Corkscrew Swamp

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.

Corkscrew Swamp

Welcome to Corkscrew Swamp, web pic.

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Corkscrew Swamp Blair Audubon Center, web pic.

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:

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Great Crested Flycatcher, Corkscrew Swamp

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Great Crested Fly Catcher, study 2, Corkscrew Swamp

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Red Shouldered Hawk on nest, Corkscrew Swamp

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White-eyed Vireo, Corkscrew Swamp

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White-eyed Vireo, study 2, Corkscrew Swamp, Donna

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Bald Cypress, Corkscrew Swamp

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Boardwalk, Corkscrew Swamp

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Alligator, Corkscrew Swamp

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Swamp Lilly, Corkscrew Swamp

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Purple Gallinule, Corkscrew Swamp (note the big feet!)

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Purple Gallinule, study 2, Corkscrew Swamp

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Pileated Woodpecker, Corkscrew Swamp

Black and White Warbler, Corkscrew Swamp

Black and White Warbler, Corkscrew Swamp

From The Living Room Sofa

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.

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Snow rollers

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Snow rollers, Griggs Reservoir, study 2

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Snow rollers, Griggs Reservoir, study 3

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Snow rollers, study 4

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.

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Waterfowl in the Scioto River below Griggs Dam, temp about 6 degrees F

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.

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Nuthatch, by Donna

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Song Sparrow

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Carolina Wren

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Cardinal

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Red-bellied Woodpecker, by Donna

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Red-bellied Woodpecker, study 2

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Red-bellied Woodpecker, study 3

A Prayer for Other Living Things

A Prayer for Other Living Things

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Winter struggles to become spring

summer comes easily

then fall

as it has for me many times before.

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Big Darby - Battelle Darby Creek

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Looking back

to time spent in wild places

and

quiet morning walks,

.

Forest trail - Michigan

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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,

.

Sycamore - Griggs Park

.

a butterfly

it’s quiet beauty

of

yellow, orange, blue

moves from flower to flower

not asking my permission,

.

7889086280_05e6f3aef8_o

.

glistening in the sun

a dragonfly passes

as it earns it’s living

flying forward, backward, sideways,

my presence is of no concern,

.

9545874888_a413a0ec91_o

.

a thrush in a nearby tree

with an ethereal song

calls for it’s mate

not for me,

.

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.

along a path beside a pond

I pause

a bullfrog croaks

then splashes.

                                             rsp

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This Special Place

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.

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The below link shows the area:

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So moving forward to today what makes this place so special?

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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.

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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.

Blue Bells

Blue Bells

Dutchmen's Breeches

Dutchman’s Breeches

Marsh Marigold

Not Marsh Marigold as originally stated, (nonnative, invasive lesser celandine)

Toad Shade Trillium

Toad Shade Trillium

Sprg WFs 2011 025

Bloodroot

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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.

Black & White Warbler

Black and White Warbler

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

Prothonotary Warbler Below Griggs Dam

Prothonotary Warbler Below Griggs Dam

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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.

Small Mouth Bass

Smallmouth Bass, not a three pounder!

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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.

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Baltimore Oriole

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Red-tailed Hawk

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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.

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Scioto below the dam

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Fall colors below the dam.

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Scioto, looking north towards the dam.

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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.

Hooded Mergansers

Hooded Mergansers, from a recent post.

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Winter scene below the dam.

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Red-bellied Woodpecker

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Sycamore

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River view looking south.

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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.

Bob almost back

Fishing a truck wheel out of the river.

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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.

Winter Photo Experiments

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:

Blades of grass defy the wind and snow.

Blades of grass defy the wind and snow.

Grass along the reservoir shore.

Grass along the reservoir shore.

Colors

Colors

Hanging on.

Hanging on.

or ice lily pads

Ice lily pads

Ice pancakes?

or ice pancakes?

Sun over the frozen reservoir about 3:00 in the afternoon.

Sun over the frozen reservoir about 3:00 in the afternoon.

Patterns and shadows.

Patterns and shadows.

The reservoir frozen smooth.

The reservoir frozen smooth, Donna.

Unusual ice formations on the reservoir.

Unusual ice formations, Donna.

Pigeons on wires.

Pigeons

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Thanks for stopping by.

Kingfisher

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Kingfisher

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Our canoe moves quietly along the shore.

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Sensing our approach

it flies

from a bare branched tree

and then another

noisily protesting

always just ahead.

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Something is seen and just as quickly

it dives

breaking the water’s surface

disappearing into another world.

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Quickly reemerging with a fish

it flies from the surface as if water and air are one

stopping to rest on a branch.

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For a moment, paddling closer, we are ignored.

.

Then

as if destined to always be just ahead

off it flies

to another bare branched tree.

.

rsp

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Kingfisher, Griggs Reservoir

Kingfisher, Griggs Reservoir

 

After Christmas Kinglets and Smallmouth Bass

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.

Equipment

Equipment taken when we don’t think we’re going to see anything

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.

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Scioto River Small Mouth during the summer

TJ with SM Bass

TJ’s December Scioto River Small Mouth

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.

White-throated Sparrow Hiding

White-throated Sparrow hiding at rivers edge

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet, Donna

The walk definitely exceeded expectations and I’m now thinking there may be room for another piece of pie.

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