A Spring Paddle

At a graceful 17 feet long our Sawyer Cruiser canoe left the east shore of Griggs Reservoir just above Fishinger Road like a racehorse wanting to run even though it had been several months since we wet the paddles 1000 miles south in Florida. The plan was to follow the sunlit west shore north as far as we were inclined to see what migrating birds and other wildlife we might find. The choice of the Sawyer was dictated by the trip back to our launch site which would put an increasing wind in our face. None of our other canoes does “wind in the face” better than the Sawyer.

The plus side of looking for birds from a boat is that you have a continuous wall of trees and bushes of various sizes at water’s edge in which you might find them. The disadvantage is that the action of wind and waves must be dealt with in an effort to keep the canoe in position long enough to observe or in our case also photograph a small bird flitting about. Almost all of one’s creative paddle strokes are required. So, as with most of our birding by canoe outings, I handle the boat while my wife has all the pressure of trying to get a good picture.

Black-throated Green, (Donna).
White-eyed Vireo, (Donna).
Donna takes aim.
Painted Turtles, (Donna).
Yellow Warbler, (Donna).
Another view, (Donna).
Great Egret flies overhead, (Donna).
Our first Green Heron of the year, (Donna).
The Barn Swallows nest in the boat enclosures, (Donna).
Pie-billed Grebe, (Donna).
One of a number of Great Blue Herons seen, (Donna).
Take off, (Donna).
Pull out at Hayden Run, our northern terminus.
Male Wood Duck, (Donna).
Female Wood Duck, (Donna).
White-throated Sparrow, (Donna).
Hayden Run

Our first paddle of the year in Ohio had been a little over five miles, half of which was into a sometimes brisk wind. We felt good as we hauled the boat out, but we were glad we hadn’t decided to go further. The several hours spent had been a wonderful blend of appreciating nature coupled with the satisfaction of knowing it had all been accomplished under our own power. Our whole self had been engaged in the adventure.

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Wonder Close To Home

We do a fair amount of exploring of natural areas farther afield. Recently an unexpected development brought us back to Ohio from warm and sunny Florida a month ahead of schedule. Burr!!! Our trip south each winter is a real treat as we spend almost all of our time outdoors, hiking, canoeing, and photographing critters we see.

Tricolored Heron, Myakka River SP, Florida

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A couple of days after our arrival back in Ohio realizing that the frozen reservoir near our home might mean that waterfowl would be concentrated in the unfrozen river below the dam, we decided to check it out.

A male Wood Duck shares a log with a female Hooded Merganser
A Pied-billed Grebe blends in with female Hooded Mergansers
There were a fair number of Ring-necked and even a few Redhead Ducks, (Donna)
Male and female Goldeneye Ducks, (Donna)
Takeoff! (Donna)
A male Hooded Merganser isn’t interested in sharing.
Female and male Hooded Mergansers
Fishing success!
Perhaps the real surprise of our spur of the moment outing was seeing this male American Wigeon.

Seeing waterfowl so close to home that spend much of the year in locations further north and because of that are usually not seen in our “backyard” was a real treat. Our spirits were elevated after the disappointment of Florida. Setting aside our love of sunshine and warm temperatures, we were reminded that “other places” aren’t the only place to witness the wonder of nature and that there is magic right under our nose. Our local Ohio haunts once again made more precious.

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Journeying On Through Florida

After leaving Lake Kissimmee State Park we headed north, ran the Orlando metro area traffic gauntlet, and arrived at Blue Springs State Park which was a new park for us. After spending a week there we would take relatively quiet back roads further north to Mike Roess State Park. The two parks couldn’t be more different. Blue Springs is a heavily used “day use” park with a small campground near Orlando while the larger Mike Roess SP was quiet and lightly used during our stay. Part of the popularity of Blue Springs can be attributed to the Manatees that inhabit the springs during the winter months and which had started to leave while we were there due to warmer weather. When one ventured away from the campground after mid-morning parking lots were pretty much full and there were always more than enough people in the park’s general use areas. However, once on the water paddling into a secluded creek or cove things changed dramatically and the area felt like wilderness.

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The big find while hiking the parks limited trails was the endangered Scrub Jay which is a bird we’ve been in search of for some time without success. Habitat destruction appears to be the main reason for its decline.

Scrub Jay.

Another look.

Yellow Star Grass occurred periodically along the trail in single blossoms.

This Eastern Towhee was seen in the same scrub habitat as the jay, (Donna).

This Pileated Woodpecker was also seen along the trail as we searched for the Scrub Jays, (Donna).

Spiderwort.

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St Johns River near Blue Springs SP.

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The extensive wildlife seen while canoeing was the big draw at Blue Springs SP. Our favorite paddle was the eleven mile loop that incorporated Snake Creek. The creek is a true celebration of the richness and beauty of nature.

A small alligator checks us out, (Donna).

An immature Black Crowned Night Heron along Snake Creek, (Donna).

A Great Egret watches as we pass by.

St Johns River.

Florida Cooters,  (Donna).

Wood Stork, (Donna).

Black Crowned Night Heron along the St Johns River.

Little Blue Heron in the thick of it.

Snake Creek provided an intimate paddling experience.

Purple Gallinule eating flower petals, St Johns River.

While paddling Snake Creek we came upon this mating pair at Turkeys. The male seemed not to be bothered by our presence.

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Cypress

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A Tree frog at water’s edge, (Donna)

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St Johns River.

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American Bittern along the St Johns River.

Osprey with fish.

Little Blue Heron preening.

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Although they are common, Anhingas always catch our eye.

Male Anhinga dries it’s feathers along the St Johns River.

Preening.

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St Johns river landscape.

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A Snowy Egret shows off its yellow feet, (Donna).

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Unlike Blue Springs which provided excellent opportunities to observe wildlife from the water, hiking was the best way to do so at Mike Roess SP. A plus was that there were no crowed parking lots or large numbers of people to negotiate when one left the campground. There were areas to explore around the park’s several small lakes and along one fairly long designated hiking trail. We enjoyed the park’s quiet subtle beauty.

Mike Roess SP landscape.

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Walking the shoreline of the parks small lakes was an excellent way to see insects. Some of the dragonflies and damselflies seen were new to us.

Vesper Bluet Damselfly, (Donna).

The Variable Dancer Damselfly is one we haven’t seen further north in Ohio.

Carolina Saddlebags, (Donna).

Female Faded Pennant, (Donna).

Male Faded Pennant.

Slaty Skimmer, (Donna).

The Stripe-winged Baskettail is another dragonfly we’ve not seen further north in Ohio.

The Blue Corporal often perches on the ground, (adult male).

The Buckeye is usually seen in late summer in Ohio.

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Pond reflection.

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In addition to the insects there were birds to enjoy:

Hermit Thrush.

A Hooded Merganser and a Wood Duck pose.

There was a sizable population of Ring-necked Ducks on the small park lakes.

A closer look.

Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Pied Billed Grebes

A White Eyed Vireo announces its presence.

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Shoreline grass.

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As well as other things:

Cricket Frog at waters edge, (Donna).

Unfortunately these lovely but uncommon little flowers that liked the park’s sandy soil remain unidentified.

A Fence Lizard shows it’s underside, (Donna).

Lichen on fallen branch.

A Gopher Tortoise enjoys some grass, (Donna).

Trees.

Pinebarren Frostweed.

A Five Lined Skink shows its beautiful tail, (Donna)

A Long Leaf Pine just starting out.

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Leaving Mike Roess we’d completed six weeks of exploring nature in Florida. As we looked forward to spending time at Paynes Prairie Preserve and Black River SP before heading north to early spring in Ohio we couldn’t help but feel incredibly blessed.

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Lily Pads

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Thanks for stopping by.

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