Florida Wrap-up

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

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

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

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

The area contained excellent habitat for a variety of birds.

Bald Eagle

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

Meal time!

. . . and feathers fly.

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

Found a bug! (Donna).

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

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

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

Cloudless Sulphur on a large thistle.

Palamedes Swallowtail, (Donna).

Giant Swallowtail.

Zebra Swallowtail.

Eastern Towhee.

Pileated Woodpeckers are often seen on the park trails.

A large katydid visits our campsite.

Northern Parula.

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

Another look.

A paradise for large wading birds.

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

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

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

Graceful and beautiful an Anhinga preening, Alachua sink.

Alachua Sink.

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

Looking across the wetland, Alachua sink area.

Immature Little Blue Heron.

Mature Little Blue Heron.

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

With mom nearby.

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

Landscape.

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

Patterns in tree bark.

Immature White Ibis, (Donna).

Reflections

Largeflower Primrose-Willow

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

American Bittern

Alligators large and small.

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

Swamp.

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

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

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

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Patterns in the sand, Blackwater River.

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.   .   .  and at river’s edge:

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

Female

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Enjoying the river’s beauty.

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

Green Darner

Another view.

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

Cypress Clubtails

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Some low-lying areas along the trail required boardwalks.

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

A beautiful Queen butterfly, (Donna).

Dubious Tiger Moth, (Donna).

Where there are butterflies there are often wildflowers.

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

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

Sky-blue Lupine

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

Tannins color the otherwise clear water.

A peaceful view.

The low winter sun highlights budding trees.

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

Blackwater River

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Thanks for stopping by.

A Quiet Walk In The Park

It was a quiet morning at Griggs Reservoir Park with little wind and an overcast sky that threatened rain making it almost too dark for pictures. The kind of day one pretty much has the whole park to themself. My pessimism about what would be seen, much less photographed, was reflected in my selection of cameras as I contented myself just with a Panasonic FZ200 superzoom accompanied by a pair of binos, my wife expressed her optimism by taking a bird camera.

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Rain and the resultant higher water levels meant that in many areas Water Willow graced the reservoir shoreline.

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With the absence of traffic both in the park and on the reservoir, normally wary and prone to flight Great Blue Herons were content to stay on shoreline perches as we walked by. Other birds also seemed less prone to flight as we got close.

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An immature Male Hooded Merganser is spotted with a group of Mallard Ducks, (Donna).

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By a rain puddle a Barn Swallow strikes a contemplative pose, (Donna).

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A Robin with a mouthful of earthworm and mulberry, (Donna).

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Even with the dullness of the morning the unmistakable fire orange of a noisy Baltimore Oriole caught our eye as it streaked by on it way to a nearby tree. Taking a closer look through dense leaf cover revealed an almost completely hidden nest. Suspended by next winter’s bare branches what remained would be easy to spot.

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Male Baltimore Oriole

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Take 2.

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Take 3.

My wife looked ever closer in an effort to see a “new to her” insect or spider. Life that most of us walk right by.

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White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillar, (Donna).

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Katydid, (Donna).

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Female Amber Wing Dragonfly

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Through the leaves a lone Painted Turtle is spotted. Not a good day to sun oneself on a log.

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Very small mushrooms caught my eye while a millipede remained unnoticed until a review of the pic. 

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A very small and young Gray Tree Frog tries to remain unnoticed, (Donna).

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Seemingly unabated, wildflowers continue their march through the year. Those that greeted us just a few weeks ago are gone but new ones have taken their place. On a sunny day they speak in a bright and joyful voice so it seems counterintuitive that the best time to photograph them is usually on overcast days. No blown out highlights, deep shadow values, and more saturated colors.

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Horse Nettle is a good plant just to look at but not to touch.

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Canada Thistle is a pesky weed for Ohio farmers.

As if playing “King of The Mountain” the vine and flower of the Morning Glory take advantage of an accommodating Moth Mullein.

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Black-eyed Susan’s spread their cheer. 

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Not the most common of our native wildflower standing forlorn at waters edge is what remined of a fairly large display of Butterfly Weed, someone had picked the rest.

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Daisy Fleabane.

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Thimbleweed.

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Tall Meadow-rue.

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White Moth Mullein.

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Canada Anemone.

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Reservoir landscape.

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It never did rain and as our longer than expected time in the park came to a close so did the time for taking a “closer look” and for reflection. As is often the case when in nature we left much richer than when we came.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Perhaps I should stick with photography!

 

A Few Days Along The Rifle River

Last week we spent a few days in Michigan in the Rifle River Recreation Area not far from the town of West Branch on the northeast side of the lower peninsula. With a number of excellent hiking trails, and lakes that don’t allow motors, it’s an excellent place for nature viewing. The lack of boat generated wakes on Devoe Lake means that Loons nest there. To the best of our knowledge it’s the closest location from central Ohio where nesting Loons can be seen. There are also Bald Eagles, Osprey as well as other birds to enjoy. When out exploring one is also treated to dragonflies and butterflies, as well as a number wildflowers not seen in central Ohio. Not far from the park is the AuSable River and the adjacent National Forest create even more opportunities for paddling and outdoor adventure.

Overlooking Grousehaven Lake, early morning.

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We could spend hours watching loons. A quiet paddle on Devoe Lake allows one to observe them as they go about their day.

Adult Common Loon, Devoe Lake

In the middle of preening this adult seems to be sneaking a peek.

Testing it’s wings, (Donna).

The young are almost always begging for food.

The adult comes through. How does a bird as big as a loon chase down such a small fish under water?

One more picture.

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A view from the canoe.

Devoe Lake

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Bald Eagles are sometimes seen flying overhead as we observe the loons with their young. If they get too close the adult loons create quite a commotion!

A Bald Eagle looks over Devoe Lake.

Bald Eagle, Load Pond, AuSable river.

Take 3, (Donna).

Other birds of prey also frequent the area.

An Osprey takes a break along the shoreline of Devoe Lake, (Donna).

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Early morning solitude near our campsite.

Looking across the Jewett Lake.

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Most birds were seen from the canoe as we made our way along the shoreline of Devoe and Grebe Lakes, as well as Loud Pond on the Au Sable River.

Baltimore Oriole, Devoe Lake.

A Kingbird, the dragonflies worst enemy, waits for it’s next meal along the shore of Devoe Lake.

Three Caspian Terns circled overhead, occasionally landing, as we made our way back to our launch site on wind swept Loud Pond. A few reasonable sharp images were obtained.

Trumpeter Swans, Grebe Lake.

A Kingfisher actually stays put long enough for a “usable” picture, Devoe Lake.

A Green Heron is caught preening, Devoe Lake, (Donna).

Spotted Sandpiper, Loud Pond.

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While hiking, especially this time of year, birds usually give way to the wildflowers and interesting types of fungus.

Coral fungus near our campsite.

Turtlehead.

Bridge across the Rifle River.

Grass of Parnassus

Ontario Lobelia

An exotic looking mushroom near our campsite.

Knapweed, (ID c/o “NH Garden Solutions”)

Indian Pipe

Donna enjoying the ferns.

Doll’s Eyes

Asters

Broad-leaved Arrowhead

Great Blue Lobelia.

Fringed Loosestrife, (Donna).

Just after this picture was taken this tree got a big hug!

Hawkweed.

Cardinal Flower was quiet common in the wet areas of the park.

Mushroom family near our campsite, (Donna).

Picture Plant and flower. Tough to get a good picture of.

An attractive group of mushrooms along the trail.

An attractive flower that has eluded identification. Some type of lobelia?

St. John’s Wort, (Donna).

Another example of some of the interesting fungi seen, (Donna).

Virgin’s Bower. (ID c/o “NH Garden Solutions”)

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Dragonflies, damselflies, and butterflies were seen as we enjoyed the wildflowers included one butterfly not typically seen in central Ohio.

Ruby Meadowhawk, (Donna).

The very small American Copper, not a butterfly we’ve seen in central Ohio, (Donna).

Monarchs mating.

Pelecinid Wasp

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, (Donna).

Mating Robber Flies. Robber flies are one of the insect worlds more ferocious looking subjects. An appearance that is not unwarranted!

Mating Spreadwings, (Donna).

Bad-Wing Moths mating.

Spotted Spreadwing, (Donna).

Katydid.

Red-spotted Purple, (Donna).

Vesper Bluet, (Donna).

Dragon Hunter, (Donna).

A Crab Spider ambushes a bee, (Donna).

Canada Darner

Common Wood-Nymph on Spiked Blazing-star.

Appalachian Brown, (Donna).

Great Spangled Fritillary, (Donna).

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A sense of place.

The Rifle River as it flows through the park.

Exploring a quiet backwater.

The quiet shoreline of Loud Pond, the AuSable River.

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Shall we go for a hike or paddle? The decision is often made based on the weather conditions. Wind and choppy water make canoe photography with long lenses almost impossible. However, should conditions permit we’re usually not disappointed be the flowers seen as we paddle!

Scaup Lake, Rifle River Rec Area.

Pickerel Weed and Lilly Pads, Grebe Lake.

Pickerel Weed, Grebe Lake.

American White Water Lily, Grebe Lake.

A closer look.

Meadow Sweet, (ID c/o “NH Garden Solutions”),  (Donna).

Swamp Smartweed

Water Shield, (ID c/o “NH Garden Solutions”), (Donna).

Yellow Pond Lily, (Donna).

Burr Reed, (ID c/o “NH Garden Solutions”), (Donna).

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Sometimes when hiking you don’t have to look real close to be overwhelmed by the beauty.

Gamble Creek, Class 1 trout stream, Rifle River Rec Area.

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No post would be complete without touching on some of the reptiles and amphibians seen. Seeing the skink was a surprise.

Bullfrog.

Wood Frog.

Painted Turtle

Five-lined Skink.

Garter Snake.

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While fishing along the Au Sable River upstream of Loud Pond, a Mink is sighted!

A Mink scurries along the bank, (Donna).

Au Sable River, catch and release, Small Mouth Bass. The river is one of the best Small Mouth Bass fisheries in the Midwest.

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We spend a lot of time looking and exploring but sometimes there’s a lot to be said for just being there.

The end of the day, Devoe Lake.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed this very incomplete sample of things that can be seen and experienced in the Rifle River Recreation Area.

The beauty is, the more time spent in nature the more you will see, the more you see the more you will want to understand and soon you’ll be carried away by the wonder and magic of it all.

As always thanks for stopping by!

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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.

Late Summer Magic; Insects and Fall Warblers

Late August isn’t usually when I think of seeing fall warblers in central Ohio. Although I’m sure that’s the result of a certain level of ignorance on my part. So not really expecting the warblers this early, most of our efforts in recent days have been spent looking for, and enjoying, the “bugs” that currently seem to be in their prime. What started as a way to say curious during the summer doldrums has now become a real goal of our explorations.

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Whether a spider, butterfly, moth, bee, or dragonfly their unique beauty and behavior, so unlike our own, takes us into a truly different world.  Fascinating as they are I wouldn’t want to return “in the next life” as an insect. The dragonfly is too efficient and maneuverable a flying machine bringing a quick end to anything flying nearby that it considers a meal. The life cycle of many wasps requires that caterpillars become live hosts for their larva. A convenient meal for the future wasps but undoubtedly not a pleasant experience for the caterpillar.  A garden spider quickly dispatches and gift wraps a careless fly in silk for later consumption. And just when you think your the biggest, baddest, “bug” around, a bird comes along. I could go on but it is sufficient to say, it’s not for me.

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Praying Mantis in our backyard garden. They’ve been observed catching unsuspecting humming birds that get a little too close.

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A closer look, this is one insect that has no trouble holding on to it’s meal!

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Iron weed and a Clouded Sulfur, flowers upon flowers, north end of Griggs Reservoir.

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Wasps making baby wasps, Prairie Oaks Metro Parks.

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Pelecinid Wasp, Prairie Oaks Metro Park

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Monarch, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

 

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Question Mark, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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Spotted Orbweaver, Griggs Park

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Triangle-bearing Orbweaver (very small), Griggs Park

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Very small Mayfly close to the water, Griggs Park

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Funnel Weaver Grass Spider, (Donna)

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Bumble bee, (Donna).

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Overhead view of a Katydid, (Donna)

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Walnut Caterpillar, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna)

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Marbled Orbweaver, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna)

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Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna)

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Unidentified fly, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Mayfly, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Grasshopper, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Spotted Orb Weaver (underside), Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Variegated Fritillary, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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It’s not as if there haven’t been birds around. Sometimes, in our quest for insects, we get so engaged in looking down we forget to look up! The Osprey was discovered as we were looking for warblers and provided many great poses as he devoured a fish just two of which are shown below.

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Osprey with fish, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

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Take two.

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Northern Flicker, finally managed to get an image which shows off most of it’s distinctive markings, Kiwanis Riverway Park

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Great Crested Flycatcher, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

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Red-bellied Woodpeckers, adult and immature, Griggs Park

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Great Blue Heron and nest, north end of Griggs Reservoir. This is special because it’s the first nest I’ve noticed at that area in some time.

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.   .   .  and then there were the warblers, always more seen than successfully photographed.

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Black and White, Griggs Park

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Yellow-throated, Griggs Park.

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American Redstart, 1st year, Griggs Park.

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From a different angle, (Donna)

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Cape May, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Immature Red-eyed Vireo, Griggs Park

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When in nature take a moment to enjoy the whole, allowing yourself just to be.

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Kiwanis Riverway Park.

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With the fall migration just getting started we’re looking forward to what will be seen in the coming weeks.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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