thanks for looking in

 

Early Spring Mystery Plant at Prairie Oaks

Yesterday we decided to check out Prairie Oaks Metro Park wondering what migrating birds might be passing through or what wildflowers we might see. Prairie Oaks is one of our favorite parks due to three distinct areas that offer their own unique ecology; the ponds, the river, and the restored prairie areas.

click on image for a better view

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The Big Darby, early spring

Before heading out on the trail running along the river, we checked out the ponds and noticed Lesser (or Greater) Scaups, Hooded Mergansers, Pied-billed Grebes, Canada Geese, and one Common Loon in residence. All were too far away to make a picture worthwhile but a Killdeer not far away was willing to have it’s picture taken. I had never before noticed the large size of a Killdeer’s eyes.

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Killdeer, ponds at Prairie Oaks

Starting down the trail, we noticed a Northern Flicker in the tree tops.

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Northern Flicker, Prairie Oaks

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Northern Flicker, Prairie Oaks

The Eastern Towhees were elusive.

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Eastern Towhee hiding in brush, Prairie Oaks

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Eastern Towhee in tree top, Prairie Oaks

But continuing on, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was more cooperative.

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Prairie Oaks

Near the river a Eastern Phoebe posed for us.

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Eastern Phoebe, Prairie Oaks

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Eastern Phoebe, Prairie Oaks, (Donna)

The highlight of the trip was when, as we were heading back to the car, a Golden-crowned Kinglet appeared at eye level right next to the trail.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet, Prairie Oaks

While the wildflowers were not out in any appreciable numbers, the forest floor, with some Virginia Waterleaf visible, was still interesting.

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Moss on Fallen trees, Prairie Oaks

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Patterns, Prairie Oaks

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Virginia waterleaf and log, Prairie Oaks

Small trees were leafing out

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Leafing out, Prairie Oaks

 

As we continued looking for interested signs of “new” life my wife noticed a rather unusual looking plant. After checking all of her plant books upon our return home, it’s identity remains a mystery. Plants often assume unusual appearances as they emerge in the spring. Maybe in a few days this one’s  identity will be obvious. Do you know what it is?

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Mystery plant, Prairie Oaks, (Donna)

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