Exploring The Coves Of Alum Creek Reservoir By Canoe

It promised to be another hot day, but with the sun just rising when we launched it was still pleasant, giving only a hint of the heat to come.


Alum Creek Reservoir at Cheshire Rd.


Considering the forecast our goal was to be off the water by noon. The wind hardly rippled the water’s surface as quiet paddle strokes moved the canoe toward an area of Alum Creek Reservoir that we hadn’t explored in a while. Two days earlier during an early morning fishing trip I had surprised a Bald Eagle in a tall tree at waters edge. Now with my wife along to handle photography from the bow, I was hoping we would see, and perhaps photograph, some equally interesting things as we explored the coves along our route. For those new to this blog, we love to paddle and to eliminate the need to shuttle cars we usually paddle reservoirs, the more convoluted the better, to maximize time in the canoe.

No matter how one feels about damming up rivers to create reservoirs, in the case of Alum Creek Reservoir it did result a wonderful place to explore containing a rich variety of wildlife. Unlike the often cottage lined predictable shorelines of spring fed glacial lakes in northern states like Michigan, the many small ravines that followed slopes down to the creek resulting in an almost endless number of coves to explore with the coming of the reservoir. In addition, because the reservoir is surrounded by parkland there are virtually no buildings or homes along it’s shore.


Alum Creek Reservoir Paddling Route


With rainfall this year about six inches above normal giving rise to higher water levels, the lush shoreline vegetation reached right down to waters edge and at times gave the feeling of paddling through a jungle.

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Beautiful reflections as the reservoir narrows into a creek, (Donna).


As nature photographers know, what one sees and what one has a chance to photograph are seldom the same. Particularly when in a canoe which has it’s own stability, speed, and mobility constraints. It turns out that at the very north end of our route we saw a Yellow-crowned Night Heron. The first one we’ve ever seen in Ohio. A little later a pair of very wary Great Horned Owls were seen. The surprised heron spotted us just as we rounded a tight bend in what had become a narrow snag infested creek.  It flew before we could react. The outcome was similar for the owls. They were perched high in a tree canopy partially obscured by low lying brush and saw us coming despite our best efforts, moving a little further away each time we tried to get closer.


But there are always other things to marvel at.

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A male Eastern Amberwing perches right near the canoe as we wait quietly in a secluded cove, (Donna).


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A Slaty Skimmer enjoys the morning sun, (Donna).


As we paddled along the shore we were often overwhelmed by the aroma of wild roses.


Donna looks for the best composition.

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I try my hand.


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Water loving Lazard’s Tail at waters edge, (Donna).


Entering some coves small, noisy, and mostly invisible birds were everywhere.


Donna points to what turns out to be a White-breasted Nuthatch.


Along one stretch of open rocky shore a group of sandpipers, always just a little ahead of us, hurried as we approached.

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Spotted Sandpiper, (Donna).

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Immature Spotted Sandpiper, (Donna).


On this particular day the turtles were a little more cooperative than the birds.

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Map Turtle, (Donna).


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Eastern Spiny Softshell, (Donna).


If you travel north to Michigan with it’s colder clearer lakes and streams you typically don’t see as many egrets and herons but in Ohio they are very common. I could be wrong but I’ve often thought it’s because the rough fish (catfish, suckers, carp, shad, etc.) that call Ohio’s often turbid waters home are just easier to catch.


A Great Egret gets ready to strike   .   .   .   .


and very quickly does!



To no avail.


It heads back to it’s perch .   .   .


to regain it’s composure and try again.



Along the shore a Great Egret and a Great Blue Heron seem to be getting along just fine, (Donna).


Sometimes it’s luck, sometimes persistence, and yes it’s true knowledge and skill do come into play, but if you hike a trail or paddle a lake often enough you will see new and fascinating things.


In the woods or by a meadow, stream, or lake on any given day, even if  nothing new is seen, you will at least return having allowed yourself to be there for a time, in the still freshness of the early morning with the call of the Wood Thrush, or later to the sound of  wind as it dances with leaves, breathing air with a hint of wild rose. 


Thanks for stopping by.


In Search of The Beautiful But Elusive Prothonotary Warbler

No birding adventure is any better than if it can be combined with time in a canoe. Recently we decided to to explore the shoreline of O’Shaughnessy Reservoir and the Twin Lakes area with the hope of seeing warblers. In past years the Twin Lakes Area (O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve)  has been very good so we were hopeful.


The Route


While there are few things as enjoyable as viewing birds from a canoe, photographing them from such is a different matter.  The smaller the bird the more difficult, as movements are usually quicker and more erratic. In even the calmest conditions it’s a challenge to position the boat properly then quickly grab the camera and hope the bird hasn’t flown. The boat has an uncanny ability to swing around as you’re attempting to get a shot resulting in one doing an owl impersonation in order to keep shooting. Add wind, wave action, or river current  and  .   .   .   , I think you get the picture.


The day started out with a very light breeze but by late morning boat control became more of an issue with my wife doing more of the shooting while I managed things. We didn’t succeed in our quest to see a Prothonothary Warbler, but as is often the case, other birds as well as wildflowers and other wildlife took up the slack.


Double-crested Cormorants watched as we explored the shoreline.


Adult and juvenile Double-crested Cormorants




The adult decides he’s had enough.


A Red Shouldered Hawk was also sizing things up,


Red-shouldered Hawk


as Tree Swallows looked on.

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Tree Swallow, (Donna)

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Enjoying the front porch.


Once past the swallows we heading into an area where we typically see Prothonotary Warblers.


Looking for Prothonotary Warblers, Twin Lakes


As already mentioned, the Prothonotary Warblers eluded us, but we were greeted by a Solitary Sandpipers attracted to mudflats exposed by the receding water level.


Solitary Sandpiper


Looking at it’s reflection.


We then decided to explore a nearby stream.


Eversole Run flowing into the Twin Lakes area.


Up the stream we were entertained by a Blue-gray Gnatcather gathering nesting material.

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher gathering lichen.

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Not giving up

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Totally getting into it! (Donna)


Eversole Run


Working our way back to the main part of the lake we noticed turtles enjoying the warmth of the sun.

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Painted Turtle.

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A real gathering, (Donna)


Wildflowers were spotted along the bank and my wife decided to investigate.

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Bluets, (Donna)

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Pussy Toes, (Donna)


Many Yellow-rumped warblers were seen but the only warbler that cooperated for a picture was this female Yellow.

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Female Yellow Warbler, (Donna)


We hugged the west shore to stay out of the wind as we worked our way back to the launch. As we did so, a bird not often seen was encountered which got us pretty excited.

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Blue-winged Teal

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Taking flight, (Donna)


All in all it was a very good day.


Twin Lakes Area


“So why do we take pictures, sometimes of the same bird or scene that was photographed just a few days ago?

We take them to tell a story, in celebration of the beauty of life, and to share our joy”.


Thanks for stopping by.

Butterflies and Wildflowers at Battelle Derby Creek

Late July and early August is a great time to grab your camera and binoculars and go for a hike at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. The park has reestablished extensive areas of prairie containing many types of native wildflowers. With the flowers come butterflies and other types of insects. Eastern Meadowlarks, Indigo Buntings and other birds are also attracted to the area. If you ever questioned the value of native prairies in promoting biodiversity visit Battelle Darby and take a close look. You’ll be amazed at what there is to see.


Prairie in early morning, Battelle Darby Creek


Some parts of the prairie contain ponds, Bullfrog, Battelle Darby Creek

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Bullfrog, study 2 (Donna)


Cardinal Flowers, Battelle Darby Creek Prairie


Tufted Titmouse along the Big Darby River


Silver-spotted Skipper, Battelle Darby Creek


Making friends with a butterfly.


Hackberry Emperor, Battelle Darby


Sunflowers, Battelle Darby Creek Prairie


Catapillar, Battelle Darby


Male Goldfinch, Battelle Darby Creek Prairie


Coneflowers, Battelle Darby Creek Prairie

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Red Admiral, Battelle Darby Creek, (Donna)


Red Admiral, study 2, Battelle Darby Creek


Red Milkweed Beetle, Battelle Darby Creek


Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park


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Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, study 2, (Donna)


Blazing Star, Battelle Darby Creek Prairie

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting, Battelle Darby Creek Prairie, (Donna)


Walking through the prairie, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park


Fungus, along the river, Battelle Darby Creek

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Familiar Bluet, Battelle Darby Creek Prairie, (Donna)

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Tall Bellflower, Battelle Darby Creek, (Donna)


Giant Swallowtail, Battelle Darby Creek


Daddy Longlegs with prey, Battelle Darby Creek.


Silvery Checkerspot, Battelle Darby Creek


Spicebush Swallowtail, Battelle Darby Creek


Curious Cardinal, Battelle Darby Creek


Zabulon Skipper, Battelle Darby Creek


Turtles, Big Darby Creek


Prairie, Big Darby Creek Metro Park

Thanks for stopping by and checking out some pictures of nature in central Ohio. We hope you’re inspired to get out and explore nature wherever you live.



Up The Creek

We decided to paddle up Paint Creek with the hope of documenting some of the beautiful scenery along it’s banks. As creeks go, it’s one of the best in Ohio.

Paint Creek Reservoir is located in Paint Creek State Park. The park is located south of Columbus in the gently rolling hills that occupy that part of the state. Two rivers feed the reservoir, Rattlesnake and Paint Creek. Of the two, we feel that a paddle up Paint Creek is the better option. The bluffs and cliffs along it’s banks make you wonder if you’re really in Ohio. It is also possible to paddle quite a bit further than on Rattlesnake Creek making for a better day trip. As you head north, the shoreline with bushes and trees at waters edge, is usually good for seeing many types of birds from tanagers to eagles. Lower water at certain times of the year produces mudflats that are excellent for viewing shore birds and the many logs along the shore make it a great place to see turtles and water snakes. Once you’re up the creek far enough to be in the current a few casts will usually produces a large or smallmouth bass or maybe a nice pan fish.

Light is what photographers paint with and on the day we were out it was less than ideal. At times it was almost dreary and threatening rain while at others piercing sun light would illuminate a portion of the landscape while leaving the rest in the dark. But we try to be philosophical about such things, so the pictures that follow hopefully capture some of the unique beauty of the place as it was on that day.


Route map, Paint Creek Reservoir is quite large so this shows only a small portion.



Heading north into Paint Creek


The bluffs.


Louisiana Water Thrush along the shore


On a cool morning this Common Water Snake tries to warm up.


A small island in the reservoir.


A Killdeer on the mud flats.


A Solitary Sandpiper near the mud flats


Logs along the shore are a great place for Map and Spiny Soft Shell Turtles.


Along waters edge, a Black Swallowtail on a Button Bush.


Photographing rock formations.


In many places the cliffs plunge straight into the reservoir.


A Green Heron poses in a small cove.


Take two.


An intimate place, maybe there’s a picture.

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What she saw. (Donna)


As far north as we could go in the canoe. Time for lunch.


Pulled out on a sand bar, Paint Creek


Very small moth.


A damselfly makes friends with Donna.


Colorful fungus along water’s edge



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A few casts and Bob had a bass. (Donna)

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What to do? bird or fish! (Donna)


Paint Creek






Spring Activity at O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve

A few days ago we decided to explore the Twin Lakes Area of O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve by canoe. Part of the fun is the journey so we decided to paddle from a launch point on the other side of the reservoir. As a result we had the opportunity to pass a number of lovely coves along the way. The total length of our paddle was between four and five miles.

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Cove, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, (Donna)


We hoped to see Prothonotary Warblers which are fairly common in the Twin Lakes area this time of year. We were successful and my wife put together a nice study of one of the males.

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Prothonotary Warbler, study 1, (Donna)

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Prothonotary Warbler, study 2, (Donna)

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Prothonotary Warbler, study 3, (Donna)

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Prothonotary Warbler, study 4, (Donna)

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Prothonotary Warbler, study 5, (Donna)


While she was busy with the warblers, I was taking a few pictures of some of the other suspects.

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King Bird


Tree Swallow

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Tree Swallow, study 2 (Donna)

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Taking flight, (Donna)


Recent rains had really brought out the color in some of the lichens. The brown lichen with a white fringe was one we hadn’t noticed/seen before.

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Green Lichen, (Donna)

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Brown with white fringe lichen, (Donna)


Paddling further, my wife spotted some Pussytoes just beginning to flower along the bank.

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Pussytoes, (Donna)


A Common Water snake kept an eye on us as we glided by.

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Common Water Snake


And if the birds and everything else weren’t enough, heading back to our launch site we spotted the largest concentration of Spiny Soft Shell turtles that we’ve ever seen in central Ohio. While perhaps not as aggressive as the more solitary Snapping Turtle, they will bite if given a reason. On this particular day they seemed okay sharing their log with a Few Map Turtles.


Large concentration of Spiny Soft Shells


Map Turtles were also tolerated on the same log.


Two large Spiny Soft Shells


Spiny Soft Shell tolerating a small Map Turtle.


Pretty exciting considering it all was like something we might see while visiting the Columbus Zoo which interestingly enough is only a couple of miles away.


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