Journeying On Through Florida

After leaving Lake Kissimmee State Park we headed north, ran the Orlando metro area traffic gauntlet, and arrived at Blue Springs State Park which was a new park for us. After spending a week there we would take relatively quiet back roads further north to Mike Roess State Park. The two parks couldn’t be more different. Blue Springs is a heavily used “day use” park with a small campground near Orlando while the larger Mike Roess SP was quiet and lightly used during our stay. Part of the popularity of Blue Springs can be attributed to the Manatees that inhabit the springs during the winter months and which had started to leave while we were there due to warmer weather. When one ventured away from the campground after mid-morning parking lots were pretty much full and there were always more than enough people in the park’s general use areas. However, once on the water paddling into a secluded creek or cove things changed dramatically and the area felt like wilderness.

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The big find while hiking the parks limited trails was the endangered Scrub Jay which is a bird we’ve been in search of for some time without success. Habitat destruction appears to be the main reason for its decline.

Scrub Jay.

Another look.

Yellow Star Grass occurred periodically along the trail in single blossoms.

This Eastern Towhee was seen in the same scrub habitat as the jay, (Donna).

This Pileated Woodpecker was also seen along the trail as we searched for the Scrub Jays, (Donna).

Spiderwort.

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St Johns River near Blue Springs SP.

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The extensive wildlife seen while canoeing was the big draw at Blue Springs SP. Our favorite paddle was the eleven mile loop that incorporated Snake Creek. The creek is a true celebration of the richness and beauty of nature.

A small alligator checks us out, (Donna).

An immature Black Crowned Night Heron along Snake Creek, (Donna).

A Great Egret watches as we pass by.

St Johns River.

Florida Cooters,  (Donna).

Wood Stork, (Donna).

Black Crowned Night Heron along the St Johns River.

Little Blue Heron in the thick of it.

Snake Creek provided an intimate paddling experience.

Purple Gallinule eating flower petals, St Johns River.

While paddling Snake Creek we came upon this mating pair at Turkeys. The male seemed not to be bothered by our presence.

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Cypress

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A Tree frog at water’s edge, (Donna)

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St Johns River.

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American Bittern along the St Johns River.

Osprey with fish.

Little Blue Heron preening.

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Although they are common, Anhingas always catch our eye.

Male Anhinga dries it’s feathers along the St Johns River.

Preening.

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St Johns river landscape.

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A Snowy Egret shows off its yellow feet, (Donna).

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Unlike Blue Springs which provided excellent opportunities to observe wildlife from the water, hiking was the best way to do so at Mike Roess SP. A plus was that there were no crowed parking lots or large numbers of people to negotiate when one left the campground. There were areas to explore around the park’s several small lakes and along one fairly long designated hiking trail. We enjoyed the park’s quiet subtle beauty.

Mike Roess SP landscape.

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Walking the shoreline of the parks small lakes was an excellent way to see insects. Some of the dragonflies and damselflies seen were new to us.

Vesper Bluet Damselfly, (Donna).

The Variable Dancer Damselfly is one we haven’t seen further north in Ohio.

Carolina Saddlebags, (Donna).

Female Faded Pennant, (Donna).

Male Faded Pennant.

Slaty Skimmer, (Donna).

The Stripe-winged Baskettail is another dragonfly we’ve not seen further north in Ohio.

The Blue Corporal often perches on the ground, (adult male).

The Buckeye is usually seen in late summer in Ohio.

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Pond reflection.

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In addition to the insects there were birds to enjoy:

Hermit Thrush.

A Hooded Merganser and a Wood Duck pose.

There was a sizable population of Ring-necked Ducks on the small park lakes.

A closer look.

Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Pied Billed Grebes

A White Eyed Vireo announces its presence.

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Shoreline grass.

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As well as other things:

Cricket Frog at waters edge, (Donna).

Unfortunately these lovely but uncommon little flowers that liked the park’s sandy soil remain unidentified.

A Fence Lizard shows it’s underside, (Donna).

Lichen on fallen branch.

A Gopher Tortoise enjoys some grass, (Donna).

Trees.

Pinebarren Frostweed.

A Five Lined Skink shows its beautiful tail, (Donna)

A Long Leaf Pine just starting out.

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Leaving Mike Roess we’d completed six weeks of exploring nature in Florida. As we looked forward to spending time at Paynes Prairie Preserve and Black River SP before heading north to early spring in Ohio we couldn’t help but feel incredibly blessed.

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Lily Pads

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Thanks for stopping by.

Cold Gray Gives Way To Enchantment

It’s a mile and a half each way.

A city park offering a glimpse of nature

the reward for a fast walk

made easier by the damp cold wind

and a sky going from light to dark gray.

In it’s cruel way spring was in reverse.

A place not special to most

especially given the weather

few would be there.

So in the quiet, perhaps a chance for magic.

House after house sameness

gave way to a spontaneity of green.

Would anything feel like celebrating the solitude of the day?

In the park hat brim lowered into a light rain

I wondered

but continued on.

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Then, after some distance, amidst the muted color as if seeking shelter, they appeared .   .   .

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Chestnut-sided warbler, Griggs Park.

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Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Griggs Park.

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American Redstart, Griggs Park.

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Hermit Thrush, Griggs Park.

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Tennessee Warbler, Griggs Park.

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Great-crested Flycatcher, Griggs Park.

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Yellow-rumped Warbler, Griggs Park.

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Prothonotary Warbler, Griggs Park.

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gray cold gave way to enchantment.

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Thanks for stopped by.

 

Birds of Florida on Foot and by Canoe

Our recent six weeks of hiking and paddling in Florida resulted in a lot of photographs.

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The pictures below provide a record of some of the birds seen. While lovely in their right, we are left with the feeling that they don’t come close to conveying the overall sense of wonder experienced as we explored the trails and waterways of Florida. Equipped with the knowledge that places visited were home to many fascinating living things, the wonder was with us even when we didn’t see a plant, bird or other animal that begged to be photographed. We returned home with the feeling that just being in such places had been more than enough.

(click on images for a better view)

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Yellow-crowned Night Heron 1 LL 1 031416 Estero River cp1

Yellow-crowned Night Heron, from the canoe, Estero River, (Donna)

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Palm Warbler, Ochlockonee River State Park

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Ruddy Turnstones, Bald Point State Park

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Sanderlings, Bald Point State Park

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Royal Tern, near Ochlockonee State Park

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Bald Eagle, St Marks NWR.

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Brown-headed Nuthatch, Ochlockonee River State Park

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White-eyed Vireo, Manatee Springs State Park

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Red-shouldered Hawk, Manatee Springs State Park

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Blue-headed Vireo, Manatee Springs State Park

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Carolina Wren, Manatee Springs State Park

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Yellow-rumped Warbler, Manatee Springs State Park

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Northern Parula Warbler, Manatee Springs State Park

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Cat Bird, Shady Acres RV Park.

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Black and White Warbler, Manatee Springs State Park

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Black Vultures, Manatee Springs State Park

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Swallow-tailed Kite, Shady Acres RV Park

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Little Blue Heron, Ding Darling NWR.

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White Pelicans, Ding Darling NWR.

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Immature Yellow-crowned Nigh Heron, Ding Darling NWR.

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Little Blue Heron, Six Mile Cypress Slough

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Blue-headed Vireo, Manatee Springs State Park

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Black and Turkey Vultures over the Suwanee River and Manatee Springs State Park. Moments before these birds were all perched in trees around the spring, Then, as if on queue, they all took flight.

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Mockingbird, St Marks NWR.

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White Pelicans, St Marks NWR.

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Pied Billed Grebes, St Marks NWR.

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American Wigeons, St Marks NWR.

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Brown Pelican with Kingfisher, St Marks NWR.

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Red-cockaded woodpecker , Ochlockonee River State Park., These birds are threatened in much of their range due to loss of habitat.

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Palm Warbler, Ochlockonee State Park.

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Brown Pelican, St Marks NWR.

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Horned Grebe, St Marks NWR.

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Eastern Phoebe, St Marks NWR.

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Palm Warbler, Ochlockonee River NWR.

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Tri-color Heron, from the canoe, Wakulla River

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Hermit Thrush, Ochlockonee River State River.

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Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Ochlockonee River State Park

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Eastern Towhee, Ochlockonee River State Park

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Pine Warbler, Ochlockonee River State Park,

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Black-bellied Plover and Dunlins, Bald Point State Park

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Great Egret, (Donna). We spotted this bird as we were making our way down the Wakulla River with the current, an outgoing tide, and a fairly strong wind at our back. Managed to get the canoe swung around and slowly headed back upstream while my wife started to shoot. While never our intention the bird soon tired of our interest and flew away. In my opinion it was the best bird pic of the trip.

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Piping Plover, Bald Point State Park. A rare and endangered bird.

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Bald Eagle, Bald Point State Park.

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Laughing Gull, Bald Point State Park

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Cardinal, Manatee Springs State Park

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Black Vulture, Manatee Springs State Park.

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Yellow-throated Warbler, Manatee Springs State Park

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Red-headed Woodpecker, Manatee Springs State Park

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Black Vultures, Manatee Springs State Park

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Tri-color Heron and Brown Pelican, from the canoe, island off Cedar Key.

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Great Egret, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Take 2.

 

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Juvenile Ibis, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Green Heron, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Roseate Spoonbill, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Peleated Woodpeckers, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park.

 

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Osprey, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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American Oystercatcher, from the canoe, Cedar Key

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American Avocets, from the canoe, Cedar Key

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Black Skimmer, from the canoe, Cedar Key

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Least Terns, Cedar Key

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Wood Stork, Six Mile Cyprus Slough, Ft Meyers

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Sandpiper, from the canoe, Lovers Key State Park

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Snowy Egret, from the canoe, Lovers Key State Park.

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Great Crested Flycatcher, Shady Acres RV Park.

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Brown Pelican, from the canoe, Estero River

 

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Ibis, Six Mile Cypress Slough, (Donna).

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Now back in Ohio, we visited one of our favorite spots earlier today. While nuthatches, creepers, and various woodpeckers were present, no Bald Eagles were seen nor did any Scarlet Tanagers show themselves. But we have seen them there before and you never know about tomorrow.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

A Carnivorous Butterfly But No Warblers

During a recent trip to Georgia cooperative weather allowed us to get the canoe in the water and do some exploring on Lake Sidney Lanier. The lake is huge with  large parts heavily developed due to it’s close proximity to Atlanta. However the area we choose to explore by starting from Don Carter State Park is not as developed and as a result has many interesting coves and inlets to explore.  In the last couple of years the region has been blessed with plenty of rain so the lake level has stayed near summer pool. A few years before that the area was suffering from draught conditions and the lake level was down in excess of 10 feet. Not much fun for paddling.

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The idea was to look for wildflowers and warblers. While we were treated to a bald eagle flying overhead, just out of camera range, we didn’t have much success with flowers or warblers. However, we did see butterflies and a rather rare one at that.

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Entering one of Lake Lanier’s many coves.

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The leaves were just starting to come out.

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What’s going on here?

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Soon another smaller butterfly joins the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Duskywings all looking for some valuable nutrients from some type of bird droppings, perhaps from a Great Blue Heron?

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My wife moves closer for a better look. It’s a rare Harvester Butterfly! In it’s larval stage it feeds on aphids making it the only carnivorous butterfly in North America.

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We turned away from the butterflies for a moment to notice an Eastern Box Turtle cautiously observing the proceedings.

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Eastern Box Turtle

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Not far from Lake Lanier, in the woods behind the family home, we did discover some new to us wildflowers and a few birds were also seen.

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Young leaves

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Purple tipped White Violet, (Donna)

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Creeping Phlox, (new to us)

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Rue Anemone, (Donna)

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Star Chickweed, (New to us)

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Lichen and moss

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Turkey tail

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Four Spotted Angle Moth, (Donna)

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Wood Thrush, a bit too far away for a good shot.

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Hermit Thrush, also a bit too far away.   .   .

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Back in Ohio, hoping for better luck, we continue our quest for spring warblers.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

Winter and an Unlikely Bird

 

Yesterday we decided to check out the area below Griggs Dam for eagles or whatever else might show itself. We drove to the park rather than walked as we wanted to use our “bird cameras” which are a bit of a chore to carry six miles.  No sooner had we parked the car it started to snow. Not just snow but wind. It swirled around the car as we got our equipment ready. Better try to tuck this 500 mm lens under my coat as I don’t think Canon said anything about it being snow/water proof!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts our explorations often involve picking up and removing trash from the areas we visit. Trash and dumping seems to be the plight of parks especially in the city. On this day our efforts involved lassoing and dragging a large Sony Trinitron TV up a hill and out of the woods. The park guys are great about doing the rest if the item is left adjacent to a trash container. The TV was more work than I expected as it was very heavy. But these efforts are always worthwhile, and this one was no exception. Now when we explore this area, we’ll be greeted by trees, birds, and other wildlife not a Sony Trinitron!

With the unsavory part out of the way we continued our exploration of the area along the river in, colder than the thermometer indicated, blowing snow. The light didn’t inspire pictures but my wife managed to get some interesting shots of ice formations and designs in the wood of decaying trees and I some nice shots of a Tufted Titmouse. . Beautiful landscapes were not the order of the day.

Tufted Titmouse fluffed up against the cold.

Tufted Titmouse fluffed up against the cold.

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

Ice Sculpture, Donna

Ice Sculpture, Donna

Designs in Wood, Donna

“Here’s Looking at You” designs in Wood, Donna

Ice along the river, Donna

Ice along the river, Donna

Today the reservoir was again frozen over so a return visit was in order to finish cleaning up glass from the TV and to see if we could spot any interesting waterfowl or, maybe just maybe, an eagle! But exploring nature, even in the city, is always full of surprises. No eagles were seen and the waterfowl were just starting to regroup in the river. However, we did see six Red-tailed Hawks circling over head. We’re they getting ready to mate? We also continued to see Golden-crowned Kinglets, but the real surprise was a Hermit Thrush, a bird we never would have expected to see here in the winter. Pretty exciting!

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Red-tailed Hawks soar overhead, two of about six.

Hermit Thrush along the Scioto in January

Hermit Thrush along the Scioto

Hooded Mergansers returned to the river after the reservoir iced over.

Hooded Mergansers returned to the river after the reservoir iced over.

Lichen and Devonian Fossils, fossils in upper left hand corner.

Lichen and Devonian Fossils on rock face, fossils on the left.

Scioto River Landscape

Scioto River Landscape

A gathering of waterfowl on the Scioto

A gathering of waterfowl on the Scioto

A Carolina Wren greeted us as we arrived home.

A Carolina Wren greeted us as we arrived home.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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