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.

 

Eagles and Herons In Action

First, I would like to thank my friend Ba Huynh for making the below pictures available for this blog. Many of the shots required much watching and waiting behind a tripod mounted camera. This approach, requiring the photographer to anticipate the action and plan such things as camera location in advance, allows Ba to capture pictures I often miss with my catch it when it happens walk around style. That being said, the really exciting aspect is that all of these images were all taken within the Columbus city limits. Truly nature at our doorstep!

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Bald Eagles:

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Great Blue Heron:

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Thanks again Ba for making your wonderful photos available. Through the many birders, nature enthusiasts, and photographers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know I’m constantly reminded how important it is to discover one’s passion and allow it to take you on that privileged adventure we call life.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Cold Weather Brings Nature Our Way

Every two or three years a period of unusually cold winter weather results in the land and water north as well as in central Ohio being covered with snow and ice for a prolonged period of time.  When this happens waterfowl and other birds that may not be able to make a living further north are forced to seek suitable habitats in our area. The result is the opportunity to see birds in locations where it would be extremely unlikely other times of the year. A gift to nature lovers courtesy of cold arctic weather.

Ice creeps out into the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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The negative to all of this is that windy 0 F to 15 F temperatures preclude the use of serious photographic equipment on long hikes. Briefly popping out of the car, if you are able to get close enough to your subject, is the only option. If one is set on doing a long hike, stuffing a smaller superzoom under your coat does work but fingers freeze almost immediately when you try to manipulate the camera.

Landscape transformed, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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A habitat that attracts birds almost at our doorstep is the open flowing water of  the Scioto River below Griggs Reservoir Dam. In the past couple of weeks we’ve been fortunate to observe a variety of waterfowl at that location. Others birds, such as Trumpeter Swans, have been reported but we’ve yet to see them. Timing is everything as the birds move up and down the river corridor. More often than not there is a least one Bald eagle present as the number of ducks and geese make for easy pickings.

Ring-necked Ducks, Scioto River below Griggs Dam, (Donna).

A closer look.

 

Crowded conditions, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

A Red-headed Duck tries to ignore a rambunctious Goldeneye, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

Male Hooded Merganser on patrol, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

This one found a crayfish. Did you know that 21 species of crayfish call Ohio home.

There were no shortage of Common Mergansers, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

Male Common Merganser

A nice group of male Common Goldeneyes, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

A little closer.

Three Goldeneyes pose, (Donna).

Canvasback a little too far away for a decent pic, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

Mute Swan, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

Cackling Geese, shot is courtesy of our follow birding friend Ed, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

This buck seemed confused about the best place to relax. We thought it might be sick or injured but the next time we checked it was gone, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

Red-headed Ducks, Scioto River below Griggs Dam, (Donna).

Amazingly, Great Blue Herons continue to make a living along the Scioto.

There is often at least one Bald Eagle observing the activity along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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It’s also been a good year for Snowy Owls in Ohio with numerous birds being reported. The mechanism for that invasion, while perhaps partly due to the weather, also is the result of the past breeding season being a good one resulting in young owls looking for new hunting grounds further south as the increased population puts pressure on resources further north. Other birds such as Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs, to a greater or lesser degree, find their way into Ohio from further north during most winters.

Along farm fields not far from our home a roadside spill of corn attracted Horned Larks, a real treat to see. “The barer the ground, the more Horned Larks like it. Look for them in open country with very short or no vegetation, including bare agricultural fields. They breed in short grassland, short-stature sage shrubland, desert, and even alpine and arctic tundra.” Ref: Cornell Lab.

Take 2.

At the same location, at first looking like some type of sparrow, was a Lapland Longspur, another first for us! They are a common songbird of the Arctic tundra, and winter in open fields across much of the US and southern Canada.

Take 2, (Donna).

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Other creatures have also been braving the cold.

Not far from the concentration of waterfowl on Scioto River this Fox Squirrel was trying to warm up in the 10F sunshine, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Nearby an immature Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was also spotted, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Take 2, (Donna).

Our friend Ed told us about two Eastern screech owls located not far from Griggs Reservoir Park and was kind enough to send some pics our way.

. . . and a red morph, Ed.

Ed and Bob, photo courtesy of Sheila.

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Returning home after a recent outing we were treated to some interesting bird activity right in our front yard.

Dark-eyed Junco. “Dark-eyed Juncos breed in forests across much of North America and at elevations ranging from sea level to more than 11,000 feet. They are often found in coniferous forests including pine, Douglas-fir, spruce, and fir, but also in deciduous forests such as aspen, cottonwood, oak, maple, and hickory. During winter and on migration they use a wider variety of habitats including open woodlands, fields, roadsides, parks, and gardens.” Ref: Cornell Lab.

Competing with a Gray squirrel for goodies.

The chickadees love the sweetgum tree.

And so do the goldfinches.

A female Downy Woodpecker also takes advantage of the front yard feeders.

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We feel very blessed to have so many fascinating creatures paying us a visit this winter. A very warm coat, that didn’t get worn once last winter, has come in very handy the last few days as we’ve been out and about. Today, as I finish writing this, the temperature is a balmy 35F. Time to get out and see what else we can find!

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Finally, one of the joys of being a lover of nature is meeting kindred spirits like Ed and Sheila when out in the field. Ed, thanks again for supplying the pics!

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Flowing water and extremely cold temperatures create ice pancakes along the Scioto.

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!

 

Reluctant Treasures

We enjoy being outdoors no matter what the time of year. However, when it comes to providing a sense of wonder, unlike spring, summer and early autumn, late autumn and early winter give up their subtle treasures reluctantly. One must move slowly and look closely or much will be missed.

With the leaves now gone the convoluted bark of the Osage Orange is hard not to notice, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna).

Better in B&W?

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A cloudy cold early November morning gives way to the fleeting sun of an unexpectedly warm afternoon and as if by magic things appear not seen a few hours earlier.

A warm early November afternoon and the first sighting of a Variegated Fritillary for the year, (Donna).

A pond quiet in the cold morning air comes to life in the warm afternoon sun, Leopard Frog, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

An Autumn Meadowhawk enjoys the afternoon sun, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

A Striped Wolf Spider sunning itself along the trail just avoids being stepped on, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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A sheltered place, warmed by the sun, gives refuge to flowers that should be gone for the year. Fungi fruit in response to more generous rain defying the below freezing nights.

In the low late autumn sun Nodding Bur-Marigold defies the season, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Moss and lichen, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Fruiting lichen, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Unexpectedly colorful Changing Pholiota, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Tinged with green an unidentified shelf fungi, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

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More isolated now, some color still remains.

Road through Griggs Reservoir Park.

Sweatgum leaves, (Donna).

Poison Ivy, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

The road along the reservoir evites us to walk further, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

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Fewer leaves, and a forest canopy of bare branches, allow one to better see the birds that haven’t made their way south.

Against a deep blue November sky a sentinel stands along the Big Darby, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

Better in B&W?

Song Sparrow, Battelle Darby Metro Park, (Donna).

American Goldfinch, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Great Blue Herons continue to make a living along the shore of Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

Downy Woodpecker (M), Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

We continue to see Bald Eagles along the Scioto River below Griggs Reservoir Dam.

Backing off a bit we noticed a Coopers Hawk watching from the distance.

A dark morph American Robin from further north? Griggs Reservoir Park.

Thankfully, with the migrating warblers pretty much gone, the Carolina Wrens continue to entertain along the Scioto River.

Immature Red-tailed Hawk, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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For the last few weeks almost every squirrel has had a nut in its mouth.

Gray Squirrel, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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It’s the time of year when short cloudy days, a landscapes of muted colors, and breezes often too cool to be comfortable tell us that things are going to be quieter for a while.

A shoreline reflection reveals November’s bare branches, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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XXX

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Should you wish prints from various posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo. If you don’t find it on the link drop us a line.

 

An Early Autumn Paddle

Early autumn is one of our favorite times of the year. There are usually fewer people on the trails, rivers, and lakes as many have moved on to other things; football games, school, etc. September often has a period 0f sunny windless days making time spent in the canoe a pure joy. The landscape still mostly green is accented by the brilliant reds and yellows of a few trees determined to get a head start on fall making it all the more striking.

A small fish surfaces disturbing an early autumn reflection.

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Realizing that opportunities for comfortable paddling are starting to slip away, a few days ago we decided to paddle the north end Alum Creek Reservoir into Alum Creek with the hope of seeing fall warblers as we made our way along the shore.

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At first the sun struggled to burn off an early morning fog.

The fog begins to lift not long after we start paddling.

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But when it did .   .   .

The far shore erupts in color.

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A closer look revealed that the fog and the soft sunlight was giving a jewel like quality to spider webs too numerous to count.

Spider webs and autumn leaves.

Graceful designs.

Different colors.

What could I make with my own hands that would be any more beautiful?

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As we continued on close to shore, color frames the reservoir.

Just a few feet from shore offered some unique perspectives, (Donna).

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On this particular day the flowers seen were mostly those right along the shore and seemed to be thriving in that location.

Turtlehead

Sunflower

Beggars Ticks, very small flower.

False Daisy, also very small.

Broad-leaved Arrowhead.

A closer look.

Swamp Smartweed, (Donna).

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On the quiet surface the canoe seemed to glide forever.

Calm

Color, (Donna).

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Pullouts offer an opportunity to explore areas along the water and it usually doesn’t take my wife long to find interesting insects.

Gladiator Katydid, (Donna).

Weevil, Lixus iridis, a large weevil with a flat oval body, and a pointed shield. Completely covered in short hairs, yellow to brown, sometimes fading to grey. Thick legs and antennae. Habitat is wetland or close to water.

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Painted turtles greeted us as we paddled.

Unlike many turtles that sense our approach while we’re still quite far away resulting in a quick slide or plop into the water, Painted Turtles appear to enjoy having their picture taken, (Donna).

Do the turtles sense that the good times of summer are about to end? (Donna).

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While few warblers were seen and none were photographed, Ospreys were heard overhead, and we were fortunate to see some of the other usual suspects.

A Green Heron stalks it’s prey.

Time to straighten things up, Great Blue Heron.

We lost count of the number of Double-crested Cormorants seen, (Donna).

Belted Kingfisher, (Donna).

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After about four miles we arrive at a gravel bar on Alum Creek that usually marks the most northern point of our paddle unless we feel like dragging the canoe more than paddling it.

A lone rock marks the end of the paddle north and our lunch stop.

A great spot for lunch!

.   .   .   and a scenic pullout.

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Autumn reminds us, perhaps more than any other season, that nothing lasts. It reminds us to stop being passively entertained and instead to entertain and enrich ourselves, to venture out into disappointment and discovery, to experience being part of something larger, and to be alive.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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XXX

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Should you wish prints from various posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo. If you don’t find it on the link drop us a line.

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