A Tropical Bird in Columbus

We decided to go for a walk below Griggs Reservoir Dam this morning hoping to see some migrating warblers. Usually Saturday morning is a weekly date with our tandem bicycle but the weather looked threatening so birding, where we could get back to the car quickly, seemed like the thing to do. The wind was supposed to pick up later in the day so we got an early start.

The first bird to greet us was one of our favorites, a Baltimore Oriole. Usually we see them at the top of tall trees after he trees have fully leafed out making them difficult to photograph. However, this one was lower in a tree whose leaves were not yet completely hiding it. It struck numerous poses for us as it busied itself eating what appeared to be young seed pods.

click on image for a better view

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Baltimore Oriole, study 1

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Baltimore Oriole, study 2

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Baltimore Oriole, study 3

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Baltimore Oriole, study 4

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Baltimore Oriole, study 5 (Donna)

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After almost being chased back to the car by a passing shower, we continued on, hearing lots of birds but not seeing much. Today, with it leafing out more, our line of sight wasn’t what it was just a few days ago. Cardinals seemed to be everywhere so we didn’t give it much thought when a bright red bird appeared in the distance. A quick look through the binoculars revealed it to be not a Cardinal but a Scarlet Tanager! We were excited as we usually have to travel some distance to see such a bird and here it was less than two miles from our house. It was undoubtedly just passing through but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm. The Scarlet Tanager is one of those birds that, when seen, transports me to the jungles of South America. It looks just a little out of place in Ohio.

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Scarlet Tanager

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Scarlet Tanager, study 1

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Scarlet Tanager, study 2

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Energized buy the tanager we continued on, seeing other tropical and sub-tropical migrants including a Great Crested Flycatcher, a Warbling Vireo and numerous warblers.

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Yellow-rumped Warbler, study 1

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Warbling Vireo, hiding

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Palm Warbler, study 1

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Palm Warbler, study 2

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Great Crested Flycatcher

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Orchard Oriole, study 1

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Orchard Oriole, study 2

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Nashville Warblers, too far away!

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Yellow-rumped Warbler, study 2

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When the birds didn’t have our attention we couldn’t help but notice some beautiful fungus which was undoubtedly a product of recent rains.

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Dryad’s Saddle, study 1

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Dryad’s Saddle, study 2

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Mystery Mushroom, (Donna)

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Shelf Fungi, also Dryad’s Saddle?

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A Scarlet Tanager in the middle of Columbus. It doesn’t get much better.

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Scarlet Tanager, (Donna)

 

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Hiking and Birding as Spring Moves On

Yesterday morning we enjoyed a 6 mile hike with friends at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. Everything was coming to life with numerous wildflowers including Trilliums and Celandine or Wood Poppies along the trail.

click on the images for a better view

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Celandine Poppy, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

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Celandine Poppy , Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, (Donna)

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Celandine Poppy, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, (Donna)

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Buckeye Leaves, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

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Trillium, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

 

Later in the day we decided to see what warblers could be found along the reservoir in Griggs Park and the area below the dam. Several people stopped to ask what we were looking at as we peered up into the trees. One or two were fellow birders with binoculars which is always encouraging. The number of warblers seen exceeded our expectations.

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Palm Warbler, Griggs Park

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Palm Warbler, Griggs Park

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Warbling Vireo, Griggs Park

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Warbling Vireo, Griggs Park

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Yellow-throated Warbler, along the Scioto below Griggs Dam

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Baltimore Oriole, Griggs Park

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Blackpoll Warbler, Griggs Park

Redbuds, other flowering trees, and wildflowers were making an already cheerful day even brighter.

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Redbud, along the Scioto below Griggs Dam.

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Violets, along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam

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Crabapple Blossoms, Griggs Park

The Map Turtles were definitely taking advantage of the warm afternoon sun.

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How many Map Turtles can you fit on a rock? Scioto River below Griggs Dam

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Bigger Map Turtles on a smaller rock.

It wasn’t hard to imagine a Smallmouth Bass just below the surface.

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Scioto River below Griggs Dam

Green is now winning out over the colors of winter.

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Sycamore along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Thanks for stopping by.

A Yellow-throated Warbler Entertains Us

On one of our usual spring walks along Griggs Reservoir and the river below the dam looking for wildflowers and warblers

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Just turning green, a view across the Scioto

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we were excited to see several very interesting and beautiful spring wildflowers. A very small one was new to us. It’s size having allowed it to evade previous discovery.

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Kidney Leaf Buttercup, very small and new to us

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Wild Ginger Flowering

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A White Trout Lilly in full bloom

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Across the river we observed a Red-tailed Hawk peering above the edge of it’s nest. Too far away for a good photograph.

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Red-tailed Hawk on nest

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We noticed that Goldfinches seemed to be everywhere

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Male Goldfinch

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But what made the day really special was that on our way back to the car, having seen no warblers up to that point, we noticed movement near the top of a tree and stopped to take a closer look. For what seemed too short a time, we were entertained by a Yellow-throated Warbler busily going about it’s day.

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A lovely way to end a spring walk along Griggs Reservoir.

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Robin at sunrise

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Thanks for stopping by.

Spring Wonder Along the Scioto

It’s mid April and changes in the plant and animal world are occurring at such a fast pace that it feels as though, were you to look away, you’d miss “it”. This is certainly the case for Hoover Park and the area along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

Below are some recent photos as we continue our spring wildflower and warbler quest.

click on the image for a better view

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The White Trout Lilly does not seem to be as common as the Yellow:

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White Trout Lilly

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White Trout Lilly, study 2

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Yellow Trout Lilly:

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Yellow Tout Lilly

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Yellow Trout Lilly, study 2 (Donna)

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Virginia Bluebells:

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Virginia Bluebells (Donna)

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Virginia Bluebells, study 2

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Be careful where you place your hand when crouching down to get a closer look:

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Common Water Snake

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Other wildflowers seen below the Griggs Reservoir Dam in the past few days:

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Dutchman’s Breeches

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Toadshade Trillium

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Marsh Marigolds

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Marsh Marigolds, study 2

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Cutleaf Toothwort

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Cutleaf Toothwort, study 2

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Mystery Flower in large group, (Donna)

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At the river’s edge:

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Great Egret across the river

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Crayfish in pool (Donna)

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Hints of Green

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Great Egret and Great Blue Heron

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Map Turtle

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Redbuds

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Spring Azure, a very small butterfly. (Donna)

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Blue-gray Gnatcatchers seem to be fairly common this year:

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Donna)

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, study 2

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, study 3

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Someone’s been busy:

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Robin’s Eggs (Donna)

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No walk is complete without a Downy Woodpecker or a Chickadee:

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Chickadee

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Male Downy Woodpecker

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A Yellow-throated warbler in the tree tops:

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Yellow-throated Warbler

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Yellow-throated Warbler, study 2 (Donna)

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Early spring stained glass:

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Stained Glass

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Thanks for stopping by.

Icicles and Ice Chandeliers

Yesterday, with the reservoir again frozen over, we were out looking for waterfowl along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam and spotted some interesting ice formations. Recent warmer temperature, snow melt and rain had resulted in high water along the river. The formations resulted when this was followed by very cold temperatures and dropping water levels.

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Ice Chandeliers

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Along the river

With the wind was gusting to over 30 miles per hour and the temperature hovering around 15 F our fingers froze almost instantly as we tried to take pictures. Its amazing any turned out as well as these did.

The ice was very clear giving the appearance of glass

The ice was very clear giving the appearance of glass

For the record we did see Hooded, Common and Red-breasted Mergansers along the opposite shore of the river. Below are our meager attempts to record the sightings.

Common Merganser with Red Head

Common Merganser with a Red Head Duck

Red Breasted Merganser

Red Breasted Merganser

Male Common Mergansers

Male Common Mergansers

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Thanks for stopping by.

Ice Necklesses and Winter Ducks

Griggs Reservoir remains frozen so the river below the dam (adjacent to Hoover Park), continues to concentrate waterfowl. In the last few days we’ve made two trips to this area hoping to take advantage of the conditions.

On the first trip, Horned Grebes, Golden Eyes, and Hooded Mergansers were seen. However, what really blew us away were three Bald Eagles flying up the river, two mature and one immature, the most we’ve ever seen at this location. The Grebes were also exciting because we hadn’t seen them below the dam before. Unfortunately, in addition to mini-binoculars we both had only our Canon SX260’s so any thought of getting flying eagle pictures was just that, a thought. If they landed nearby we were never able to determine the location. As our exploration continued my wife found an interesting ice formation caused by the slowly receding river. Also, ever on the lookout for fungi, she found some that she felt was worth a photograph.

The following day we tried again. This time with our “bird cameras” hoping that there would be another eagle fly by. However, as is often the case when you roll out the “heavy equipment”, no eagles were seen. We were happy to add a Common Merganser to our list of birds seen below the dam.

Many Hooded Mergansers were seen, Donna, Olympus E-620 600 mm

Many Hooded Mergansers were seen, Donna, Olympus E-620 300 mm

Ice necklace, Donna, Canon sx260

Ice necklace, Donna, Canon sx260

Horned Grebes, Canon sx260

Horned Grebes, Canon sx260

Golden Eyes, Canon t3i, 500 mm

Golden Eyes, Canon t3i, 500 mm

Horned Grebes, Canon sx260

Hooded Mergansers, Canon sx260

Hooded Mergansers & Golden Eyes, Canon t3i, 500 mm

Hooded Mergansers & Golden Eyes, Canon t3i, 500 mm

Common Merganser, Canon t3i, 500 mm

Common Merganser, Canon t3i, 500 mm

Cormorant & Hooded Mergansers, Canon t3i, 500 mm

Cormorant & Hooded Mergansers, Canon t3i, 500 mm

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Canon t3i, 500 mm

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Canon t3i, 500 mm

Warmer weather, Chipping Sparrow taking a bath, Canon t3i 500 mm

Warmer weather, Chipping Sparrow taking a bath, Canon t3i, 500 mm

Fungi close-up, Donna, Canon sx260

Fungi close-up, Donna, Canon sx260

Fungi, Donna, Canon sx260

Fungi, Donna, Canon sx260

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Thanks for stopping by.

This Special Place

If you were driving the busy road running along the Scioto River and Griggs Reservoir you would never know it’s there. Not unless you were real curious. It’s the area, just below the Griggs Reservoir Dam on the Scioto River, essentially in the middle of Columbus. The installation of a Frisbee golf course along the river in recent years has given the area some legitimacy lacking when a abandoned campground occupied the area. Then, only occasional dog walker or late night carp and cat fishermen frequented the place. Judging from what was typically left behind, the fishermen may have been more interested in just having a good time.

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The below link shows the area:

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So moving forward to today what makes this place so special?

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To start, it’s only about a three mile walk from our house which is located on a typical rectangular block in this mid-sized mid-western city. A lovely neighborhood in which to live but hardly providing a back to nature experience. Just three miles away this special place takes us into a different world where plants and wildlife are seen that would never show up in our back yard. Sycamores tower over the landscape once home to numerous Ash trees. Beech and Burr Oak are also present. Just over the low lying spring wildflowers invasive Honey Suckle predominates but Willows are seen along the river and are a favorite of the Prothonotary Warbler. A first time visitor will not be in awe of this place. It takes time, walking slowly, looking closely, listening carefully, and after a few visits the flower will unfold.

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In the very early spring in the woods near the river wildflowers appear before the canopy leafs out. Some appear so early there may still be snow on the ground. They are in a race against time. Once the canopy leafs out their sunlight is gone.

Blue Bells

Blue Bells

Dutchmen's Breeches

Dutchman’s Breeches

Marsh Marigold

Not Marsh Marigold as originally stated, (nonnative, invasive lesser celandine)

Toad Shade Trillium

Toad Shade Trillium

Sprg WFs 2011 025

Bloodroot

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As spring progresses it’s time for the migrating warblers to come through. Not all keep going, some including the Northern Parula and Protonotary nest in the woods and brush along the river. Not long after we start noticing the warblers the Baltimore Orioles show up.

Black & White Warbler

Black and White Warbler

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

Prothonotary Warbler Below Griggs Dam

Prothonotary Warbler Below Griggs Dam

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In the spring, if the river isn’t running too high and is reasonably clear, small mouth bass can be taken on fly rods or light spinning gear. When a beautiful three pound small mouth breaks the surface it’s hard to believe you’re still within the city limits.

Small Mouth Bass

Smallmouth Bass, not a three pounder!

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In summer, nesting Prothonotary Warblers and Orioles are still around and sometimes amazingly easy to see and photograph. In addition Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Egrets, King Birds, Spotted Sandpipers, Phoebes and Pewees as well as Osprey are just some of the other birds that may be seen. Deer may appear on the opposite shore while Turkey Vultures soar overhead. Dragonflies also are seen patrolling the surface of the river.

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Baltimore Oriole

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Red-tailed Hawk

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In the fall warblers again appear as they migrate south and Double Crested Cormorants become more common. In the fall, as water temperature cool, it’s again a great time to fish for small mouth bass. Along the river, cool crisp days, clear water, and colors along the shore beckon thoughts of northern Michigan rather that central Ohio.

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Scioto below the dam

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Fall colors below the dam.

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Scioto, looking north towards the dam.

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In the winter, with the reservoir frozen over, the river below the dam acts to concentrate waterfowl and other wildlife. Birds from further north such a Dark-eyed Juncos and Golden-crowned Kinglets take up residence. Blue Birds, Downy, Hairy and Red-bellied woodpeckers become easier to see. An occasional Bald Eagle flies over the open water of the river taking advantage of what lies below.

Hooded Mergansers

Hooded Mergansers, from a recent post.

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Winter scene below the dam.

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Red-bellied Woodpecker

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Sycamore

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River view looking south.

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As lovely as this place is, it does have it’s challenges. Litter continues to be a problem both from people using the area and from storm sewers flowing into the reservoir and river. Discarded plastic bags, bottles, cans, tires and assorted junk end up in the river, shoreline, and park. Fortunately a number of locals, including fishermen, walkers, and nature lovers are starting to make it a practice of picking up the stuff when they see it. Everyone doing a little goes a long way.

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Fishing a truck wheel out of the river.

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So this special place continues to provide at unique location within the city where, any time of the year, something new can be seen and nature enjoyed.

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