A Special Place In Michigan

At least once a year for the last number of years we’ve traveled seven hours from central Ohio to the expansive 4500 acre Rifle River Recreation Area in Michigan. With it’s fairly extensive system of hiking and mountain bicycling trails, plus lakes that don’t allow motors, it’s a beautiful quiet nature lovers paradise. The park’s woods contain conifers, including some fairly large White Pine, as well as deciduous trees like oak and maple making it home to a great diversity of insects, plants, birds, and animals. The park has two campgrounds, one with electrical hookups, and one that is rustic. We prefer “tent” camping in the Devoe Lake rustic campground with it’s pit toilets and handpumps, whether in our small trailer or in a tent, because the sites are bigger, more secluded, and a variety of birds often come right to your campsite. In addition the rustic campground communicates with park’s best hiking trails without the need to get in your car.

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Park Map.

A south loop hiking trail cuts through meadows interspersed with stands of trees that attract numerous species of butterflies and dragonflies not mention birds such as Indigo Buntings that love that type of habitat.

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South Trail

The northern loop takes the hiker on much more rolling terrain interspersed with swamps and culminating along a ridge that provides a panoramic view of four of the parks lakes.

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Grousehaven Lake from the park loop road.

The lakes offer a variety of fish species to attract the angler including Brook and Brown Trout, Northern Pike, Large Mouth Bass and panfish.

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Typical catch and release LM Bass on Devoe Lake.

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Many of the lakes just outside the park boundary offering public access are heavily developed with boat and dock filled shorelines and large year round homes which in recent years have replaced many smaller cabins set back in the trees. Some of the larger multistory dwellings seem almost ready to topple into the lake giving these small bodies of water more the feel of a large recreational swimming pool. Even so, the lakes do offer good fishing even if with somewhat diminished natural aesthetic. However, if communing with nature is your goal, it is worth it to travel away from the park to the nearby Au Sable River and it’s chain of lakes which offer a rewarding undeveloped destination for the photographer, fisherman, and nature lover.

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Loud Pond, Au Sable River chain of lakes.

 

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Loud Pond Au Sable River chain of lakes.

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Loud Pond Au Sable River chain of lakes.

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Within the park, even without a very special species of bird, there is ample reason to  return year after year to enjoy the park’s beauty. But the very special bird that makes the park so irresistible is the Common Loon. Numbers seen vary year to year but they’re always there with their haunting cry breaking the silence of the night. To our knowledge it’s the closest location from central Ohio where nesting loons can be found.

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Common Loon

 

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With young, (Donna).

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Another view, (Donna).

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Meal time, (Donna).

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The young are growing fast.

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Lodge Lake.

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An equally enchanting bird usually seen on Grebe Lake is the Trumpeter Swan. During one paddle the call of the adults across the lake gave ample evidence as to how they got their name.

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Trumpeter Swam Family, (Donna).

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Another look.

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Being old enough to remember when they suffered the ravages of DDT and were very rare Bald Eagles always have a high wow factor. We had a number of sightings in the park and at least five the day we paddled Loud Pond along the Au Sable River.

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I control the canoe and my wife often takes the pictures.

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Where there is a nest there is usually an eagle.

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Donna get’s a picture of one of the Bald Eagles seen on Loud Pond.

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Equally fascinating were the other birds seen during our hikes and paddles.

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A Great Crested Flycatcher over looks a meadow on the south trail.

 

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An immature Great Crested Flycatcher asks to be fed, (Donna).

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A Catbird puts everything into it’s song, (Donna).

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A good day for the Cedar Waxwing, not so much for the dragonfly, (Donna).

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Along the south trail in the very top of a tree a Chestnut-sided Warbler sings it’s heart out, (Donna).

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A Green Heron makes a living along the shore of Devoe Lake.

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Too far away for a good pic, perhaps an immature Rose Breasted Grosbeak?

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Ever on the lookout for flying insects, like sentry’s Kingbirds lined the shore of Devoe Lake.

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Another look, (Donna).

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Near water’s edge a Kingbird sits on it’s nest, (Donna).

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Donna catches this female Kingfisher along the shore of Devoe Lake.

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A Tree Swallow party along the shore of Devoe Lake,(Donna).

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Numerous Rose Breasted Grosbeaks were seen but they proved a challenge to photograph, (Donna).

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Spotted sandpiper along the shore of Loud Pond, (Donna).

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Immature Spotted Sandpiper along Loud Pond, (Donna).

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Immature Baltimore Orioles hang out in a distant tree.

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The Rifle River just downstream of Grousehaven Lake.

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If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time you know we love dragonflies. While butterflies may initially catch your eye very few creatures fascinate in the air like the  dragonfly. But the relationship fraught with conflict because we also love birds and the dragonflies maneuverability is often not enough to avoid becoming a tasty high protein snack.

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Calico Pennant, (Donna).

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Female Ruby Meadowhawk

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Blue Dasher, (Donna).

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Chalk-fronted Corporal.

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This Damsel fly on flower illustrates the capability 0f the micro 4/3rds Panasonic (Leica) 100-400mm lens, (Donna).

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Dot-tailed Whiteface, (Donna).

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Mating Ebony Jewelwings, (Donna).

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Twelve-spotted Skimmer.

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Female Lancet Clubtail, (Donna).

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Female Calico Pennant.

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Male Halloween Pennant.

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Mating Halloween Pennants, (Donna).

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Slaty Blue Skimmer, Tamron 18-400mm zoom.

 

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Most of the time when we take a picture we have a pretty good idea what the subject is. When we don’t part of the fun is during the research to figure out what it is. So far the ID of this rather nondescript dragonfly remains a mystery.

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The Vesper Bluet is a late afternoon and evening damselfly, (Donna).

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Mating Vesper Bluets, (Donna).

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River Jewelwing seen along the Au Sable River, (Donna).

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The Rifle River near the park’s southern boundary.

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Butterflies live a rough life. Subject to the effects of rain, wind, sun and sometimes attempted predation they often become rather tattered with age. Like wildflowers much of their magic come from the fact that they are only here for a short time. During this most recent visit it was interesting because we didn’t see as many as expected and often the ones seen were rather tattered. However, the few that were in nice enough shape to merit a photograph took up the slack.

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Common Wood-Nymph, (Donna).

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Northern Pearly-eye

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Northern Pearly-eye another view.

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American Copper, (Donna)

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Another view, (Donna).

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Great Spangled Fritillary, Tamron 18-400mm zoom.

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Peck’s Skipper with a partially shaded wing explores an iris.

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Northern Cloudywing Skipper

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Eastern Comma.

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Monarch, (Donna).

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The very small and seldom seen Banded Hairstreak, (Donna).

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No matter when one visits the park in spring and summer there are some flowers that are seen and some that are not. Turtleheads and Cardinal flowers usually appear in August so we missed them this year but others were present.

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Certainly not a flower but one of a number of very large White Pines in the park. How do you capture it’s impressive size in a photograph?

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St. John’s Wort, (Donna).

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Yellow Water Lily

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Black-eyed Susan’s appear to take flight, (Donna).

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This American Wintergreen was growing in a very moist area, (Donna).

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Spotted Knapweed along the Lake Huron shore.

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Pickerel Weed on Grebe Lake.

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Water Lily.

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Water Lily times two, (Donna).

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A hover fly checks out a water lily.

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Clustered-leaved Tick-trefoil.

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Small and very common in the meadow areas along the south trail this one has eluded identification.

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Bladderwort seen along the north trail, (Donna).

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New Jersey Tea or Wild Snowball, interestingly it has been used for treated such things as gonorrhea, syphilis, colds, cough, fever, chills, spasms, bleeding, . . . “.

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Monkey Flower, (Donna).

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Swamp Milkweed, (Donna).

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Indian Pipe, (Donna).

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Jack-in-the-Pulpit.

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Fern.

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At their peak these Picture Plant flowers will turn a deep burgundy. See below for the leaves.

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The leaves resemble a picture, imagine that!

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Daisy Fleabane, very small, very common, very beautiful.

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Early morning on Grebe Lake.

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When out on a day’s hike looking for birds, flowers, or butterflies it’s hard not to notice other things and sometimes they become the most memorable.

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Painted Turtle, Devoe Lake.

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Pixie Cups, north trail.

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We saw quite a bit of this colorful fungi the day we hiked the south trail.

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Six-spotted Tiger Beetle along the trail, (Donna).

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American Toad, (Donna).

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Garter Snake in an unusual location, Devoe Lake.

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A beaver lodge on Grebe Lake.

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British Soldier Lichen seems to love old fence posts.

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Early July is apparently not the best time for fungi. This was one of the few not very colorful examples seen.

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Crown-tipped Coral Fungi near our campsite.

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A Map Turtle catches a few rays, (Donna).

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A large Porcupine is spotted along the south trail, (Donna).

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So much natural diversity in one Michigan state park! This year we left the park wishing for a few more days to explore, to look more closely with intention, to breath in the fragrance of balsam, or just to gaze up into the splendor of the green canopy of trees surrounding our campsite. Perhaps that’s the best way to leave.

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Devoe Lake.

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Thanks for stopping by.

It’s Their Eyes

We continue to see Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, and other birds in the parks near our home. However, this post celebrates the wildflowers, butterflies, and other insects seen recently.

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When presented with two equally good photos, one of a bird and the other of a insect I usually find myself more attracted to the bird. It’s not to hard figure out why, a bird’s eye more closely resembles our own, they are vocal much like ourselves, and often seem to have better parenting skills than we do. The world of insects is not as easy to understand, and when it is, it can be annoying, destructive and sometimes even painful. When I was young, undoubtedly because I was much closer to the ground and spent a considerable amount of time outside, I had a greater curiosity about “bugs”.  Now, years later, retired with more leisure time, my interest has been rekindled as I take a closer look at the plants and flowers that, to a large extent, comprise the insect’s world.

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The flowers of early summer seem to do most of their celebrating in meadows and along roadsides. Some like Bee Balm and Jewelweed venture into the woods if sun light is available and Lazard’s Tail is never far from the water.

Bee Balm, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Rattlesnake Master, a rather rare plant in Ohio. O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Chicory, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Saint John’s Wort, (Donna), O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Swamp Milkweed, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Common Mullein, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Jewelweed, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Poke Weed is not an uncommon sight this time of year, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Gray-headed Cone Flower, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Easily overlooked Hairy Wood-mint, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Shadows from an adjacent plant decorate a Wild Potato Vine blossom, Griggs Reservoir Park,

Donna checks out some Lazard’s Tail, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Lazard’s Tail, (Donna).

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With coneflowers and milkweed in full bloom, insects seem to be everywhere. Many leaves, pristine and virgin a month ago, now soldier on with portions missing giving further evidence of the insect’s industry. Spiders and assassin bugs wait in ambush.

Donna takes aim on an unsuspecting butterfly, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Common Wood-Nymph, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Blue-fronted Dancer, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Busy backyard Bumble bees.

A Female Eastern Pondhawk keeps an Eyed Brown Butterfly company, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, (Donna).

Paddling is a great way to see all kinds of wildlife, including dragonflies. Getting a picture of one is another matter. O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, Eversole Run.

That is, unless one lands on your finger, Eastern Amberwing.

Ebony Jewelwing, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

Little Wood Satyr, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, (Donna).

Clymene Moth, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

It’s easy to be thankful you’re not a small flying insect when you stare down a Female Widow Skimmer, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

An Assassin bug nymph lurks in the leaf cover, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Red Admiral, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Take 2.

Green bee on Chicory, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Northern Pearly-eye, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Emerald Jumper, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Take 2.

Great Spangled Fritillary, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Bumble Bee on milkweed blossom. It’s amazing how many insects make a living off this plant, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Meadow Fritillary, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

The very small but beautiful Summer Azure, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Black Swallowtail in our backyard.

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After the many years since my youth, when they were an almost integral part of each summer day, I’m again starting to “warm up” to the bugs. We don’t always understand each other and need to work on our communication skills, but I think there’s hope. However, one area that continues to be a challenge is their eyes. I’m okay until I take a picture and blow it up. That’s when I find my brain being stretched a bit, partly in awe, if I was a lot smaller it would be fear, but in any case all of the sudden these guys seem very different almost alien bringing back thoughts of 1950’s Sci-fi movies. Fortunately that’s when I catch myself, realizing that most of them bare me no ill intent.

Cicada, Cedar Bog, (Donna).

Sunglasses anyone?

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Thanks for stopping by.

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XXX

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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.

 

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park Enchants

We’re in the process of preparing for a hiking trip in Scotland and what better park than Battelle Darby to go for a long walk. Besides, who knows what flowers, birds, or other wildlife might make an appearance, or what follow bloggers we might meet along the way. My wife cautioned that we shouldn’t stop too often to look at “things” or the walk would lose it’s training effect. As you can see from the photos we weren’t entirely successful in meeting that goal.

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Trail at the south end of the park

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Our route:

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The route

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The first thing we noticed was an Eastern Meadowlark:

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Eastern Meadowlark no far from the Nature Center

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Eastern Meadowlark

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Not long after that wildflowers started to appear:

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Log and Appendaged Waterleaf

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Ox-eye Daisies, (Donna)

Miami Mist - J Petranka's Flickr Site

Miami Mist, new to us, seen but not photographed due to technical difficulties – picture is from J Petranka’s Flickr Site. This flower is interesting for reasons other than it’s beauty. As my wife found out, if touched it can produce a fairly severe burning itching sensation in the area that comes in contact!

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Yellow Flag Iris

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White or Red Baneberry, new to us.

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Daisy Fleabane

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Virginia Waterleaf

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Wild Geranium

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Violet Wood Sorrel, new to us, perennial plant is up to 6″ tall. It consists of a small cluster of trifoliate basal leaves on long petioles that emerge directly from the ground. Individual trifoliate leaves are about 1″ across and they open up during the day. The leaves may turn purplish in response to cold weather or strong sunlight, otherwise, they tend to be greyish green. (from the web)

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Black Cherry

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Foam Flower

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Goats Beard

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White Violet

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Appendaged Waterleaf, (Donna)

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Spiderwort

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Spiderwort, (Donna)

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Wild Cucumber

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Where there are flowers:

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Northern Pearly-eye (Donna)

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Pearl Crescent , (Donna)

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Not to be outdone the birds started to show up.

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Eastern Wood Pewee

 

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Femal Eastern Bluebird, (Donna)

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Red-winged Blackbird, (Donna)

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Rose-breasted Grosbeak, (Donna)

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In a tree along a meadow a Indigo Bunting sings.

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At one point along the trail we heard a fairly loud buzzing/whirring sound coming from the nearby woods, like a sound that might be made by many small wings. We headed over to investigate and found a swarm of bees! Have you ever seen such a thing? Neither had we. After pictures were taken we didn’t stick around.

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Bee Swarm!!!!

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As the trail returned to the river’s edge we collected ourselves and noticed a Common Water Snake relaxing on a rock. A  little later a Rat snake was seen but not photographed until another one was seen at the nature center.

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Common Water Snake on a rock in the Big Darby

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Back at the nature center Tim shows us a Rat Snake

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A immature Gray Squirrel seems curious as is watches from a trailside tree.

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Young Gray Squirrel

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From what we could see on the trees, the park isn’t home to a rich variety of lichens but we did see a very nice shelf fungus.

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Polypore fungi, (Donna)

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Our walk was made all the more special because we had the opportunity to meet and take a few minutes to chat with Tracy of Season’s Flow. We left the park tired from the long walk and the many investigative side trips but so much richer for our experience.

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The Big Darby in spring.

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