The Rifle River and A Mystery Bird

It’s that time of year again when we travel 6.5 hours north from our home in central Ohio to the Rifle River Recreation Area. Usually we enjoy checking out different areas for new adventures but this park’s unique beauty keeps us coming back. Whether paddling on the park lakes or hiking the trails there is always something to discover. From one week to the next different wildflowers can be seen. Spring warbler activity is complimented by the evening call of a Whippoorwill or Barred Owl and there’s always the distant call of a loon on Devoe Lake.

(click on images for a closer look)

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This year’s late June visit meant that in addition to increased warbler activity we’d also see blooming lady slippers and pitcher plants. Of course there would also be more mosquitoes to deal with and they’re always particularly pesky when one crouches down to study a flower or take a photograph.

A shaft of sunlight highlights a fern along the trail.

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My wife was nice enough to contribute the bulk of the pictures for this post as much of my time was spent fishing. However, to start the post off on a curious note I did notice something interesting one afternoon while hiking.

These rolled up birch? leaves littered the forest floor.

A closer inspection revealed a small caterpillar within the shelter of the rolled up leaf. It was in the process of eating it’s way out. Another egg sac near by? Based on an educated guess it would appear that a moth deposited it’s eggs on the underside of the leaf which then caused it to roll up and fall to the ground. Inside the leaf the caterpillar is safe from the prying eyes of birds until it escapes into the leaf litter and pupates soon to emerge as a moth and continue the cycle.

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When my wife wasn’t hiking and I wasn’t trying to catch a fish we did a fair amount of exploring by canoe.

Yours truly with a Devoe Lake Large Mouth Bass.

Exploring Grebe Lake

Common Loon, Devoe Lake.

Take two, (Donna).

Yellow Pond Lily, Grebe Lake.

Painted Turtle, Loud Pond, Au Sable River, (Donna).

Paddling trough the lily pads, Grebe Lake.

Trumpeter Swans, Grebe Lake.

A Mink checks us out along the Au Sable River, (Donna).

Au Sable River Walleye.

While Water Lily, (Donna).

Kingbirds entertained us as we paddled the Devoe Lake shoreline, (Donna).

Morning on Devoe Lake.

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One day as we drove back to our campsite after a morning paddle we came upon an unusual discovery in the middle of the road.

Our first thought was to move it along before it became the victim of a less observant driver.

But a closer look revealed that it was a Blanding’s Turtle something we’d expect to see in a nearby lake but not in it’s present location. Since it’s not a turtle we often see we were pretty excited, (Donna).

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However, perhaps the most unusual thing seen during our week long stay was the bird spotted while hiking along Weir Road.

The best ID we could come up with was a partially leucistic White-breasted Nuthatch but it’s beak didn’t look right. The mystery remains.

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We’d be remiss if we didn’t give special mention to the Ovenbirds and Yellowbellied Sapsuckers that entertained us each day at our campsite.

Ovenbird, (Donna).

With a white moth.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, taken while hiking but representative of the activity around our campsite, (Donna).

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While on the subject of birds, while hiking a park trail my wife was excited to see a Black Billed Cuckoo. It was a life bird for her.

Black Billed Cuco, (Donna).

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Finally, below is a summary of other things seen as we explored the park trails.

A recently emerged mushroom translucent in the sunlight.

A family of very colorful but small mushrooms.

Wild Columbine along the trail.

Hawkweed and fern.

The Rifle River

Showy Lady’s Slippers along the park road. A real treat to see.

A closer look, (Donna).

Bunch Berry Flower

Spotted Thyris Moth on fleabane.

Deep into the woods.

Red-spotted Purple

Another view, (Donna).

Yellow Lady’s Slippers were also seen, (Donna).

The flower of the Pitcher Plant. The plant gets it name by the shape of the leaves at the base of the plant which trap insects in water the leaves collect.

Overlooking Pintail Pond

Hover fly on dogwood blossoms.

This fairly large moth has yet to be identified.

Fleabane

Eastern Wood Pewee, (Donna).

Slaty Skimmer.

Yellow Goats Beard, (Donna).

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, (Donna).

Another view.

Sheep Laurel, (Donna).

American Redstarts were fairly common, (Donna).

Blue Flag Iris, (Donna).

Dot-tailed Whiteface, (Donna).

River Jewelwing (M), (Donna).

River Jewelwing (F), (Donna).

Cedar Waxwing, (Donna).

Four-spotted Skimmer, (Donna).

Wood Frog, (Donna).

Coral Fungus, (Donna).

Chaulk-fronted Corporal

Wild Geranium, (Donna).

Little Wood Satyr.

Indian Pipe (before), (Donna).

After? (Donna).

A Green Heron stalks prey along the Devoe Lake shore, (Donna).

Black-shouldered Spinyleg, (Donna)

Another interesting plant we have yet to ID, (Donna).

Dead Mans Fingers, (Donna).

Delaware Skipper, (Donna).

Baby Robin, (Donna).

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As each day passes nature evolves. A wishful thought would be to spend one week each month in a place such as Rifle River Rec Area. Then one would truly appreciate it’s wonder. Thanks for stopping by.

Misty Day, Devoe Lake.

Flowers and Flies

Exploring the world of insects is an excellent example of how digital photography has opened a door into a world most folks don’t give much thought to much less appreciate. A passion for bugs may start out innocently enough when one decides to photograph a flower and finds that it’s occupied by many creatures not noticed before. A closer look reveals some to be beautiful and fascinating in their own right and others downright scary. This may prompt one to make an effort to identify the bug just photographed which in turn often leads to an awareness of how much there is yet to learn about this small world. 

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Fortunately it doesn’t take an expensive camera to get a reasonable picture of a insect the size of the common house fly. We’re not talking macro-photography here, where one focuses on the dragonfly’s eye, but instead about a picture that will allow you to identify the insect and be good enough to share on social media. Our favorite of the small sensor “bridge cameras” is the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 or 300. With their fast lens and close focus capability they are a great all round camera for anyone starting out in nature photography. When one moves up from there to larger APS-C sensor DSLR’s you are looking at more money and bulk which may limit their appeal on long hikes. In the world of DSLR’s just about any lens similar to the Canon 18-135 mm will allow you to focus close enough to get a reasonably good shot. Longer lenses such as the Tamron 100-400 mm (more money still) will allow you to focus on subjects that won’t let you get close enough with a shorter lens. With it’s close focus capability perhaps the best all round bird/bug nature camera setup I’ve seen is the micro four thirds Panasonic G7 with the 100-400 mm Panasonic/Leica lens that my wife uses. It employs an excellent but smaller sensor than my Canon APS-C which is part of the reason for it’s admirable close focus performance. That being said I’m sure there are excellent camera setups that I’ve not had experience with.

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Unless stated otherwise the below pictures have all been taken close to home at Griggs Reservoir Park so the adventure doesn’t necessarily mean hours of driving to some exotic location. Almost all insect images have been significantly cropped.

(click on the image for a better view)

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A Bumble Bee enjoys Foxglove Beardtongue.

An nice illustration of the difference in size between a sweat bee and bumble bee, (Donna).

If you think this is an innocent little Bumble Bee you would be wrong in fact it’s a Bumble Bee Mimic Robber Fly no less ferocious than the one below, (Donna).

A more typical looking robber fly a little over an inch long. If you’re a small insect it will be a bad day if you run into one of these, (Donna).

Four lined Plant Bug, (Donna).

Eight-spotted Forester Moth, (Donna).

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Thimbleweed.

Moth Mullein, (Donna).

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A very small but beautiful Long-legged Fly.

It’s a rough world for bugs. A long legged fly falls prey to a robber fly.

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Water Willow at waters edge. Deer are known to browse the leaves and beaver and muskrat will consume the plant rhizomes. The submerged portion is home to many micro and macro invertebrates, (Donna).

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Little Wood Satyr.

Painted Lady, one of the most common butterflies found on every continent accept Antarctica and Australia, their favorite food plant on which to lay their eggs is thistle, they do not overwinter and they can have long migrations up to 9,320 miles long, (Donna)

Hackberry Emperor, a butterfly not usually seen on flowers but on a warm day may land on exposed skin, (Donna).

Question Mark, (Donna).

Red Admiral, (Donna).

Silver-spotted Skipper, one of the larger skippers, (Donna)

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The beautiful flowers of the Milkweed. A very import plant for many insects most notably the Monarch Butterfly.

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Milkweed Beetles, (Donna).

Great Golden Digger Wasp, (Donna).

Perhaps some type of wood wasp, (Donna).

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Black-eyed Susan’s.

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Golden-backed Snipe Fly, they can be found throughout Ohio, and are most often observed resting on low vegetation. They appear in the late spring and early summer, and have been observed mating in late May and early June, although timing likely varies across their range. Little is known about their life cycle.

Small hoverflies on fleabane.

Hoverfly profile.

Two Marked Tree Hopper. Click here to learn more about this fascinating insect.

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Common Mullein.

Northern Catalpa.

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Syrphid Fly Yellowjacket Mimic. The syrphid fly often mimics wasps or bees to gain protection from predators, (Donna).

The Green Bottle Fly is usually observed around less savory food items.

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Black-eyed Susan’s, (Donna).

Depford Pink, (Donna).

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Mating Candy-striped Leafhoppers, (Donna).

Mirid Plant Bug, (Donna).

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Butterfly Weed.

A field of clover.

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A Mayfly falls prey to a jumping spider. Normally slow moving jumping spiders are capable of very agile jumps, when hunting, in response to sudden threats, or to navigate obstacles. They all have four pairs of eyes, with the pair positioned closer together being larger.

Another view, (Donna).

A small moth on Canada Thistle.

If it’s real lucky this Orange Dog caterpillar may become a Giant Swallowtail.

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A field of fleabane.

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A rarely seen Orange Bluet, (Donna).

Female Twelve-spotted Skimmer, (Donna).

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Hairy Wild Petunia.

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It’s hard to believe what’s out there in that small incredible world that goes largely unnoticed by most as we pursue our daily lives. In the hierarchy of human affection warm cuddly animals seem to be at the top with insects being at the other end of the spectrum and usually not considered a welcome intrusion. But as with most things the more you know and understand the more you grow to love.

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A casual glance will not do. To discover wonder and beauty one must look closely with intention.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

It’s Their Eyes

We continue to see Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, and other birds in the parks near our home. However, this post celebrates the wildflowers, butterflies, and other insects seen recently.

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When presented with two equally good photos, one of a bird and the other of a insect I usually find myself more attracted to the bird. It’s not to hard figure out why, a bird’s eye more closely resembles our own, they are vocal much like ourselves, and often seem to have better parenting skills than we do. The world of insects is not as easy to understand, and when it is, it can be annoying, destructive and sometimes even painful. When I was young, undoubtedly because I was much closer to the ground and spent a considerable amount of time outside, I had a greater curiosity about “bugs”.  Now, years later, retired with more leisure time, my interest has been rekindled as I take a closer look at the plants and flowers that, to a large extent, comprise the insect’s world.

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The flowers of early summer seem to do most of their celebrating in meadows and along roadsides. Some like Bee Balm and Jewelweed venture into the woods if sun light is available and Lazard’s Tail is never far from the water.

Bee Balm, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Rattlesnake Master, a rather rare plant in Ohio. O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Chicory, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Saint John’s Wort, (Donna), O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Swamp Milkweed, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Common Mullein, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Jewelweed, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Poke Weed is not an uncommon sight this time of year, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Gray-headed Cone Flower, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Easily overlooked Hairy Wood-mint, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Shadows from an adjacent plant decorate a Wild Potato Vine blossom, Griggs Reservoir Park,

Donna checks out some Lazard’s Tail, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Lazard’s Tail, (Donna).

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With coneflowers and milkweed in full bloom, insects seem to be everywhere. Many leaves, pristine and virgin a month ago, now soldier on with portions missing giving further evidence of the insect’s industry. Spiders and assassin bugs wait in ambush.

Donna takes aim on an unsuspecting butterfly, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Common Wood-Nymph, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Blue-fronted Dancer, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Busy backyard Bumble bees.

A Female Eastern Pondhawk keeps an Eyed Brown Butterfly company, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, (Donna).

Paddling is a great way to see all kinds of wildlife, including dragonflies. Getting a picture of one is another matter. O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, Eversole Run.

That is, unless one lands on your finger, Eastern Amberwing.

Ebony Jewelwing, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

Little Wood Satyr, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, (Donna).

Clymene Moth, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

It’s easy to be thankful you’re not a small flying insect when you stare down a Female Widow Skimmer, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

An Assassin bug nymph lurks in the leaf cover, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Red Admiral, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Take 2.

Green bee on Chicory, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Northern Pearly-eye, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Emerald Jumper, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Take 2.

Great Spangled Fritillary, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Bumble Bee on milkweed blossom. It’s amazing how many insects make a living off this plant, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Meadow Fritillary, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

The very small but beautiful Summer Azure, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Black Swallowtail in our backyard.

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After the many years since my youth, when they were an almost integral part of each summer day, I’m again starting to “warm up” to the bugs. We don’t always understand each other and need to work on our communication skills, but I think there’s hope. However, one area that continues to be a challenge is their eyes. I’m okay until I take a picture and blow it up. That’s when I find my brain being stretched a bit, partly in awe, if I was a lot smaller it would be fear, but in any case all of the sudden these guys seem very different almost alien bringing back thoughts of 1950’s Sci-fi movies. Fortunately that’s when I catch myself, realizing that most of them bare me no ill intent.

Cicada, Cedar Bog, (Donna).

Sunglasses anyone?

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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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