A Moment of Magic

The central Ohio winter landscape seldom beckons with snow draped conifers or the flowing design of a meandering creek through a landscape blanketed in white.

Still, if one looks closely there is beauty. “Flowers” in a season when there are none.

Female Northern Cardinal
Tufted Titmouse
This Merlin makes it’s living in the abandoned section of an operating quarry. We only recall seeing them in central Ohio during migration and in the winter.
Female House Finch
We’re always on the lookout for the tiny Golden-crowned Kinglet in the winter but sometimes we only get a fleeting glimpse.
White-throated Sparrows are winter residents that make their living in thickets.
This Song Sparrow really blends in.

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For several days temperatures struggled to get out of the teens.

Surrounded by ice chandeliers the mallards don’t seem too concerned about the 15F temperature.
With its feet in the water and surrounded by ice this Great Blue Heron looks cold
Cold temperatures and flowing water may mean ice pancakes.
Maybe these Hooded Mergansers are just trying to stay warm.
Icy water.

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Yesterday it finally warmed into the thirties. Even though our social schedule meant we only had time for a quick look along the river before darkness fell, given recent activity, we thought it was worth checking out. Perhaps the mergansers would still be there. After walking about a half mile along the river, we were not disappointed.

(Photo by Donna)
(Photo by Donna)

Not only did we see mergansers, but there was more than the day before, and most mature males were engaged in breeding displays. Thinking back, we couldn’t remember a time when we had seen such an extensive display. Had the increase in temperature of some twenty degrees triggered the behavior? We could only guess.

For us finding nature’s magic in the woods, on a river, or secluded lake has never been hard, but in the embrace of Ohio’s stark January landscape it’s truly something special.

A Sense of Expectation and Wonder

As undoubtedly mentioned before, one of the rewarding aspects of visiting a park on a regular basis is that one can observe nature’s subtle changes as well as the coming and going of various critters that visit the park throughout the year. Many these forays are part of longer urban hikes and are accompanied by fairly low expectations so our gear often consists of an easily packable super-zoom and a small pair of binoculars. With such equipment we are limited in the types of photographs we can obtain but we do have a camera with us.

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Recently we’ve been encouraged with the prospect of seeing the unexpected when Eastern Bluebirds made a Christmas day visit to our front yard suet feeder. We had never seen them in our yard before.

A male Eastern Bluebird gets a drink from a mostly frozen bird bath, (Donna).

One bird with a small piece of suet, “Hey guys go get your own!”, (Donna).

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Yesterday, there were no Bluebirds at the suet feeder so before our new years day tradition of pork, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut we decided to take a walk in Griggs Reservoir Park.  It was a cloudy gray-brown day and certainly not one that would beckon a landscape photographer so we walked with the hope of observing a bird or some other small manifestation of nature. I mostly occupied myself with the never-ending task of picking up trash. It’s an activity I always find strangely rewarding especially if the ‘birds’ aren’t cooperating.

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We were almost back to the car after our three-mile saunter when I noticed a small hawk preening itself at the top of a large Sycamore tree. A quick look through the binoculars did not provide an obvious identity so I pulled out my camera and started taking “data acquisition” shots.

Critical tail feather ID shot. The bird was to far away for a good photograph. All shots are heavily cropped, Panasonic FZ300.

Another look for markings.

. . . and on more.

It was a Merlin, and even though there had been reports of them at other central Ohio locations it was a bird we had never seen in the park before. How exciting! A dull gray day made magical. The sighting was all the more special because the last time we had seen one was some years ago while hiking the Centennial Ridges Trail in Algonquin Provincial Park. While looking through the binoculars at a dragonfly flying high over head a black streak went through the field of view and the dragonfly disappeared. Looking up a small bird was seen flying towards a tiny island in the center of the lake where it joined others on a perch high over the water.

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As a bit of a postscript, Bald Eagles nest about two miles from our house making it not highly unusual to see them along the reservoir, so as if the reinforce the magic of the place that’s exactly what happened a few days back while on an urban fitness walk.

Bald Eagle over Griggs Reservoir, again the bird was too far away for a good photograph. image heavily cropped, Panasonic FZ150.

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These recent holiday sightings have blessed us with a sense of expectation and wonder for the new year. Our wish is that you to will be blessed in the new year.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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