Robber Fly

In central Ohio it’s been several weeks since we’ve had any appreciable rain. Add to that numerous days with temps greater than 90F and you have the recipe for a very dry landscape. On concrete hard ground, if it has been walked on at all, as dust rises grass seems to break apart under foot. For the grass it’s hard to believe life will return before next spring. In what seems almost a miracle, the green of most trees continues to contrast with the brown of the grass. Perhaps we should plant more trees. The water level in the reservoir near our home has held up well, and is amazingly clear with little rain to stir it up. In contrast a reservoir a little further away, that supplies water to the city, is down over six feet. Now, with it’s expanse of dry clay lake bottom between the water and shoreline trees, I tell myself it looks better if I just imagine it’s “low tide”.

Trees do their best to maintain the green canopy along the Big Darby, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

It’s hard to have high expectations for seeing wildlife in these conditions. But in the middle of the day, as we cower in our air conditioned homes, life goes on. Unlike buzzards, smaller birds, that typically don’t catch thermals to the higher cooler air, are more likely to restrict their activity to the morning and evening. On the sun baked ground at noon I try to imagine what it would be like for an ant to travel any distance. I don’t see many travelers. However, as long as they have access to sources of food, the airborne insects seem unfazed by it all.

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Recently, in the morning’s relative coolness, we found ourselves walking at waters edge in the park near our home, Only a couple hundred yards into our walk a very small bird or large insect was spotted hovering, flying around, then perching on the branches of a partially dead tree. It was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and a “free range” one at that, how exciting. It’s always so much more rewarding to see a creature, not all that often seen in it’s natural habitat, in it’s natural habitat.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird takes a brake while on the prowl for insects.

Another look.

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After the hummer just disappeared into thin air, as they have a habit of doing, we wondered what the rest of our time in the park would offer up.

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New England Asters

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Actually I’ve wandered of topic a bit because I started out with the thought of highlighting the really good day we had with robber flies. They seemed to be everywhere on a recent hike of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. They’re not an insect that other members of the bug world are happy to see. From the perspective of other insects they are a very efficient killing machine usually waiting in ambush and going after just about anything no matter it’s defenses. Click here for more information. What made the day really good was not only seeing numerous robber flies, but seeing a number chasing and then with captured prey. At one point one loudly buzzed the top of my head as it unsuccessfully pursued a Zabulon skipper. The erratic flight pattern of the skipper undoubtedly contributed to it’s escape.

Red-Footed Cannibalfly perhaps 1 1/2 inches in length. There are over a thousand species of robber fly in the US.

Robber fly with a moth in it’s spiny, not easy to escape, clutches. Barely visible is the piercing-sucking proboscis which is used stab and paralyze it’s prey, inject liquefying enzymes, and then extract the nutritious snack.

. . . with what appears to be a grasshopper nymph.

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Morning light faintly touches Crimson-Eyed Rose-Mallow

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Robber flies weren’t the only insect on the prowl.

Unlike the robber fly, solitary wasps do not consume their prey but instead lay their egg(s) in a nest near or within an insect that has been captured and paralyzed with venom. If all goes as planned, as the larva develops the insect will be it’s food, (Donna).

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Other creatures were also eating other creatures.

Low clear water in the Scioto River made crayfish easy pickings for this Great Blue Hero, (Donna).

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Green-Headed Coneflowers with a visitor.

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Nature always seems to be generous as long as you hold your expectations in check. Often when looking for one thing other things will become part of the mix. It’s usually best to just see what you see.

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail hides in the foliage.

When one thinks Monarch one thinks milkweed, but there are a variety of other flowers they enjoy. In this case it’s thistle.

The only Little Wood Satyr seen during a hike of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Question Mark Butterfly, Big Darby Creek Metro Park

A tiny, but very common, Pearl Crescent on a New England Aster, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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In the summer I sometimes just like to sit in my small canoe or walk slowly with no particular focus but only to let nature speak with a more all embracing voice. Realizing at that moment just how much is going on around me that I have no knowledge of, much less understanding. Perhaps a lesson in life in these trying times as I strive not to be ignorant of my own ignorance.

How you choose to look at something determines what you see.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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August Ramble

In August insects catch our attention more often than birds. Compared to the frenzied activity of spring it can seem very quiet unless you look closely. In some ways feeling a bit like the “dead of winter” except that it’s summer. During a recent visit to Prairie Oaks Metro Park it was hard not to notice the toll that a few weeks of dry weather had taken on a wetland that relies on regular rainfall to stay healthy.

I would have been standing in water to take this picture a few weeks ago.

But as the water disappears a lone immature wood duck, with a few friends peering above the waters surface, holds out for the promise of rainy days to come.

This pic leaves a little to be desired in terms of sharpness but can you see the wood duck’s friends?

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Not far from the wetland are three ponds (Darby Bend Lakes) formed when old quarries filled with water from underground springs. Surrounded the ponds, and interspersed with plant life, is fine gravel undoubtedly left over form the quarry days. We were looking for dragonflies but were immediately stopped when we noticed a number of very large wasps. They were Cicada Killers, a member of the family of digger wasps that make their home underground. As the name indicates, this one provisions it’s nest with the cicadas.  One one egg gets implanted in each cicada. The female is noticeably larger than the male, up to 2 inches long, and of the two, it is the only one able the catch the rather large cicadas. Click here for more information.

Cicada Killer exits it’s nest, (Donna).

Cicada, (Donna).

Wasp with cicada, (Donna).

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This time of year at waters edge the landscape is graced with the large flowers of the Swamp Rose-mallow.

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We weren’t disappointed in our quest for dragonflies. No new discoveries but the fascination is always there. I was once again reminded that it’s truly a jungle out there when a catbird swopped down to snatch a dragonfly as I moved closer hoping to identify it. No matter what one thinks about the level of consciousness of a dragonfly, this one, now a nutritious snack for the catbird, no longer exists. It’s demise, the flow of life from one from one creature to the next.    

Eastern Pondhawk, (M), (Donna).

Eastern Pondhawk with prey on Blazing Star.

Halloween Pennant, (M), (Donna).

Halloween Pennant, (F) .

Common Whitetail, immature male.

Widow Skimmer (M).

Eastern Pondhawk, (F).

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Black-eyed Susan’s are also part of the Darby Bend Lakes habitat.

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Moths and butterflies were also enjoying the sunny day.

Monarch on Swamp Milkweed

A Monarch and Hummingbird clearwing moth enjoy the flowers, (Donna).

Hummingbird clearwing moth, (Donna).

A Great Golden Digger Wasp also enjoys the swamp milkweed.

Zabulon Skipper (M) on Chicory.

A female Zabulon spurns the affection of a male.

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Great dragonfly habitat adjacent to one of the Derby Bend Lakes, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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Mid-summer flowers and other critters made the day complete.

The unique beauty of False Dragonhead is part of the cicada killer habitat..

It was a real treat to see a Red-headed Woodpecker in the tree right at the edge of one of the Darby Bend Lakes. The first I recall seeing at Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

Purple Prairie Clover is also part of the cicada killer habitat. it’s occurrence in this habitat can be explained by the fact that it “is used for revegetation efforts on reclaimed land, such as land that has been strip mined. It is good for preventing erosion and for fixing nitrogen in soil. Though it is often found in mid- to late-successional stages of ecological succession, it may also be a pioneer species, taking hold in bare and disturbed habitat, such as roadsides”. Ref: Wikipedia

A small Painted Turtle enjoys the morning sun.

This year early August has been a great time for Ironweed.

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It’s been a good year for Red-headed Woodpecker sightings which, due to their rarity, are always very special but seeing the very large cicada killer wasp was what really created a sense of wonder on this day.

Mid-summer and low water along the Big Darby.

Thanks for stopping by.

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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While I Was Away Fishing

With the arrival of a granddaughter and my annual fishing trip to Michigan photographing the wonders of nature in central Ohio has been a bit neglected. Fortunately in my absence my wife took up the slack and was busy finding fascinating things closer to home. In fact, considering that it’s usually the slow time of year, there have been an amazing number of things to see.

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Numerous Kingbirds nest along the reservoir in Griggs Reservoir Park and while the babies have fledged they still expect their meals to be catered. Fortunately, ample fresh berries and cicadas make the work a little easier.

Bringing dinner home, (Donna).

Trying to get noticed, (Donna).

Finally! (Donna).

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When not being entertained by the kingbirds; vireos, numerous Great Crested Flycatchers, and even a Yellow Warbler were spotted.

A Warbling Vireo which is not often seen this time of year, (Donna).

An immature Red-eyed Vireo, (Donna).

Great Crested Flycatcher, (Donna).

Yellow Warbler, a rare find in the park in early August, (Donna).

Barn Swallows engage in a heated discussion about sharing a dragonfly, (Donna).

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A first of the year Buckeye Butterfly and a seldom seen Royal River Cruiser were also spotted.

Buckeye, (Donna).

A Royal River Cruiser not often seen along Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

and not to ignore some of the more usual suspects .   .   .

A Eastern Tiger Swallowtail at waters edge, (Donna).

Amberwing Dragonflies are common but due to their small size are often hard to photograph, (Donna).

Monarch, (Donna).

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It’s always hard to compete with my wife’s discoveries but as usual the Rifle River Recreation Area did not disappoint with some nice Large Mouth Bass caught. To eliminate as much trauma as possible the barbs were removed from the hooks which doesn’t seem to effect the catch rate and I’m sure the fish are much happier as they swim away.

A beautiful morning on Devoe Lake.

Typical of the Large Mouth Bass caught. This one was on Au Sable Lake.

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There were often a pair of Trumpeter Swans not far off while fishing on Devoe Lake. In addition there were always loons to enjoy. An encouraging discovery was not only the number of loons seen on the lakes within the park, where they nest due to the absence of motorboat traffic/wakes, but on the cottage lined lakes nearby.

Common Loons, Devoe Lake.

Au Sable Lake

Rifle Lake

As can be seen from the above screen shots Rifle Lake does not have suitable habitat for nesting but Au Sable Lake does with a considerable amount of sheltered natural shoreline. To my joy, immature loons were observed there.

Lily pads on Devoe Lake.

Trumpeter Swans, Devoe Lake.

Near sunset on Devoe Lake.

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As I finished this post a task required that I briefly venture outside. In our front yard a hummingbird briefly hovered close by and then went about it’s business. Such a serendipitous occurrence caused me to stop for a moment, and as I did, ever so faintly, the call of a loon on Devoe Lake could be “heard”. I was left again with the realization that nature’s wonder can be found in many places. Whether on a lake in Michigan or in a city park of Columbus Ohio, all we need to do is open our eyes.

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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.

 

 

A First Sighting

Each year it’s a happy time when we again realize that while increased leaf cover and more secretive nesting behavior may make birds harder to observe other beautiful and fascinating things have taken their place. The other things that enchant, as we explore area parks, are the butterflies and dragonflies.

These creatures are a lot like small birds in the sense that you must get close up and personal in order to really appreciate them. At a distance they look like just another LBFI. For starters an essential tool is a pair of close focus binoculars, minimum focus distance of 6 – 7 ft. If you are like me that may soon give way to the desire to photograph them either as an aid to identification or for the record. That’s when you really start to notice how fascinating and beautiful they are. The next thing you may notice is their behavior like the pond surface tapping of a female dragonfly depositing eggs or the unique flight patterns of various butterflies. The more you observe and learn the more enchanting it all becomes.

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Dragonfly heaven, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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That’s not to say that we’ve given up on the birds. During recent insect outing I was hoping for a good shot of an Indigo Bunting but the one seen was just a little too far away.

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Again too far away for a good picture but it is an Indigo Bunting.

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A few other birds were a little closer.

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A Brown Thrasher plays hide and seek in the leaf cover.

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Certainly not trying to hide, this singing Protonotary Warbler was amazing hard to find but once spotted hard to ignore. It’s cavity nest wasn’t far from this perch.

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Gradually as we work our way through June the bulk of nature’s activity increasingly revolves around the insects. A major menu item for many of the now stealthier birds, it’s impossible to ignore them while exploring areas such as Darby Bend Lakes in Prairie Oaks Metro Park. On a recent outing dragonflies and damselflies seemed to be everywhere and was made all the more exciting when a dragonfly that my wife spotted turned out to be the first recorded sighting in central Ohio!

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Double-striped Bluet, (Donna).

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Smaller than a Halloween Pennant a beautiful Calico Pennant poses for the camera.

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Damselflies often are seen flying among the leaves of low lying bushes making them easy prey for the orb weaver spider.

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Female Blue-ringed Dancer

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Damselflies can be friendly.

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Powdered Dancer

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Blue-fronted Dancer.

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Male Ebony Jewelwing, (Donna).

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Halloween Pennant

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Mating Halloween Pennants.

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Female Widow Skimmer

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A male Widow Skimmer dining on what appears to be a damselfly.

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Male Eastern Pondhawk

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One of the larger, but very common, dragonflies this female Eastern Pondhawk dines on a small insect, (Donna).

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Fawn Darner

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The Swift Setwing is one of the larger dragonflies and this sighting was the first recorded in central Ohio. Over the past few years it has slowly been working it’s way north perhaps due to such factors as global warming, (Donna)

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Butterfly Weed

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And as if the dragonflies weren’t enough during the past few weeks we’ve been treated to sightings of an amazing variety of other insects. So much so, that at times it was a bit overwhelming!

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The medium size Eastern Comma Butterfly.

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Eastern Comma another view, (Donna).

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The medium size Great Spangled Fritillary, (Donna).

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Another view of the Great Spangled Fritillary.

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Virginia Ctenucha Moth

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Red Admiral.

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On a warm day the medium size Hackberry Emperor often lands on exposed skin to take advantage of the goodies in ones perspiration.

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The beautiful marking on the underside of the Hackberry Emperor’s wings.

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Monarch Butterfly.

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A Monarch Butterfly shows the underside of it’s wings.

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As far as we can remember this is the first time we’ve seen a Delaware Skipper, (Donna).

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A very rare view of the top side of the very small female Eastern-tailed Blue Butterflies wings, (Donna).

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A very common medium sized Orange Sulfur Butterfly.

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Sometimes it’s hard to believe your eyes, such was the case a number of years ago when we saw our first hummingbird moth. We continue to be amazed.

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Snowberry Clearwing Moth, Donna

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Another view, (Donna).

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Pearl Crescent, a common, beautiful, but smaller butterfly, (Donna).

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Duskywing, a fast flying smaller butterfly.

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The Silver Spotted Skipper butterfly is one of the larger skippers that we’ve observed to have an rather fearless attitude toward other flying insects. (Donna).

 

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A Hoverfly pollenates on a Black-eyed Susan.

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A very small long legged fly taxes the closeup capability of a Tamron 18-400 mm zoom.

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Recently not far from our house we were thrilled to see Michigan Lilies in bloom

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It’s always hard to know when to stop as there are always more pictures that could be part of the post based on their merit. However, realizing that the photographer is usually more excited about pictures taken than those looking at them I’ve decided to show some compassion and stop here. At the very least I hope this post inspire nature lovers to get out and take a closer look and find that which enchants.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Hey wait, what about me!

 

 

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