A Sense of Expectation and Wonder

As undoubtedly mentioned before, one of the rewarding aspects of visiting a park on a regular basis is that one can observe nature’s subtle changes as well as the coming and going of various critters that visit the park throughout the year. Many these forays are part of longer urban hikes and are accompanied by fairly low expectations so our gear often consists of an easily packable super-zoom and a small pair of binoculars. With such equipment we are limited in the types of photographs we can obtain but we do have a camera with us.

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Recently we’ve been encouraged with the prospect of seeing the unexpected when Eastern Bluebirds made a Christmas day visit to our front yard suet feeder. We had never seen them in our yard before.

A male Eastern Bluebird gets a drink from a mostly frozen bird bath, (Donna).

One bird with a small piece of suet, “Hey guys go get your own!”, (Donna).

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Yesterday, there were no Bluebirds at the suet feeder so before our new years day tradition of pork, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut we decided to take a walk in Griggs Reservoir Park.  It was a cloudy gray-brown day and certainly not one that would beckon a landscape photographer so we walked with the hope of observing a bird or some other small manifestation of nature. I mostly occupied myself with the never-ending task of picking up trash. It’s an activity I always find strangely rewarding especially if the ‘birds’ aren’t cooperating.

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We were almost back to the car after our three-mile saunter when I noticed a small hawk preening itself at the top of a large Sycamore tree. A quick look through the binoculars did not provide an obvious identity so I pulled out my camera and started taking “data acquisition” shots.

Critical tail feather ID shot. The bird was to far away for a good photograph. All shots are heavily cropped, Panasonic FZ300.

Another look for markings.

. . . and on more.

It was a Merlin, and even though there had been reports of them at other central Ohio locations it was a bird we had never seen in the park before. How exciting! A dull gray day made magical. The sighting was all the more special because the last time we had seen one was some years ago while hiking the Centennial Ridges Trail in Algonquin Provincial Park. While looking through the binoculars at a dragonfly flying high over head a black streak went through the field of view and the dragonfly disappeared. Looking up a small bird was seen flying towards a tiny island in the center of the lake where it joined others on a perch high over the water.

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As a bit of a postscript, Bald Eagles nest about two miles from our house making it not highly unusual to see them along the reservoir, so as if the reinforce the magic of the place that’s exactly what happened a few days back while on an urban fitness walk.

Bald Eagle over Griggs Reservoir, again the bird was too far away for a good photograph. image heavily cropped, Panasonic FZ150.

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These recent holiday sightings have blessed us with a sense of expectation and wonder for the new year. Our wish is that you to will be blessed in the new year.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Waiting

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In the clear cold of a December morning,

as a last leaf gently floats down

from a branch reaching high toward blue sky,

(click images if you’d like a better view)

while below water battles ice for rule over silver ribbons

that mark now too obvious wooded ravines,

and a piercing sharp sun

leaves behind deep shadows

exposing naked trees and fading leaf covered hillsides,

the land quietly waits for a warm blanket of snow.

xxx

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Thanks for stopping by.

High Banks Spring Walk; Concretions Seen, Warblers Heard

It was a beautiful day for a hike at Highbanks Metro Park with friends. Warblers were our main objective but no doubt there would be other things to fascinate if the warblers decided not to cooperate.

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One of those things turned out to be concretions. We’ve hiked and explored High Banks for years but one thing we’ve never noticed are the concretions that exist along creek bottoms in the park. This partly due to the fact that they are not visible from the main trail and generally we avoid going off trail so as to not damage the landscape which, as is the case with most metro parks, is easily overrun. In this particular case we wondered why there was a worn path leading off the main trail so we decided to follow it for awhile.

According Wikipedia, “A concretion is a hard, compact mass of matter formed by the precipitation of mineral cement within the spaces between particles, and is found in sedimentary rock or soil. Concretions are often ovoid or spherical in shape, although irregular shapes also occur. Concretions form within layers of sedimentary strata that have already been deposited. They usually form early in the burial history of the sediment, before the rest of the sediment is hardened into rock. This concretionary cement often makes the concretion harder and more resistant to weathering than the host stratum.”

Typical of the area in High Banks Metro Park where concretions might be found.

Sometimes one might see the rock formations as just random.

But other times things seem just a little different.

The origin of some shapes are difficult to figure out.

Others not so much.

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After the fascination of the concretions we decided to wander down the trail and see what warblers we might find.

Early morning sun filters through the trees at High Banks.

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While not warblers, we hadn’t gone far when several Ruby-crowned Kinglets appeared in low lying bushes and weren’t shy about displaying their ruby crowns. They weren’t as good about sitting still of a picture. Along the Olentangy River Yellow-throated Warblers could be heard but not seen high in the Sycamores.

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 Other birds were more cooperative.

Tufted Titmouse

White-throated Sparrow

Field Sparrow

Female Red-winged Blackbird

Eastern Pheobe

Okay, I know I’m not a bird but would you take my picture?

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As is often the case in the spring if one thing eludes there are always other things to enjoy. On this particular day it was trilliums many of which had turned pink as well as the many other wildflowers.

Large-flowered Trillium

 

There were a number of beautiful specimens.

There were also nice groupings  .   .   .

Standing at attention, almost.

and phlox trillium bouquets.

Phlox and Large-flowered Trillium.

Other types of trilliums were also seen.

Red Nodding Trillium, (Donna).

Nodding Trillium, (Donna)

Another view of a Nodding Trillium, (Donna).

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May Apples were starting to bloom.

May Apples

Hiding under the leaves the flower is not always easy to see, (Donna).

A closer look.

View along the trail, High Banks Metro Park.

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Other flowers, some not real common on central Ohio, were also seen.

Wild Geranium, (Donna).

Soloman’s Seal, (Donna).

Philadelphia Fleabane, (Donna).

 

Dame’s Rocket, (Donna).

Corn Salad, not real common, (Donna).

Purple Cress, (Donna).

Goldenseal, also not a common flower. In herbal medicine, goldenseal is used as a multi-purpose remedy.

Dogwood

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To one that is so inclined, time spent in nature feeds the soul. In spring the uninterrupted songs of the various birds as they go about their day is sublime even when they remain unseen. The air seems especially fragrant and pure. The still deep blue sky frames the translucent green of the immerging overhead leaves. Flowers grace the forest floor with their varied and unique loveliness.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Should you wish, prints from various posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo.

Turkeys, Trout Lilies and Other Spring Things

This post is a bit of a ramble covering our adventures in central Ohio nature over the past week. A search for wildflowers and warblers in area metro parks, a visit to a local city park to see if any warblers were passing through and finally the first long kayak paddle of the year. So I hope you enjoy the ride.

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In the spring wildflowers and migrating warblers are usually what comes to mind not turkeys. For me turkeys have always been a fall bird usually associated with a big meal that includes stuffing, gravy, and all the fixins. So a few days ago at Blendon Woods Metro Park it was a bit of a surprise to see a male turkey doing it’s best to convince a female that they should get together.

Turkey (M), Blendon Woods.

A closer look. In breeding plumage the feathers are truly spectacular, (Donna).

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The purpose of the trip to Blendon was to look for warblers. We were successful in spotting a few including a Black-throated Green which without to much effort eluded the camera’s lens. While we did see a few, we soon found ourselves seduced by the many wildflowers that were in bloom.

It won’t be long till the leaves fill in, Blendon Woods Metro Park.

Standing out due to their relative scarceness leaves evoke the feeling of flowers.

Yellow Trout Lilies were doing their best at Blendon Woods.

Another view as sunlight filters through from behind.

 

Wild Geranium, Blendon Woods, (Donna).

Black haw viburnum, Blendon Woods.

There were some exceptional large examples of Toadshade Trillium at Blendon Woods.

Flowers aren’t the only thing worth taking a close look at.

Jacobs Ladder, Blendon Woods, (Donna).

Buttercup, Blendon Woods, (Donna).

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When not looking at wildflowers or for warblers there were other things  .   .   .

Birds are apparently not the only spring nest builders, Fox Squirrel, Blendon Woods, (Donna).

One of a least two mature albino squirrels seen. How they evade the hawks long enough to reach adulthood is a mystery to me.

Home to small darters, in the spring the small creeks in Blendon Woods flow freely.

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The day following our trip to Blendon Woods we headed to Clear Creek Metro Park for what turned out to be a rather long hike. Spring is especially fascinating at Clear Creek with a number of plants not found elsewhere in Ohio. The number of butterflies seen (Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Commas, Morning Cloaks, etc.) but not photographed, was truly amazing.

Blue Phlox, Clear creek Metro Park.

Foamflower, Clear creek Metro Park, (Donna).

Pussytoes (F), Clear Creek Metro Park, (Donna).

Fiddleheads, Clear Creek Metro Park.

Bluets, Clear Creek Metro Park.

Soloman’s Seal, Clear Creek Metro Park, (Donna).

Virginia Bluebells, Clear Creek Metro Park.

Duskywing, Clear Creek Metro Park, (Donna)

Violet Wood Sorrel, Clear Creek Metro Park, (Donna).

Spicebush Swallowtail, Clear Creek Metro Park, (Donna).

Coltsfoot, Clear Creek Metro Park, (Donna).

Dogwood, Clear Creek Metro Park

Wild Geranium, Clear Creek Metro Park. (Donna).

Rue Anemone, Clear Creek Metro Park, (Donna).

Violets, Clear Creek Metro Park, (Donna).

Squaw Root, a perennial, non-photosynthesizing parasitic plant, native but not endemic to North America, when blooming resembles a pine cone or cob of corn growing from the roots of mostly oak and beech trees, (Wikipedia), Clear Creek Metro Park.

Fire Pink, Clear Creek Metro Park, (Donna).

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Closer to home within the city limits of Columbus along the Scioto River and Griggs Reservoir spring was also in full swing.

Redbuds, Griggs Park.

“Lovebirds”, male and female American Goldfinch, Griggs Park.

Blackberry, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

Redwing Blackbird (M), Kiwanis Riverway Park.

Northern Flicker, Griggs Park.

Shooting Star, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

Buckeye, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

White-throated Sparrow, Kiwanis Riverway Park

Honeysuckle, (Native?), Kiwanis Riverway Park

Yellow-throated Warbler singing high in a Sycamore tree, Griggs Park.

Wild Ginger, Griggs Park, (Donna).

In week or so ago I spotted this pair of Blue jays starting work on a nest. They must have given up on that location as no nest was found on this particular day, Griggs park.,

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<<>>

Out on the reservoir there was also lot’s of activity, much of which eluded the camera’s lens, but some subjects cooperated just long enough. Spotted Sandpipers, turtles, Great Blue Herons, and Great Egrets seemed to be everywhere. As I have undoubtedly mentioned in the past, shooting from a canoe or kayak has it’s own set of challenges, camera shake and the fact that everything is moving just to name a few, so when one gets a relatively good picture it’s truly cause for celebration. When paddling the kayak certain limitations are excepted so a relatively small light superzoom is usually what is taken. It’s easy to tuck out of the way and if it happens go swimming it’s not the end of the world.

Spotted Sandpiper, Griggs Reservoir.

Very small Red-eared Slider getting ready to attempt a double-backflip with a twist , Griggs Reservoir.

Great Blue Heron in breeding plumage, Griggs Reservoir.

Great Egret in breeding plumage with a couple of close friends, Griggs Reservoir.

Note color around eyes.

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In the last week not far from our home it seemed that no matter which way we turned there was something wonderful to see. We hope that’s been your experience also. 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.

 

 

Clifton Gorge Celebrates Spring

A couple of times a year, usually in the spring and fall we get together with friends for a hike from Clifton to Yellow Springs and back. Yellow Springs turns out to be a great place for lunch with a number of excellent small restaurants and delis. The hike wanders through Clifton Gorge Nature PreserveJohn Bryan State Park, and finally Glen Helen Nature Preserve allowing us to enjoy a truly unique Ohio landscape. In the spring the quantity and diversity of wildflowers is truly amazing. The hike usually adds up to about ten miles so it necessitates compromises in the camera equipment we use. No heavy DSLR bird cameras here.  However, should you choose to bring more serious equipment or just not feel up to a long hike, there are many shorter options that still allow one to enjoy the natural beauty.

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Leaving Clifton the hike starts out overlooking a narrow stretch of the Little Miami River.

Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve

In the spring numerous small streams feed the Little Miami.

By no means the narrowest portion of the gorge it does give one an idea of what it is like.

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Continuing to follow the river it wasn’t long before we saw our first trillium.

Large-flowered Trillium with a hint of pink.

A nice group.

They covered the hillside, Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve.

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In the mix there were other trilliums to enjoy.

Toadshade Trillium

Another view, (Donna).

Drooping Trillium. Also known as Bent Trillium.

Drooping Trillium

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There were also “non-flower” things to see.

Dryad’s Saddle

This Redback salamander was crossing the road so we decided to place him in a safer location. This salamander can actually be one of two colors: “redback” or “leadback.” In its redback phase it has a reddish stripe that runs down its back from the base of its head to the tail. Found throughout Ohio, it is most often seen in early spring beneath rocks and logs, especially in floodplains. It is entirely land-dwelling and usually will not go to water even to breed. Ref: ODNR.

Morel Mushroom, (Donna).

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As we made our way downstream the river started to widen.

The Little Miami

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.   .   .  and then pool before becoming a river once again.

Blue Hole

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There was never a place where we couldn’t see a wildflower.

Virginia Bluebells

Bloodroot

Large-flowered Bellwort was everywhere.

A closer look.

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There wasn’t always a bridge when we needed one. Fortunately on this particular day the river level wasn’t too high.

In John Bryant SP.

Green was still mostly restricted to the forest floor, Glen Helen Nature Preserve.

View from the bridge over the falls on Yellow Springs Creek, Glen Helen Nature Preserve.

A stream feeds Yellow Springs Creek.

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Just when you thought you’ve seen all the flowers   .   .   .

Rue Anemone, (Donna)

Squirrel Corn, It’s roots are yellow tubers that somewhat resemble kernals of corn. This fact, along with squirrels digging it up for food, gave rise to the name. (taken from Wildflowers of Ohio by Robert L Henn)

Squirrel Corn, a closer look, (Donna).

Wild Ginger, (Donna). The root stalks have a ginger scent and taste. American settlers boiled the root stalks with sugar to make candy. Not the same as the true Ginger spice which is derived from a tropical plant. (taken from Wildflowers of Ohio -Robert L. Henn

Blue Phlox or Wild Sweet William, (Donna).

Wild Geranium was just coming along! Also known as Crane’s Bill. (Donna).

Golden Ragwort, (Donna).

Marsh Marigold, (Donna).

Yellow Trout Lilies, (Donna)

Surrounded by Chickweed the trout lilies peek through, (Donna).

Getting down and dirty.

Early Meadow Rue, (Donna).

Hepatica, (Donna).

Dwarf Larkspur

Dwarf Larkspur

How many different wildflowers can you spot in this photo?

Spring Beauty, (Donna).

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Sometimes we’re left feeling as though life’s magic is slipping away and there are no longer any miracles to celebrate. That’s when we might want to consider taking a walk in the spring woods.

 

Rue Anemone stands as a lone sentinel over the Little Miami.

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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.

What do you need to do to get a drink around here?

The other morning it was below freezing when I looked out the window and observed a Downy Woodpecker getting a drink. Had snow been on the ground I doubt it would have gone to this much trouble. But then again, who really knows the mind of a woodpecker.

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Downy Woodpecker at frozen bird bath.

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That water is hard!

IMG_4615use

Sending some more ice particles flying..

 

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Later that day we explored the area along Griggs Reservoir and the Scioto river to see if any new migrating ducks had taken up residence or if a Bald Eagle might be about.

IMG_4626use (2)

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We did see a Common Merganser, Ruddy Ducks, Canada Geese, Ring-billed Gulls on the reservoir and an immature Red-tailed Hawk along the river, but alas, no Bald Eagle.

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Red-tailed Hawk along the Scioto

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Common Merganser (a little too far away for a good pic), Griggs Reservoir

 

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My wife continued her quest to discover interesting fungi and lichen.

White furry fungi 121514 Griggs south csb1

Furry white fungi (Schizophyllum commune), (Donna)

Wood Design with eyes 121514 Griggs south cp1

Tree stump, (Donna)

Lichen collage 1 121514 Griggs south csb1

Lichen, (Donna)

 

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While I managed to get a nice shot of a Red-bellied Woodpecker and a Blue Bird even made an appearance.

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Red-bellied Woodpecker, Griggs Park

 

IMG_4653use (2)

Blue Bird, Griggs Park

 

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Thanks for looking in.

 

Bald Eagles and a Kinglet Celebration

During the last few days while travelling the highways and byways of central Ohio we managed to see three mature Bald Eagles in flight. Perhaps I’m easily amused but, given a childhood growing up in Michigan where I never once saw a Bald Eagle, and the fact that Ohio isn’t usually considered a hotbed for eagle activity, I found this pretty exciting.  Since this was holiday related travel we didn’t have suitable photographic equipment with us. But even if we had, it all happened very quickly so I doubt we would have gotten much of a photograph. One sighting was near Dayton and the other two were just southwest of Wooster.  In neither case were there sizable bodies of water nearby so it’s not clear what the birds were doing.

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Recently while hiking along the Scioto just below Griggs Dam we were greeted by Golden Crowned Kinglets (a winter visitor from points north). The two or three that we saw came very close and seemed oblivious to us as they went about their business. We were enchanted. Due to the rapidity and total unpredictability of their movement, I opted to just enjoy the view. However, my wife, always up for a challenge, decided to try and get a few shots with her Panasonic FZ150 on burst mode. Below are the results.

Golden-Crowned Kinglet 4 better one 112614 Griggs walk south cp1

Golden-crowned Kinglet, study 1, (Donna)

Golden-Crowned Kinglet 8 best one 112614 Griggs walk south cp1

Golden-crowned Kinglet, study 2, (Donna)

Golden-Crowned Kinglet 5 better one 112614 Griggs walk south cp1

Golden-crowned Kinglet, study 3, (Donna)

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During the excitement a Great Blue Heron was watching from a safe distance along the river’s edge.

IMG_4415a

Great Blue Heron, Scioto River

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Later, after spending some time along the river, we investigated the reservoir and found isolated groups of Ruddy Ducks and what appeared to be a lone Green-winged Teal (not a Blue as originally thought, thanks Lou!) and not a particularly common bird on the reservoir.

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Male Ruddy Duck, Griggs Reservoir (A little far away for a decent shot)

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Female Ruddy Duck, Griggs Reservoir

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Green-winged Teal, (it was much smaller than the Mallards nearby), Griggs Reservoir

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All the birds were great to see but the kinglets definitely carried the day.

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Tip: work off that big turkey dinner by taking a walk in nature and don’t forget your binoculars. You’ll be amazed by what you see.

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Thanks for looking in

 

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