. . . With A Little help From Our Friends,

Yesterday, at a park near our home on a rather nondescript winter day, we ushered out 2020 with a little help from our friends. These friends have been reliable companions through a difficult year, but on the year’s last day, or perhaps because it was the year’s last day, their importance hit home more forcefully. There is no need to reflect on the love that develops between a person and their pet as most of us have known that. However, to experience a similar connection with creatures that make a living in the environment of trees, brush, fields, and waterways that surround us, owing us nothing, is truly special. Some days, as we walk, their numbers may be less, and the cast of characters may vary, but with their often cheerful dispositions and curious antics they are always there. For just a moment in time we celebrate the shared experience of life.

Downy Woodpeckers are common winter residents in central Ohio,

There are always Mallards but in December we’ve also been fortunate to see Hooded Mergansers on a regular basis along the Scioto River.

The White-throated Sparrow is a favorite winter friend,

A few days ago we spotted Sandhill Cranes heading south. On that day there were numerous sightings around the city.

Song Sparrow.

In the past week we’ve enjoyed numerous Hermit Thrush sightings along the Scioto River.

It was a good December for Brown Creeper sightings.

We can always count on hearing, then seeing, Carolina Wrens.

Numerous pairs of Eastern Bluebirds occupy Griggs Reservoir Park in the winter. There almost electric blue never fails to put a smile on our face.

As long as there’s open water the Great Blue Herons will be busy.

On quiet cloudy mornings Bald Eagles can be seen along Griggs Reservoir.

.

Wishing everyone all the best for the coming year. One where time spent with friends and family again becomes the norm.

Woods along Griggs Reservoir.

 

 

The Same Challenge

When photographing birds it’s always fun to catch them in a cute pose but it’s especially gratifying when they’re captured engaged in an activity that tells you something about how they “make a living”. The day to day task of survival.

Along the Scioto River Hooded Mergansers seemingly parade past a Great Blue Heron.

.

A day or so after the “parade” we noticed the mergansers repeatedly diving in search of food. It wasn’t long before we saw what they were after. Clearer than normal water was undoubtedly contributed to the their success.

Female and male Hooded Mergansers, (Donna).

The female finds a fish. Hooded Mergansers eat small fish, aquatic insects, crustaceans (especially crayfish), amphibians, vegetation, and mollusks—their diet is broader than in other mergansers, which eat fish almost exclusively. (Donna).

The male also finds a fish.

The female takes notice but the male is in no mood to share.

.

Other items were also on the menu.

The male finds a crayfish.

The wrestling match begins.

“This things got pinchers”.

Almost down the hatch.

Not bad!

.

It helps if you enjoy just being in nature, appreciating what ever it has to offer, because on any particular day not much may be seen that would be considered out of the ordinary. In that context, when something special does occur we find ourselves enchanted, witnessing in real time something most folks rarely get to see. Humans undoubtedly reflect on it more, but on this ever smaller planet, whether one is a bird or a human, we are part of the same community and embrace a similar daily challenge. However, humans are unique because, unlike other living things, the pursuit of our immediate needs, comforts, and desires has the potential to threaten our the long term survival as well as that of the “merganser”.

Along the Scioto River. 

.

Thanks for stopping by.

First Snow

It was a cloudy windy morning with temperatures near the freezing point. While not a day that beckoned, the enticement to get outdoors was season’s first snow. In this time we’ve learned to celebrate each day, “welcome mat” or not. Wishing that there had been a little more snow we contented ourselves with only a light dusting. It was enough to outline the sometimes graceful arc of a nearby branch or a pine tree’s seasonal shape. The path along the reservoir’s shore was quiet. With few people around there was no real need to worry about a Covid mask or social distancing. Walking, the north wind was strong enough to remain us that a scarf, as well as mittens rather than gloves, would have been a good idea, but we were thankful for the promise of the day. 

Griggs Reservoir.

.

Not far from shore a pair of Hooded Mergansers were seen. The first spotted on the reservoir this season.

Hooded Mergansers are not a common sight on the reservoir.

.

With the snow, hidden beauty.

.

A few moments later a Bald Eagle passed high over head, flying out of sight so quickly that it was just captured by the camera.

Bald Eagle over Griggs Reservoir.

.

Through the trees.

.

On a day that held low expectations, with the sighting of the mergansers, the eagle, and a Carolina Wren that was almost close enough to touch but evaded the camera lens, we were awake to the moment. Having barely gotten out of the car, the question of what would be seen next was answered by downy woodpeckers, chickadees, and robins but only one other bird chose to pose .   .   . 

In a landscape of black and while, color. Eastern Bluebird.

.

A hint of things to come.

.

The coming of the first snow opens a door into a world of new perceptions, awaking the awareness of time passing and change, and leaving us with thoughts of things lost and things to be.

.

Thanks for stopping by.

Celebrating The Season

When I was a kid growing up in Michigan, I wished for a white Christmas and hoped the snow, with periodic additions of fresh whiteness, would stick around until spring. While my wish was never completely realized, being 150 miles north of where I live now, winter was a more satisfying if not tiring experience.

(Images may be clicked on for a better view)

The low December light pierces the open canopy revealing patterns in leaves and the geometry of trees and river.

.

A few days ago, we woke up to a light covering of white. We rushed down to our local city park before too many foot steps marred it’s beauty. Now, despite colder temperatures, the snow is mostly gone, the victim of wind and sublimation. Winters are like that in central Ohio. Cold temperatures, when they come, often leave the dry, naked, and shivering landscape wishing for a warm white blanket. But while not a paradise for lovers of snow, for those willing to venture out and look carefully, this time of year provides an opportunity to enjoy a subtle beauty and be entertained by creatures making this place their winter home.

With snow, the forms of water and trees becomes sublime.

.

It was very faint but unmistakable. You know how woodpeckers can be. Looking up into branches in the adjacent woods, it seemed hopeless. How about just looking for dead branches  .   .   .

Working on a warm winter home?

A female Downy works away.

. . . as the male goofs off on a nearby branch.

***

Quiet early winter morning along the Scioto.

.

One advantage to living in an area subject to cold temperatures, but with little snow, is that ice is free to express itself.

Small icicles and patterns in ice.

Interesting shapes form as river levels recede, (Donna).

Near the river, a small frozen pool, and solstice ice.

.

In the summer we don’t notice as many Eastern Bluebirds, a gift of the colder months?

Male Eastern Bluebird, (Donna).

Taking flight.

.

Not far from their downriver nest, Bald Eagles are seen more often along the reservoir this time of year.

Perched across the reservoir and too far away for a really good shot..

Doing it’s best to avoid a photograph.

***

At river’s edge, the roots of a sycamore struggle to maintain their hold.

.

With the reservoir frozen, a pair of Hooded Mergansers were spotted in the open water of the river just below the dam. Eventually, if the reservoir stays ice covered, they will be joined by Goldeneyes, Common Mergansers, and other waterfowl not commonly seen in the area.

Hooded Mergansers on the Scioto River.

***

.

These images were taken before realizing that the White-breasted Nuthatch it was eating lichen. An unexpected revelation.

***

***

***

.

A quick look through the binoculars revealed it to be a Mockingbird which was a real treat as we couldn’t remember the last time one was seen in the park   .   .   .  then, one very average photo, and it was gone.

***

.

There are a countless number of American Robins in the park this time of year. They are everywhere, and with their antics provide endless entertainment.

***, (Donna).

.

Brown Creepers are not easy to spot. Sometimes their faint call is heard before they are seen. Their erratic movement make them a difficult subject to photograph.

***

.

While working on a dead branch, this male red-bellied woodpecker really showed off it’s red head.

***

 

Other local residents, as will as migrants from the north, have also entertained us in the last few days.

Tufted-titmouse, (Donna).

Carolina Chickadee, (Donna).

White-throated Sparrows can be found in Ohio in the winter but call the forests across Canada, the northeastern U.S., and the northern Midwest their summer home.

.

A fox squirrel ran up the tree and hid just as I walked up causing my wife to miss a “good” picture. She had to make due with the image below.

***, (Donna).

***

Winter along the Scioto River.

***

This morning while standing in front of our church greeting incoming worshipers, a ruby-crowned kinglet flew into a nearby evergreen, paused for a moment as if to look my way, then flew off. Enchanted by what was an unusual occurrence, I had an extra big smile for the next group of parishioners. In nature the usual can also become enchanting, and in that enchantment, we may lose ourselves and in doing so find that we have become part of something much greater.  We wish everyone the happiest of holidays and a wonderful new year!

.

Thanks for stopping by.

.

 

 

 

 

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.

.

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.

.

St Johns River near Blue Springs SP.

.

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.

.

Cypress

.

A Tree frog at water’s edge, (Donna)

.

St Johns River.

.

American Bittern along the St Johns River.

Osprey with fish.

Little Blue Heron preening.

.

Although they are common, Anhingas always catch our eye.

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

Preening.

.

St Johns river landscape.

.

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

.

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.

.

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.

.

Pond reflection.

.

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.

.

Shoreline grass.

.

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.

.

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.

.

Lily Pads

.

Thanks for stopping by.

Enchanted November Woods

A half an hour before, we were standing in a cold wind just below a dam that has created one of central Ohio’s larger reservoirs trying our best to spot, and perhaps photograph, the Black-legged Kittiwake that was reported in the area. A unique opportunity because it’s a gull not usually seen in these parts. We finally did get a very average binocular view of the bird, another one for my “life list”, but in the process managed to journey pretty far down the road to hypothermia. Now we were looking forward to a hike in the woods with the thought that it wouldn’t be windy and the modest exertion might be enough to warm us up.

.

Char-Mar Ridge Park, is not far from the dam so it seemed like a good choice. The park is home to numerous species of large trees as well as a pond that usually contains waterfowl. A plus is that next to the pond is a nicely situated observation blind for undetected viewing. This time of the year finds most leaves, a significant portion of which are oak, on the forest floor as the bare branched sentinels, once their home, tower overhead. The lack of leaves on branches promotes a rather barren landscape but made it easy to spot a Pileated woodpecker just minutes into our walk. It insisted on maintaining its position between us and the sun foiling efforts to obtain a really good photo.

Pileated Woodpecker, all photos may be clicked on for a better view.

.

Once in the park it was hard not to notice the uniform blanket of leaves. They accentuated the park’s large rocks and fallen trees giving the sense that one was walking through a sculptor garden.

Oak leaves on log.

Large glacial erratic.

Recent rains darkened fallen trees, further contrasting them with the leaves.

Fallen leaves and branches.

.

While I was amusing myself with stumps and fallen trees my wife was doing her best to locate fascinating fungi.

A study of leaves, tree bark, and fungi.

Resinous Polypore, (Donna).

A type of spreading fungi, (Donna).

Lichen and jelly fungi, (Donna).

Common Split Gill just starting out, (Donna).

Colorful Turkeytail.

Perhaps young Cinnabar-red Polypore.

Another look, (Donna).

.

It was just a short distance to the blind overlooking the pond and despite the fact that the resident Red Headed Woodpecker was not seen the time spent there did not disappoint. A neighborhood of usual suspects was more than happy to entertain us.

White Breasted Nuthatch, (Donna).

Another look.

Male Cardinal.

White-throated sparrow, (Donna).

Another look.

Tufted Titmouse, (Donna).

What are you looking at?

Downy Woodpecker

Take 2.

.

There was also activity on the pond.

Male Hooded Merganser.

Male and female Gadwalls

.

It is hard not to be enchanted when one finds color suspended in an otherwise drab gray landscape. Most leaves were down but those on the smaller beech trees hang on and even though their color is no match for the brilliant reds of a maple they did their best to supply color.

Color suspended among slender trees.

A closer look.

.

Recent rains meant that some areas still contained “ponds” of standing water on and along the path creating a challenge for dry feet but also provided a unique “looking-glass” into the late autumn woods.

November reflection.

November reflection, black and white.

.

November reflection 2.

November reflection 2, black and white .

.

In the cold November woods there always is more going on than we know. We move too fast and miss much, wishing for warmer days.

Char-Mar Ridge Park.

.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wandering Around the Block

An exploration of walks, hikes and other experiences

Nature Views

Learning to embrace nature and appreciate the beauty around us every day

Ohio History & Travel

You can find a rich experience close to home.

Into the Light Adventures

By Sandra Js Photography - Make the rest of your life the best of your life.

piecemealadventurer

Tales of the journeys of a piecemeal adventurer as a discontinuous narrative

Photos by Donna

Nature & Wildlife's Beauty and Behavior Through My Lens

Londonsenior

The life of an elderly Londoner and her travels.

Tootlepedal's Blog

A look at life in the borders

Eloquent Images by Gary Hart

Insight, information, and inspiration for the inquisitive nature photographer

gordoneaglesham

The Wildlife in Nature

Through Open Lens

Home of Lukas Kondraciuk Photography

My Best Short Nature Poems

Ellen Grace Olinger

through the luminary lens

Only the Sense of the Sacred can Save us

talainsphotographyblog

Nature photography

Mike Powell

My journey through photography

The Prairie Ecologist

Essays, photos, and discussion about prairie ecology, restoration, and management

Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog

Kerry Mark Leibowitz's musings on the wonderful world of nature photography