A Quiet Voice

One of the wetlands in Prairie Oaks Metro Park, a park located not far from our home, is easy to pass right by as you drive into the west entrance. Unlike the grand vistas of Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon that overwhelm one’s senses making it hard to look away, wetlands speak with a quiet “voice”. A voice that can only be “heard” if one gets close, stops, listens, and looks. Usually at first little will be seen, but as one waits life will slowly announce it’s presence.

Wetland, heavy vegetation around the perimeter made getting to the waters edge difficult.

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It was a hot steamy early July morning that, given the recent prolonged hot spell, possessed nothing to set it apart from the day before or the day after. With the warm temperatures the goal was to see what we could see during a relatively short visit.

Not far from the water in an area of restored prairie, White Wild Indigo, “It’s habitats include moist to dry black soil prairies, sand prairies, thickets, edges of marshes and sandy marshes, borders of lakes, limestone glades, and dry clay hills. Bumblebees pollinate the flowers and the caterpillars of some skippers and butterflies occasionally feed on the foliage, including Wild Indigo Duskywing, Hoary Edge, Southern Dogface, and Orange Sulfur. The caterpillars of the Black-spotted Prominent moth can also be found on the foliage. The Wild Indigo Weevil and their grubs also feeds on this plant. White Wild Indigo is poisonous to mammals“. Ref: http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info

At water’s edge a very tiny Blanchard’s Cricket Frog that the casual observer could easily mistake for a grasshopper if it weren’t for the water. “Ohio Distribution: Occurs in the western 2/3 of Ohio. Appears to be more common in southwestern Ohio than in other parts of the state. Status: This species is declining rapidly across much of its entire range. In northern Ohio it appears to be less abundant today than in the past. No apparent declines in southern Ohio have been noted to this point“, Ref: OhioAmphibians.com. (Donna).

The wetland is an oasis for dragonflies.

Male Blue Dasher, they are most common around shallow marshy ponds, (Donna).

Female Widow Skimmer, common around rivers lakes and ponds, (Donna).

A striking male Twelve-spotted Skimmer.

Bull Thistle adds color to the wetland environment.

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With the prolonged hot spell and little rain the wetland’s days may be numbered which may pose a challenge for this painted turtle.

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Milkweed flowers and leaves attract numerous insects not the least of witch is the Monarch Butterfly.

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Perhaps to become a gray tree frog, a tadpole rests near the water’s surface.

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A Green Heron lands in a tree overlooking the water. We wonder if he sees any tadpoles.

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Nearby it was hard to ignore the striking color of a male American Goldfinch.

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The Big Darby flows through the park not far from the wetland.

Lazard’s Tail, with it’s lovely fragrance, is currently very common along the river.

This Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly was seen along the muddy banks of the Big Darby. I’m always grateful I’m not a gnat when I see those eyes.

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Water Willow, with it’s small but beautiful flower, is a very common aquatic/semi-aquatic plant in Ohio and can be found along most reservoirs and rivers. “Habitats include sandbars, gravel bars, or mud bars of rivers, low islands in rivers or ponds, shallow water or muddy banks of ponds and rivers, shallow water of rocky upland streams, shallow water or wet areas of swamps, and sandy marshes. Water Willow occurs in wetlands with either stagnant water or slow to moderate currents of water. The flowers are cross-pollinated primarily by bees. Other floral visitors include various wasps, flies, small butterflies, and skippers. These insects obtain primarily nectar from the flowers, although some bees collect pollen and some flies feed on pollen. Water Willow is one of the host plants for the caterpillars of Hydrangea sphinx moth which feed on the foliage. This plant is also a minor source of food for muskrats“. Ref: http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info

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We hope you enjoyed this brief early July visit to Prairie Oaks Metro Park. The wetland left us with the heightened realization that nature contains universes within universes, all interconnected, but each with a magic and beauty all their own.

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Thanks for stopping by.

It’s A Butterfly Time Of Year

Not that they aren’t seen earlier in the spring and summer but August does seem to be the time for butterflies. This year it’s been almost impossible to be out for any length of time without seeing a Monarch. In the late morning or afternoon small but beautiful Pearl Crescents make the shorter grass along the trail their playground. The beauty of some butterflies like the Giant Swallowtail is apparent to even a casual observer but others like the Buckeye reveal their beauty only after a closer look. Others like the hairstreaks are easy to miss altogether unless you know what to look for. The good news is that you don’t have to get up a the crack of dawn to see butterflies.

Sunlight filters through the woods along the Big Derby during a recent butterfly hike.

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So below is a celebration of butterflies that have been seen in the last few weeks. Much of the credit must go to my wife who tirelessly pursues these usually unpredictable creatures until she gets the shot she wants while I often content myself to photographing the more predictable wildflowers.

In late summer Bull Thistle is common in the prairie areas of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park and seems to attract it’s share of Monarchs.

The Giant Swallowtail is Ohio’s largest butterfly and not one we see every day, Griggs Reservoir Park..

A Giant Swallowtail depositing eggs, (Donna).

Great Blue Lobelia enjoying the more shaded areas of Griggs Reservoir Park.

A very small female Eastern-tailed Blue rewards Donna by opening it’s wings.

Prairie sunflowers, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

The beautiful but very small Gray Hairstreak, (Donna).

Hackberry Emperors are fairly common in Griggs reservoir Park and on a warm day enjoy hitching a ride on your arm to take advantage of your perspiration, (Donna).

Cardinal Flower

A small Summer Azure almost seems to blend in, (Donna).

Wingstem, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park prairie.

The not often seen Meadow Fritillary

The fairly common but lovely Orange Sulfur, (Donna).

New England Aster

Usually not seen in central Ohio until late summer or fall the medium size Buckeye is striking, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Fringed Loosestrife also enjoys the more shaded areas along the Scioto River.

A small Zabulon Skipper, (Donna).

A small but lovely Common Checkered Skipper, (Donna).

Lazard’s Tail along the Scioto River, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Silver Spotted Skipper, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Tall Blue Lettuce, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Red-spotted Purple, (Donna).

Another look, (Donna).

Gray-headed Coneflowers seem to take flight.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Another look.

A somewhat faded black form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, (Donna)

Black Swallowtail, (Donna).

Black Swallowtail laying eggs, (Donna).

Ironweed, Griggs Reservoir Park.

The Peck’s Skipper is a very small moth like butterfly, (Donna).

Cup Plant

Monarch, (Donna).

Monarch

Trumpet Flowers, (Donna).

Mating Pearl Crescents

Pearl Cresent

Tall Bellflower

Eastern Comma

The tiny flowers of Virginia Knotweed.

Certainly not the most aesthetic setting, a Zebra Swallowtail lands in our canoe just as we finish a paddle on Paint Creek, (Donna).

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Where there are butterflies and moths there are caterpillars and no one is better at spotting them than my wife.

Brown-hooded Owlet, (Donna).

Monarch caterpillar, (Donna).

Orange Dog (Giant Swallowtail caterpillar), (Donna).

Another look.

Black Swallowtail caterpillar showing horns. Horns extend when head is touched lightly. Donna).

Without horns protruding, (Donna).

Sycamore Tussock Moth caterpillar, (Donna).

Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillars, (Donna).

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We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge some of the birds that continue to charm us as we walk through the woods of central Ohio.

Male Goldfinch, (Donna).

This time of year False Dragonhead can be seen along the shore of Griggs Reservoir.

A Ruby throated Hummingbird checks out the Bull Thistle at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, (Donna).

Woodland Sunflowers offer a splash of color in the woods along the Scioto River.

A Tufted Titmouse checks Donna out as she attempts to take it’s picture.

Indigo Bunting, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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So what was I doing while my wife was taking so many excellent photographs in central Ohio? Fishing in Michigan of course.

This nice Largemouth Bas went swimming right after posing for this picture.

Fishing at sunset on Devoe Lake, Rifle River Recreation Area.

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If time spent in nature speaks to the essence of your being, your soul, you have riches greater than any material procession can offer. A wealth that grows in health, spirit, and the awareness of being part of the greater mystery. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

Exploring The Coves Of Alum Creek Reservoir By Canoe

It promised to be another hot day, but with the sun just rising when we launched it was still pleasant, giving only a hint of the heat to come.

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Alum Creek Reservoir at Cheshire Rd.

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Considering the forecast our goal was to be off the water by noon. The wind hardly rippled the water’s surface as quiet paddle strokes moved the canoe toward an area of Alum Creek Reservoir that we hadn’t explored in a while. Two days earlier during an early morning fishing trip I had surprised a Bald Eagle in a tall tree at waters edge. Now with my wife along to handle photography from the bow, I was hoping we would see, and perhaps photograph, some equally interesting things as we explored the coves along our route. For those new to this blog, we love to paddle and to eliminate the need to shuttle cars we usually paddle reservoirs, the more convoluted the better, to maximize time in the canoe.

No matter how one feels about damming up rivers to create reservoirs, in the case of Alum Creek Reservoir it did result a wonderful place to explore containing a rich variety of wildlife. Unlike the often cottage lined predictable shorelines of spring fed glacial lakes in northern states like Michigan, the many small ravines that followed slopes down to the creek resulting in an almost endless number of coves to explore with the coming of the reservoir. In addition, because the reservoir is surrounded by parkland there are virtually no buildings or homes along it’s shore.

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Alum Creek Reservoir Paddling Route

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With rainfall this year about six inches above normal giving rise to higher water levels, the lush shoreline vegetation reached right down to waters edge and at times gave the feeling of paddling through a jungle.

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Beautiful reflections as the reservoir narrows into a creek, (Donna).

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As nature photographers know, what one sees and what one has a chance to photograph are seldom the same. Particularly when in a canoe which has it’s own stability, speed, and mobility constraints. It turns out that at the very north end of our route we saw a Yellow-crowned Night Heron. The first one we’ve ever seen in Ohio. A little later a pair of very wary Great Horned Owls were seen. The surprised heron spotted us just as we rounded a tight bend in what had become a narrow snag infested creek.  It flew before we could react. The outcome was similar for the owls. They were perched high in a tree canopy partially obscured by low lying brush and saw us coming despite our best efforts, moving a little further away each time we tried to get closer.

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But there are always other things to marvel at.

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A male Eastern Amberwing perches right near the canoe as we wait quietly in a secluded cove, (Donna).

 

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A Slaty Skimmer enjoys the morning sun, (Donna).

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As we paddled along the shore we were often overwhelmed by the aroma of wild roses.

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Donna looks for the best composition.

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Bingo!

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I try my hand.

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Water loving Lazard’s Tail at waters edge, (Donna).

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Entering some coves small, noisy, and mostly invisible birds were everywhere.

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Donna points to what turns out to be a White-breasted Nuthatch.

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Along one stretch of open rocky shore a group of sandpipers, always just a little ahead of us, hurried as we approached.

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Spotted Sandpiper, (Donna).

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Immature Spotted Sandpiper, (Donna).

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On this particular day the turtles were a little more cooperative than the birds.

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Map Turtle, (Donna).

 

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Eastern Spiny Softshell, (Donna).

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If you travel north to Michigan with it’s colder clearer lakes and streams you typically don’t see as many egrets and herons but in Ohio they are very common. I could be wrong but I’ve often thought it’s because the rough fish (catfish, suckers, carp, shad, etc.) that call Ohio’s often turbid waters home are just easier to catch.

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A Great Egret gets ready to strike   .   .   .   .

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and very quickly does!

 

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To no avail.

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It heads back to it’s perch .   .   .

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to regain it’s composure and try again.

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Along the shore a Great Egret and a Great Blue Heron seem to be getting along just fine, (Donna).

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Sometimes it’s luck, sometimes persistence, and yes it’s true knowledge and skill do come into play, but if you hike a trail or paddle a lake often enough you will see new and fascinating things.

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In the woods or by a meadow, stream, or lake on any given day, even if  nothing new is seen, you will at least return having allowed yourself to be there for a time, in the still freshness of the early morning with the call of the Wood Thrush, or later to the sound of  wind as it dances with leaves, breathing air with a hint of wild rose. 

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

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