Posted on February 21, 2014
While camped at the Koreshan State Historic Site in Florida last week we decided to check out Corkscrew Swamp about a 30 mile drive from the campground. It’s one of the premier natural areas in Florida.
The busy roads and the extent of the commercial and residential development in the southwest corner of Florida take a while to get used to. It feels a little like a sprawling outdoor warehouse for those of us trying to escape the cold northern winters. In many places there appears to have been little regard for any natural aesthetic. However, in it’s defense, the area is no different than any other location in the US facing rapid population growth.
So when we arrived at the huge area set aside and know as Corkscrew Swamp we were pleasantly surprised by the natural beauty. Access to the area is limited to a roughly two mile long boardwalk but there’s still lots to see. Unique to the swamp are the 500 year old Bald Cypress Trees. The largest virgin stand in the world. However, what was really attracting us were the birds. We didn’t see the Painted Bunting we hoped to that day but did see a Purple Gallinule, a rather strange looking bird with big feet related to the American Coot.
Below is some of what we saw the day we were there:
Posted on January 29, 2014
It’s been very cold the last few days. As I write this, the thermometer is hovering around zero. Having lived many years north of here in Michigan, I don’t think of zero degrees as being terribly cold but it can be dangerous. Something as simple as a road trip may pose a serious health risk, rather than just an annoyance, if one has a breakdown. I must confess that I’ve been just a little frustrated, while one can dress for the temperature, it’s been too cold to comfortably use a camera outdoors for any length of time. So, for the last few days our outdoor photography has been very limited.
Careful to keep all exposed skin covered, we did go for a short walk yesterday. When it’s colder than @ 15 degrees F we take our small cameras because they can easily be kept warm by placing them under several layers of clothing. A combination of fresh snow, wind, the right humidity, and cold temperatures overnight, resulted in the creation of “snow rollers”. It’s been years since I’ve seen this phenomena so it was very fascinating. They seemed to be just about everywhere a little open space was available, including the frozen surface of the reservoir.
Birds were trying to stay warm in the river below the dam, and were even more huddled together than they had been a few days earlier. Despite the cold, we did manage to see Goldeneyes, Redheads, Hooded Mergansers, and Ring-necks.
Today, the lower temperatures resulted in increased activity around our feeders which allowed a few pics to be taken from the comfort of the living room sofa. The sparrows, cardinals, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and wrens appear to be totally adaptable to temperature as long as they have adequate food. The wrens and sparrows put a smile on my face with their feathers puffed up against the cold. Without realizing it, they will provide cheerfulness for a few more days until the severe cold releases it’s grip.
Posted on January 20, 2014
A Prayer for Other Living Things
Winter struggles to become spring
summer comes easily
as it has for me many times before.
to time spent in wild places
quiet morning walks,
I now, slowly, finally, realize
it’s not only about us
our dreams, desires, and wants.
In the woods,
a sycamore stands
years longer than I
it’s tall white branches
bright against a winter blue sky
speaking in a voice I cannot hear,
it’s quiet beauty
yellow, orange, blue
moves from flower to flower
not asking my permission,
glistening in the sun
a dragonfly passes
as it earns it’s living
flying forward, backward, sideways,
my presence is of no concern,
a thrush in a nearby tree
with an ethereal song
calls for it’s mate
not for me,
along a path beside a pond
a bullfrog croaks
Posted on January 7, 2014
If you were driving the busy road running along the Scioto River and Griggs Reservoir you would never know it’s there. Not unless you were real curious. It’s the area, just below the Griggs Reservoir Dam on the Scioto River, essentially in the middle of Columbus. The installation of a Frisbee golf course along the river in recent years has given the area some legitimacy lacking when a abandoned campground occupied the area. Then, only occasional dog walker or late night carp and cat fishermen frequented the place. Judging from what was typically left behind, the fishermen may have been more interested in just having a good time.
The below link shows the area:
So moving forward to today what makes this place so special?
To start, it’s only about a three mile walk from our house which is located on a typical rectangular block in this mid-sized mid-western city. A lovely neighborhood in which to live but hardly providing a back to nature experience. Just three miles away this special place takes us into a different world where plants and wildlife are seen that would never show up in our back yard. Sycamores tower over the landscape once home to numerous Ash trees. Beech and Burr Oak are also present. Just over the low lying spring wildflowers invasive Honey Suckle predominates but Willows are seen along the river and are a favorite of the Prothonotary Warbler. A first time visitor will not be in awe of this place. It takes time, walking slowly, looking closely, listening carefully, and after a few visits the flower will unfold.
In the very early spring in the woods near the river wildflowers appear before the canopy leafs out. Some appear so early there may still be snow on the ground. They are in a race against time. Once the canopy leafs out their sunlight is gone.
As spring progresses it’s time for the migrating warblers to come through. Not all keep going, some including the Northern Parula and Protonotary nest in the woods and brush along the river. Not long after we start noticing the warblers the Baltimore Orioles show up.
In the spring, if the river isn’t running too high and is reasonably clear, small mouth bass can be taken on fly rods or light spinning gear. When a beautiful three pound small mouth breaks the surface it’s hard to believe you’re still within the city limits.
In summer, nesting Prothonotary Warblers and Orioles are still around and sometimes amazingly easy to see and photograph. In addition Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Egrets, King Birds, Spotted Sandpipers, Phoebes and Pewees as well as Osprey are just some of the other birds that may be seen. Deer may appear on the opposite shore while Turkey Vultures soar overhead. Dragonflies also are seen patrolling the surface of the river.
In the fall warblers again appear as they migrate south and Double Crested Cormorants become more common. In the fall, as water temperature cool, it’s again a great time to fish for small mouth bass. Along the river, cool crisp days, clear water, and colors along the shore beckon thoughts of northern Michigan rather that central Ohio.
In the winter, with the reservoir frozen over, the river below the dam acts to concentrate waterfowl and other wildlife. Birds from further north such a Dark-eyed Juncos and Golden-crowned Kinglets take up residence. Blue Birds, Downy, Hairy and Red-bellied woodpeckers become easier to see. An occasional Bald Eagle flies over the open water of the river taking advantage of what lies below.
As lovely as this place is, it does have it’s challenges. Litter continues to be a problem both from people using the area and from storm sewers flowing into the reservoir and river. Discarded plastic bags, bottles, cans, tires and assorted junk end up in the river, shoreline, and park. Fortunately a number of locals, including fishermen, walkers, and nature lovers are starting to make it a practice of picking up the stuff when they see it. Everyone doing a little goes a long way.
So this special place continues to provide at unique location within the city where, any time of the year, something new can be seen and nature enjoyed.
Category: Birding in Ohio, Central Ohio Nature, Central Ohio Parks, Columbus, fishing in central ohio, Hoover Park, Ohio Nature, photography, Scioto River Tagged: Central Ohio Parks, Hoover Park, Nature in Columbus, Ohio nature, photography, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Scioto River, Small Mouth Bass, Spring Wildflowers, sycamores
Posted on January 4, 2014
Just a few days ago it was above freezing and while out walking we met a fella fishing below the dam on Griggs Reservoir. Today, after about 5 inches of fresh snow, we woke up with temperatures hovering around zero degrees Fahrenheit. We decided to spend the morning making arrangements for a birding trip to Florida.
After that task was out of the way, it seemed like a walk might be in order even though it had only warmed to around 10 degrees. We bundled up and headed out feeling a little better about the adventure because the strong winds of yesterday were gone.
I’ve always been fastened by the patterns and designs that wind makes in sand and, while not an incredibly original idea, thought it might be interesting to see what the wind had done to the recent snow. We also wondered what unusual natural phenomena may have resulted from the very cold temperatures. Also, what other types of pictures would be available given the low angle of the sun and the resultant high contrast.
So below are the results of our photo experiments:
Thanks for stopping by.
Posted on January 2, 2014
Our canoe moves quietly along the shore.
Sensing our approach
from a bare branched tree
and then another
always just ahead.
Something is seen and just as quickly
breaking the water’s surface
disappearing into another world.
Quickly reemerging with a fish
it flies from the surface as if water and air are one
stopping to rest on a branch.
For a moment, paddling closer, we are ignored.
as if destined to always be just ahead
off it flies
to another bare branched tree.
Posted on December 27, 2013
It was the morning of the day after Christmas and seemed like a good time to go for a long walk as a way of atoning for the sins of the last few days. Being a rather windy blustery day we didn’t anticipate seeing many birds so we decided to keep the equipment light.
We walked for some distance along the Griggs Reservoir and, not seeing many birds, were kept busy picking up bottles and cans deposited along the shore by high water caused from recent heavy rains. Continuing to an area along the river below the dam, debris was clinging to trees indicating that the water level had been much higher during the previous two days. The water was still running high, swift and muddy.
We noticed a solitary fisherman, and given the time of year and conditions, couldn’t help but think he was wasting his time. But to our surprise, he motioned us over, and low and behold, he’d caught a nice small mouth bass. It’s appearance was ghost like compared to the summer but it was a small mouth and we were amazed. It was released it soon after the picture.
The small mouth seemed to be an omen of things to come because not long after we took the picture of TJ with his bass, a flock of about 30 Blue Birds flew overhead and we then started seeing Downy Woodpeckers, some Golden-crowned Kinglets and even a White-throated Sparrow hiding in the brush near the river.
The walk definitely exceeded expectations and I’m now thinking there may be room for another piece of pie.
You can find a rich experience close to home.
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