Autumn On Griggs Reservoir

By mid to late October in central Ohio, should we be blessed with a nice day, we wonder if it might be the season’s last opportunity for an enjoyable paddle.

It’s true that on days with little wind, if colder temperatures can be tolerated, one can usually paddle through December on Griggs Reservoir. But once the trees and leaves part company, the landscape takes on a stark appearance, and the experience becomes less intimate. One feels more exposed with only bare branches to separate the paddler from shoreline homes and the now much louder traffic noise from the adjacent highway.

Of the larger birds that can still be enjoyed; gulls, Great Blue Herons, and Belted Kingfishers will remain throughout the winter in areas where there is open water. There is also some compensation in the fact that, along with the Red-tailed and Coopers Hawk, the bare branches make spotting the resident pair of Bald Eagles much easier. Concerning living things other than birds, on a December paddle a few years ago we did see a few turtles enjoying the sun. However, that was a rare exception as, for the most part, by mid-November wildlife becomes scarce. Great Egrets, cormorants, vultures, and osprey have all headed south. Of the smaller birds, with the exception of a few yellow-rumped warblers that may hang around all winter, the others warblers have long since passed through. 

Motivated by these thoughts a few days ago, we put the boat in the water on what could turn out to be the last really nice day.

Looking for birds and other critters.

Those of you that have followed this blog for a while may have heard us reflect that one never knows what will be discovered when paddling our local reservoirs. We often go some distance without seeing anything other than a few of the usual suspects,

High overhead this Great Blue Heron watched as we paddle by.

.   .   .  then just when we’re about to assign the outing “well, it was a nice paddle  .   .   .” status, we stumble upon something that charms and amazes us. Such was the case when we happened upon three killdeer at water’s edge engaged in what seemed to be some sort of dance. They postured, positioned, and pursued each other for as long as we chose to watch. Mating behavior in autumn? We were left to wonder.

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Griggs Reservoir is a long narrow body of water bordered by homes on one side and a highway and city park on the other.

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Paddling into a breeze that reminded us how long it had been since we were in the canoe, we left the killdeer behind and headed back to our launch site still excited about what we’d witnessed and telling ourselves that, even if we saw nothing else, it had been a great day.

A small Map Turtle cooperates for a picture which is not usually the case for these very wary turtles, (Donna).

A female Wood Duck’s portrait gets photo bombed by a mallard, (Donna).

These mallard Ducks are apparently not “locals” as they took flight as we got close. The year round residents would not have flown, (Donna).

We actually got close enough for an acceptable picture of this male Belted Kingfisher. Anyone who has ever tried to photograph these birds realizes it’s not an easy task, (Donna).

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While not possessing the beautiful autumn color of a Vermont maple this sycamore does it’s best.

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As we “headed for the barn”, our day just about complete, we noticed commotion in a dead tree at waters edge. Moving closer, a number of Eastern Bluebirds were observed very actively checking out what had been a tree swallow nesting cavity earlier in the year. Surely they weren’t getting ready to make little bluebirds this late in the year. (It turns out the bluebirds may nest more than once a year.) We were almost as entranced as we had been by the killdeer and moved on only when our curiosity had been satisfied and maintaining the boat position, in the increasing windy conditions, started to seem like work. 

Male and female Eastern Bluebirds check out a nesting cavity, (Donna).

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A few hundred yards later, we pulled the canoe out of the water and stowed the gear in the car. It had been a good day. Would it be the year’s last nice one for a paddle?

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Thanks for stopping by.

Robber Fly

In central Ohio it’s been several weeks since we’ve had any appreciable rain. Add to that numerous days with temps greater than 90F and you have the recipe for a very dry landscape. On concrete hard ground, if it has been walked on at all, as dust rises grass seems to break apart under foot. For the grass it’s hard to believe life will return before next spring. In what seems almost a miracle, the green of most trees continues to contrast with the brown of the grass. Perhaps we should plant more trees. The water level in the reservoir near our home has held up well, and is amazingly clear with little rain to stir it up. In contrast a reservoir a little further away, that supplies water to the city, is down over six feet. Now, with it’s expanse of dry clay lake bottom between the water and shoreline trees, I tell myself it looks better if I just imagine it’s “low tide”.

Trees do their best to maintain the green canopy along the Big Darby, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

It’s hard to have high expectations for seeing wildlife in these conditions. But in the middle of the day, as we cower in our air conditioned homes, life goes on. Unlike buzzards, smaller birds, that typically don’t catch thermals to the higher cooler air, are more likely to restrict their activity to the morning and evening. On the sun baked ground at noon I try to imagine what it would be like for an ant to travel any distance. I don’t see many travelers. However, as long as they have access to sources of food, the airborne insects seem unfazed by it all.

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Recently, in the morning’s relative coolness, we found ourselves walking at waters edge in the park near our home, Only a couple hundred yards into our walk a very small bird or large insect was spotted hovering, flying around, then perching on the branches of a partially dead tree. It was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and a “free range” one at that, how exciting. It’s always so much more rewarding to see a creature, not all that often seen in it’s natural habitat, in it’s natural habitat.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird takes a brake while on the prowl for insects.

Another look.

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After the hummer just disappeared into thin air, as they have a habit of doing, we wondered what the rest of our time in the park would offer up.

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New England Asters

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Actually I’ve wandered of topic a bit because I started out with the thought of highlighting the really good day we had with robber flies. They seemed to be everywhere on a recent hike of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. They’re not an insect that other members of the bug world are happy to see. From the perspective of other insects they are a very efficient killing machine usually waiting in ambush and going after just about anything no matter it’s defenses. Click here for more information. What made the day really good was not only seeing numerous robber flies, but seeing a number chasing and then with captured prey. At one point one loudly buzzed the top of my head as it unsuccessfully pursued a Zabulon skipper. The erratic flight pattern of the skipper undoubtedly contributed to it’s escape.

Red-Footed Cannibalfly perhaps 1 1/2 inches in length. There are over a thousand species of robber fly in the US.

Robber fly with a moth in it’s spiny, not easy to escape, clutches. Barely visible is the piercing-sucking proboscis which is used stab and paralyze it’s prey, inject liquefying enzymes, and then extract the nutritious snack.

. . . with what appears to be a grasshopper nymph.

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Morning light faintly touches Crimson-Eyed Rose-Mallow

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Robber flies weren’t the only insect on the prowl.

Unlike the robber fly, solitary wasps do not consume their prey but instead lay their egg(s) in a nest near or within an insect that has been captured and paralyzed with venom. If all goes as planned, as the larva develops the insect will be it’s food, (Donna).

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Other creatures were also eating other creatures.

Low clear water in the Scioto River made crayfish easy pickings for this Great Blue Hero, (Donna).

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Green-Headed Coneflowers with a visitor.

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Nature always seems to be generous as long as you hold your expectations in check. Often when looking for one thing other things will become part of the mix. It’s usually best to just see what you see.

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail hides in the foliage.

When one thinks Monarch one thinks milkweed, but there are a variety of other flowers they enjoy. In this case it’s thistle.

The only Little Wood Satyr seen during a hike of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Question Mark Butterfly, Big Darby Creek Metro Park

A tiny, but very common, Pearl Crescent on a New England Aster, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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In the summer I sometimes just like to sit in my small canoe or walk slowly with no particular focus but only to let nature speak with a more all embracing voice. Realizing at that moment just how much is going on around me that I have no knowledge of, much less understanding. Perhaps a lesson in life in these trying times as I strive not to be ignorant of my own ignorance.

How you choose to look at something determines what you see.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Measuring Wealth

Certainly not an original thought, but most would say that if you have your health, enough resources to ensure adequate food and shelter, some leisure time when you are not dealing with “resources”, and good friends with whom you enjoy sharing life’s adventure, additional wealth is probably not going to contribute to life’s meaning or happiness. It also doesn’t hurt to have a curiosity about life as It will keep you engaged and seeking until the day your number gets called.

So what does any of this have to do with nature and where is Central Ohio Nature going with this? Well to get to the punch line without further delay, it has to do with an awareness of wealth that was experienced after a recent outing in the canoe. Of course this awareness doesn’t just drop out of the sky, it is facilitated by reading and enough research to appreciate what is being seen and experienced, good health and fitness to undertake the adventure, and last but not least, the company of a willing co-conspirator (in this case my wife) never hurts.

So what exactly contributed to the awareness of wealth on this particular day?

First, there’s the aesthetic of the canoe, it’s graceful purposeful shape, and the way the paddler and the canoe become one as they quietly move through the water with only the sound of the paddle as it brakes the water’s surface, is drawn back, and then, with droplets shed from the blade playing the stroke’s final notes, it leaves the water and returns to the beginning. A meditation; paddler, canoe, and water.

The north end of Griggs Reservoir. It’s hard to believe we are in the middle of a metropolitan area. We had the place to ourselves that day.

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Secondly, along with a good cast of supporting characters, at the north end of the reservoir in a stand of dead trees we had our first ever sighting of red-headed woodpeckers at that location.

Red-headed Woodpecker

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The supporting characters, not all of which are pictured, included osprey, juvenile spotted sandpiper, great blue heron (common), green heron, great egret, black-crowned night heron, belted kingfisher, great-crested flycatcher, wood ducks, double-crested cormorants, mallard duck, map turtle, large eastern spiny soft shell turtle, and a large snapping turtle.

Spotted Sandpiper

Great Blue Heron

Green Heron

Great Egret

Black-crowned Night Heron

Female Belted Kingfisher

Great Crested Flycatcher

Mother Wood Duck with young.

A large Eastern Spiny Softshell.

With the exception of the canoe all other photos are by my wife.

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The well connected lawyer or successful entrepreneur measures their wealth in a different way than most equally successful individuals who love nature but may have a less demanding career. The “buy in” on a wealthy street in our area may require that one to be engaged with a community of like minded individuals who have also attended prestigious institutions of higher learning. This coupled with a family legacy, and the “cross pollination” with other like minded established families may be key stepping stones to shared values and wealth which include the necessary hard to fake accoutrements, such as a large beautiful house and luxury cars, which signal one’s membership in the tribe. 

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But we are all destined to travel a narrow path and are all members of a some tribe. A path taken often excludes others. There is only so much life we can live. While there are undoubtedly exceptions, one would not expect that a successful high net worth entrepreneur would consider it a worthwhile use of their limited free time to walk a wetland path learning about dragonflies. Perhaps a business ski vacation to Colorado would serve their purposes better. However, is the person with more limited resources, for whom Colorado ski vacations are a bit out of reach, but who spends their time in the company of dragonflies and thus the interconnected web of life, any less “wealthy”?

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So the challenge for us all is to increase our wealth in ways that speak to our soul. The sacrifices that an entrepreneur makes to be successful in their realm are significant. From the point of view of a lover of nature they will miss out on at lot. The wealth bestowed from time spent in nature comes from a deep sense of connectedness that transcends our own self, allowing us to no longer think it terms of boundaries but instead to embrace the whole. It is something that money cannot buy and is beyond valuing. Perhaps Thoreau said it better than anyone has since:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
 
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden; Or, Life in the Woods
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Thanks for stopping by.
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Canoeing And Red-headed Woodpeckers

It’s always fun when one can combine two loves. In this case canoeing and birds. My wife and I are blessed with a fondness for the active engagement of moving under our own power, be it it hiking, cycling, or paddling. It turns out that this type of quiet activity enhances the chance of seeing birds and other wildlife.

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The last week found us at the north end of Alum Creek Reservoir twice. The reservoir comprises a large portion of Alum Creek State Park. The first of two fairly long paddles was to see what birds we might find and the second was to get a better look at the red-headed Woodpeckers seen a few days before. Red-headed Woodpeckers are always a treat to set because their numbers have decreased significantly in recent years.

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According to Cornell’s All About Birds: “Red-headed Woodpeckers declined by over 2% per year from 1966 to 2014, resulting in a cumulative decline of 70%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 1.2 million, with 99% spending part of the year in the U.S., and 1% in Canada. The species is at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action. These woodpeckers were common to abundant in the nineteenth century, probably because the continent had more mature forests with nut crops and dead trees. They were so common that orchard owners and farmers used to pay a bounty for them, and in 1840 Audubon reported that 100 were shot from a single cherry tree in one day. In the early 1900s, Red-headed Woodpeckers followed crops of beech nuts in northern beech forests that are much less extensive today. At the same time, the great chestnut blight killed virtually all American chestnut trees and removed another abundant food source. Red-headed Woodpeckers may now be more attuned to acorn abundance than to beech nuts. After the loss of nut-producing trees, perhaps the biggest factor limiting Red-headed Woodpeckers is the availability of dead trees in their open-forest habitats”.

Loading camera equipment into our fast but stable 18 foot Sawyer canoe. Unless you are near shore. it’s hard to appreciate this boat’s speed when you really want to get somewhere, as it leaves virtually no disturbance in the water.

Getting ready to depart on a very quiet morning.

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Not our primary objective but it wasn’t long before Prothonotary Warblers were spotted at waters edge.

Protonotary Warbler

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The next meal, (Donna).

Not a good day for the spider, (Donna).

Shortly after our encounter with the Prothonotary Warblers we spotted an Eastern Kingbird on it’s nest on a branch overhanging the water.

Eastern Kingbirds are common along Ohio reservoirs in the summer.

Along with Wood Ducks, Osprey and one Bald Eagle and an Indigo Bunting, there were many Great Blue Heron sightings. However, in what was somewhat of a surprise, no Green Herons were seen.

A mother Wood Duck heads for cover, (Donna).

Great Blue Heron, (Donna).

Indigo Bunting

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Further up river:

Our first look in the area where we had seen the Red-headed Woodpeckers an few days before didn’t turn up much, so we headed further up Alum Creek to see what else might be found.

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On the return leg we stopped at what appeared to be a Red-headed Woodpecker “hotspot” and were rewarded with a number of sightings.

The habitat at the north end of the reservoir.

A juvenile was the first to permit photographs:

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***, (Donna).

.   .   .  and then after some repositioning and jockeying the canoe looking for better views and better light we were able to get some shots of an adult!

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We’ve paddled to the north end of Alum Creek Reservoir many times over the years and this was the first time we’ve seen Red-headed Woodpeckers in these numbers, perhaps three adult pairs. Was our timing just bad in the past, were we just not looking for them so they remained unseen, or were they not there, at least in the quantities observed? We’re are not sure but hopefully future trips will answer the question. Meanwhile we will rejoice in having seen them and may even pay them another visit before the year is over.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

The Other Florida Herons

This post covers the other herons seen in Florida. Unlike the Little Blue and Tricolored which are most commonly seen in Florida and the gulf states these other herons can be seen further north. In our case as far north as Ohio. In fact In our travels we have even observed Green and Great Blue Herons north of Ohio in states such as Michigan.

While it’s amazing to see a Great Blue Heron spear large fish and than undertake the seemingly impossible task of swallowing it (not always successfully), the herons in this post have their preferences but will eat just about anything that gets too close. Black and Yellow-crowned Night Herons can be observed feeding during the day as well as at night but as their name implies they prefer the night. And yes, I did say spear, as most herons often spear their prey rather than grabbing it with their bill. What follows, as the heron goes through a multi-step process to manipulate and position the fish so that it can be swallowed head first, is fascinating to watch.

Hillsborough River, FL.

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As mentioned in a previous post, a canoe is a good tool to use when observing birds that make their living along the shoreline of various bodies of water and we certainly found that to be the case for the birds in this post. An added plus is the beautiful areas that we get to explore even when the birds aren’t present.

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Green Heron:

Silver River, FL. (Donna)

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Yellow-crowned Night Heron:

Silver River, FL.

***, (Donna)

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Great Blue Heron:

Hillsborough River, FL.

Payne’s Prairie SP, FL.

 

Myakka River SP, FL.

 

Myakka River SP, FL.

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Alligator Lily, Hillsborough River, FL.

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Black-crowned Night Heron:

Myakka River, FL.

Immature Black-crowned Night Heron, Hillsborough River, FL.

Myakka River SP, FL.

Silver River, FL.

Myakka River SP

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Myakka River, Myakka River SP.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief introduction to the other Florida herons. We find looking for them, as well as observing them once found, to be endlessly entertaining. Thanks for stopping by.

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A Feast For The Gulls

Usually this time of the year in central Ohio we’re busy looking for the earliest spring wildflowers such as the uncommon Snow Trillium.

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But we also walk along the local reservoirs (Griggs and O’Shaughnessy Reservoir) hoping to see migrating waterfowl. Recently we weren’t disappointed when three inches of rain shocked area waterways resulting in thousands of dead or dying shad. It was a banquet for Bonaparte’s Gulls passing through the area and an excellent opportunity to observe these beautiful birds.

Immature, non-breeding and breeding Bonaparte’s Gulls.

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Bonaparte’s Gull, (Donna)

Adult breeding Bonaparte’s Gull.

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A few larger Ring-billed Gulls were also getting into the act.

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Not to miss out on the easy meal Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons were also present.

Great Egret, (Donna).

Great Blue Heron, (Donna)

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Fish die-offs, particularly shad, are not that uncommon in reservoirs. However, this is the first time we’ve happened upon such a feeding frenzy.

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We hope this post finds everyone doing well. Thanks for stopping by.

A Big Buck

It promised to be a pleasant mid-October day with little wind. Cool 45F morning air was the price of admission as we started our paddle on a local reservoir. Seeking the sun’s warmth we headed for the western shore as the canoe moved through the still water with a graceful confidence. The outing was prompted by a favorable forecast and the realization that, given the time of year, one never knows how many nice day’s are left. Leaves still adorned trees with subtle hints of central Ohio’s fall color. In a month, should we be blessed with a equally warm day, branches would be bare the landscape brown and gray.

Exploring the shoreline of Griggs Reservoir.

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The west side of the long narrow reservoir is populated by numerous large homes set back (for the most part) a reasonable distance from the shore. A few small interspersed wooded areas provide a nice habitat for deer, beaver, mink and various species of birds. As we headed north, warblers, blue jays, and robins flitted about at waters edge in trees warmed by the morning sun, none cooperating for a photograph.

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However, we hadn’t gone far when a young male Wood Duck was spotted. It wasn’t sure which way to go as we approached and it’s ever changing direction caused it’s blue wing feathers to light up.

Immature male Wood Duck, (Donna).

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Other things were also seen during our paddle and as we briefly explored the north end of the reservoir on foot.

North end pull out, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

We watched this Downy Woodpecker spent quite a bit of time working on one particular tree, (Donna).

A warm October afternoon and a smiling Map Turtle, (Donna).

This Great Blue Heron had something to say, (Donna).

North end landscape, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

Fiery Skipper, one of the few butterflies seen, (Donna).

Field Sparrow, (Donna).

A beautiful White-crowned Sparrow, our first sighting of the season, Kiwanis Riverway Park, (Donna).

A pile of turtles enjoy the autumn sun, (Donna).

Previous frosty nights had done little to curb this Monkey Flower’s enthusiasm, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

One of the numerous Great Blue Herons that took flight during our paddle, (Donna).

A north end “paddlescape”

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We have seen our share of Whitetail Dear along the reservoir. In fact they are so common we hardly take notice. But at one point during our paddle what we saw stopped us in our tracks. At first, with only the tip of one antler visible, it wasn’t clear what it was, but as I slowed the canoe, and my wife got ready to shoot, it looked up.

The big buck, at least 14 points, White-tailed Deer, (Donna).

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We had never seen such a large buck and it made our day!

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Nineteen mile an hour winds will keep us off the reservoir today so perhaps I’ll actually get some things done around the house. Thanks for stopping by.

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Neighborhood Migrants

Warm days, now noticeably shorter, are giving way to colder nights with the landscape increasingly graced with the colors of autumn in Ohio.

Autumn reflection in central Ohio.

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During the past couple of weeks we’ve made a concerted effort to look for birds passing through Griggs Reservoir Park on their southern migration. We’ve avoiding the temptation to travel further afield thinking it would be fun just to see what is or isn’t passing through our “neighborhood”. There have been reports of birds that have eluded us, such as the Blackpoll and Yellow-throated Warbler, but all in all the effort has been rewarding.

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The Black-throated Green Warblers were very cooperative:

***, (Donna)

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Only one Cape May Warbler was seen:

Female Cape May Warbler

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A fair number of Northern Parula Warblers were spotted:

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This Yellow-throated Vireo is not sure he wants to eat a stink bug:

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We had only one sighting of a Black-throated Blue Warbler:

Good enough to ID the bird but that’s it.

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The fairly common Yellow-rumped Warblers are often seen eating poising ivy berries:

***, (Donna)

 

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A Nashville Warbler was also part of the mix:

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One Ruby-crowned Kinglet tries it’s best to hide while another jumps right out and poses. To date more kinglets have been heard than seen.

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Contrasting with last year, this has not been a good year for seeing Black-crowned Herons on the reservoir. However, on a resent paddle we were rewarded:

Juvenile, (Donna).

Adult, (Donna).

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While looking for warblers a group of very active Blue Birds was hard to ignore:

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A young male Wood Duck has been hanging around the park for the last couple of weeks. By it’s association with a group of mallards it appears to think it’s one:

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We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge some of the other birds that have fascinated us while we looked for fall migrants.

An immature Red-tailed Hawk seemed curious about what we were up to.

Something has this Juvenile Red-bellied Woodpecker’s attention, (Donna).

A Mallard Duck, bathed in autumn light, swims across the reservoir.

A pair of Northern Flickers, (Donna).

A Tufted Titmouse acts cute like titmouse do, (Donna).

A White-breasted Nuthatch goes about it’s day.

One of the many Cedar Waxwings seen in the park in recent weeks.

A female Downy Woodpecker poses for a picture.

A Great Blue Heron strikes a graceful pose along the Scioto River, (Donna).

This Blue Jay has quite a mouthful, (Donna).

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It’s a dark gray rainy morning as I finish writing this so it’s hard to imagine what nature will offer in the coming days and this is the time of year when things tend to wind down. However, if past experience is any indication, it will only take another walk in the woods to again experience the magic. Thanks for stopping by.

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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.

Paddling Into Nature On Griggs Reservoir

This post is a partial summary of the wonderful diversity of life seen during a recent nine mile paddle on Griggs Reservoir. The reservoir is located within the “city limits” of Columbus, Ohio. Except for a few isolated cases where (Bob) is under the photo my wife was kind enough to handle the photography.

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It’s been a wet spring with not many nice days to beckon one out into nature. The wet weather in central Ohio has given many rivers and reservoirs a “chocolate milk” appearance, not the preferred aesthetic when paddling. But finally with a good forecast, wildflowers blooming, and the landscape turning evermore green, we decided it was time to get the boat in the water and do some exploring. Over the years we’ve seen many wonderful things in and along the reservoir but given it’s urban location we always try keep our expectations low. If nothing else we’ll get some exercise and we’ll be outdoors.

We enter one of Griggs Reservoirs small coves looking for Black-crowned Night Herons. The rock outcroppings are a favorite place for Wild Columbine, (Bob).

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The first clue that it might be a better than average day in nature was seeing the Wild Columbine along the reservoirs many rocky outcroppings.

Wild Columbine, (Bob)

A closer look, (Bob).

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While on the subject of wildflowers we also noticed Wild Stonecrop in the same area.

Wild Stonecrop, (Bob)

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A little further on we spotted a snapping turtle in the shallows of one of the reservoir’s small coves. The first of many turtles seen.

A Snapping Turtle checks us out from the safety of the water, (Bob).

Not far away a snapper was also observed sunning itself, a rare behavior for this always submerged creature that only occurs in the spring.

Snapping Turtle.

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Not seen as often as Red Eared Sliders or Map turtles a few softshell turtles were also seen.

Eastern Spiny Softshell.

A second later it disappeared below the surface.

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We probably shouldn’t ignore some of the other turtles:

A Map Turtle catches some rays.

A very small turtle surveys a big world.

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We expected to see more water snakes but only one was spotted.

Northern Water Snake.

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While no Green and Black-crowned Night Herons were seen, a few Great Egrets and countless Great Blue Herons made up for it.

Great Blue Heron.

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Something not fully appreciated is that four species of swallows make there living along the reservoir; Tree, Cliff, Barn and Rough-winged. The Tree, Cliff, and Barn Swallows are fairly numerous and easy to observe. The Rough-winged don’t seem to be as common.

Barn Swallow, (Bob).

On this particular day the Cliff Swallows were putting on the best show as they busily went about building their nests under the Hayden Run bridge.

Cliff Swallow nest building, (Bob).

Caught with it’s mouth full!

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We were really excited to see a pair of Wood Ducks because getting a great picture of this duck usually involves using a blind as you can seldom get close enough in a canoe.

Male and female Wood Ducks.

A slightly closer look.

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Along with the Wood Ducks a much more common and approachable female Mallard is seen with babies.

Female Mallard Duck.

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Remembering an area at the north end of the reservoir where a nested Prothonotary Warbler was observed last year, we headed for that location and were not disappointed.

Prothonotary Warbler.

With nesting material.

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As if in comic relief we couldn’t help but notice a Canada Goose that seem ready to set sail while perched high overhead their mate wondered what was going to happen next.

Canada Goose.

 

***

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A Spotted Sandpiper was spotted and seemed to be in a cooperative mood as it didn’t immediately take flight as we approached.

Spotted Sandpiper.

Eventually it did get tired of the attention.

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A few other birds were also seen:

Eastern Phoebe.

Tufted Titmouse.

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Over the years we’ve seen Gray, Red and Fox Squirrels but on this day it was a not uncommon Fox Squirrel. They always seem a bit curious about what we’re doing.

Fox Squirrel.

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Near a large beaver lodge at the north end of the reservoir we spotted what we first thought was a young beaver but was probably a Muskrat.

Muskrat.

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It had been awhile since we had seen one along the reservoir so our “Wood Duck” excitement  was more than duplicated with the discovery of a Mink making it’s way along the shore. It’s rapid movement made getting a sharp image a challenge.

Mink.

***

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We hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some Griggs Reservoir nature. A canoe or kayak can be a great tool for exploring and seeing things that would otherwise not be possible. As a platform for observations with binoculars it’s relatively straight forward. Should you decide to try canoe/kayak nature photography be prepared for more challenges than would be encountered shooting from land and a higher failure rate. The best scenario would be to have someone that loves to paddle handle the boat when you are taking pictures. But even if you are solo it is possible to get some great shots.

Hayden Run Falls framed in spring’s green and with a nice flow, (Bob)

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Thanks for stopping by.

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