Flowers and Flies

Exploring the world of insects is an excellent example of how digital photography has opened a door into a world most folks don’t give much thought to much less appreciate. A passion for bugs may start out innocently enough when one decides to photograph a flower and finds that it’s occupied by many creatures not noticed before. A closer look reveals some to be beautiful and fascinating in their own right and others downright scary. This may prompt one to make an effort to identify the bug just photographed which in turn often leads to an awareness of how much there is yet to learn about this small world. 

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Fortunately it doesn’t take an expensive camera to get a reasonable picture of a insect the size of the common house fly. We’re not talking macro-photography here, where one focuses on the dragonfly’s eye, but instead about a picture that will allow you to identify the insect and be good enough to share on social media. Our favorite of the small sensor “bridge cameras” is the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 or 300. With their fast lens and close focus capability they are a great all round camera for anyone starting out in nature photography. When one moves up from there to larger APS-C sensor DSLR’s you are looking at more money and bulk which may limit their appeal on long hikes. In the world of DSLR’s just about any lens similar to the Canon 18-135 mm will allow you to focus close enough to get a reasonably good shot. Longer lenses such as the Tamron 100-400 mm (more money still) will allow you to focus on subjects that won’t let you get close enough with a shorter lens. With it’s close focus capability perhaps the best all round bird/bug nature camera setup I’ve seen is the micro four thirds Panasonic G7 with the 100-400 mm Panasonic/Leica lens that my wife uses. It employs an excellent but smaller sensor than my Canon APS-C which is part of the reason for it’s admirable close focus performance. That being said I’m sure there are excellent camera setups that I’ve not had experience with.

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Unless stated otherwise the below pictures have all been taken close to home at Griggs Reservoir Park so the adventure doesn’t necessarily mean hours of driving to some exotic location. Almost all insect images have been significantly cropped.

(click on the image for a better view)

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A Bumble Bee enjoys Foxglove Beardtongue.

An nice illustration of the difference in size between a sweat bee and bumble bee, (Donna).

If you think this is an innocent little Bumble Bee you would be wrong in fact it’s a Bumble Bee Mimic Robber Fly no less ferocious than the one below, (Donna).

A more typical looking robber fly a little over an inch long. If you’re a small insect it will be a bad day if you run into one of these, (Donna).

Four lined Plant Bug, (Donna).

Eight-spotted Forester Moth, (Donna).

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Thimbleweed.

Moth Mullein, (Donna).

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A very small but beautiful Long-legged Fly.

It’s a rough world for bugs. A long legged fly falls prey to a robber fly.

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Water Willow at waters edge. Deer are known to browse the leaves and beaver and muskrat will consume the plant rhizomes. The submerged portion is home to many micro and macro invertebrates, (Donna).

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Little Wood Satyr.

Painted Lady, one of the most common butterflies found on every continent accept Antarctica and Australia, their favorite food plant on which to lay their eggs is thistle, they do not overwinter and they can have long migrations up to 9,320 miles long, (Donna)

Hackberry Emperor, a butterfly not usually seen on flowers but on a warm day may land on exposed skin, (Donna).

Question Mark, (Donna).

Red Admiral, (Donna).

Silver-spotted Skipper, one of the larger skippers, (Donna)

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The beautiful flowers of the Milkweed. A very import plant for many insects most notably the Monarch Butterfly.

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Milkweed Beetles, (Donna).

Great Golden Digger Wasp, (Donna).

Perhaps some type of wood wasp, (Donna).

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Black-eyed Susan’s.

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Golden-backed Snipe Fly, they can be found throughout Ohio, and are most often observed resting on low vegetation. They appear in the late spring and early summer, and have been observed mating in late May and early June, although timing likely varies across their range. Little is known about their life cycle.

Small hoverflies on fleabane.

Hoverfly profile.

Two Marked Tree Hopper. Click here to learn more about this fascinating insect.

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Common Mullein.

Northern Catalpa.

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Syrphid Fly Yellowjacket Mimic. The syrphid fly often mimics wasps or bees to gain protection from predators, (Donna).

The Green Bottle Fly is usually observed around less savory food items.

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Black-eyed Susan’s, (Donna).

Depford Pink, (Donna).

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Mating Candy-striped Leafhoppers, (Donna).

Mirid Plant Bug, (Donna).

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Butterfly Weed.

A field of clover.

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A Mayfly falls prey to a jumping spider. Normally slow moving jumping spiders are capable of very agile jumps, when hunting, in response to sudden threats, or to navigate obstacles. They all have four pairs of eyes, with the pair positioned closer together being larger.

Another view, (Donna).

A small moth on Canada Thistle.

If it’s real lucky this Orange Dog caterpillar may become a Giant Swallowtail.

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A field of fleabane.

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A rarely seen Orange Bluet, (Donna).

Female Twelve-spotted Skimmer, (Donna).

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Hairy Wild Petunia.

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It’s hard to believe what’s out there in that small incredible world that goes largely unnoticed by most as we pursue our daily lives. In the hierarchy of human affection warm cuddly animals seem to be at the top with insects being at the other end of the spectrum and usually not considered a welcome intrusion. But as with most things the more you know and understand the more you grow to love.

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A casual glance will not do. To discover wonder and beauty one must look closely with intention.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

Passing Through

In central Ohio it’s not quite autumn but with daylight too quickly losing the battle to the setting sun it would be hard, even on a warm day, to mistake it for summer. Plants, animals, insects, weather, and daylight are all in all in a state of flux. It’s as though we’re passing through on our way to somewhere else, to a place that’s easier to put a label on. It’s hard to bring oneself to the realization that present forms of life are dying but such an awareness is inescapable as one walks through the woods. It is a season of paradox as late summer and fall wildflowers arrive doing their best to announce the autumnal fireworks to follow.

Leaf on stream bed.

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Caterpillars active just a few weeks ago have disappeared in preparation to reintroduce themselves next year in a new perhaps more beautiful form. Highlighted by the early morning dew, spider webs are everywhere often to the detriment of passing grasshoppers which seem more plentiful now. Other insects continue to make their daily rounds without the urgency of the squirrels which all seem to have a nut in their mouth. An occasional migrating warbler is seen making its way south while blue jays and crows are noticed more often just passing through while others have undoubtedly taken up residence for the winter.

Nodding Bur-Marigold.

Tree Swallows, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

A very fresh Monarch, (Donna).

Goldenrod, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

Killdeer, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna).

A slightly tattered Viceroy, (Donna).

A fresher Viceroy.

Morning Glory, (Donna).

Question Mark, (Donna).

A Banded Garden Spider gift wraps it’s prey, (Donna).

New England Aster.

Bay-breasted Warbler, (Donna).

Sunflower

A male Widow Skimmer, an easy to photograph and fairly common dragonfly.

A hint of autumn along Big Darby Creek.

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Unlike summer, with days that change little from one to the next, it’s a time of year that assigns value to what we have and blesses us with a feeling of gratitude for what soon will be lost.

Rain and reflections.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

On The Shoulder of Very Small Giants!

Recently we were thinking about all the birds that nest in Griggs Reservoir Park or in the immediate environs. A list of some of the more interesting ones would go something like this:

White-breasted Nuthatch,

Cardinal, Northern Flicker,

Kingbird,

Red-bellied Woodpecker,

Rose-breasted Grosbeak,

Blue Jay,

Yellow-throated Warbler,

Black-crowned Night Heron,

Northern Parula Warbler,

Protonotary Warbler,

Kingfisher, Wood Duck,

Baltimore Oriole,

Cedar Waxwing,

Mallard Duck,

Great Egret,

Great Blue Heron

.   .   .   ,

well I think you get the idea. It’s amazing that  just a few years ago we were ignorant of much of this. To become more aware has taken time coupled with repeated outings to the park and reservoir. While some visits have been pretty quiet, in general learning about the birds has been a rewarding activity.

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Too further this point, recently we’ve been fortunate to photograph a few of the “youngsters”. The always active Kingbirds have been hard to miss.

Two Kingbird chicks see the parent approaching, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna, pics 1-4).

The parent arrives but apparently with no food.

But the other parent did have something to offer.

Open mouths, hard for a parent to miss!

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While we’ve heard them calling from time to time over the past few weeks, Yellow-throated Warblers have been illusive so the one below was a pretty exciting find!

Juvenile Yellow-throated warbler, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Take 2.

 

Take 3, with an ant.

Take 4.

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Always cute, a few Mallard ducklings were present along the reservoir. Interesting because we’ve seen a stream of ducklings over the last two months indicating there is no fixed time to mate.

Mallard Ducklings, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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While not youngsters, a few other birds also allowed us to take their picture. For those of you that have tried to photograph a Kingfisher you know they don’t usually cooperate so even an average picture is an accomplishment.

Female Kingfisher, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

Blue Jay, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna)

Black-crowned Night Heron, one of two seen as we paddled the reservoir. We haven’t seen as many this year perhaps due to the larger than normal number of Great Egrets.

<<<>>>

As mentioned above the birds have been rewarding but we never imaged we would discover a new snake right within the city limits of Columbus! It was seen while canoeing Griggs Reservoir and was located in a low lying bush overhanging the water. While looking at the one below another one splashed into the water. Needless to say we were very excited by this discovery!

Queen Snake, frequently seen and captured by overturning large flat stones, boards, or other debris along fresh water streams. Some will try to bite which due to their small teeth is not a treat to humans. However, all use their musk glands freely and struggle violently to escape. Although they become gentle with handling, they seldom eat in captivity. (ODNR) Their habitat is very specific, and this snake is never found in areas that lack clean running streams and watersheds with stony and rocky bottoms. The water temperature must be a minimum of 50 °F (10 °C) during it’s active months due to  dietary requirements that consist all most exclusively of newly molted crayfish. (WIKI)

<<<>>>

Summer wildflowers have benefited from the recent rain.

Rain garden, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Tall Blue Lettuce, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Blue Vervain, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Joe Pye Weed, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Lizards Tail and Swamp Milkweed at the north end of Griggs Reservoir.

<<<>>>

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time you know that in the summer we tend to focus more on insects. This year is no exception, except I’ve finally really caught the “bug” from my wife. Having made that declaration, as hard as I look I will never match her ability to see these little guys!

Soldier Fly, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Eastern Tailed Blue, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Female Eastern Tailed Blue, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Giant Spreadwing, not one we see often, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Amber and Black Wasp, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Pelecinid Wasp, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Silvery Checkerspot, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna)

Take 2, Donna)

Metallic Gold Fly, very small, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Robber Fly, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Duke’s Skipper, Griggs Reservoir.

Dukes Skipper (M), Griggs Reservoir.

Blue Dasher (F), Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

Common Dogbane Beetles, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Question Mark, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Take 2, (Donna).

Orange Sulfur (F), Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

The photo of the below dragonfly was an especially exciting because it very seldom lands.

Wandering Glider, the common name of this species may be the most appropriate of any of species. It is a strong flier, with a circumtropical distribution. It is found in nearly every contiguous state, extreme southern Canada, southward throughout Central and South America, the Bahamas, West Indies, Hawaii and throughout the Eastern Hemisphere, except for Europe. It is regularly encountered by ocean freighters and is a well-known migratory species. Because of its ability to drift with the wind, feeding on aerial plankton, until it finally encounters a rain pool in which it breeds, it has been called “…the world’s most evolved dragonfly.” (Odonata Central) , Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

After much searching Donna finally found a few Monarch Butterfly caterpillars, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Spicebush Swallowtail, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Take 2.

<<<>>>

There was a time when I wasn’t all that excited about “insects”, pointing my camera at butterflies, dragonflies, and the like only when the birds weren’t cooperating. Arriving home after one such an outing I took a close look at the images obtained and was amazed at the beauty of many of these creatures that are so easy for us to disregard. It’s hardly breaking news but some time ago I heard that if we compared the weight of all humans with that of all insects we would make up a very small piece of the pie. The below chart illustrates that point. For life to exist on this small sphere we stand on the shoulders of giants but in our case they are very small giants. Something to think about!

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Thanks for stopping by.

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There has been quite a bit of rain recently so we paddled to one of the local waterfalls. It did not disappoint, Griggs Reservoir.

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Should you wish prints from various posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo. If you don’t find it on the link drop us a line.

 

 

 

 

Late Summer Magic; Insects and Fall Warblers

Late August isn’t usually when I think of seeing fall warblers in central Ohio. Although I’m sure that’s the result of a certain level of ignorance on my part. So not really expecting the warblers this early, most of our efforts in recent days have been spent looking for, and enjoying, the “bugs” that currently seem to be in their prime. What started as a way to say curious during the summer doldrums has now become a real goal of our explorations.

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Whether a spider, butterfly, moth, bee, or dragonfly their unique beauty and behavior, so unlike our own, takes us into a truly different world.  Fascinating as they are I wouldn’t want to return “in the next life” as an insect. The dragonfly is too efficient and maneuverable a flying machine bringing a quick end to anything flying nearby that it considers a meal. The life cycle of many wasps requires that caterpillars become live hosts for their larva. A convenient meal for the future wasps but undoubtedly not a pleasant experience for the caterpillar.  A garden spider quickly dispatches and gift wraps a careless fly in silk for later consumption. And just when you think your the biggest, baddest, “bug” around, a bird comes along. I could go on but it is sufficient to say, it’s not for me.

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Praying Mantis in our backyard garden. They’ve been observed catching unsuspecting humming birds that get a little too close.

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A closer look, this is one insect that has no trouble holding on to it’s meal!

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Iron weed and a Clouded Sulfur, flowers upon flowers, north end of Griggs Reservoir.

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Wasps making baby wasps, Prairie Oaks Metro Parks.

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Pelecinid Wasp, Prairie Oaks Metro Park

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Monarch, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

 

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Question Mark, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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Spotted Orbweaver, Griggs Park

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Triangle-bearing Orbweaver (very small), Griggs Park

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Very small Mayfly close to the water, Griggs Park

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Funnel Weaver Grass Spider, (Donna)

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Bumble bee, (Donna).

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Overhead view of a Katydid, (Donna)

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Walnut Caterpillar, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna)

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Marbled Orbweaver, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna)

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Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna)

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Unidentified fly, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Mayfly, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Grasshopper, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Spotted Orb Weaver (underside), Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Variegated Fritillary, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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It’s not as if there haven’t been birds around. Sometimes, in our quest for insects, we get so engaged in looking down we forget to look up! The Osprey was discovered as we were looking for warblers and provided many great poses as he devoured a fish just two of which are shown below.

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Osprey with fish, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

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Take two.

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Northern Flicker, finally managed to get an image which shows off most of it’s distinctive markings, Kiwanis Riverway Park

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Great Crested Flycatcher, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

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Red-bellied Woodpeckers, adult and immature, Griggs Park

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Great Blue Heron and nest, north end of Griggs Reservoir. This is special because it’s the first nest I’ve noticed at that area in some time.

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.   .   .  and then there were the warblers, always more seen than successfully photographed.

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Black and White, Griggs Park

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Yellow-throated, Griggs Park.

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American Redstart, 1st year, Griggs Park.

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From a different angle, (Donna)

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Cape May, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Immature Red-eyed Vireo, Griggs Park

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When in nature take a moment to enjoy the whole, allowing yourself just to be.

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Kiwanis Riverway Park.

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With the fall migration just getting started we’re looking forward to what will be seen in the coming weeks.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Little Things and The Whole

Sometimes when in nature it’s not about a new discovery to photograph,  it’s about being in the moment, awake, content with the “usual” flowers, insects, or birds, their motion, colors, sounds, feeling the cool early morning air, drawing it into our lungs, aware as treetop leave rustle and small ripples appear along the reservoir shore.

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Reflection of a small branch breaking the water’s surface.

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But even during those times, in that experience, we do see things that draw us out, that asked to be photographed, and in doing so embrace us in a feeling of oneness with something that is part but also beyond ourselves.  In that moment time, as if also captured by the photograph, stands still.

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Recent dry weather has resulted in low water levels.

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Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Flower’s continue to be a part of the wonder.

Moth mullein, an invasive species native to Eurasia and North Africa, it has naturalized in the US.

Moth mullein, an invasive species native to Eurasia and North Africa, it has naturalized in North America..

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White Mulberry, Griggs Park.

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Scarlet Pimpernel, probably an escapee, (Donna), Griggs Park.

 

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Backyard Day Lily.

Thimbleweed, Griggs Park

Thimbleweed, Griggs Park.

 

Butterfly Weed, Griggs Park.

Butterfly Weed, Griggs Park.

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Motherwort, (Donna), Griggs Park.

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Chicory, Griggs Park.

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Pokeweed, Griggs Park.

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Wild Lettuce, (Donna), Griggs Park.

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When looking at flowers other things are seen.

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Female Powdered Dancer, (Donna) Griggs Park.

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Female Blue Fronted Dancer, (Donna), Griggs Park.

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Stream Bluets, (Donna), Griggs Park.

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Blue Fronted Dancer, (Donna), Griggs Park.

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Powdered Dancer, (Donna), Griggs Park.

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Dusky Dancer, (Donna), Griggs Park.

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Widow Skimmer, (Donna), Griggs Park.

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Question Mark, (Donna), Griggs Park.

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Question Mark, (Donna), Griggs Park.

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Bronze Copper, Griggs Park.

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Hackberry Emperor, (Donna), Griggs Park.

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Hackberry Emperor, Griggs Park.

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Crane Fly along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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Black and Yellow Wasp, (Donna), Griggs Park.

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Canadian Petrophila Moths, (Donna), Griggs Park.

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Black Swallowtail caterpillar, (Donna) Griggs Park.

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On a recent walk an Osprey was spotted in what appeared to be an agitated state.

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Osprey being dive bombed by a Baltimore Oriole. Along the Scioto below Griggs Dam

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The oriole kept at it.

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The Osprey finally flew away.

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We’ve also been fortunate to enjoy a few other birds.

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Eastern Phoebe, (immature), Griggs Park.

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Baltimore Oriole, Griggs Park.

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With an insect.

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Prothonotary warbler, (immature) Griggs Park. We have at least two nesting pairs along the reservoir and river just below the dam.

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Griggs Reservoir nature.

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There seem to be lots of chipmunks right now.

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Chipmunk, (Donna), Griggs Park.

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Being a mom isn’t easy.

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All right kids could you swim the other way I’m getting dizzy.

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That’s better!

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Sometimes being in nature just means relaxing.

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Not a lunker but a nice Smallmouth Bass that went swimming right after this picture, Griggs Reservoir.

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Sometimes the opportunity to reflect on what’s been experienced is as good as reliving it a second time.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Finally a Buckeye

Yesterday, after several cold rainy days, we woke to a sunny, warm, early October day. There were several options on how to spend the morning but we opted for a hike at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. Not sure what would be seen, I decided to take binoculars and a super-zoom to save weight. Given the length of our hike, it proved to be a good choice. The fall warblers, the reason one might decide to take the heavy “bird camera”, turned out not to be very cooperative.

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Sunlight filters through the trees on one of the Big Darby trails.

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One of my favorite subjects.

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While the warblers weren’t cooperating it wasn’t long before we started to see butterflies.

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Question Mark, (Donna)

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Red Admiral

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Some of our other insect friends also made an appearance.

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Very small but colorful, (Donna).

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Ruby Meadowhawk, (Donna).

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Many of the flowers populating the meadows seemed to be past their prime.

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A few Bull Thistles were hanging on and doing their best to contrast with the background color.

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Sometimes along the path one must watch where you step.

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American toad

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The star of the show was the Buckeye butterfly. Seeing it made our day as it was the first one seen this year. They are migrants in Ohio, working their way north and usually appearing in the late summer of early fall. Some years they can be quite rare.

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Buckeye, (Donna)

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Our first sighting of the year calls for one more picture.

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It had been a beautiful hike on a beautiful day. A large part of the day’s beauty was certainly due to the contrast with the colder rainier days that to often populate this time of year and remind us of things to come.

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Thanks for stopping by.

“Whatever Was On That Tree They Liked It!”

Those were the words of our son when he saw our pictures of butterflies congregating on a small tree. The butterflies were noticed yesterday at water’s edge while walking along Griggs Reservoir. They were very numerous but dispersed in groups around the tree making a total count difficult. It wasn’t exactly something we had seen before. Usually it’s a butterfly here and another one there. In the past, when seen groups, there’s usually some identifiable substance attracting them and it’s not always something pleasant.

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In this case, whatever the attraction was (perhaps tree sap?), several different species could relate to it, with the Hackberry Emperors being the most numerous and aggressive in their efforts to keep the others away.

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Hackberry Emperors find something good on the bark of a tree.

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After being chased off, a Red Admiral waits it’s turn.

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Not easily bullied, a Question Mark joined in, (Donna).

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After we left the tree a very small but beautiful butterfly was noticed on a clover flower.

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Perched on clover, a very small, very beautiful, Eastern-tailed Blue, (Donna).

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There were also other insects about.

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Stream Bluet Damselflies mating, (Donna).

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More mating, Apple Bark Borer Moth, (Donna).

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There was no shortage of flowers to keep the insects busy.

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Water Willow

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Water Willow

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Emerging Coneflower, (Donna)

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Heart leafed Umbrella-wort, (Donna)

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Take 2.

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Horse Nettle, (Donna)

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Design in green, (Donna)

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Morning Glory casts it’s early morning shadow.

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Rain Garden sunflowers, (Donna)

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Tall Meadow-rue, (Donna)

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Emerging Queen Ann’s Lace, (Donna)

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Our friends the turtles were happy to make an appearance. One river rock appeared to be particularly attractive.

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Scioto River Map Turtles, (Donna)

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Recent rains had brought out some interesting fungus.

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Rhodotus Palmatus, (Donna)

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Common Split Gill, (Donna)

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From below, (Donna)

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Unlike my wife, I spent most of my time looking for birds and other creatures (perhaps a Mink?) to photograph. With the leaves providing ample cover for the larger creatures, small things carried the day.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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