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.

Florida Wrap-up

After a week at Mike Roess State Park  we travelled a short distance to what has become one of our favorite parks for wildlife viewing, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. After a week there we would travel to Blackwater River State Park which was a new park for us and recommended because of the beauty of the river. We planned on being there for a week before traveling home to Ohio for what we hoped would be just a brief period of winter before spring arrived.

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Paynes Prairie is not a great paddling destination but does offer good hiking within the park and good bicycling opportunities in the park as well as on nearby roads and bike trails. The park offers great opportunities for viewing nature and is highly recommended if that is your passion. Just a short drive away the Bolen Bluff Trail, Barr Hammock PreserveSweetwater Wetlands Park, and the parks north entrance with a boardwalk along Alachua Sink are an added bonus. We had no problem keeping ourselves busy during our one week stay.

Remember: you can click on the images should you desire a better view.

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The Bolen Bluff Trail turned out to be a great “wildlife” trail but in our case did require use of the car to get to the trailhead.

The area contained excellent habitat for a variety of birds.

Bald Eagle

A young Sharpe-shinned Hawk with a Yellow-rumped Warbler, (Donna).

Meal time!

. . . and feathers fly.

There were also a number of Red-headed Woodpeckers looking for something to eat.

Found a bug! (Donna).

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There is no need to get into the car as we found plenty to see on park trails that can be accessed right from the campground.

On a trail not far from the campground a Barred Owl is spotted.

There is a huge expanse of wetland in the park which among other things is home to bison and wild horses.

Cloudless Sulphur on a large thistle.

Palamedes Swallowtail, (Donna).

Giant Swallowtail.

Zebra Swallowtail.

Eastern Towhee.

Pileated Woodpeckers are often seen on the park trails.

A large katydid visits our campsite.

Northern Parula.

A Northern Parula sings it’s heart out in the woods near our campsite.

Another look.

A paradise for large wading birds.

Always fascinating to watch, a Great Blue Heron stalks its next meal.

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Paynes Prairie Preserve north entrance, Alachua Sink was another excellent natural area just a short drive away.

A Live Oak casts shadows on the waters surface near Alachua sink.

Graceful and beautiful an Anhinga preening, Alachua sink.

Alachua Sink.

A very small (and cute?) Alligator enjoys the sun.

Looking across the wetland, Alachua sink area.

Immature Little Blue Heron.

Mature Little Blue Heron.

It was a real treat to see these immature Great Horned Owls, Alachua sink area.

With mom nearby.

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Finally another excellent area that is even a shorter drive is Barr Hammock Preserve. The preserve trail consists of a large loop circling what used to be farmland but which is now at least partially flooded.

Landscape.

A Tri-color Heron tidies up, (Donna).

Patterns in tree bark.

Immature White Ibis, (Donna).

Reflections

Largeflower Primrose-Willow

Little Yellow, a butterfly we don’t remember seeing before, (Donna).

American Bittern

Alligators large and small.

No hike in Florida would be complete without a turtle, Florida Cooter.

Swamp.

***

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Compared to other parks visited, wildlife sighting were not nearly as common at Blackwater River SP. However quality made up for quantity with a rare wildflower sighting and the pleasant surprise of a Red-cockaded Woodpecker sighting. Also the river did live up to its reputation for being a beautiful and during our one paddle a bonus was enjoying the many turtles that had taken up residence on shoreline logs. Our stay in the park was a quiet one so walking along a park road or a trail offered an equal opportunity to see wildlife.

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker’s habitat is the Southeast’s once-vast longleaf pine stands. They also occur in stands of loblolly, slash, and other pine species. The birds dig cavities in living pines and live in family groups working together to dig cavities and raise young. Due to habitat loss the species has declined drastically and was listed as Endangered in 1970.

Not far from the woodpecker, but in the brush at ground level, a Brown Thrasher made an appearance.

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Patterns in the sand, Blackwater River.

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.   .   .  and at river’s edge:

River Jewelwings, in this case males, were a real treat to see, (Donna).

Female

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Enjoying the river’s beauty.

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In the order of carnivorous insects, Odonata, we were also fortunate to see a beautiful Green Darner one of the larger dragonflies.

Green Darner

Another view.

.   .   .   and also a pair of mating Cypress Clubtail Dragonflies.

Cypress Clubtails

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Some low-lying areas along the trail required boardwalks.

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Dragonflies weren’t the only insects mating, a pair of Carolina Satyrs were also seen, (Donna).

A beautiful Queen butterfly, (Donna).

Dubious Tiger Moth, (Donna).

Where there are butterflies there are often wildflowers.

Yellow Butterwort, a very rare sighting for us, this carnivorous plant is a Florida threatened species.

These purple flowers (False Rosemary?) were relatively common during our hikes.

Sky-blue Lupine

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Due to weather and river flow conditions we only paddled once but it was energy well spent.

Tannins color the otherwise clear water.

A peaceful view.

The low winter sun highlights budding trees.

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The next post we will be back in Ohio in search of Ohio’s spring wildflowers but whether it’s nature in Florida or Ohio we remain amazed and enchanted.

Blackwater River

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Thanks for stopping by.

It’s Spring!

While working on a blog post pertaining to time spent in Florida earlier this year I was interrupted. However, unlike many interruptions this one was good. Spring wasn’t just knocking, it was banging on the door, calling us to come out and play. In just the last few days nature has exploded in central Ohio making it hard for my wife and I to contain our enthusiasm. Hopefully this post will convey just a little bit of the excitement.

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One of the first clues that things were changing more rapidly were the wildflowers.

Redbuds.

Virginia Bluebells, (Donna).

Another look.

White Trout Lily

Dutchman’s Breeches.

Yellow Trout Lilies, (Donna).

A closer look. (Donna).

Emerging Buckeye leaves, not a flower but beautiful in their own way.

Spring Beauties, (Donna).

Newly emerged spring fungi, Dryad’s Saddle, (Donna).

Translucent green.

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Then there were the birds, all of which seemed very busy.

From it’s nesting cavity a Red-bellied Woodpecker checks us out.

A Canada Goose on it’s nest at water’s edge. Hopefully there will be no heavy rains in the near future.

An argumentative pair of Blue Jays announce their presence. Could they be discussing nest location?

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Some behavior seemed odd.

This Canada Goose was trying a different menu item. Something we’ve never seen before.

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Other birds were just enjoying the warmer weather.

A Tufted-titmouse makes itself know with a voice much bigger than the bird.

A common but hard to photograph Carolina Chickadee is nice enough to pose.

Sunlight warms a male Mallard in breeding plumage.

Redbuds surround a female Cardinal.

A Great Blue Heron soars overhead along the Scioto River, (Donna).

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The Great Egrets in their breeding plumage continued to enchant us.

Preening.

Another look.

Striking a beautiful pose.

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But the days real excitement was generated when we spotted a newly arrived spring migrant.

This curious Yellow-throated Warbler flew down to see what I was up to.

Too cute for just one pic.

And perhaps one more.

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As if the wildflowers and birds weren’t enough, more turtles than we’ve ever seen on one log decided to get into the act.

Turtles along the Scioto River, How many do you see?

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We hope our enthusiasm rubs off on our readers and everyone gets out to witness springs transformation in their neighborhood.

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Walking in the freshness of an early spring morning

along a path lined with trees just clothed in translucent green

with the sights, sounds, and smells of nature

I am reborn.

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Thanks for stopping by.

***

 

 

 

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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****

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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.

 

 

 

Nature In Myakka River State Park

After two months in sunnier climes with limited internet access we are now back home. While still an improvement over Ohio, this winter’s trek south to Florida’s Myakka River State Park in an effort to escape the cold found us greeted by windy cool and sometimes wet weather. The wind precluded using the canoe as a means to gain access to photo opportunities away from the main park roads but we were still able to enjoy hiking even though it was often on partially flooded trails.

My wife walks under a Live Oak covered with Resurrection Ferns on one of the dryer tails.

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Every year is different. Last year the arrival of a hurricane not long before our arrival resulted in the park being completely flooded. During our stay the water receded leaving pools of stranded fish for wading birds to gorge themselves on. This occurrence offered a unique opportunity to observe and photograph various wading birds and nothing like it was in the offing this year. The consolation was that the Black Necked Stilt, a favorite bird, was more common than last year. In addition to this year’s critter pics more effort was made to capture the landscape so those shots have been made part of the mix.

The Myakka River

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As in the past Black Necked Stilts continue to charm us.

Black Necked Stilt

What ever they’re doing it’s always fascinating, (Donna).

Stilt with Lesser Yellowlegs

Walking.

Flying, (Donna).

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Flooded hammock.

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Other small wading birds were seen but American Avocets eluded us.

Least Sandpipers along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake.

Killdeer along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake.

Lesser Yellowlegs along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake, (Donna).

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The Myakka River.

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While certainly not uncommon, we always enjoy seeing the Great and Snowy Egrets. Whiter than white, a slightly overcast day seems to work best for photographing these birds.

Great Egret

Close-up.

Snowy Egret

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Standing water in low-lying areas gives rise to shadows and reflections.

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Black Crowned Night and Great Blue Herons are seen in Ohio but not the petite Tri-colored Heron.

Tri-colored Heron.

Great Blue Heron with lunch along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake.

Great Blue Heron.

Little Blue Heron hunting, (Donna).

A Black Crowned Heron peeks through the branches, (Donna).

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Upper Lake Myakka.

Flooded habitat.

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Roseate Spoonbills are right up there with Black Necked Stilts when it comes to interesting birds to observe.

Roseate Spoonbill preening.

Spoonbills.

My what a big mouth you have, (Donna).

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Florida hammock landscape.

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An Alligator Limpkin stare down.

The Alligator and Limpkin were so close together it’s hard to believe they weren’t aware of each other.

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Myakka River landscape.

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We were fortunate to see several Wood Storks.

A Wood Stork forages for food along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake.

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A canopy of branches.

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Palm Warblers were everywhere as were Black Vultures. The Barred Owl and the small Common Ground Dove were a rarer treat.

Palm Warbler.

Black Vultures were everywhere.

Scarcely a moment went by without hearing the call of a Red Shouldered Hawk.

This Barred Owl seemed so obvious once we spotted it but they’re not so easy to find.

 

Common Ground Dove.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is common in Florida but perhaps not quite as common there as in Ohio.

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Shadows betray this Live Oaks identity.

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Flowers, fungi, and air plants:

A lovely small flower is found looking something like a small wild rose

Another small but very noticeable flower.

There were fungi but not in the variety seen in Ohio, (Donna).

Other than as a location to live, air plants ask nothing of the tree they reside in.

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A fallen tree finds home in the flooded hammock

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Other creatures:

Our friend Teresa was surprised by the opportunity to get this quick shot of a Bobcat as it crossed the trail.

We are always surprised by the number of turtles given the number of gators.

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This years visit to the park was only six days but we managed to see quite a bit for such a short time. Because of the colder than normal weather there weren’t as many alligators in evidence and while birds were seen the higher than normal water levels and more places to forage meant they were disbursed. We’re planning a return visit next year so who knows what the future holds as every year offers different mix of weather and resultant water levels.

Myakka River.

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Thanks for stopping by.

****

December Quiet

Recently we had an opportunity to spent a few days at Salt Fork State Park. It’s located in eastern part of the state and is Ohio’s largest state park at 17,000 acres encompassing a landscape of forested hills, open meadows, valleys, winding streams and a large serpentine lake. It’s a park that’s new to us with a name that is said to have been derived from a salt well located in its southwest corner that was used by Native Americans. Early December is not the busiest time and the park system was offering a senior discount in an effort to rectify that problem. With leaves mostly on the ground and their colors fading fast it is not the best time of year to experience nature’s beauty, but if one loves to hike and explore we thought “the deal” was too good to pass up.

Morning landscape, from the lodge, (all images may be clicked on for a better view).

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A short afternoon hike after our arrival revealed that recent wet weather had resulted in trails that were wet, and in spots very muddy, but perhaps what was noticed most was that, with the exception of the call of a distant crow or a nearby chickadee, the woods were completely silent.

Along the trails the lake can often be seen.

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During our stay we had the opportunity to explore various trails and the playful sound of small streamlets could often be heard as they made their way down gullies and around moss-covered rocks.

Oak leaves on moss-covered rocks and a very small waterfall.

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Fortunately there were “wildflowers” to enjoy but not the kind one goes in search of in early spring woods.

Red-orange Mycena, (Donna).

Turkey Tail bouquet, (Donna).

Interesting but unidentified, (Donna).

Cypress needles on moss.

Crowded Parchment, (Donna).

Unidentified polypore.

Perhaps Ground Pholiota

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Moss covered rocks and fallen cypress needles provided the most vivid color seen.

Now moss-covered this sandstone rock broke off from a nearby cliff.

Bald Cypress

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A longer hike took us by an old stone house on our way to Hosak’s cave and waterfall. The house was built by Benjamin Kennedy, an early settler to the region, around 1840. With the exception of the lake the surrounding landscape probably looks a lot like it did then.

Old Stone House

Hosack’s Cave. Notice the small waterfall that is probably non-existent most of the year.

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The morning of our departure we were greeted by two inches of fresh snow. In the stillness it was magical.

View from the lodge.

Sycamore

Holly, (Donna).

In the fresh snow a small stream stands out.

Like powdered sugar the light snow graced park trees.

Snow covered branches reflect at water’s edge.

A Great Blue Heron seems out of place.

Blooms of a different kind, Tulip Tree.

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The lodge, all decorated for the holidays with the warm glow of fireplaces in cozy locations, was lovely. The food, be it breakfast, lunch, or diner, while not French cuisine, was reasonably priced and very good. The staff was very friendly and helpful.

Late autumn snow, Salt Fork State Park.

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At times nature’s beauty, found when not expected, speaks to us in a whisper.

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Thanks for stopped by.

Exploring The Coves Of Alum Creek Reservoir By Canoe

It promised to be another hot day, but with the sun just rising when we launched it was still pleasant, giving only a hint of the heat to come.

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Alum Creek Reservoir at Cheshire Rd.

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Considering the forecast our goal was to be off the water by noon. The wind hardly rippled the water’s surface as quiet paddle strokes moved the canoe toward an area of Alum Creek Reservoir that we hadn’t explored in a while. Two days earlier during an early morning fishing trip I had surprised a Bald Eagle in a tall tree at waters edge. Now with my wife along to handle photography from the bow, I was hoping we would see, and perhaps photograph, some equally interesting things as we explored the coves along our route. For those new to this blog, we love to paddle and to eliminate the need to shuttle cars we usually paddle reservoirs, the more convoluted the better, to maximize time in the canoe.

No matter how one feels about damming up rivers to create reservoirs, in the case of Alum Creek Reservoir it did result a wonderful place to explore containing a rich variety of wildlife. Unlike the often cottage lined predictable shorelines of spring fed glacial lakes in northern states like Michigan, the many small ravines that followed slopes down to the creek resulting in an almost endless number of coves to explore with the coming of the reservoir. In addition, because the reservoir is surrounded by parkland there are virtually no buildings or homes along it’s shore.

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Alum Creek Reservoir Paddling Route

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With rainfall this year about six inches above normal giving rise to higher water levels, the lush shoreline vegetation reached right down to waters edge and at times gave the feeling of paddling through a jungle.

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Beautiful reflections as the reservoir narrows into a creek, (Donna).

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As nature photographers know, what one sees and what one has a chance to photograph are seldom the same. Particularly when in a canoe which has it’s own stability, speed, and mobility constraints. It turns out that at the very north end of our route we saw a Yellow-crowned Night Heron. The first one we’ve ever seen in Ohio. A little later a pair of very wary Great Horned Owls were seen. The surprised heron spotted us just as we rounded a tight bend in what had become a narrow snag infested creek.  It flew before we could react. The outcome was similar for the owls. They were perched high in a tree canopy partially obscured by low lying brush and saw us coming despite our best efforts, moving a little further away each time we tried to get closer.

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But there are always other things to marvel at.

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A male Eastern Amberwing perches right near the canoe as we wait quietly in a secluded cove, (Donna).

 

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A Slaty Skimmer enjoys the morning sun, (Donna).

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As we paddled along the shore we were often overwhelmed by the aroma of wild roses.

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Donna looks for the best composition.

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Bingo!

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I try my hand.

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Water loving Lazard’s Tail at waters edge, (Donna).

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Entering some coves small, noisy, and mostly invisible birds were everywhere.

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Donna points to what turns out to be a White-breasted Nuthatch.

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Along one stretch of open rocky shore a group of sandpipers, always just a little ahead of us, hurried as we approached.

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Spotted Sandpiper, (Donna).

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Immature Spotted Sandpiper, (Donna).

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On this particular day the turtles were a little more cooperative than the birds.

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Map Turtle, (Donna).

 

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Eastern Spiny Softshell, (Donna).

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If you travel north to Michigan with it’s colder clearer lakes and streams you typically don’t see as many egrets and herons but in Ohio they are very common. I could be wrong but I’ve often thought it’s because the rough fish (catfish, suckers, carp, shad, etc.) that call Ohio’s often turbid waters home are just easier to catch.

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A Great Egret gets ready to strike   .   .   .   .

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and very quickly does!

 

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To no avail.

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It heads back to it’s perch .   .   .

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to regain it’s composure and try again.

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Along the shore a Great Egret and a Great Blue Heron seem to be getting along just fine, (Donna).

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Sometimes it’s luck, sometimes persistence, and yes it’s true knowledge and skill do come into play, but if you hike a trail or paddle a lake often enough you will see new and fascinating things.

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In the woods or by a meadow, stream, or lake on any given day, even if  nothing new is seen, you will at least return having allowed yourself to be there for a time, in the still freshness of the early morning with the call of the Wood Thrush, or later to the sound of  wind as it dances with leaves, breathing air with a hint of wild rose. 

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

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