Paddling Into Nature On Griggs Reservoir

This post is a partial summary of the wonderful diversity of life seen during a recent nine mile paddle on Griggs Reservoir. The reservoir is located within the “city limits” of Columbus, Ohio. Except for a few isolated cases where (Bob) is under the photo my wife was kind enough to handle the photography.

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It’s been a wet spring with not many nice days to beckon one out into nature. The wet weather in central Ohio has given many rivers and reservoirs a “chocolate milk” appearance, not the preferred aesthetic when paddling. But finally with a good forecast, wildflowers blooming, and the landscape turning evermore green, we decided it was time to get the boat in the water and do some exploring. Over the years we’ve seen many wonderful things in and along the reservoir but given it’s urban location we always try keep our expectations low. If nothing else we’ll get some exercise and we’ll be outdoors.

We enter one of Griggs Reservoirs small coves looking for Black-crowned Night Herons. The rock outcroppings are a favorite place for Wild Columbine, (Bob).

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The first clue that it might be a better than average day in nature was seeing the Wild Columbine along the reservoirs many rocky outcroppings.

Wild Columbine, (Bob)

A closer look, (Bob).

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While on the subject of wildflowers we also noticed Wild Stonecrop in the same area.

Wild Stonecrop, (Bob)

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A little further on we spotted a snapping turtle in the shallows of one of the reservoir’s small coves. The first of many turtles seen.

A Snapping Turtle checks us out from the safety of the water, (Bob).

Not far away a snapper was also observed sunning itself, a rare behavior for this always submerged creature that only occurs in the spring.

Snapping Turtle.

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Not seen as often as Red Eared Sliders or Map turtles a few softshell turtles were also seen.

Eastern Spiny Softshell.

A second later it disappeared below the surface.

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We probably shouldn’t ignore some of the other turtles:

A Map Turtle catches some rays.

A very small turtle surveys a big world.

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We expected to see more water snakes but only one was spotted.

Northern Water Snake.

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While no Green and Black-crowned Night Herons were seen, a few Great Egrets and countless Great Blue Herons made up for it.

Great Blue Heron.

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Something not fully appreciated is that four species of swallows make there living along the reservoir; Tree, Cliff, Barn and Rough-winged. The Tree, Cliff, and Barn Swallows are fairly numerous and easy to observe. The Rough-winged don’t seem to be as common.

Barn Swallow, (Bob).

On this particular day the Cliff Swallows were putting on the best show as they busily went about building their nests under the Hayden Run bridge.

Cliff Swallow nest building, (Bob).

Caught with it’s mouth full!

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We were really excited to see a pair of Wood Ducks because getting a great picture of this duck usually involves using a blind as you can seldom get close enough in a canoe.

Male and female Wood Ducks.

A slightly closer look.

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Along with the Wood Ducks a much more common and approachable female Mallard is seen with babies.

Female Mallard Duck.

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Remembering an area at the north end of the reservoir where a nested Prothonotary Warbler was observed last year, we headed for that location and were not disappointed.

Prothonotary Warbler.

With nesting material.

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As if in comic relief we couldn’t help but notice a Canada Goose that seem ready to set sail while perched high overhead their mate wondered what was going to happen next.

Canada Goose.

 

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A Spotted Sandpiper was spotted and seemed to be in a cooperative mood as it didn’t immediately take flight as we approached.

Spotted Sandpiper.

Eventually it did get tired of the attention.

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A few other birds were also seen:

Eastern Phoebe.

Tufted Titmouse.

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Over the years we’ve seen Gray, Red and Fox Squirrels but on this day it was a not uncommon Fox Squirrel. They always seem a bit curious about what we’re doing.

Fox Squirrel.

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Near a large beaver lodge at the north end of the reservoir we spotted what we first thought was a young beaver but was probably a Muskrat.

Muskrat.

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It had been awhile since we had seen one along the reservoir so our “Wood Duck” excitement  was more than duplicated with the discovery of a Mink making it’s way along the shore. It’s rapid movement made getting a sharp image a challenge.

Mink.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some Griggs Reservoir nature. A canoe or kayak can be a great tool for exploring and seeing things that would otherwise not be possible. As a platform for observations with binoculars it’s relatively straight forward. Should you decide to try canoe/kayak nature photography be prepared for more challenges than would be encountered shooting from land and a higher failure rate. The best scenario would be to have someone that loves to paddle handle the boat when you are taking pictures. But even if you are solo it is possible to get some great shots.

Hayden Run Falls framed in spring’s green and with a nice flow, (Bob)

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Thanks for stopping by.

A Thankful Reflection

The last day of 2017, what better time to stop for a moment and reflect back to the wonders of nature seen in central Ohio in the past year.

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Griggs Reservoir.

Bald Eagle along the Scioto below Griggs Dam.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Golden Crown Kinglet, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Along the Scioto River

Tufted Titmouse, (Donna).

November reflection, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Covered Bridge, Mohican State Park.

The Big Darby, Prairie Oaks Metro Park

Buckeye, (Donna).

Monarch, (Donna).

Griggs Reservoir

Solitary leaf

Chicory

Design, (Donna).

Red-spotted Purple, (Donna).

Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna).

Autumn color.

Black-crowned Night Heron, Griggs Reservoir.

Giant Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar.

Mink, Au Sable River MI, (Donna).

Au Sable River Smallmouth, MI, (Donna).

Devoe Lake, MI.

Cardinal Flowers, Rifle River Rec, Area, MI.

Turtlehead, Rifle River Rec. Area. MI.

Common Loons, Devoe Lake, MI, (Donna).

Meal time, Devoe lake, MI

Caspian Tern, Loud Pond, Au Sable River, MI.

Catbirds, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Griggs Reservoir waterfall.

Yellow-throated Warbler, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Common Checkered Skipper, (Donna).

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Red Admiral, (Donna).

Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Cliff Swallows, (Donna).

Gray Squirrel.

Baltimore Oriole.

Mohican River, Mohican State Park.

Prothonotary Warbler

Green Heron, Griggs Reservoir

Yellow-collared Scape Moth, (Donna).

Northern Water Snake.

Red-eyed Vireo, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Great Blue Heron, Scioto River, (Donna).

Hayden Run Falls

Mating Northern Water Snakes, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Scarlet Tanager, Griggs Reservoir Park.

White-crowned Sparrow, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Palm Warbler, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Turkey, Blendon Woods Metro Park, (Donna).

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Looking at the landscape as we walked along the Scioto River yesterday it’s hard to believe it’s the same place. Very cold weather has made the river below the dam one of the few stretches of open water that waterfowl can now call home.

Hooded Mergansers.

More robins than we could count took turns getting a cool drink at waters edge.

Ring-necked Ducks.

The Scioto River below Griggs Dam

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As always, thanks for stopping by and have a Happy New Year!

 

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.

A Mink and a Dragonfly

Minks are not something one usually thinks of when exploring natural areas within the confines of a city like Columbus, Ohio. Over the years we’ve seen a few, but they’re rare, and it had been awhile since our last sighting. We debated between a drive to the Hocking Hills, a beautiful area near Columbus, for a fall color hike, or a paddle on the reservoir near our home. We decided to take advantage of a sunny relatively calm day and put the canoe in the water. As you may have guessed, our decision resulted in seeing a Mink and a dragonfly.

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Recently, while walking along Griggs Reservoir, color and scenery has been about as good as it gets.

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Along the reservoir, Griggs Park.

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West shore.

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Looking up.

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Walking along the reservoir.

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While we don’t have the brilliant red’s of the state up north, autumn in Ohio has it’s own beauty.

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The same color and scenery drew us in as we started our paddle. We had the reservoir to ourselves, not another boat, not even a fisherman, to be seen. For a place in the middle if the city, it was quiet. A very slight 55 degree morning breeze greeted us and we had to keep moving to stay warm. The temperature, the sound of our paddles and that of the canoe as it knifed through the water, as well as the autumn shore quietly passing by, all served to encourage us on.

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Photographing a Griggs Reservoir cove.

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No shortage of leaves on the water

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Hayden Run as it flows into the reservoir.

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Trees and leaves.

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Working our way north.

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Pool along Hayden Run

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The north end of the reservoir has fewer boat docks and can be quite beautiful.

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Green giving way to yellow.

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Cove along the west shore.

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A red leaf!

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During recent walks, as well as during our paddle, we’ve seen numerous birds. They’ve been very active.

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A Goldfinch blends in.

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A resident Great Blue Heron enjoying the autumn sun.

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But we get too close.

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Poetry .   .   .

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Cormorants flying high overhead, (Donna).

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A male Wood Duck stays put as two females streak by overhead, (Donna).

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A Nuthatch goes about it’s business along the shore.

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Mallard’s stand at attention, almost, (Donna).

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A Red tail hawk soars overhead, (Donna)

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Male Downy Woodpecker

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A Bluebird seeming to enjoy the fall colors.

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Inspecting it’s new digs, (Donna).

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Yellow-rumped Warbler

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Our interest in birds was interrupted when, after travelling about a mile north along the western shore, we saw the Mink. We almost fell out of the canoe. Normally, when one get’s really excited about something seen, you screw up when attempting to photograph it. We were lucky, between the two of us we managed to get a few good shots.

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Mink, (Donna)

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Take 2, (Donna)

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Take 3.

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And as if the Mink wasn’t enough, at the very north end of the reservoir we pulled out to explore a low lying often wet area that’s home to birds, insects, and wildflowers .   .   .

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Very north end of the reservoir.

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.  .  .  and while there wasn’t much in the way of wildflowers we did manage to discover a new for us dragonfly, an Autumn Meadowhawk. Needless to say we were excited!

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The weathered, sun warmed, surface of a log attracts mating Autumn Meadowhawks, (Donna)

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It had been an invigorating, wonderful day, brisk and clear, with some wind, but never enough to effect our speed as we made our way south and home. Thinking about all we had seen, it was hard to believe our good fortune.

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Thanks for stopping by.

A Japanese Garden

Several years ago we began a regular practice of walking in Griggs Reservoir Park which occupies a portion of the eastern shore of a reservoir by the same name. The park isn’t far from our home in Upper Arlington so being able to walk to a beautiful spot, without necessarily using a car, was a real plus.

Griggs Reservoir from the Park

A view of Griggs Reservoir from the park.

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At first we just walked, but it wasn’t long before we started to notice the variety of plants and wildlife and were surprised by what we sere seeing. It was made more special because it was all happening right within the city limits of Columbus. Soon a small pair of binoculars and a camera accompanied us on our outings. The rest of this story is documented in our many blog entries so I’ll move on to the “garden”.

Mink along Griggs Reservoir

Mink along Griggs Reservoir

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For the most part things seen included; flowers, insects, snakes, birds, and fossils. However, along with the good stuff there were, beverage containers, cigarette butts, fast food packaging, fishing line, and the ever present plastic shopping bags, etc. Walking along the shore litter seemed to be everywhere. On one of our first outings, we saw a Great Blue Heron with several beer cans at it’s feet. Anger was soon followed by a feeling of helplessness. I thought about picking the “stuff” up, but people would always liter. An area cleaned up would only stay that way for a few hours or maybe a day.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Blue Jay

Blue Jay in the brush at Griggs Park

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My anger may have been more about feeling helpless than anything else, so directing that energy into something positive, with trash bag in hand, I started to picking it up. At first just a little bit at a time because with camera and binoculars in hand as there were always other things to look at. Soon my wife, realizing my incurable condition, joined in. We were often encouraged by the thought that trash begets trash so maybe if it was picked it up there wouldn’t be as much next time. As time passed, it didn’t feel so much like work or an imposition largely because we were often rewarded by the sight of an Osprey or Wood Duck after liberating a beer can from a tangle of brush. And who knows, while picking up a pile of cigarette butts, the contents of someone’s ashtray, we might notice a fossil in a nearby rock. Feelings of apathy, helplessness, and anger started to gave way to a feeling of empowerment and satisfaction. We were at least leaving it better than we found it.

Stump, Griggs Park

Stump, Griggs Park

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Once I mentioned to my wife that I felt closer to “God” on these walks. Picking up the cans, bottles, and whatever else, was becoming a form of prayer, a way of giving thanks for all that is good. I’m not sure she bought into my “epiphany” at first, but several years later we’re still picking up trash. It’s always there. Recently we haven’t noticed quite as much. It might be that other’s have also started picking it up.

Griggs Park Path

Griggs Reservoir Park Path

Reflections on the reservoir

Reflections on Griggs Reservoir.

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The wonder of it all isn’t just that we are now more likely to see a bird than a bottle. It’s that through our intention and action, we experience a greater connection with the place and value it more. It has become very special, perhaps sacred, a part of us. Sharing this thought with a friend recently, he responded that our actions reminded him of a Japanese Garden. Thinking for a moment, I realized that what he said had merit and understood a little more why someone might feel led to tend a garden. Through our action we have gotten so much more than we’ve given. This place, located in the middle of the city, passed by thousands each day on their daily commute, scrunched between the road and the water, and seemingly placed there almost as an afterthought, has become our Japanese Garden.

Sycamore

Sycamore

Water's edge

Water’s edge

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Thanks for stopping by.

I’ll Have a Beer With That Crayfish

This summer has been exciting due to the many new creatures we have discovered in and around Griggs Reservoir. Probably the most noteworthy have been the numerous Mink sightings. Who would have thought that Mink would live within the city limits of Columbus.

Apparently Mink are quite ferocious and will even kill muskrats which are about their size. Normally, they do quite nicely on a diet of crayfish and other small marine creatures.

Interestingly enough, one of our best sightings was of a Mink eating a crayfish. The Mink didn’t seem a bit alarmed as we sat watching from the canoe. This went on for about five minutes after which the Mink ambled off. The only negative was the empty beer can sitting right next to the Mink as we watched. Afterward, given the wonderful experience, we picked up the can for proper disposal.

Griggs Reservoir Mink

Not sure what we’ll discover next that will top seeing a Mink but we should have fun looking.

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