Exploring The Coves Of Alum Creek Reservoir By Canoe

It promised to be another hot day, but with the sun just rising when we launched it was still pleasant, giving only a hint of the heat to come.

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Alum Creek Reservoir at Cheshire Rd.

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Considering the forecast our goal was to be off the water by noon. The wind hardly rippled the water’s surface as quiet paddle strokes moved the canoe toward an area of Alum Creek Reservoir that we hadn’t explored in a while. Two days earlier during an early morning fishing trip I had surprised a Bald Eagle in a tall tree at waters edge. Now with my wife along to handle photography from the bow, I was hoping we would see, and perhaps photograph, some equally interesting things as we explored the coves along our route. For those new to this blog, we love to paddle and to eliminate the need to shuttle cars we usually paddle reservoirs, the more convoluted the better, to maximize time in the canoe.

No matter how one feels about damming up rivers to create reservoirs, in the case of Alum Creek Reservoir it did result a wonderful place to explore containing a rich variety of wildlife. Unlike the often cottage lined predictable shorelines of spring fed glacial lakes in northern states like Michigan, the many small ravines that followed slopes down to the creek resulting in an almost endless number of coves to explore with the coming of the reservoir. In addition, because the reservoir is surrounded by parkland there are virtually no buildings or homes along it’s shore.

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Alum Creek Reservoir Paddling Route

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With rainfall this year about six inches above normal giving rise to higher water levels, the lush shoreline vegetation reached right down to waters edge and at times gave the feeling of paddling through a jungle.

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Beautiful reflections as the reservoir narrows into a creek, (Donna).

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As nature photographers know, what one sees and what one has a chance to photograph are seldom the same. Particularly when in a canoe which has it’s own stability, speed, and mobility constraints. It turns out that at the very north end of our route we saw a Yellow-crowned Night Heron. The first one we’ve ever seen in Ohio. A little later a pair of very wary Great Horned Owls were seen. The surprised heron spotted us just as we rounded a tight bend in what had become a narrow snag infested creek.  It flew before we could react. The outcome was similar for the owls. They were perched high in a tree canopy partially obscured by low lying brush and saw us coming despite our best efforts, moving a little further away each time we tried to get closer.

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But there are always other things to marvel at.

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A male Eastern Amberwing perches right near the canoe as we wait quietly in a secluded cove, (Donna).

 

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A Slaty Skimmer enjoys the morning sun, (Donna).

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As we paddled along the shore we were often overwhelmed by the aroma of wild roses.

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Donna looks for the best composition.

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Bingo!

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I try my hand.

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Water loving Lazard’s Tail at waters edge, (Donna).

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Entering some coves small, noisy, and mostly invisible birds were everywhere.

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Donna points to what turns out to be a White-breasted Nuthatch.

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Along one stretch of open rocky shore a group of sandpipers, always just a little ahead of us, hurried as we approached.

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Spotted Sandpiper, (Donna).

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Immature Spotted Sandpiper, (Donna).

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On this particular day the turtles were a little more cooperative than the birds.

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Map Turtle, (Donna).

 

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Eastern Spiny Softshell, (Donna).

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If you travel north to Michigan with it’s colder clearer lakes and streams you typically don’t see as many egrets and herons but in Ohio they are very common. I could be wrong but I’ve often thought it’s because the rough fish (catfish, suckers, carp, shad, etc.) that call Ohio’s often turbid waters home are just easier to catch.

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A Great Egret gets ready to strike   .   .   .   .

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and very quickly does!

 

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To no avail.

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It heads back to it’s perch .   .   .

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to regain it’s composure and try again.

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Along the shore a Great Egret and a Great Blue Heron seem to be getting along just fine, (Donna).

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Sometimes it’s luck, sometimes persistence, and yes it’s true knowledge and skill do come into play, but if you hike a trail or paddle a lake often enough you will see new and fascinating things.

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In the woods or by a meadow, stream, or lake on any given day, even if  nothing new is seen, you will at least return having allowed yourself to be there for a time, in the still freshness of the early morning with the call of the Wood Thrush, or later to the sound of  wind as it dances with leaves, breathing air with a hint of wild rose. 

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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 at times 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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A Quiet Walk In The Park

It was a quiet morning at Griggs Reservoir Park with little wind and an overcast sky that threatened rain making it almost too dark for pictures. The kind of day one pretty much has the whole park to themself. My pessimism about what would be seen, much less photographed, was reflected in my selection of cameras as I contented myself just with a Panasonic FZ200 superzoom accompanied by a pair of binos, my wife expressed her optimism by taking a bird camera.

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Rain and the resultant higher water levels meant that in many areas Water Willow graced the reservoir shoreline.

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With the absence of traffic both in the park and on the reservoir, normally wary and prone to flight Great Blue Herons were content to stay on shoreline perches as we walked by. Other birds also seemed less prone to flight as we got close.

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An immature Male Hooded Merganser is spotted with a group of Mallard Ducks, (Donna).

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By a rain puddle a Barn Swallow strikes a contemplative pose, (Donna).

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A Robin with a mouthful of earthworm and mulberry, (Donna).

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Even with the dullness of the morning the unmistakable fire orange of a noisy Baltimore Oriole caught our eye as it streaked by on it way to a nearby tree. Taking a closer look through dense leaf cover revealed an almost completely hidden nest. Suspended by next winter’s bare branches what remained would be easy to spot.

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Male Baltimore Oriole

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Take 2.

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Take 3.

My wife looked ever closer in an effort to see a “new to her” insect or spider. Life that most of us walk right by.

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White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillar, (Donna).

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Katydid, (Donna).

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Female Amber Wing Dragonfly

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Through the leaves a lone Painted Turtle is spotted. Not a good day to sun oneself on a log.

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Very small mushrooms caught my eye while a millipede remained unnoticed until a review of the pic. 

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A very small and young Gray Tree Frog tries to remain unnoticed, (Donna).

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Seemingly unabated, wildflowers continue their march through the year. Those that greeted us just a few weeks ago are gone but new ones have taken their place. On a sunny day they speak in a bright and joyful voice so it seems counterintuitive that the best time to photograph them is usually on overcast days. No blown out highlights, deep shadow values, and more saturated colors.

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Horse Nettle is a good plant just to look at but not to touch.

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Canada Thistle is a pesky weed for Ohio farmers.

As if playing “King of The Mountain” the vine and flower of the Morning Glory take advantage of an accommodating Moth Mullein.

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Black-eyed Susan’s spread their cheer. 

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Not the most common of our native wildflower standing forlorn at waters edge is what remined of a fairly large display of Butterfly Weed, someone had picked the rest.

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Daisy Fleabane.

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Thimbleweed.

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Tall Meadow-rue.

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White Moth Mullein.

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Canada Anemone.

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Reservoir landscape.

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It never did rain and as our longer than expected time in the park came to a close so did the time for taking a “closer look” and for reflection. As is often the case when in nature we left much richer than when we came.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Perhaps I should stick with photography!

 

Late May At Cedar Bog, a Celebration of Biodiversity

It was not an ideal day for a nature outing with the temperature forecast to reach 90 F with matching humidity. However, after three days of suffering with what appeared to be a case of food poisoning and feeling restless, I convinced my wife I was feeling well enough to take a trip to Cedar Bog Nature Preserve a pleasant back roads country drive from Columbus just a few miles south of Urbana off route 68.

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It’s one of Ohio’s unique natural areas and given the timing of our trip there was a good possibility of seeing a showy lady’s slipper. It’s a flower that’s much more common in states north but is also seen in a few Ohio locations. By itself the flower might not have been enough to justify the drive but we were also enticed by the preserve’s biodiversity and the fact that it was home to other rare things such as the endangered spotted turtle. The bog (not really a bog), is said to be the largest and best example of a boreal and prairie fen complex in Ohio. Walking slowly and looking intently no spotted turtles were seen the day of our visit but other things made up for it.

A small stream flows through the fen. In fact the whole fen is really flowing.

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Upon entering the preserve we were immediately greeted by a indigo bunting singing from what seemed like the highest branch in the tallest tree.

Indigo Bunting

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Amazingly, while others were seen throughout the preserve, we didn’t have to travel far to come across our first showy lady’s slipper.

Capturing the fen’s unique beauty.

Showy Lady’s Slippers

A closer look, (Donna).

Not fully emerged.

Blue Flag Iris were also present. Unlike yellow irises they are native.

Sometimes leaves, in this case those of a young tulip tree, are as fascinating as any flower.

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Not to be outdone by the flowers a little further along a large dragonfly performed it’s aerial display before finally posing for a picture.

Brown Spiketail, (Donna).

 

Another view.

Others were also seen.

Painted Skimmer

Another view, (Donna).

Female Common Whitetail

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Where there are dragonflies there are usually damselflies.

Mating Eastern Red Damselflies, (Donna).

Female Ebony Jewelwing

Male Ebony Jewelwing

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During our admittedly short visit only one species of butterfly cooperated for the camera.

Silvery Checkerspot

Another view, (Donna).

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Usually we find ourselves drawn to butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies but when looking for them it’s hard not to notice and appreciate other insects.

Golden-backed Snipe Fly

Crane Fly

Flowers were particularly fragrant which wasn’t lost on this hover fly.

Daddy Longlegs

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle, (Donna).

Mating bee-like robber flies.

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The preserve is also known to be home to a population of mississauga rattlesnakes and while none were seen we did see a northern water snake as well as the broad headed skink which we have not seen elsewhere in Ohio.

Northern Water Snake

Broad Headed Skink

Another view.

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Considering the wet environment and amount of fallen trees it was somewhat surprising that only one type of rather plain fungi was spotted.

An unidentified fungi.

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As if it had been inspired by the indigo bunting, a common yellowthroat made it’s presence known just as we were about to leave the preserve reminding us not to wait so long before our next visit.

Common Yellowthroat

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When we visit islands of unique diversity like Cedar Bog it’s hard not get swept up by the thought of what Ohio was like before Europeans settled the area and, with the aid of the industrial revolution, transformed much of the land into a monoculture of corn, soybeans, or wheat.

Now, when diving through rural Ohio on a late spring day the landscape seems permanent, natural, and right, and painted with the new green of crops and freshly leaved trees often beautiful to our 21st century eyes. However, a very short 250 years ago it would have looked very different and been home to many more diverse living things. Just as we, with first hand knowledge of what was there before, may morn the loss of a farmers field to a new strip mall or housing development such things become legitimate, right, unquestioned with the passing of time once the land has been transformed. The march towards less and fragmented islands of biodiversity continues.

It is true that change is inevitable but how much biodiversity do we and other living things need to thrive ten years from now, one hundred, how about in one thousand years when our sun will still be warming the planet much as it does today? Cedar Bog both delights and challenges us with it’s beauty and it’s questions.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Then One Morning They Were There

Just a few days ago, during a spring migration walk along Griggs Reservoir, it was quiet. Sure there were a noticeable number of Yellow-rumps, one or two Yellow-throated were heard so high in the Sycamores that they threatened to go into earth orbit, and even some Palms were flitting about with tails bobbing, but most of the kinglets had moved on with nothing else within easy binocular reach taking their place. An unwelcome reminder that spring migration can be that way, one day the land of plenty the next not so much.

Yellow-throated Warbler (trust me) high in a Sycamore.

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Over the past few years we’ve enjoyed monitoring a few locations close to home. While we do go further afield we’ve noticed that for us by concentrating on a few locations, the place, as will as the creatures that call it home, seemed to be valued more. We acknowledge that by not hopping in the car in response to an E-bird post there are birds that will not see. With that in mind, the next day we found ourselves back at Griggs Reservoir Park to see if things had changed. Amazingly, as if by magic, brightly colored orange birds that were no where to be seen the day before were now streaking through the air to perches high in trees or low in bushes, they seemed to be everywhere. The park was transformed. Did they arrive quietly during the night on the “red eye”? Your guess is as good as ours. Many were undoubtedly just passing through while others, based on observations from years past, will make the park and it’s environs home for the summer decorating the trees with their hanging nests. As you have probably already guessed these brightly colored birds were Baltimore Orioles.

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Male Baltimore Oriole, Griggs Reservoir Park.

2, (Donna).

3, (Donna).

4, (Donna).

5, (Donna).

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A female sneaks in.

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Even with the arrival of the orioles, other birds including some that are migrants continued to compete for our attention.

A White-breasted Nuthatch strikes a classic nuthatch pose.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker is seen snacking on ants

.   .   .  while another is engaged in a little home construction.

A very vocal Catbird announces his arrival from points south

.   .   .   while another looks on, (Donna).

Cliff Swallows, a species that in this case builds their communal grouping of nests under a bridge crossing the reservoir, were in the process of gathering nest building material (mud) resulting in a frenzy of activity around a small puddle not far from their nest site, (Donna).

A House Wren pauses momentarily .   .   .

then continues it’s song, (Donna).

The Cardinal is a beautiful but very common bird in Ohio. We have to remind ourselves not to take it for granted.

A male Bluebird bathed in a sea of green waits for lunch to fly by.

Right now Palm Warblers may be even more common than Yellow-rumps, (Donna).

A Cape May Warbler gets close enough for a photo with my Panasonic FZ200.

Based on the fact that that is where we often saw them, Red-eyed Vireos seemed to really enjoy the Sycamore trees, (Donna).

An almost always vocal Tufted Titmouse entertains us, (Donna).

If you hear a melodic and louder than it should be song, it could be a Tufted Titmouse.

The Spotted Sandpipers are also back in the neighborhood.

From a distance, without the aid of binoculars, we first mistake the movement of a Swainson’s Thrush for that of a robin. Many have been seen in the last few days and most are probably just passing through.

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Donna captures an amazing well camouflaged Brown Creeper

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With the leaves just emerging the orioles were easy to spot but that’s changing fast. In a few days, as green continues to embrace trees and bushes, they will be heard but even with their brilliant color they will be much harder to see. Many will move on with other species taking their place as the march of spring migration continues through central Ohio. We will wait expectantly for our next “new for the year” sighting and there undoubtedly will even be another post to celebrate it. Will it be an American Redstart, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, or something else?

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Until then thanks for stopping by.

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Redbuds in bloom.

 

Kinglet Quest

In central Ohio early April usually brings the seasons first migrating birds but before they really start moving through the area we like to spend time enjoying spring wildflowers. Unlike many of the birds, their world is located on the forest floor and exists before the overhead canopy all to quickly leafs out and cuts off their sunlight. It is a magical time as splashes of color find expression amid the dullness of last years leaf litter.

A Bloodroot flower waits to open, Duranceaux Park.

As pretty as any wildflower Virginia Waterleaf emerges from the leaf litter, Griggs Reservoir Park.

In what almost seems to be an act of defiance, a solitary Bloodroot blooms surrounded by the slowly decaying leaves, Duranceaux Park.

Cold weather has allowed this Snow Trillium to stay around longer than one usually expects, Duranceaux Park.

Just emerging blooms of Dutchmen’s Breeches, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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A few days of warm weather, after a week or two of colder than normal spring temperatures, and things really started to open up.

Spring Beauty, Greenlawn Cemetery.

False Rue Anemone, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Bloodroot in full bloom, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

The very tiny flowers of Common Speedwell, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Cutleaf Toothwart, Highbanks Metro Park, (Donna).

Rue Anemone, Highbanks Metro Park, (Donna).

Toadshade Trillium, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Yellow Trout Lilies “march” across the forest floor, High Banks Metro Park, (Donna).

A closer look, (Donna).

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Often, as we looked for wildflowers, there was activity overhead. A quick glance up indicated that many of the birds were kinglets and they seemed to be everywhere. Armed with that awareness, we dusted off the “bird cameras” and for the next few days made kinglets our primary objective. Often when one decides to look for a specific bird efforts are frustrated, but in this case the kinglets cooperated. “Cooperated” should be qualified by saying that they only do as much as such a hyper active bird can. As many birders know all to well, they’re a challenge to follow with binoculars much less a telephoto equipped camera.

Golden-crowned Kinglet, Duranceaux Park.

Take 2, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Take 3, Duranceaux Park.

 

Take 4, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

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Not seen as often, we had less luck with the Ruby-crowned Kinglets. For the most part they stayed in the low thickets and brush and moved constantly, with fleeting views often partially obscured by small branches.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Showing off it’s ruby crown.

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Where there are kinglets there are often .   .   .

Carolina Chickadee, common but not always easy to photograph, Duranceaux Park.

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While the activity continued below, high overhead a Red-tailed Hawk surveyed it’s realm.

Red-tailed Hawk, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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On one outing a group of Black Vultures was seen perched in a Sycamore along the shore of the reservoir. Not a real common sight in central Ohio. Closer examination of the nearby area revealed the partially devoured carcass of a deer.

Black Vultures, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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We don’t want to forget some of the other birds seen as we looked for kinglets.

No bird’s song speaks to us in the spring like that of the the Song Sparrow, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Yellow-rumped Warblers are often taken for granted as they are one of the most numerous of their kind but the beauty of this male is undeniable, Greenlawn Cemetery,

Momentarily fooling us into thinking it was a Goldfinch, this Pine Warbler was seen at Greenlawn Cemetery.

Later in the year as low lying bushes leaf out the Eastern Towhee, a large colorful sparrow, will be much harder to see, Greenlawn Cemetery.

White-breasted Nuthatch, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Bluebirds never fail to put a smile on our face, Griggs Reservoir Park.

With fast departing remnants of a spring snow an American Goldfinch warms itself in the morning sun, Griggs Reservoir Park. surrounded by

Always a thrill to see, we were entertained by this acrobatic Black and White Warbler, Greenlawn Cemetery, (Donna).

If I were a first time visitor to Ohio from Europe, I would be enchanted by this American Cardinal, Griggs Reservoir Park.

On a cold spring morning we wonder what this Eastern Phoebe finds to eat, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

A very healthy looking male House Finch, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

This Wood Duck pair  landed in “the pit” at Greenlawn Cemetery but left just as quickly when they realized they were being watched by a rather large group of birders, (Donna).

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As the ephemeral days of spring pass there will be other wildflowers and winged migrants to enchant, but for a brief moment in time, while on their yearly journey north, kinglets became the seasons exclamation point.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

My Florida Photo Favorites

It’s been several weeks since our return from Florida. For the last few years we’ve been blessed to travel to various state parks exploring nature and the area’s natural beauty. I’ve chosen to post a few of my favorite photos from this years trip. A following post will include some of my wife’s favorite photos. Photos are favorites, when they capture the unique beauty of a creature, are of something not seen before, or contribute in some way to the story. Favorites need not always be great photographs.

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The parks visited over a period of eight weeks were: Myakka River State Park, Kissimmee Prairie State Park, Lake Kissimmee State Park, Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park,  Ochlocknee River State Park, and Three Rivers State Park. The idea was to start south and work our way north as the weather warmed going into early spring.

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This year we used bikes for the first time to initially explore trails which we could then hike if they looked promising. This coupled with the use of a canoe allowed us to spend time in a number of different Florida environments. On long hikes or bike rides our “go to” camera was the Panasonic FZ200. In the canoe or on shorter hikes we used DSLRs with telephoto zooms.

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Along the trail, typical of many of the parks visited.

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Myakka River State Park has been a favorite for the past two years primarily because of the potential for nature/bird photography. Paddling can be enjoyable if you and your partner(s) don’t mind being in close proximity to some rather large gators. The distance one can paddle within the park may be limited depending on water conditions and your determination. Hiking is good with some trails traversing more diverse habitat than others.

This Glossy Ibis gives ample reason for the name, Myakka River SP.

A Little Blue Heron strikes a rather exotic pose, Myakka River SP.

These Roseate Spoonbills were taking full advantage of the concentrated but temporary food source caused by a recent hurricane that flooded a substantial portion of the park trapping fish and other edibles in depression pools left as the water receded, Myakka River SP.

Wood Storks and Whistling Ducks seem to get along just fine, Myakka River SP.

A Wood Stork shows off it’s catch, Myakka River SP.

Momentarily startled, birds take a break from the depression pool feeding frenzy, Myakka River SP.

The Whistling Ducks in a better light, Myakka River SP.

Red Shouldered Hawks (FL morph) are very common, Myakka River SP.

This Snowy Egret provides ample proof as to why these birds were almost driven the extinction in the late 1800s and early 1900s all for the sake of fashion, Myakka River SP.

White Pelicans over Myakka River SP. Something that must be witnessed in person as a photograph does not capture their graceful flight.

Florida Tassel Flower, Myakka River SP.

Peaceful coexistence in Myakka River SP. At least until the gator grows up!

If you love gators take the hike (permit required) to the Deep Hole in Myakka River SP. A hiking partners count indicated that there were 151 along the shore and 18 in the water the day we were there.

An Anhinga dries out and in the process makes a beautiful picture, Myakka River SP.

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Kissimmee Prairie State Park was a new park for us this year. The main draw was the chance to see Crested Caracara as well as Burrowing Owls. The trails, while extensive, were often under water. A trail capable bicycle is almost essential if you really want to explore the park. While no Burrowing Owls were seen, a Black-crowned Night Heron rockery as well as other bird species made the stay worthwhile.

Numerous creatures call the park home.

While looking for the Crested Caracara we were delighted to see this Loggerhead Shrike, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Take 2.

Eastern Meadowlarks were quite common in the park. Getting close enough for a really great photo was always a challenge.

A beautiful White-eyed Vireo.

Trail in Kissimmee Prairie SP.

A side by side comparison of a Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Black Swallowtails almost never seem to land but then one afternoon, as I looked at some distant birds, there it was right at my feet..

A Black-crowned Night Heron rookery of perhaps 30 or 40 birds was discovered along one of the trails. They scattered as soon as we got close.

Exploring the trail near the rookery, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

While reconnoitering a new trail we found this Florida banded water snake, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Probably the most interesting bird seen during our stay was the Crested Caracara. Common in SW Texas it’s range is very limited in Florida, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Take 2.

 

Can you find the insect? Kissimmee Prairie SP.

An immature Little Blue Heron casts a lovely reflection, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Sometimes we only saw evidence of wildlife, a Bobcat, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

One wonders how many birds fall prey to alligators, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

A lone sentinel, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

While many miles of hiking trails were advertised not all were suitable for that purpose.

Numerous White Peacock butterflies graced the trail edge as we hiked, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

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Lake Kissimmee State Park is a favorite offering fairly extensive paddling and hiking opportunities. Nature viewing, while not as concentrated an experience as Myakka River, is very good. Campsites are some of the best in Florida. The only downside is airboat noise on the weekend and make no mistake they are load.

There are many lovely trails in the park.

A Tricolored Heron poses as we paddle Tiger Creek, Lake Kissimmee SP

Not many Green Herons are seen in Florida, perhaps due to their excellent camouflage, but his one was spotted along Tiger Creek.

Take 2.

Tiger Creek, Lake Kissimmee SP.

A Snowy Egret along Tiger Creek.

While bicycling on one of the park trails this Eastern Towhee posed for a picture.

Along the lake shore this Red-shouldered Hawk almost eluded the camera’s lens.

One of the most beautiful birds in Florida, the Purple Gallinule seen along the shore of Lake Kissimmee. Supposedly not all that uncommon but we haven’t seen many over the three years we’ve been going to Florida.

A Pine Warbler seems to be checking something out.

Sure enough!

Some distance away, a solitary Bald Eagle watches as we paddle by.

In a quest to get a dramatic picture of this rather large gator we paddled a little too close. It wasn’t happy and neither was my wife!

A Northern Parula Warbler proves difficult to photograph.

Along the trail in Lake Kissimmee SP a rather large Yellow Rat Snake makes itself comfortable in the morning sun.

A closer look.

A Gopher Tortoise ambles along a park road. They can live for almost 60 years and their borrows provide habitat for numerous cretures including Burrowing Owls. Days will go by and we won’t see one and then .   .   .

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Payne’s Prairie Preserve State park was a new park for us this year. With it’s extensive area we hoped to see a variety of wildlife. Of interest is the fact that the park maintains herds of Spanish Horses as well as Bison. Many waterfowl had already departed on their journey north when we were there.

I had been trying for several days to get a good picture of a Northern Parula Warbler as they seemed to be everywhere. Then one morning sitting outside while visiting a local bakery for breakfast one just about landed on my nose, thankfully I had my FZ200.

Blue Winged Teal, Sweetwater Wetlands Park near Payne’s Prairie Preserve SP.

Green Winged Teal???  Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

A mother’s love! Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

Osprey, Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

Palmetto reflections, Payne’s Prairie Preserve SP.

The Spanish horse is considerably smaller than a typical quarter horse. All have the same coat.

A Song Sparrow catches a spider, Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

A very small anole, Payne’s Prairie Preserve SP.

Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

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For a number of years Ochlocknee River SP has been one of our favorite parks due to it’s potential for paddling as will as the close proximity of other areas of interest for the birder and nature lover; Bald Point SP and St Marks NWR. Hiking in the park itself, while not extensive, does provide the opportunity to see the threatened Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

The white morph of the Gray Squirrel comprises a charming part of the park’s welcoming committee.

A small active bird, the Brown Headed Nuthatch is a challenge to photograph.

Oystercatcher, Bald Point SP near Ochlocknee River SP.

Royal Terns, Bald Point SP.

A juvenile Bald Eagle flexes it’s wings, St. Marks NWR.

Brown Pelicans, Bald Point SP.

Least Terns, Bald Point SP.

Taking a break during an eight mile paddle exploring a side creek to the Ochlocknee River, Ochlocknee River SP.

A group of Sanderlings take a great interest in something, Bald Point SP.

A Ruddy Turnstone checks out what’s left of a Horseshoe Crab, Bald Point SP.

This Brown Thrasher was a regular visitor at our campsite.

The Ruddy Turnstone is thinking; “Let someone else do the work and just as they retrieve the morsel, steal it!”

Rain Lilies along the road, Ochlocknee River SP.

Snowy Plover, St Marks NWR.

Marbled Godwit, St Marks NWR. A life bird for us!

Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Ochlocknee River SP.

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Three Rivers SP was a new park for us this year and was selected primarily for it’s paddling potential. The lake was fairly open and much of the shoreline was shallow and weed choked making it less than ideal for paddling. Due to the lakes huge area wildlife was well dispersed making viewing a bit of a challenge. It was an excellent area for butterflies with some good, if not extensive, hiking trails.

Red Buckeye was in bloom at Three Rivers SP.

Taking a break during a long paddle on Lake Seminole, Three Rivers SP.

Immature Common Loon, Three Rivers SP.

A closer look.

Rain Lilies, Three Rivers SP.

Black Swallowtails on Bull Thistle.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Zebra Swallowtail, Three Rivers SP.

Black Swallowtail.

An almost constantly in motion Pipevine Swallowtail

Osprey on nest, Apalachee Wildlife Management Area.

Crimson clover, Apalachee Wildlife Management Area.

Lily pads, Apalachee Wildlife Management Area.

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That’s it for this post. Many other pictures could have been posted but if you made it this far I’m impressed with your forbearance. Looking back on our experience, we’re reminded what an unbelievably beautiful but fragile resource Florida’s natural areas are. As one drives the highways of the state signs of new or proposed development are not uncommon so pressure on limited resources continues.

Sunset, Myakka river SP.

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When I started out taking pictures years ago I was fascinated with light and composition as subjects of interest were photographed. It was rewarding to make the effort to capture what was being experienced when looking at a scene. A big fringe benefit, and true blessing, has been a heightened curiosity about the world around me. What is that bird or bug that was just photographed, what is significant about it, and why does it matter. The world is much bigger now.

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