Migrating Into Spring

For some living things it is a migration through time that ushers in their seemingly too brief visit each spring. For others it’s a journey through both time and space. In each case April brings “magic” to the central Ohio woods and meadows. It’s a time of beauty in small things as the grander landscape has just begun to put on its coat of green.

With the cool spring it wasn’t that long ago that we saw Snow Trillium, now the Large Flower Trillium have started to appear.

Despite the cold spring in nearby trees we now notice early spring migrants, flowers of another kind.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, (Donna)

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to look. Up or down? Wildflowers capture our imagination, but when we look down as our feet shuffle through last year’s leaf litter and see Twinleaf or Cutleaf Toothwort, how many warblers fly by overhead? A good problem to have.

Twinleaf, (Donna)
Cutleaf Toothwort

Almost too small to notice with the naked eye several objects are in constant erratic motion in the nearby brush. We pursue them with our binoculars, which often only brings a bare branch into focus, but finally succeed in identifying them as a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Showing its crown. A few moments earlier, in full display and missed by the camera, the top of its head had exploded into ruby flame.

Most of what interests me in nature, a wildflower at my feet or a warbler in a tree, is small. Much of it would go unnoticed if I didn’t pay attention and even so there is much that is missed. Wildflowers not as often, but birds really do benefit when viewed though a decent pair of binoculars. However, having said that, the start is really about paying attention. But how does one care enough about things, that have never been experienced or even seen, to pay attention, to look, to listen? For me that’s the wisdom that time spent in nature graciously provides.

An emergent Bloodroot flower is embraced by its leaves, (Donna)
Toadshade Trillium, both the leaves and flower compete for our eye.
Virginia Bluebells are starting to appear, (Donna)
When one looks at Dutchman’s Breeches it’s hard not to smile.
Some wildflowers are very common and unlike trillium can be seen just about anywhere. Such is the case with Spring Beauty.

Along with those that may be passing through, other birds also compete for our attention.

A curious male Eastern Bluebird
Tufted Titmouse plays peek-a-boo.
Female Northern Cardinal
The Eastern Towhee is one of the more striking members of the sparrow family.
Northern Flickers are one of the woodpeckers seen excavating nesting cavities in a nearby park, (Donna)
This Broad-winged Hawk appears to be nesting near Griggs Reservoir not far from our home.
Will this Brown Thrasher make central Ohio home for the season or move on?
Field Sparrow, its song is sublime.
This male Red-winged Blackbird will nest in central Ohio.

The natural world speaks to us in a voice without words. In the “year” of human history it’s been less than four hours that technology and our modern lifestyle, with its illusion of wellbeing and comfort, has isolated us from that world. For many of us its voice is no longer heard. For most of our history we have been an integral part of nature, we have been nature! So, it may not be surprising that it is a voice that truly speaks to our soul. It’s ironic that technology now lets us share its sights and sounds in ways heretofore not imagined. When it comes to appreciating birds, modern binoculars have only been around for a little over 100 years and capable digital photography not much more than 20. Fortunately, if we just get out of our houses and cars and venture into nature without any modern technology, there is much that it has to say.

Thanks for stopping by.

The Nuthatch Speaks

Somewhere in the overhead branches of a neighborhood tree a Nuthatch is speaking. They do that often in a voice that leaves little room for reply so we content ourselves just to listen. Try as we might we never did see that particular bird. A voice evoking mystery in a tree’s tangled up-reaching branches. Such mystery is accepted because we know, given enough time, one will undoubtedly descend to an eye-level branch and pursue a more formal introduction.

White-breasted Nuthatch

The Brown Creeper’s presence often only becomes apparent when small subtle movements are detected on a tree trunk or branch. Stopping, they often seem to disappear and in doing so say “pay attention there is more to this place than you are aware!”

Brown Creeper
What creepers eat.

Sometimes we just smile as, in the midst of our observing, it becomes obvious that we are also being observed.

Fox Squirrel

Illuminated by the low December sun, the vibrant color of an Eastern Bluebird contrasts with the dull muted landscape and reminds us that beauty is an exception and wouldn’t be if it were otherwise.

In the winter, as if by magic, some birds just appear. We don’t see them arrive and we won’t see them leave. In this brief moment in time, they are with us and become part of our lives should we choose.

Dark-eyed Junco, (Snow bird)

Sometimes the realization doesn’t match the expectation. By December most migrating warblers are long gone but the Yellow-rumped enjoys food items other than just insects so many remain in central Ohio through the winter.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Our awareness has its limits as the nearby presence of an immature Red-tailed Hawk remined me. While I was distracted by another bird it remained unnoticed until it moved its head. How much do we miss or are never aware of?

Red-tailed Hawk-

In the winter woods it is often our intention is to see Golden-crowned Kinglets. It’s a bird that is no stranger to us so part of its allure or that of any other charming, but often inconspicuous, creature must be that they draw us into a world that embraces and also transcends us. Unlike spring when the scent of a flower may grab our attention, in December we must rely on the limits of our hearing and sight. With these meager tools we will find our boundaries expanding if we pay close attention. Each visit to the habitat of kinglets allows us to become part of a world that continues on in an unfolding mystery.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

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Wishing everyone a very Happy Holiday!

Northern Cardinal

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Tiny and Seldom Seen

Early spring wildflowers in late March and early April continue to enchant us. In some wooded areas flowers almost cover the the forest floor. Spring is not new experience in our lives but every year with it comes a renewed sense of wonder. Recently, during a hike at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park a bonus was seeing a very small butterfly and it was one we had never seen before. Adding to the joy of looking at wildflowers is the reward gained trying different angles, light, and compositions as we try to capture their unique beauty. A meditation of something fast passing.

A cardinal sings as we look for wildflowers.

Northern Cardinal

In the last few days hiking the trails at Battelle Darby Creek MP, as well as a few other locations in central Ohio, our search has been rewarded.

Small wildflowers caress the base of a tree.
Purple Cress
Spring Beauty
White Trout Lilies. Research into the medicinal and culinary uses of this plant is a bit confusing so caution is advised.
Twin Leaf. Reportedly a formulation of the leaves have been used to treat chronic rheumatism, nervous and spasmodic problems, neuralgia, headaches, especially headaches with dizziness and feelings of tension, stress, among other conditions.
Yellow Trout Lily
Rue Anemone. Interesting medical facts: a tea made from the roots is used in the treatment of diarrhea and vomiting and a preparation of the root has historically been used in the treatment of hemorrhoids.
Hispid Buttercup
Sharp-lobed Hepatica. The leaves, located at the base of a fairly long stem, are hard to include in the photograph.
A four leaved Toadshade Trillium. Not often seem.
Virginia Bluebells almost cover the ground in some areas,
Dutchman’s Breeches as Bloodroot looks on.
Scarlet Cup fungi. Not a wildflower but beautiful nonetheless.

To complete the enchantment as we made our way back to the trailhead we spotted a tiny dark and seldom seen butterfly. It was a Henry’s Elfin and a new butterfly for us. It uses redbud as a host plant and is an early spring species.

Henry’s Elfin, (Donna).
Another view, (Donna)

Each time we enter the spring woods it offers us something new. The season’s gift of which we never tire.

Thanks for stopping by.

A Rare Bird

From time to time during our walks close to home we see a rare bird. Two days ago we were excited to see an American Kestrel in an undeveloped area south of Duranceaux Park which is located on the west side of Griggs Reservoir. A particular treat as this small falcon has been in decline in recent years. As with many birds this is most likely due to the destruction of suitable habit. In years past, when more time was spent bicycling Ohio’s quiet rural roads, this small robin size bird was seen on a regular basis, sometimes in the middle of a “lunch” consisting of a field mouse, but always taking flight from the roadside power lines before one could get very close. If not perched, they were often seen hovering over an adjacent field waiting to pounce on unsuspecting prey. 

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***, (Donna).

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Much more common than the American Kestrel, a number of Red-tailed Hawks have been seen recently. 

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Some of the more usual suspects have also graced us with their presence, providing an affirmation that much is well with the world. We’re endlessly fascinated by their behavior as they go about the day making a living in the trees and low lying brush of Griggs Reservoir Park. 

Female Northern Cardinal

Male Eastern Bluebird, (Donna).

Red-bellied Woodpecker, (Donna).

Song Sparrow

Cedar Waxwing, (Donna).

Downy Woodpecker

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During this stark, seemingly lifeless, time of year it’s not always easy to be optimistic about what will be seen when heading into the woods. But even in December’s landscape we seldom return home with empty hearts.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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