Enchanted November Woods

A half an hour before, we were standing in a cold wind just below a dam that has created one of central Ohio’s larger reservoirs trying our best to spot, and perhaps photograph, the Black-legged Kittiwake that was reported in the area. A unique opportunity because it’s a gull not usually seen in these parts. We finally did get a very average binocular view of the bird, another one for my “life list”, but in the process managed to journey pretty far down the road to hypothermia. Now we were looking forward to a hike in the woods with the thought that it wouldn’t be windy and the modest exertion might be enough to warm us up.

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Char-Mar Ridge Park, is not far from the dam so it seemed like a good choice. The park is home to numerous species of large trees as well as a pond that usually contains waterfowl. A plus is that next to the pond is a nicely situated observation blind for undetected viewing. This time of the year finds most leaves, a significant portion of which are oak, on the forest floor as the bare branched sentinels, once their home, tower overhead. The lack of leaves on branches promotes a rather barren landscape but made it easy to spot a Pileated woodpecker just minutes into our walk. It insisted on maintaining its position between us and the sun foiling efforts to obtain a really good photo.

Pileated Woodpecker, all photos may be clicked on for a better view.

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Once in the park it was hard not to notice the uniform blanket of leaves. They accentuated the park’s large rocks and fallen trees giving the sense that one was walking through a sculptor garden.

Oak leaves on log.

Large glacial erratic.

Recent rains darkened fallen trees, further contrasting them with the leaves.

Fallen leaves and branches.

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While I was amusing myself with stumps and fallen trees my wife was doing her best to locate fascinating fungi.

A study of leaves, tree bark, and fungi.

Resinous Polypore, (Donna).

A type of spreading fungi, (Donna).

Lichen and jelly fungi, (Donna).

Common Split Gill just starting out, (Donna).

Colorful Turkeytail.

Perhaps young Cinnabar-red Polypore.

Another look, (Donna).

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It was just a short distance to the blind overlooking the pond and despite the fact that the resident Red Headed Woodpecker was not seen the time spent there did not disappoint. A neighborhood of usual suspects was more than happy to entertain us.

White Breasted Nuthatch, (Donna).

Another look.

Male Cardinal.

White-throated sparrow, (Donna).

Another look.

Tufted Titmouse, (Donna).

What are you looking at?

Downy Woodpecker

Take 2.

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There was also activity on the pond.

Male Hooded Merganser.

Male and female Gadwalls

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It is hard not to be enchanted when one finds color suspended in an otherwise drab gray landscape. Most leaves were down but those on the smaller beech trees hang on and even though their color is no match for the brilliant reds of a maple they did their best to supply color.

Color suspended among slender trees.

A closer look.

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Recent rains meant that some areas still contained “ponds” of standing water on and along the path creating a challenge for dry feet but also provided a unique “looking-glass” into the late autumn woods.

November reflection.

November reflection, black and white.

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November reflection 2.

November reflection 2, black and white .

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In the cold November woods there always is more going on than we know. We move too fast and miss much, wishing for warmer days.

Char-Mar Ridge Park.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Birding By Canoe, Alum Creek Reservoir

There may be a few birds that are easier to see from a canoe but for us the real reason for using one is that we enjoy messing around in small boats and it does offer a unique perspective on the landscape. The north end of Alum Creek reservoir in central Ohio is a beautiful place to explore. With an endless number of coves you never know what you’ll discover so there’s always anticipation. On the down side, while using binoculars to observe birds is usually not too difficult, taking acceptable pictures is another story as holding the camera steady while you and everything else is moving is almost impossible. The stronger the breeze the greater the challenge so often when we’re in the canoe my wife becomes the photographer and I handle the boat.

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The following celebrates a recent adventure on the reservoir:

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Exploring a cove.

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We often direct our gaze upward as we follow the shoreline.

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Looking for birds.

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Along the shore a Red-tailed hawk seemed to be tending a nest but no immature birds were seen.

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There was no shortage of Baltimore Orioles.

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Northern Rough-winged Swallow, (Donna)

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Double-crested Cormorants, (Donna).

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While enjoying the birds, out of the corner of our eye we noticed a flowering plant unlike anything we recalled seeing before. So often when we discover a “new to us” plant it turns out to be invasive but that was not the case with this one.

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Close-up photography of a flower is not easy when you are in a canoe.

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Limber Honeysuckle, native to Ohio, very exotic looking.

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Another view, (Donna).

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Looking up isn’t always necessary, down lower a few birds and turtles also cooperated for the camera.

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A Pileated Woodpecker liked something about this log.

 

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How many ducklings can a mother Wood Duck care for?

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A moment later they heading up into the grass, (Donna)

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Small Map Turtle, (Donna)

 

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Spotted Sandpiper along the shore.

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Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle, (Donna).

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There was no shortage of Prothonotary Warblers, (Donna).

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Singing, (Donna).

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These birds are flexible!, (Donna).

 

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Other plants also fascinated.

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Pussytoes, (Donna).

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Shoreline grass, (Donna)

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Corn Salad, (Donna).

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In addition to the birds and fascinating plants my wife spotted this small butterfly.

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Pearl Crescent, (Donna).

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Pearl Crescent from below, (Donna).

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Did I say Alum Creek Reservoir is a beautiful place? It is, but the dark side is that there’s a lot of thrash.

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Just part of the trash we collected during our paddle. The bow and stern areas of the canoe were full.

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But ending on a more upbeat note:

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Cove, Alum Creek Reservoir.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

A Tree Swallow and Some Friends

In the last few days the number of migrating and non-migrating birds seen by us and other birders in central Ohio has been incredible. We are trying to remember back to last year but nothing approaching the last few days comes to mind. Were we  just not paying attention? We’ve visited our usual areas along Griggs Reservoir, but also got over to Hoover Nature Preserve and adjacent areas at the north end of Hoover Reservoir as well as Glenn Echo Ravine in Clintonville. Wherever we went there were birds. Only a few of those seen are documented below either because they were a little too far away, moving around too much, or the light just wasn’t favorable for a picture. For more info on birds in central Ohio along with some wonderful pictures visit Central Ohio Birders Facebook page.

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Some other notable birds seen but not photographed;  Hoover Nature Preserve north end of the lake: a number of Red-headed Woodpeckers, Wood Ducks, Yellow Warblers, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, Hoover Nature Preserve Meadows Area: American Redstarts, Nashville Warbler, Glen Echo Ravine: Great Crested Flycatcher, Black Headed Blue Warbler, Northern Parula Warbler, Black and White Warblers, Baltimore Oriole, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers.

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So here are some of the birds seen.

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Tree Swallow, boardwalk north end of Hoover Reservoir

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Black-throated Green Warbler, Glen Echo Ravine, (Donna)

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Black-throated Green Warbler, Glen Echo Ravine

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Rose Breasted Grosbeak, Hoover Nature Preserve, north end of Hoover Reservoir

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Yellow Warbler, Hoover Nature Preserve north end of Hoover Reservoir, (Donna).

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Great Egrets, meadows area, Hoover Nature Preserve

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Indigo Bunting, Glen Echo Ravine

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In the same tree, Glen Echo Ravine

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Scarlet Tanager, Glen Echo Ravine

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Northern Water thrush, Glenn Echo Ravine, (Donna)

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Baltimore Oriole, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Catbird, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Downy Woodpecker, Kiwanis River Way Park.

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Pileated Woodpecker, Kiwanis River Way Park

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Prothonotary Warbler, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

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If there wasn’t a bird to look at there were other things.

 

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Jack-in-the-pulpit, Glenn Echo Ravine, (Donna).

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Fungi, Hoover Nature Preserve, Meadows Area, (Donna)

Wild Geranium 6 Best 6 close-up 2 050416 Glen Echo cp1

Wild Geranium, Glenn Echo Ravine, (Donna).

Pearl Crescent 1 best 1 050316 Hoover 3 cp1

Pearl Crescent, Hoover Nature Preserve meadows area, (Donna).

 

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Mayapple, Glenn Echo Ravine.

Yellow Flowers with water backgrd 1 050416 Glen Echo cp1

Marsh Marigold, Glen Echo Ravine, (Donna).

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New leaves, Hoover Nature Preserve, Meadows Area.

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In the back of our minds we know that one day not too far in the future the spring celebration will be over. It’s a good time to be in the moment.

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Wetland landscape, Hoover Nature Preserve, Meadows Area.

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Wetland landscape, Hoover Nature Preserve, Meadows Area.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Bird Mural, Glen Echo Ravine

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XXX

Birds of Florida on Foot and by Canoe

Our recent six weeks of hiking and paddling in Florida resulted in a lot of photographs.

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The pictures below provide a record of some of the birds seen. While lovely in their right, we are left with the feeling that they don’t come close to conveying the overall sense of wonder experienced as we explored the trails and waterways of Florida. Equipped with the knowledge that places visited were home to many fascinating living things, the wonder was with us even when we didn’t see a plant, bird or other animal that begged to be photographed. We returned home with the feeling that just being in such places had been more than enough.

(click on images for a better view)

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Yellow-crowned Night Heron, from the canoe, Estero River, (Donna)

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Palm Warbler, Ochlockonee River State Park

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Ruddy Turnstones, Bald Point State Park

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Sanderlings, Bald Point State Park

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Royal Tern, near Ochlockonee State Park

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Bald Eagle, St Marks NWR.

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Brown-headed Nuthatch, Ochlockonee River State Park

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White-eyed Vireo, Manatee Springs State Park

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Red-shouldered Hawk, Manatee Springs State Park

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Blue-headed Vireo, Manatee Springs State Park

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Carolina Wren, Manatee Springs State Park

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Yellow-rumped Warbler, Manatee Springs State Park

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Northern Parula Warbler, Manatee Springs State Park

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Cat Bird, Shady Acres RV Park.

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Black and White Warbler, Manatee Springs State Park

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Black Vultures, Manatee Springs State Park

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Swallow-tailed Kite, Shady Acres RV Park

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Little Blue Heron, Ding Darling NWR.

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White Pelicans, Ding Darling NWR.

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Immature Yellow-crowned Nigh Heron, Ding Darling NWR.

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Little Blue Heron, Six Mile Cypress Slough

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Blue-headed Vireo, Manatee Springs State Park

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Black and Turkey Vultures over the Suwanee River and Manatee Springs State Park. Moments before these birds were all perched in trees around the spring, Then, as if on queue, they all took flight.

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Mockingbird, St Marks NWR.

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White Pelicans, St Marks NWR.

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Pied Billed Grebes, St Marks NWR.

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American Wigeons, St Marks NWR.

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Brown Pelican with Kingfisher, St Marks NWR.

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Red-cockaded woodpecker , Ochlockonee River State Park., These birds are threatened in much of their range due to loss of habitat.

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Palm Warbler, Ochlockonee State Park.

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Brown Pelican, St Marks NWR.

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Horned Grebe, St Marks NWR.

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Eastern Phoebe, St Marks NWR.

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Palm Warbler, Ochlockonee River NWR.

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Tri-color Heron, from the canoe, Wakulla River

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Hermit Thrush, Ochlockonee River State River.

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Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Ochlockonee River State Park

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Eastern Towhee, Ochlockonee River State Park

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Pine Warbler, Ochlockonee River State Park,

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Black-bellied Plover and Dunlins, Bald Point State Park

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Great Egret, (Donna). We spotted this bird as we were making our way down the Wakulla River with the current, an outgoing tide, and a fairly strong wind at our back. Managed to get the canoe swung around and slowly headed back upstream while my wife started to shoot. While never our intention the bird soon tired of our interest and flew away. In my opinion it was the best bird pic of the trip.

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Piping Plover, Bald Point State Park. A rare and endangered bird.

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Bald Eagle, Bald Point State Park.

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Laughing Gull, Bald Point State Park

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Cardinal, Manatee Springs State Park

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Black Vulture, Manatee Springs State Park.

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Yellow-throated Warbler, Manatee Springs State Park

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Red-headed Woodpecker, Manatee Springs State Park

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Black Vultures, Manatee Springs State Park

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Tri-color Heron and Brown Pelican, from the canoe, island off Cedar Key.

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Great Egret, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Take 2.

 

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Juvenile Ibis, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Green Heron, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Roseate Spoonbill, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Peleated Woodpeckers, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park.

 

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Osprey, from the canoe, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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American Oystercatcher, from the canoe, Cedar Key

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American Avocets, from the canoe, Cedar Key

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Black Skimmer, from the canoe, Cedar Key

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Least Terns, Cedar Key

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Wood Stork, Six Mile Cyprus Slough, Ft Meyers

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Sandpiper, from the canoe, Lovers Key State Park

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Snowy Egret, from the canoe, Lovers Key State Park.

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Great Crested Flycatcher, Shady Acres RV Park.

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Brown Pelican, from the canoe, Estero River

 

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Ibis, Six Mile Cypress Slough, (Donna).

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Now back in Ohio, we visited one of our favorite spots earlier today. While nuthatches, creepers, and various woodpeckers were present, no Bald Eagles were seen nor did any Scarlet Tanagers show themselves. But we have seen them there before and you never know about tomorrow.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

A Pileated Woodpecker Graces the Subtle Beauty of a December Woods

Being outdoors in central Ohio in December doesn’t exactly snap your head around.  This is usually not a big problem as most of us are busy with the holidays. However, for those who insist on spending time in the woods, this time of year can be a challenge. Recently, a cloudy/foggy, warmer than average, morning greeted us as we started our favorite five mile loop around Highbanks Metro Park. With the exception of the, more than we could count, Gray and Fox Squirrels, the woods were quiet. The few birds that flitted around in nearby trees never stayed in one spot long enough for a picture.

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Still, as we walked, the woods shared a subtle beauty. Perhaps it was what was missing that allowed us to appreciate it. Then again maybe we were just caught up in a little wishful thinking or December optimism, “Perhaps things really are better than they seem on the surface”.

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One of a number of creeks flowing through High Banks Metro Park

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Part of the reason for the hike was that we were hoping to see at least one owl, and there was always the resident pair of bald eagles, surely we would see them. Well, we didn’t see any owls, and apparently just missed the eagles. Perhaps sensing our disappointment, a Pileated Woodpecker was nice enough to make an appearance and tried it’s best to cheer us up.

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Pileated Woodpecker

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The Pileated Woodpecker’s handiwork, 6″H x 3″W x 6″D, by no means the largest seen but impressive nonetheless.

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It worked!

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However, given the landscape, the woodpecker almost seemed out of place. It’s bigger than it should be size, and striking body shape, color and markings, were a real counter point to the early winter woods that it calls home. While seemingly more suited to someplace tropical, not central Ohio in December, we were still thankful for it’s presence, and there’s always next time for the owls and eagles.

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December Landscape, High Banks Metro Park.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

A Pileated Woodpecker Teaches Persistence

It was early afternoon and clouds were finally allowing some flirtation by the sun so we decided to do a hike at Battelle Derby Creek Metro Park. It wasn’t long after we started what was to be a six mile hike that the clouds again closed in and grew heavier through the remainder of the day. Not the most inspiring weather and certainly not the best for many types of photography.

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Big Darby Creek

 

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But we were hopeful because on quiet cloudy days one often see’s wildlife that normally would be in hiding. Today wasn’t going to be such a day as other than at the feeders near the start of our walk, and a few intrepid sparrows along the way, scanning the trees and brush for birds didn’t turn up much.

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House Finch, (Donna)

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White-breasted Nuthatch

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Tufted Titmouse

 

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Despite the lack of feathered friends we were treated to some interesting fungi made easier to spot by the scarcity of leaves this time of the year.

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Parchment Fungi, (Donna)

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Evening Primrose, (Donna)

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Some type of parchment Fungi

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Common Split Gill

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Pale Shield (Foliose) Lichen, (Donna)

Jelly Ear Fungus 2 012515 Battelle Darby cp1

Jelly Ear Fungus, (Donna)

Fluffy Mushroom wavy one 012515 Battelle Darby cp1

Mushroom, (Donna)

 

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.   .   .   but yes I forgot, there were a few Canada Geese along the Dig Darby.

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Canada Geese along the Big Darby

 

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Now finally to the point of this post. Near the end of our walk the wind had picked up, it wasn’t getting any warmer, and I had packed my camera away when my wife, with parking lot and car in view, announced “Pileated Woodpecker!!”. With visions of a comfortable car seat and warmth I left her as she headed off into the woods in an effort to get a shot of the bird in the fading light. A few minutes later she retuned with arms raised in victory.

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Pileated Woodpecker, (Donna)

I don’t suppose there’s any need to discuss the moral of this story.

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PS: Recently I got an interesting shot of a Hooded Merganser with a fish. Not something I’d actually seen before.

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A male and female Hooded Merganser were spotted in Griggs Reservoir.

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. . . but close behind came this guy with a fish in his mouth. “Hey you guys, wait for me!”

 

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Thanks for looking in.

 

Not Exactly a Bald Eagle

Yesterday we visited Highbanks Metro Park in the hope of seeing the Bald Eagles that nest in a Sycamore tree along the Olentangy River. The landscape, without a cover of snow, has become a sepia tone, especially if the skies are gray. Fortunately due to recent rains fungi were making a good showing.  While we didn’t see the eagles, we were treated to sightings of numerous woodpeckers as well as nuthatches, juncos, titmouse, blue jays and chickadees.

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Pileated Woodpecker sightings made up for the absence of the eagles and this one, while not real close, did allow us to take it’s picture.

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Female Pileated Woodpecker, study 1, Highbanks, (Donna)

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Female Pileated Woodpecker, study 2, Highbanks, (Donna)

Pileaded Woodpecker looking up 120114 highbanks cp2

Female Pileated Woodpecker, study 3, Highbanks, (Donna)

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.    .    .    and as mentioned above there were the fungi. Below are a few examples of the fungi seen.

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Turkey Tail Fungi on one of the many fallen trees, Highbanks

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Turkey Tail fungi, Highbanks

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“Fungi flower”, something we’ve never seen before, Highbanks, (Donna)

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Fungi, Highbanks

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Another view of Turkey Tail, Highbanks

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High Banks contains many mature trees creating an interesting picture when one falls.

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Fallen tree, Highbanks

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Finally, while walking in Griggs Park near our home, we continue to monitor the comings and goings of migratory waterfowl on the reservoir.

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Male and Female Rudy Ducks, Griggs Reservoir

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A lone Horned Grebe, (we were amazed to hear this one calling), Griggs Reservoir

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My wife was able to get this interesting lichen fossil composition while I was enamored by the ducks.

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Lichen and Devonian period fossils, limestone rock, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Our wish is that you will have a moment in the next few days to enjoy nature in your neighborhood. Thanks for looking in.

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