Celebrating The Season

When I was a kid growing up in Michigan, I wished for a white Christmas and hoped the snow, with periodic additions of fresh whiteness, would stick around until spring. While my wish was never completely realized, being 150 miles north of where I live now, winter was a more satisfying if not tiring experience.

(Images may be clicked on for a better view)

The low December light pierces the open canopy revealing patterns in leaves and the geometry of trees and river.

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A few days ago, we woke up to a light covering of white. We rushed down to our local city park before too many foot steps marred it’s beauty. Now, despite colder temperatures, the snow is mostly gone, the victim of wind and sublimation. Winters are like that in central Ohio. Cold temperatures, when they come, often leave the dry, naked, and shivering landscape wishing for a warm white blanket. But while not a paradise for lovers of snow, for those willing to venture out and look carefully, this time of year provides an opportunity to enjoy a subtle beauty and be entertained by creatures making this place their winter home.

With snow, the forms of water and trees becomes sublime.

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It was very faint but unmistakable. You know how woodpeckers can be. Looking up into branches in the adjacent woods, it seemed hopeless. How about just looking for dead branches  .   .   .

Working on a warm winter home?

A female Downy works away.

. . . as the male goofs off on a nearby branch.

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Quiet early winter morning along the Scioto.

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One advantage to living in an area subject to cold temperatures, but with little snow, is that ice is free to express itself.

Small icicles and patterns in ice.

Interesting shapes form as river levels recede, (Donna).

Near the river, a small frozen pool, and solstice ice.

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In the summer we don’t notice as many Eastern Bluebirds, a gift of the colder months?

Male Eastern Bluebird, (Donna).

Taking flight.

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Not far from their downriver nest, Bald Eagles are seen more often along the reservoir this time of year.

Perched across the reservoir and too far away for a really good shot..

Doing it’s best to avoid a photograph.

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At river’s edge, the roots of a sycamore struggle to maintain their hold.

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With the reservoir frozen, a pair of Hooded Mergansers were spotted in the open water of the river just below the dam. Eventually, if the reservoir stays ice covered, they will be joined by Goldeneyes, Common Mergansers, and other waterfowl not commonly seen in the area.

Hooded Mergansers on the Scioto River.

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These images were taken before realizing that the White-breasted Nuthatch it was eating lichen. An unexpected revelation.

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A quick look through the binoculars revealed it to be a Mockingbird which was a real treat as we couldn’t remember the last time one was seen in the park   .   .   .  then, one very average photo, and it was gone.

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There are a countless number of American Robins in the park this time of year. They are everywhere, and with their antics provide endless entertainment.

***, (Donna).

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Brown Creepers are not easy to spot. Sometimes their faint call is heard before they are seen. Their erratic movement make them a difficult subject to photograph.

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While working on a dead branch, this male red-bellied woodpecker really showed off it’s red head.

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Other local residents, as will as migrants from the north, have also entertained us in the last few days.

Tufted-titmouse, (Donna).

Carolina Chickadee, (Donna).

White-throated Sparrows can be found in Ohio in the winter but call the forests across Canada, the northeastern U.S., and the northern Midwest their summer home.

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A fox squirrel ran up the tree and hid just as I walked up causing my wife to miss a “good” picture. She had to make due with the image below.

***, (Donna).

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Winter along the Scioto River.

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This morning while standing in front of our church greeting incoming worshipers, a ruby-crowned kinglet flew into a nearby evergreen, paused for a moment as if to look my way, then flew off. Enchanted by what was an unusual occurrence, I had an extra big smile for the next group of parishioners. In nature the usual can also become enchanting, and in that enchantment, we may lose ourselves and in doing so find that we have become part of something much greater.  We wish everyone the happiest of holidays and a wonderful new year!

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Thanks for stopping by.

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A Wet Stay At Little Manatee River SP

This year we cut our stay short at Myakka River SP so we could check out Little Manatee River SP a new park for us. It looked good on paper with a number of hiking trails, the Little Manatee River, and it was close to points of interest along the gulf coast near Tampa.  

Dude Lake, Little Manatee River SP.

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The park was a bit of a disappointment for us largely due to the fact that many of the hiking trails were flooded and even our campsite was also flooded for several days the result of heavy rain just after our arrival. The river through the park was pretty but we didn’t bother paddling it as it’s often narrow width and rain induced high flow would have made nature photography difficult if not impossible. Many of the hiking trails are also designated as equestrian with fairly heavy use and as a result were pretty torn up and muddy in spots. Despite the challenges we did find trails to explore and things to see even if we did arrive back at camp with wet hiking boots.

Zebra Heliconian, (Donna).

Moonflower, probably an escapee.

Catbird, (Donna).

Spider Lily

A fascinating fungi find, (Donna).

Beggar’s Needle.

Roseate Skimmer, (Donna).

Pond shore.

Pink Wood Sorrel, (Donna)

The Little Manatee River.

Pileated Woodpecker

Lipstick Lichen, (Donna).

Looking more like a stream than a hiking trail, this was one we decided not to take.

Small thistle like flower, unidentified.

One of the wider stretches on the Little Manatee River.

A fast flying Zebra Swallowtail takes a break, (Donna).

A small quiet pond by day but one wonders what creatures come out after dark.

Mockingbird.

Reindeer Lichen.

Armadillos are common throughout Florida. This one, sensing a potential treat, stands on it’s hind legs, (Donna).

Leavenworth’s Tickseed.

Flowering blackberry.

This fungi looked good enough to eat, (Donna).

The Little Manatee River is narrow in spots.

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A nice break not far for Little Manatee River SP was Fort Desoto Park. If you enjoy walking the beach, collecting shells, or observing birds it’s a great place to spend a few hours.

During the week in late January the beach was pretty quiet.

. . . with a few exceptions.

Willet

Least Terns and gulls entertained us.

With the exception of one rebel Sanderlings practice balancing on one leg.

Wilson’s Plover

Dunlins

This Dunlin seemed to prefer hopping around on one leg. Others exhibited the same behavior.

Beauty in motion, Dunlins in flight.

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For us the big attraction were we to return to this park would be it’s close proximity to the ocean. Other parks in this part of Florida offer more hiking and more biodiversity within the park itself. Thanks for stopping by.

A Celebration of Florida Birds

It’s been a while since our last post so after almost two months bumming around some of Florida’s most beautiful natural areas in sunny 70 degree weather we now find ourselves back in central Ohio looking out the window as a 25 F wind blows snow around our front yard. One way to celebrate the trip, and perhaps to feel a little warmer, is to post pictures of a few of birds seen while while hiking and paddling. Perhaps no one species expresses the diversity and beauty of nature like birds, each with their own unique appearance and behavior. Florida gives one an excellent opportunity to witness and perhaps photograph that diversity and beauty.

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For those that are curious, our stay in Florida consisted of time spent at Myakka River SP; great hiking, big gators, and great wildlife photography, Lake Kissimmee SP; great hiking, paddling, fishing, and wildlife, the Chassahowzitka River Campground;  great paddling, fishing, and wildlife, and Ochlockonee River SP; great hiking, paddling, and wildlife.

 Click on images for a better view.

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Salt Creek, Chassahowitzka River

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Great Blue Heron, Myakka River SP.

Limpkins, very common in Myakka River SP.

Cardinal, Myakka River SP.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Myakka River SP.

Osprey, Myakka River SP.

Osprey, Myakka River SP.

A Brown Thrasher serenaded us early every morning, Ochlockonee River SP.

Green Heron, seldom seen, Myakka River SP.

Roseate Spoonbills, Myakka River SP.

Common Moorhen, Myakka River SP.

Pileated Woodpecker, Myakka River SP.

Greater Yellowlegs, Myakka River SP.

Little Blue Heron, Myakka River SP

Sand Hill Crane, Myakka River SP.

Black-necked Stilts, Myakka River SP.

Great Egret, Myakka River SP.

Black-necked Stilt, a closer view showing eye color, Myakka River SP.

Least Sandpiper, Myakka River SP.

Great Egret, breeding plumage, Myakka River SP.

Immature Black-crowned Night Heron, Myakka River SP.

Roseate Spoonbills, Myakka River SP.

American Avocet, Myakka River SP.

Glossy Ibis, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Tri-colored Heron, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Snail Kite, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Bald Eagle, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Black-crowned Night Heron, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Snail Kite, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Eastern Phoebe, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Yellow-throated Warbler, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Wood Thrush, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Carolina Wren, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Bald Eagles were almost always overhead, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Red-shouldered Hawk, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Tri-colored Heron, Chassahowitzka River.

Pied-billed Grebe, Chassahowitzka River

Brown Pelican, Chassahowitzka River

Blue-winged Teal, St Marks NWR.

Vermilion Flycatcher, St Marks NWR.

Female Kingfisher, Wakulla River.

Mockingbird, Ochlockonee River State Park

Black Skimmers, Mashes Sands Beach near Ochlockonee River SP.

Palm Warbler, Ochlockonee River State Park

Pine Warbler, Ochlockonee River State Park

Red-cockaded woodpeckers, endangered, Ochlockonee River State Park

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ochlockonee River State Park

White Ibis, Myakka River SP.

Red-shouldered Hawk, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Red-headed Woodpecker, one of eleven sightings that day, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Anhinga, Lake Kissimmee SP.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron, not as common as The Black-crowned, Chassahowitzka River.

Eastern Towhee, common, Ochlockonee River State Park

Laughing Gull with Least Tern, Bald Point SP.

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Along the trail, Myakka River SP.

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Given the weather we came back to we may decide to stay longer next year. There’s always something new to discover. Thanks for stopping by.

Birds of Florida on Foot and by Canoe

Our recent six weeks of hiking and paddling in Florida resulted in a lot of photographs.

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The pictures below provide a record of some of the birds seen. While lovely in their right, we are left with the feeling that they don’t come close to conveying the overall sense of wonder experienced as we explored the trails and waterways of Florida. Equipped with the knowledge that places visited were home to many fascinating living things, the wonder was with us even when we didn’t see a plant, bird or other animal that begged to be photographed. We returned home with the feeling that just being in such places had been more than enough.

(click on images for a better view)

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Yellow-crowned Night Heron 1 LL 1 031416 Estero River cp1

Yellow-crowned Night Heron, from the canoe, Estero River, (Donna)

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Palm Warbler, Ochlockonee River State Park

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Ruddy Turnstones, Bald Point State Park

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Sanderlings, Bald Point State Park

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Royal Tern, near Ochlockonee State Park

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Bald Eagle, St Marks NWR.

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Brown-headed Nuthatch, Ochlockonee River State Park

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White-eyed Vireo, Manatee Springs State Park

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Red-shouldered Hawk, Manatee Springs State Park

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Blue-headed Vireo, Manatee Springs State Park

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Carolina Wren, Manatee Springs State Park

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Yellow-rumped Warbler, Manatee Springs State Park

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Northern Parula Warbler, Manatee Springs State Park

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Cat Bird, Shady Acres RV Park.

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Black and White Warbler, Manatee Springs State Park

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Black Vultures, Manatee Springs State Park

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Swallow-tailed Kite, Shady Acres RV Park

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Little Blue Heron, Ding Darling NWR.

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White Pelicans, Ding Darling NWR.

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Immature Yellow-crowned Nigh Heron, Ding Darling NWR.

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Little Blue Heron, Six Mile Cypress Slough

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Blue-headed Vireo, Manatee Springs State Park

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Black and Turkey Vultures over the Suwanee River and Manatee Springs State Park. Moments before these birds were all perched in trees around the spring, Then, as if on queue, they all took flight.

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Mockingbird, St Marks NWR.

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White Pelicans, St Marks NWR.

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Pied Billed Grebes, St Marks NWR.

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American Wigeons, St Marks NWR.

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Brown Pelican with Kingfisher, St Marks NWR.

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Red-cockaded woodpecker , Ochlockonee River State Park., These birds are threatened in much of their range due to loss of habitat.

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Palm Warbler, Ochlockonee State Park.

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Brown Pelican, St Marks NWR.

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Horned Grebe, St Marks NWR.

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Eastern Phoebe, St Marks NWR.

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Palm Warbler, Ochlockonee River NWR.

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Tri-color Heron, from the canoe, Wakulla River

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Hermit Thrush, Ochlockonee River State River.

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Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Ochlockonee River State Park

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Eastern Towhee, Ochlockonee River State Park

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Pine Warbler, Ochlockonee River State Park,

P1060657use Black-bellied Plover and Dunlins

Black-bellied Plover and Dunlins, Bald Point State Park

Snowy Egret 2 best 2 further away 1 020716 Wakulla river cp1

Great Egret, (Donna). We spotted this bird as we were making our way down the Wakulla River with the current, an outgoing tide, and a fairly strong wind at our back. Managed to get the canoe swung around and slowly headed back upstream while my wife started to shoot. While never our intention the bird soon tired of our interest and flew away. In my opinion it was the best bird pic of the trip.

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Piping Plover, Bald Point State Park. A rare and endangered bird.

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Bald Eagle, Bald Point State Park.

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Laughing Gull, Bald Point State Park

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Cardinal, Manatee Springs State Park

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Black Vulture, Manatee Springs State Park.

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Yellow-throated Warbler, Manatee Springs State Park

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Red-headed Woodpecker, Manatee Springs State Park

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Black Vultures, Manatee Springs State Park

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Tri-color Heron and Brown Pelican, from the canoe, island off Cedar Key.

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Great Egret, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Take 2.

 

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Juvenile Ibis, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Green Heron, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Roseate Spoonbill, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Peleated Woodpeckers, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park.

 

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Osprey, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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American Oystercatcher, from the canoe, Cedar Key

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American Avocets, from the canoe, Cedar Key

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Black Skimmer, from the canoe, Cedar Key

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Least Terns, Cedar Key

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Wood Stork, Six Mile Cyprus Slough, Ft Meyers

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Sandpiper, from the canoe, Lovers Key State Park

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Snowy Egret, from the canoe, Lovers Key State Park.

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Great Crested Flycatcher, Shady Acres RV Park.

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Brown Pelican, from the canoe, Estero River

 

White Ibis with bright red legs 1 LL 1 031216 Six Mile Slough cp1

Ibis, Six Mile Cypress Slough, (Donna).

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Now back in Ohio, we visited one of our favorite spots earlier today. While nuthatches, creepers, and various woodpeckers were present, no Bald Eagles were seen nor did any Scarlet Tanagers show themselves. But we have seen them there before and you never know about tomorrow.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

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