A Journey Through Early Autumn

Perhaps it’s the flowers or the number of sunny blue sky days that have populated the last few weeks, but so far our journey through early autumn, perhaps a bit warmer than one would expect, has been a wonderful celebration of the time of year.

The low autumn light filters through New England Asters.

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Blue Jays, along with migrants from the north adding to the local population, are commonly heard engaged in their noisy banter as we explore local parks.

Blue Jay, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

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By late morning and early afternoon there are always butterflies and dragonflies keeping us company. It has been a banner year in central Ohio for the Common Buckeye. It’s difficult to remember a year when we’ve seen so many. Several years ago it was late September before we saw our first one. At the other extreme we’re not sure we’ve seen even one Morning Cloak this year.  Could the same weather patterns or events be responsible for both of these outcomes? One can only wonder. One interesting bit of information we recently uncovered is that, depending on the severity of the weather, Buckeyes can successfully overwinter in Ohio. This could explain this year’s early sightings.

Common Buckeye, Blues Creek Park.

The underside of the wings, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

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With fields of golden rod in bloom there’s no question about the time of year, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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A few days back, while I was fishing, my wife was excited to find a Dainty Sulfur in Griggs Reservoir Park. To make matters worse not only did I miss the butterfly I didn’t catch any fish.

Dainty Sulfur, (Donna). The last time this butterfly was seen in central Ohio in observable numbers was 2012. Griggs Reservoir Park.

Little Yellow butterflies, while not as uncommon, were seen in another area park. We usually observe this butterfly in Florida during the winter.

Little Yellow Butterfly. Blues Creek Park.

Other butterflies were also present:

Eastern Comma, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

Eastern-tailed Blue laying eggs, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

Monarch. Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

This Viceroy seen at Blues Creek Park can be easily mistaken for a Monarch but it is slightly smaller, a faster flyer, and has similar but different markings on it’s wings.

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In recent days, no doubt due to the extended warm weather, we’ve noticed more dragonfly activity.  The following images are of some of the more noteworthy ones seen. The Wandering Glider is not uncommon but hardly ever lands so it was a real treat to get a picture. This aptly named carnivorous insect is the widest ranging dragonfly and can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

Wandering Glider, Griggs Reservoir Park.

A Illinois River Cruiser perches not far from the river in Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. We believe this is a first sighting for us.

This beautiful Blue-faced Meadowhawk was also a new dragonfly for us. This one was seen not far from a wetland in Blues Creek Park.

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Prairie Dock is a member of the aster family and can grow up to eight feet tall, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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The small furry creatures all seemed busy, usually with a nut in their mouth, and were hard not to notice.

Fox Squirrel. Griggs Reservoir Park.

Chipmunk with a real mouthful, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

Curious chipmunk, (Donna). Griggs Reservoir Park.

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The autumn nights, now longer than the days, usher us too quickly through the season. In keeping with this journey the next post will be about fall warblers as they make their way through central Ohio. Thanks for stopping by.

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A hover fly investigates a thistle flower. Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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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.

Photos by Donna

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